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As the Benghazi Plot Thickens, Congress Must Not Get Sidetracked

November 20th, 2012 - 3:02 pm

It is no surprise that Obama is feeling his oats at the prospect of a show-down with McCain and Graham — the senators were even hotter for Obama’s Libya war than Obama was. But most conservatives were not. Congressional Republicans shrank from taking on McCain and mounting a meaningful opposition to Obama’s Libya war, but many of them rightly believed the policy was disastrous. The Mohammed-movie cover-up is a blatant attempt to avoid much-needed scrutiny of that policy.

Senators McCain and Graham are to be applauded for what they’ve done over the last two months. Maddeningly, the Republican Party’s most visible figure, its presidential nominee Mitt Romney, went silent on the Benghazi massacre in the campaign stretch-run despite the commander-in-chief’s shocking failure to defend Americans under attack (more on that in a moment). In my humble opinion, it cost him the election. Unlike Romney, the senators have demanded accountability for what happened on September 11, 2012. They’ve also been admirably strong in raising the issue of Ms. Rice’s lack of qualifications, and in not backing down when the president did his impassioned-defense-of-the-woman-scorned routine.

Nevertheless, the conditions that catalyzed the Benghazi massacre arose out of what my recent book calls “Spring Fever”: longstanding administration policies regarding the “Arab Spring” generally, and Libya in particular. The senators were and apparently remain ardent supporters of those policies. Conservatives and others opposed to the government’s “Islamic democracy” project — its knowing empowerment of Islamists hostile to the West — should not cede leadership on Benghazi to that project’s proponents. If you want to get to the bottom of why the massacre happened, you cannot rely on the people who supported the strategy of which the  massacre is a foreseeable result.

2. The commander-in-chief’s dereliction of duty during a 7-hour siege. 

The jihadist siege against the American installation in Benghazi lasted for over seven hours. The commander-in-chief knew the attack was underway while it was happening — which is obviously why he won’t answer questions about when and how he learned of it. He had military assets in proximity to Benghazi that could have come to the aid of the besieged Americans. Yet, Obama failed to take meaningful military action, an inexcusable dereliction of duty. Then, he told the American people he had done all he could do to protect those who were killed and wounded, an inexcusable betrayal of trust. Both counts of malfeasance are impeachable offenses. Rice’s false statements, Clapper’s purge, and Petraeus’s contradictory statements to Congress do not erase any of that. Obama has far more to answer for than anyone else in this debacle, and it is imperative that he be held accountable.

3. What on earth was the administration up to in Benghazi?

The U.S. installations in Benghazi were not a consulate. Consular functions in Libya are carried out in Tripoli. Petraeus described Benghazi’s ostensible State Department compound in Benghazi as a “consulate,” but that description has been retracted: the administration now calls it a “diplomatic facility.” There doesn’t appear to have been much diplomatic action there, though. The other relevant compound was a CIA facility for … well, we don’t know. No explanation has been forthcoming from the administration, and notwithstanding the media’s preternatural interest in CIA facilities during the Bush years, the American press (Fox News honorably excepted) does not seem especially curious this time around.

Both Fox News and Paula Broadwell (Petraeus’s mistress) have claimed that the CIA was detaining Libyan jihadists in Benghazi. The CIA appears to deny that allegation, but the denial seems awfully lawyerly.

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