The Benghazi scandal continues to metastasize like a creeping cancer across the body politic whether or not the press chooses to diagnose it as such. Bigger than the election itself, more momentous than Hurricane Sandy, and certainly more important than a fabular war on women confected out of pure imagination, this is one of the darkest and most disturbing scandals in modern presidential history. Still, only conservative media outlets have decided to cover it like the historic story that it is, playing a frustrated Cassandra to a stubbornly oblivious mainstream media.
A brief chronicle of slowly unfurling events reveals a dark development that begins with dispiriting incompetence and ends with cowardice so chilling it smacks of treason. Let’s be good Cartesians and begin with what we know for certain: We know President Obama had ample reason to provide additional security to the embassy in Benghazi, measures specifically requested by Ambassador Stevens, and chose not to. We know that the embassy was attacked in a tactically coordinated offensive by terrorists and that the President knew this almost immediately. We know Obama spent weeks, along with his PR factotums, denying the existence of intelligence to this effect that we know he possessed. We know he simply conjured a gossamer tale about an offensive video that he maintained was the sole purpose for the attacks, and that the assault organically sprung from a convulsive mass protest that never happened. We know he even had the film maker arrested on dubious charges, fully aware he was only guilty of exercising his First Amendment rights. We know he circulated this transparently ludicrous folderol as fact until it became impossible to sustain before even a whisper of incredulity. We know, at the moment everyone could say they too knew, that he pretended he called it terrorism from the very beginning.
A few days ago, this magazine reported that Obama denied at least three requests for military assistance as the embassy was under siege. We know a fighter jet could have been there within the hour, special forces commandos within three, and that he had adequately actionable information within two, and the fighting raged on for seven. We know that he still denied these requests.
We know that neither General Petraeus nor Leon Panetta denied these requests. A spokesman at the CIA ruled this out emphatically: “No one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate. ” We also know that, operationally speaking, only the President could make such a decision, and so, as he often likes to cavalierly claim, ultimate responsibility must rest with his office.
In itself, this is a despairing scenario to envision, our president withholding support from Americans he ordered into harms’ way, inadequately equipped by his command. Alas, it gets worse.
Lt. Col. Tony Schaefer reported to Fox News that his own sources have confirmed that President Obama actually watched the monstrous attack unfold live, in real time:
“I hate to say this, according to my sources, yes, [the President] was one of those in the White House situation room in real-time watching this. And the question becomes, ‘What did the President do or not do in the moments he saw this unveiling?’ He — only he — could issue a directive to Secretary of Defense Panetta to do something.”
If true, what does this reveal about the content of Obama’s character? If he passively watched Americans under his command murdered, endowed with the power to potentially rescue them but chastened by the political fallout? If in order to insulate his foreign policy house of cards from the riotous gale of wind blowing through Northern Africa and the Middle East, he sacrificed Americans he could have saved? And then lied about it repeatedly, unrepentantly, with histrionically feigned indignation?
We know enough to demand candid answers to the few, macabre questions whose answers we still do not know. We know that if what we suspect turns out to be true, the request for another four weeks, let alone four years as Commander in Chief, should be summarily denied. We know we deserve better, and so do the Americans who were murdered that day, while their President purportedly watched on television, anxious about his election prospects. We know this is a morbid story, full of gruesome sadness, and we can almost excuse the press for their irresponsible neglect of things we all wish we did not know, that we could unlearn. We know more than we can bear, but now we must know more.