“Did you hear that? He just let the guy die, man. He just gave him up. Gimme that headset. That’s like pulling the trigger yourself.”
—Paul Gleason as Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson in Die Hard
To quote Genius Joe (albeit speaking in another context), “This is a big f***ing deal.” And the longer it goes on, the more disgusted I get.
You are no doubt well aware that on September 11 the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked and burned, resulting in the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. What we now know is that there were actually two separate coordinated attacks—one on the consulate proper, the other on a “safe house”/CIA base about a mile away—carried out over several hours. But as this story continues to unravel, it increasingly demonstrates—once again—the colossal naiveté and gross incompetence of this administration.
And its pathological inability to tell the truth.
On September 12, President Obama gave a five minute address in the Rose Garden before jaunting off to Vegas to raise campaign money. Now 49 days later, this is the one and only time Obama has addressed the nation on the attack. Lest I be accused of taking something out of context, the entire transcript as published by the White House itself is available here. But at the beginning of his remarks, Obama said this:
“Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to [sic] this type of senseless violence.”
Plainly, the President was drawing a connection (i.e., suggesting a motivation) between the Benghazi attack and the stupid anti-Mohammed video Innocence of Muslims. Obama made no mention—none—of the nearly simultaneous riot and burning of the embassy in Cairo, no mention of al Qaeda, and only once at the end did he make a single generic reference to “acts of terror.”
Over the next several weeks, the message out of the White House was garbled at best. On September 13, Press Secretary Jay Carney linked the regional unrest to the video: “The protests we’re seeing around the region are in reaction to this movie.” On September 16 U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice made the same connection on Meet the Press. On September 18 Carney reiterated it: “Our belief based on the information we have is it was the video that caused the unrest in Cairo, and the video and the unrest in Cairo that helped—that precipitated some of the unrest in Benghazi[.]” And as late as September 20—nine days later—President Obama was still linking the two during a town hall interview on Univision.
But when this it was a spontaneous protest narrative began to unravel, the administration began looking for scapegoats; so it blamed bad intelligence. The message was confusing and inaccurate, you see, because they were only reporting what CIA was telling them, and CIA was getting it wrong. There’s just one problem:
The administration had the actual information in real time.
It turns out, an unmanned Predator drone was over Benghazi, watching the attack as it happened. And the administration—including the White House—was informed of the situation via email during the attack. You can argue about what was motivating the attack or who, specifically, was behind it, but those issues are totally irrelevant while the attack is going on. The immediate issue during the attack is defending against it—whoever is behind it or why—and protecting Americans in danger.
Not only did the Obama administration know that Benghazi was under attack as it was happening, but there now are reports that the CIA detachment in Benghazi made multiple requests for military help and they were not only denied that help, but told to stand down and not go to the aid of the besieged consulate. This, despite having military assets available at multiple locations within short travel times of Benghazi.
What’s worse, it didn’t take much to see this coming. The Benghazi mission was bombed twice in the five months leading up to the September 11 attack. U.S. and British diplomats were attacked in June, and the British closed their consulate their shortly thereafter. And the U.S. diplomatic mission had repeatedly requested additional security, but was denied. Not only that, but it was denied ostensibly due to a lack of funding, even as the State Department was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy Chevy Volts for the embassy in Vienna. Say what you will about whether the administration had specific advance warning of an attack; even without an engraved invitation specifying the time, place, and manner of the assault, it should have been obvious that Benghazi, Libya was an exceedingly dangerous place for a U.S. diplomatic mission, and it begs the question why there wasn’t enhanced military security—i.e., heavily armed Marines—already in place heading into the 9/11 anniversary.
Maybe if the President attended a security briefing once in awhile, he would have had a better grasp on this situation in advance. Maybe if he weren’t spending literally millions of dollars hosting lavish State dinners there would have been room in the budget for additional security in Benghazi. Maybe if he spent less time partying with Beyonce and more time protecting American lives and American interests, Chris Stevens and the other 3 Americans would still be alive.
And this highlights the most disappointing aspect of this whole episode. Rather than stand up and deal with the issue, once again this administration’s first instinct was to hide, deflect, distract, and blame. Interestingly, when he spoke in the Rose Garden on September 12, Obama said nothing about the drone coverage or emails telling them about the attack in real time—4 p.m. in D.C. Instead, he said “ . . . last night, we learned the news of this attack in Benghazi,” as though they found out about it after-the-fact on the nightly news like the rest of us. Obama went on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart—as an aside, isn’t Comedy Central sort of beneath the office of President?—and the best he could say was that the deaths of four Americans was “not optimal.” Meeting with the father of slain Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods in a staged-for-TV service at Andrews Air Force Base, Obama gave him a dead fish handshake, wouldn’t (couldn’t?) look him in the eye, and managed only an insincerely mumbled “sorry.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for her part, blamed the video and said they would prosecute the filmmaker, even though we now know she knew better. This is not the behavior of genuinely sympathetic human beings, but of pure political hacks with something to hide, looking for cover.
This administration, and this President, are simply incapable of telling the truth or accepting actual responsibility for anything. We’re going to learn more over time, although I fear the real core telling truths won’t come out until after the election. But what is apparent now is this:
- The administration had ample information ahead of time that there was a need for additional military security in Benghazi and didn’t provide it;
- They watched the attacks as they were happening and refused to send help, and four Americans are dead as a result;
- Then the administration lied about the whole thing.
Mr. President, the smell of death surrounds you.