Five months ago, radical Islamists in Libya murdered four American officials, and President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that the administration would not rest until those responsible were caught.
Yet it seems as if nothing has been done: just as the White House did nothing on September 11, 2012, while the U.S. consulate was under attack, it has done nothing serious since, and is doing nothing now.
Want proof? Consider this report:
Just days after President Barack Obama vowed to hunt down and bring to justice those responsible for the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound here, Ahmed Abu Khattala — one of those considered a ringleader — spent two leisurely hours Thursday evening at a luxury hotel full of journalists, relaxed in a red fez and sandals, sipping mango juice on a patio overlooking the Mediterranean and scoffing at the threats coming from both the American and Libyan governments.
Libya’s fledgling national army was a “national chicken,” Abu Khattala said, using an Arabic rhyme. Asked who should take responsibility for apprehending the mission’s attackers, he chuckled at the weakness of the Libyan authorities. And he accused U.S. leaders of “playing with the emotions of the American people” and “using the consulate attack just to gather votes for their elections.”
Ali Harzi, a 26-year-old Tunisian extradited from Turkey in October, was one of the only people actually detained over the attack and at the time Tunisian authorities said they “strongly suspected” he was involved.
On Tuesday, however, his lawyer Anwar Oued-Ali said the presiding judge had “conditionally freed” Harzi the night before for lack of evidence. He must remain in the Tunis area to be available for any further questioning.
U.S. officials in December lamented the lack of cooperation with the governments of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt in their ongoing investigation into the attack, saying most of the suspects remain free.
In Libya especially, investigating the attack is difficult because authorities rely on the numerous militias made up of tens of thousands of young Libyans who took up arms against former leader Muammar Qaddafi. It is often difficult to draw clear lines between those providing security and those causing instability.
The first article was published in the New York Times – last October.
The second was a CBS item from January.
So: these things can be found in the American mass media — congratulations to those I so often criticize — but do not find their way into the policy debate.
At least the militia that all witnesses identified as being responsible had to cease activities in Benghazi for a while, though the militia leaders lounged at cafes there with no one bothering them.
But even that small victory is over – now they’re back to business as normal. The Ansar al-Sharia (Helpers of the Sharia) now control Benghazi’s western entrance, a southern checkpoint, and security at a hospital. One passing car honks to greet the Ansar al-Sharia guards and waves the al-Qaida flag out the window at them.
As Reuters puts it, this and other such radical Islamist groups “are also held up as heroes of the Libyan uprising by some locals who say they are doing a better job of the protecting them than the government in distant Tripoli.”
“These men are also people who fought on the front lines, care about their city and provide services. We can’t shun them,” said Benghazi University professor Iman Bugaighis, referring to several militias. “We had to ask them to come back and protect our hospital and streets.”
Yes, they fought on the front lines with courage — Islamists often speak of sacrificing their lives in jihad and martyrdom — but the victory was handed to them by NATO, a NATO led by the United States, and a United States whose officials the Ansar al-Sharia killed perhaps because they were trying to get some of the weapons back.
Wait a minute.
The current Libyan government is a client of the United States. Can’t the White House pressure the Libyan government to push forward the investigation, to detain those identified by witnesses as the attackers?
Or is the U.S. not even trying?