The journey from denial to acceptance has been a short but difficult one for the Obama administration. Initially adamant that the attack on the embassy in Libya was a spontaneous uprising of a violent mob, they’ve been compelled to significantly alter their position to accommodate a steady flow of contradictory information surfacing in the press. At long last, after various attempts to subtly massage their original insistence to the contrary, they have officially conceded that the offensive was, indeed, a terrorist attack, likely perpetrated by an affiliate of Al Qaeda.
It was recently reported in the Daily Witness that a retraction was necessarily forthcoming given the overwhelming wave of evidence, offered by eyewitness testimony and assessed by intelligence analysts, that repudiated the Obama administration’s interpretation of events. The brute power of common sense, an adversary for them from the beginning, proved irresistible. Still, the retractions were presented as consistent with earlier statements and a nuanced evolution of opinion based on new information as it became available.
The first adjustment in the administration’s stance was delivered by Matt Olsen, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center:
“We are looking at indications that individuals involved in the attack may have had connections to Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda’s affiliates.”
It’s not precisely clear what is meant by “indications” but the triumphant planting of a black Al Qaeda flag is likely among them. Olsen was equivocal regarding whether or not the attacks were planned in advance or were an opportunistic response to unrelated riots, leaving open the possibility that either view could be true:
“It appears that individuals who were certainly well-armed seized on the opportunity presented as the events unfolded that evening and into the morning hours of September 12th. We do know that a number of militants in the area, as I mentioned, are well-armed and maintain those arms. What we don’t have at this point is specific intelligence that there was a significant advanced planning or coordination for this attack.”
And while the State Department has repeatedly insisted there was no advance intelligence forewarning of an attack, Olsen significantly retreats from that position:
“So there were reports detailing those attacks and detailing generally the threat that was faced to U.S. and Western individuals and interests in Eastern Libya from, again, armed militants as well as elements connected to al Qaeda,” he said. “There was no specific intelligence regarding an imminent attack prior to September 11th on our post in Benghazi.”
In other words, no one ever told them an attack was forthcoming at that particular time, at that particular location, by that specific number of armed terrorists. For the Obama administration, apparently only unambiguous and minute details dispatched by a certified medium counts as “actionable” intelligence.
Because of his earlier pertinacity in rejecting the possibility that the embassy assault was conducted by terrorists, Press Secretary Jay Carney’s reversal is even more striking:
“What I can tell you is that, as I said last week, as … our ambassador to the United Nations said on Sunday and as I said the other day, based on what we know now and knew at the time, we have no evidence of a preplanned or premeditated attack. It is a simple fact that there are in post-revolution, post-war Libya armed groups; there are bad actors hostile to the government, hostile to the West, hostile to the United States. And as has been the case in other countries in the region, it is certainly conceivable that these groups take advantage of and exploit situations that develop, when they develop, to protest against or attack either Westerners, Americans, Western sites, or American sites.”
So while Carney intransigently continues to resist the conclusion obvious to the entire international intelligence community, that these attacks were well coordinated tactical operations, he now, at least concedes that this was not the work of angry, disorganized protesters. So how did such a taut military exercise come together so quickly? Carney hypothesizes:
“There is an abundance of weapons, including heavy weapons, and there are certainly groups that carry those weapons and look to take advantage of those circumstances—as there are around the region and the world. We have seen circumstances in the past in other parts of the region where incidents that inflame opinion are taken advantage of, and exploited, by groups that have an interest in creating chaos and destabilizing their local governments, or attacking the West or the United States.”
So, according to Carney, a much more reasonable possibility than premeditation is that the Benghazi streets are flooded with heavy artillery and roaming gangs of terrorists collecting them, looking for random opportunities for violence to spontaneously exploit. It might be more comforting to Americans to suppose that Carney is lying.
Carney refused to speculate whether or not the now infamous Youtube video was the proximate cause for the attack on the grounds that such incautious speculation would be inappropriate before all the facts have been gathered:
“This is a matter that’s under investigation in terms of what precipitated the attacks, what the motivations of the attackers were, what role the video played in that. I am not, unlike some others, going to prejudge the outcome of an investigation and categorically assert one way or the other what the motivations are or what happened exactly until that investigation is complete.”
The outpouring of philosophical virtue would make Socrates gush with pride. However, just last week Carney indignantly insisted, over and over again, that the movie in question was the “sole” cause for the violence. At one point, in response to a reporter’s ostensibly impertinent question about his strident confidence, Carney bristled: “It’s not an assumption”.
Moreover, instead of reiterating his earlier contention that there was no warning at all indicating the heightened possibility of an attack on the consulate, Carney now said he was “not aware” of any such notice.
The Obama administration has also maintained that the security provided for the embassy was appropriate to the occasion. But two former Navy Seals who died in the firefight at the embassy, previously described as consulate security, were not part of that detail at all. Just last week, UN Ambassador Susan Rice referred to the two private contractors, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, as official security personnel:
“Two of the four Americans who were killed were there providing security. That was their function. And indeed, there were many other colleagues who were doing the same with them.”
However, a senior official at the State Department has revealed otherwise:
“Woods and Doherty weren’t part of the detail, nor were they personally responsible for the ambassador’s security, but they stepped into the breach when the attacks occurred and their actions saved others lives — and they shouldn’t be lumped in with the security detail.”
These men were heroes, acting outside of the scope of their official duties, sacrificing their lives in order to protect American officials on American soil. Communications regarding their role was clearly manipulated in order to cover up the inexcusable insufficiency of embassy security.
Of course, it is infuriating to be bombarded with attempts to spin the sad events of September 11th as feckless as the precautions taken to prevent it. The cavalier abuse of the truth, besides its grinding condescension, sullies the memory of those who died for their country, men already dishonored by the lack of effort devoted to their safety, by the incompetence that compromised their lives. The Obama administration is so singularly obsessed with pursuing every avenue that leads to their own exculpation that they have sacrificed even the bare appearance of coherence, no longer making common cause with the demands of common sense. The families of those brave Americans slain have surely noticed this disrespect with sadness, and our enemies have surely noticed, too, with delight.
The real challenge, though, for Obama is not rendering this or that detail consistent with earlier prevarications. What now remains exposed as indefensible is the totality of the Obama Doctrine, or the view that soft diplomacy, grand gestures of conciliation combined with treacly solicitations for forgiveness, have only magnetized more of our enemies’ contempt, not their affection. We are not, as Susan Rice has ignorantly insisted, more popular, nor will we ever be, among the crowd that views our very existence as an affront to theirs. In place of fawning obsequiousness, this president must practice some fortitude, the steely resolve to defend ourselves with the same conviction our foes muster in trying to attack us. If we can’t be loved by them, and it is clear that we cannot, we must be at least be feared. Only then, can we be safe.