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The Real Lesson of Benghazi

The fantasies shaping the Washington establishment’s views on Islam do more than make bad policy. They also kill.

by
Robert Spencer

Bio

October 15, 2012 - 11:10 pm

The Obama administration is approaching full meltdown over the steady stream of revelations concerning its inaction and lies over the massacre of Ambassador Chris Stevens and other U.S. personnel in Libya. Obama and Biden are lining up against Hillary Clinton and the State Department, claiming that they weren’t told about Stevens’ requests for additional security. Meanwhile, administration officials are denying that they ever linked the attack on the consulate to the Muhammad video that has been blamed for worldwide Muslim riots, despite abundant evidence to the contrary. One fact, however, is as clear as it is little noted: the entire incident demonstrates the abject failure of the Obama administration’s Middle East policy, and its analysis of the jihad threat in general.

Speaking about the Libyan revolution in March 2011, Obama warmly praised the dawning in Libya of “the rights of peaceful assembly, free speech, and the ability of the Libyan people to determine their own destiny.” After providing military aid to the anti-Gaddafi rebels despite evidence of their al-Qaeda links, the administration–whether the call really came from the White House or the State Department or both–had every reason to ignore the request from Benghazi for more security, and to pretend that the whole thing was just a spontaneous uprising over a video, not the carefully planned September 11 jihad attack that it proved to be.

To have acknowledged what was really happening would have been to admit that the Allahu-akbaring mob besieging the Benghazi consulate was nothing remotely close to a responsible citizenry enjoying their rights of peaceful assembly, free speech, and self-determination. It would have been to admit that the jihad against the United States would not be turned away from its goal by hearts-and-minds gestures, even if those gestures included the removal of a brutal dictator. The people of Benghazi were no more inclined to welcome the Americans as liberators–and Ambassador Stevens had attempted to play exactly that role, sneaking into Libya during the most difficult days of the uprising and doing everything he could to aid the rebels–than were the people of Iraq when Saddam Hussein was toppled.

The reason in both cases was the same: the rebels against both Saddam and Gaddafi were largely Islamic supremacists who wanted a Sharia state, disdained democracy, and considered the United States to be their enemy not primarily because of various aspects of its foreign policy, but because it is the world’s foremost infidel polity, against whom the mujahedin believe they have a sacred duty to wage war. The Qur’an and Islamic law direct Muslims to wage war against and subjugate the “People of the Book” (cf. Qur’an 9:29)–that is, primarily Jews and Christians–not if they behave badly by supporting Israel or Middle Eastern dictators, but simply because they are not Muslims.

But the White House and State Department not only do not acknowledge this fact–they have done all they can to deny and obfuscate it. The one cardinal proposition that accepted analysts must repeat is that the present conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims have absolutely nothing to do with Islam; indeed, Obama administration officials are expressly forbidden to link Islam with terrorism, as if Islamic terrorists weren’t busy linking the two on a daily basis. The errors of analysis and wrong decisions that cost lives all follow from this initial false premise.

About six months ago a State Department official contacted me privately and told me about State employees who had been assigned to study the life of Muhammad, with an eye toward putting together a positive portrayal of the prophet of Islam that would presumably win more Muslim hearts and minds by going out with the United States government’s seal of approval. The officials who began studying the earliest Muslim sources about Muhammad, however, were astonished as they came face-to-face not with a seventh-century Gandhi, but with a figure of war and rapine who appeared to justify the worst allegations of the “Islamophobes” that the Obama administration has so roundly excoriated. Needless to say, the puff piece on Muhammad did not appear.

This disconnect from reality was reminiscent of what is said about State during the Iranian Revolution: that while the Ayatollah Khomeini was bringing about the toppling of the shah and the establishment of the Islamic Republic, only one of his books could be found anywhere in the State Department, and no one had read it. No one thought the rantings of an obscure fanatic who for years had been exiled to far-off France were important.

This was the willful blindness that killed Chris Stevens, and is the real scandal of Benghazi. The politically correct fantasies that characterize the Washington establishment’s views on Islam and jihad not only make for bad policy; they also kill. Clearly what happened in Benghazi was part of a coordinated, carefully planned series of jihad attacks–in all the controversy over what the White House knew and didn’t know, it has also been forgotten that jihadis stormed the U.S. embassy in Cairo on the same day. That raises the question: What did the Muslim Brotherhood know, and when did it know it? And the related question: Why is the Obama administration continuing to cultivate warm relations (and shower money upon) the Morsi regime in Egypt, without undertaking even the most cursory investigation into the possibility of its involvement in those attacks?

From the beginning of the “Arab Spring,” I said repeatedly that it was not a democracy movement as the Western press and the White House were claiming, but an Islamic supremacist takeover that would result in the creation of Sharia states far more hostile to the U.S. and Israel than the Arab nationalist regimes they were supplanting. This assessment was greeted with the usual scorn, but Benghazi shows who was right and who was wrong and how desperately the foreign policy establishment in Washington needs a very thorough housecleaning.

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Arab Winter Comes to America: The Truth About the War We’re In. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.
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