On September 11, 2001 terrorists murdered nearly 3,000 Americans. Eleven years later, Americans were murdered again. But this time, they were murdered half a world away in Benghazi, Libya.
During what was originally characterized as a mob protest of a little known YouTube video mocking Islam, violence erupted and four Americans, including the United States’ ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, was killed. The Obama administration originally dispatched UN ambassador Susan Rice to tell the Chris Wallace, “This was not a pre-planned, pre-meditated attack.” Almost immediately, this narrative began to unravel. Libya’s President directly contradicted Rice, telling Bob Scheifer, “It was planned, definitely, it was planned by foreigners, by people who entered the country a few months ago, and they were planning this criminal act since their arrival.”
Next came the revelation that Stevens’ own diary warned of the worsening state of security in Libya. The terrorists who ended up killing Stevens had “heavy weapons” that one would think were not just spontaneously lying around. Yesterday, Eli Lake of the Daily Beast reported that U.S. officials knew that the attack was the work of an Al-Qaeda offshoot group operating in Libya just 24 hours after the attack.
This begs the question, why did it take almost three weeks for the Obama administration to admit publicly what they knew all along? The murder of four American diplomats was the work of terrorists, not a mob reacting to a YouTube video. Nearly every national security spokesperson including President Obama himself said this was a spontaneous killing. It is a pretty hefty charge to claim the White House is misleading the American people, but how else do you characterize the PR fallout of this attack? The only other possible excuse is that these officials were completely uninformed, which does not look much better for the Obama White House.
Another uncomfortable question that needs to be asked is why the real reason behind the attacks was blamed on a small online video? What Americans witnessed this past month was the utter implosion of President Obama’s policy toward the Arab Spring that he outlined in his 2009 speech in Cairo. His outstretched hand was not met in kind by the Arab world. Anti-Americanism is still not only prevalent, but it is the default emotion. Egypt is no longer an ally. Libya has slipped into chaos. Maybe by blaming a video it could mitigate the grave political consequences of this security failure. Maybe it is something else. But what began as a massive breakdown in diplomatic security has morphed into a rush to blame shift and deflect responsibility.
Four Americans were killed in an act of terrorism, on September 11 no less. The American people deserve the truth about what happened, what went wrong, and who is responsible. Unfortunately, we are not getting it from the Obama administration.
*The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.