Benghazi is not going to go away, nor should it. While the military response on September 11th, in retrospect, seems totally inadequate, the real crime, in my opinion, has been the cover-up. As early as September 13th, a “senior U.S. official” acknowledged to CNN that the attack was “clearly planned.” He added, “The video made a handy excuse and could be fortuitous from their perspective, but this was a clearly planned, military-type attack.”
Yet, as the election ran its course, the press failed to follow up on the issue, allowing the Administration to get away with what was obviously a dereliction of duty in the first place and a fabrication as to its cause. Why? One can only assume that ideology trumped honest reporting.
Now, seven months later, an Interim Progress Report was released on April 24th by five Republican committee chairmen. “The report,” as Michael Barone wrote, “sets out copious evidence of the rash of security threats in Libya during 2012.” There were fifty such attacks in Benghazi alone over the prior twelve months, and the Embassy had persistently asked for more security. It also notes that the State Department immediately reported the attack to the White House Situation Room and two hours later noted an al Qaeda affiliate’s claim of responsibility. There was no mention of a spontaneous protest of an anti-Muslim video.
(Democrats complain that this Report is a partisan effort, the purpose of which is to place blame on the President and his Secretary of State. It. Does. “Democrats,” Mr. Barone wrote, “are free to present their own view of the facts.” Thus far they, along with mainstream media, have taken the Ostrich approach – hiding their heads in the sand in hopes the bad news will dissipate.) It is truth that the press should seek and which the public should want.
Despite what seems obvious, that the Administration knew the cause of the attack in real time, we know that the President and Secretary of State Clinton spent the next several days repeatedly telling the story that the attack was in response to a video clip. The charade was continued September 16th when U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was ordered by someone to appear on five Sunday morning TV talk shows to denounce the “hateful video.” The story persisted for another ten days. And to this date, the only person taken into custody has been Mark Basseley Youssef, the Egyptian-born Coptic Christian who created “Innocence of Muslims” and posted it on YouTube. Had this happened under a Republican President, the press would be screaming.
No President can expect to know what is going on in all aspects of his Administration. There are myriad departments and hundreds of thousand of employees, the vast majority of whom are honorable, hardworking people. Mistakes get made, and the American people are a forgiving people. But there are two things any leader should do. One, he or she should lead by example and second, when a wrong has been committed it is their duty to acknowledge the incident, take responsibility, punish the offender(s), and ensure it does not recur. Time and again, it has been the arrogance of power that has toppled those in high positions. Ultimately, truth outs.
There remain a number of unanswered questions regarding Benghazi. What happened to the survivors of the attack – the wounded and those who escaped unhurt? How many were they? Apparently a small number of individuals from the State Department and the CIA are prepared to provide sensitive information about the attack and the events leading up to it. Who are they? Why haven’t their lawyers been provided security clearances? Is someone stonewalling? Why has not mainstream media picked up on this story?
The attack on 9/11 occurred eleven and a half years ago. It was not the first time that Islamic terrorists had targeted the United States, nor will the attack in Boston likely be the last. They tried to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993. The USS Cole was bombed in 2000. But 9/11 was the worst devastation since Pearl Harbor and the first attack on our soil since the British sacked Washington during the War of 1812. While Osama bin Laden is dead, as are many other al Qaeda leaders, it has not stopped the relentless pursuit of terrorists to destroy America’s (and democracy’s) way of life. In 2003, Richard Reid tried to blow up a plane with explosives in his shoe. Six years later, Major Nidal Malik Hasan succeeded in killing 13 soldiers at Ft. Hood. A month later, on Christmas day, Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab placed explosives in his underwear while aboard a flight to Detroit that failed to detonate. Faisal Shahzad’s attempt to blow up a car in Times Square, in 2010 also failed. And, of course, there was the successful attack on our consulate in Benghazi. There have been others. Whether the Tsarnaev brothers are directly linked to al Qaeda or some other terrorist group is less important than acknowledging that Islamic extremists exist, and that they want to kill us. They operate, not only from the Mideast, but out of Muslim nations in Africa and Asia. They have proliferated. As Heritage Foundation’s Peter Brookes recently wrote, “It [Islamic terrorism] remains a vicious global threat.”
In the intervening weeks and months since last September’s attack, there has been a conspiracy of silence as to what happened that night in Benghazi: who lied and who knows the truth? Shortly after Mr. Obama took office, he journeyed to Cairo to reach out to Muslims. He was a man, he told the audience, who had lived among Muslims and who was empathetic to their needs. While he persisted in the Bush policies of hunting down al Qaeda leaders and successfully killed Osama bin Laden, the persona he presented was that of an internationalist. He drew a contrast between a “nativist, trigger-happy” George W. Bush and himself. He would work more closely with the U.N. He had no problem in leading from behind, as he did in the overthrow of Gadaffi. Since he was in the habit of killing – not capturing – al Qaeda members with Drones, he could claim a desire to close Guantanamo.
Last fall, the President was in full campaign mode: a major portion of his pitch was his successful killing of bin Laden, the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the fading of the War on Terror. An al Qaeda attack was inconvenient to the story he had been telling. He now owes the American people a full accounting of the events that led up to the attack and he needs to address the question as to why the Administration was so quick to place blame on a video, when it appears they knew full well that the attack was the result of Islamic terrorists.
The killings and the subsequent actions of the President and his Secretary of State have an ugly smell. Four people, including an American ambassador, died that late summer evening. The truth about their deaths needs to be told. Congress should employ an independent investigator to determine the actual facts. Providing a Medal of Honor to one or both of the Marines killed may be fully justified, but should not serve as a decoy for the President and the Secretary of State to retreat from their personal responsibility as to the cause and the subsequent cover-up. What do their failures in that regard say about us and what to they portend for our future?
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“The thought of the day” by Sydney Williams