Obama administration can’t spin its way out of blame for Benghazi
Editorial --- Columbus Dispatch 10/14/2012
Testimony in a congressional hearing Wednesday on the Sept. 11 outrage against the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi fueled a growing suspicion: President Barack Obama’s administration was more concerned about projecting the image of improving stability in Libya, to bolster his re-election chances, than it was about ensuring the security of Americans on the ground there.
The fact of a successful terrorist attack against the U.S. on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks — a day, above all others, when security for American officials in volatile countries should be at its utmost — is demoralizing and infuriating.
After months of concern by diplomats in Libya about the country’s deteriorating security, Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three embassy employees were murdered by heavily armed and organized terrorists. The possibility the government could have prevented their deaths by responding to their pleas for greater security is devastating.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Charlene Lamb, who helps oversee diplomatic security, acknowledged in the hearing that she had told security officials at the U.S. Embassy in the capital city of Tripoli not to bother asking for more security help after the assignment of a supplemental security team ended in August.
Security officer Eric A. Nordstrom told Congress members he took Lamb’s refusal to mean “there was going to be too much political cost.”
In March and July, Nordstrom cabled his superiors in the State Department asking for more security at Benghazi, which had much less protection than the embassy in Tripoli. He got no reply.
His further comment at Wednesday’s hearing is damning: “The takeaway from that, for me and my staff: It was abundantly clear we were not going to get resources until the aftermath of an incident. And the question that we would ask is, again, ‘How thin does the ice have to get before someone falls through?’ ”
That ice broke at 9:40 p.m. on Sept. 11, when a cadre of men stormed the consulate compound. They fired guns, threw grenades and set buildings on fire.
What followed in the ensuing weeks is an astounding display either of incompetence or dishonesty, as Obama administration officials gave constantly shifting accounts of what happened.
For at least a week, State Department officials blamed the attack on a spontaneous demonstration against a rogue video, made in the U.S., that mocks Islam. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said on Meet the Press on Sept. 16, “What happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, prompted by the video.”
That explanation came under withering scrutiny, with pundits mocking the notion of “spontaneous” demonstrators showing up armed with rocket-propelled grenades.
Even as military and intelligence officials flatly stated the obvious as early as Sept. 13 — that the attack was a planned terrorist operation — the statements of those closest to the president, including Press Secretary Jay Carney, vacillated. On Sept. 18, Carney said, “Our belief ... is it was the video that caused the unrest in Cairo... and that precipitated some of the unrest in Benghazi and elsewhere.”
By Sept. 20, finally, Carney was declaring, “It is, I think, self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack.”
What is equally evident is that, despite repeated concerns by diplomats working in Libya, the administration shortchanged security. And when the worst happened, it wasn’t willing to tell the truth to the American people.
Joe Bidens comment "We didn't know, was just another lie to cover the facts. A full month after the attack they are still l telling us lies.