To acknowledge the cause of the attack would have been to acknowledge the real threat in the Middle East and the embarrassing fact that American weapons had been given to terrorist, anti-American groups. Incidentally, far from learning anything in Libya, Obama is now doing precisely the same thing in Syria.
To acknowledge the nature of the attack would be to show the depth of the security failure—on September 11 of all days—in not recognizing the danger in Benghazi. This includes the fact that the guards were untrained; that they had—according to one of them—been aware of the danger and not told any Americans; that they had fled; that Libyan regime sources had apparently tipped off the attackers to where Americans were hiding; and that there had been no U.S.-provided security. Was that last shortcoming due to an attempt not to “offend” the Libyans by showing they weren’t trusted? If so, that arises directly from the themes Obama has set in his foreign policy.
In addition, attributing the event on a video produced in the United States—a clear and obvious lie–put a large part of the blame on America itself. No, huge forces aren’t seeking to create radical Islamist regimes in every country in the Middle East, there are just folks offended by a slur on their religion.
To admit that al-Qaida is still very much in business would show that Obama’s claim the group had been defeated was false and demonstrate the limited value of killing Usama bin Ladin. Al-Qaida is, of course, still strong in Yemen and Somalia as well as having active groups in the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Syria, and other places.
Obama continues in the debate:
But when it comes to our national security, I mean what I say. I said I’d end the war in Libya — in Iraq, and I did. I said that we’d go after al-Qaida and bin Laden. We have. I said we’d transition out of Afghanistan and start making sure that Afghans are responsible for their own security. That’s what I’m doing.
What Obama should have said is that he would end U.S. combat presence in these countries. Yet the wars continue. The assassination of the U.S. ambassador to Libya was an event in that war.
And contrary to Clinton’s statement, Obama affirmed: “…I am ultimately responsible for what’s taking place [in Libya]….”
But what is taking place? The debate ultimately focused on the rather narrow question of whether Obama had or had not immediately called the assassination a “terrorist attack.” This is a red herring. Inasmuch as Americans were murdered for non-criminal reasons, the attack was by definition terrorist. Yet if this was a spontaneous deed in the midst of a peaceful demonstration of people upset because their religion had been slandered then it was not so much a “terrorist attack”—first-degree murder—but some combination of self-defense and passions bubbling over in a spontaneous way.
The real questions, however, were raised by Romney in his response:
There were other issues associated with this—with this tragedy. There were many days that passed before we knew whether this was a spontaneous demonstration or actually whether it was a terrorist attack. And there was no demonstration involved. It was a terrorist attack, and it took a long time for that to be told to the American people. Whether there was some misleading or instead whether we just didn’t know what happened, I think you have to ask yourself why didn’t we know five days later when the ambassador to the United Nations [Susan Rice, acting of course on administration directives] went on TV to say that this was a demonstration. How could of we not known?
In other words, the Obama Administration deliberately lied to the American people.
But I find more troubling than this that on…day following the assassination of the United States ambassador — the first time that’s happened since 1979 — when we have four Americans killed there, when apparently we didn’t know what happened, that the president the day after that happened flies to Las Vegas for a political fundraiser, then the next day to Colorado for another event, another political event.
In this regard, Obama didn’t so much “make political points” or “turn national security into a political issue,” he simply put his own political benefit ahead of national security. Since according to his own claim, Obama didn’t know what happened and there was a wave of other attacks developing, he should have put the priority on dealing with a crisis.Barry Rubin
About the Author: Professor Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. See the GLORIA/MERIA site at www.gloria-center.org.
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