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How Do We Make Sense of Obama's, Clinton's and Panetta's Actions During the Benghazi Attack?

Benghazi was never about a movie. Ever.

On the day of the attack in Benghazi, the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, had come under siege at the encouragement of al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. While the riot in Cairo was being blamed on the Nakoula Nakoula YouTube movie in the media, the Cairo riot was never really about the movie. Ever.

The Innocence of Muslims movie, which the vast majority of the Cairo mob had never seen, was used by the riot's leaders to stir up anger and bring out the crowd. But on September 10, 2012, we posted a note about Cairo and the riot that was to come. The real purpose of the Cairo riot, all along, was to pressure the Obama administration into releasing Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, the mastermind of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center in New York.

According to El Fagr, they are calling for the immediate release of the Islamic jihadis who are imprisonment and in detention centers in the U.S. including Guantanamo Bay: “The group, which consists of many members from al-Qaeda, called [especially] for the quick release of the jihadi [mujahid] sheikh, Omar Abdul Rahman [the 'Blind Sheikh'], whom they described as a scholar and jihadi who sacrificed his life for the Egyptian Umma, who was ignored by the Mubarak regime, and [President] Morsi is refusing to intervene on his behalf and release him, despite promising that he would. The Islamic Group has threatened to burn the U.S. Embassy in Cairo with those in it, and taking hostage those who remain [alive], unless the Blind Sheikh is immediately released.”

The riot, which included jihadists scaling the wall of the U.S. embassy and replacing the American flag with their own, was geared to pressure Obama into releasing the blink sheikh -- it was not a protest about a movie. As we've written here before, if the Tatler had this information on September 10, then surely the U.S. government had it as well. So the Obama administration knew from the beginning that Cairo was not really about a movie. Therefore, neither was Benghazi, and they knew it. The CIA's original talking points reflect this fact, clearly blaming al Qaeda and never mentioning the YouTube movie.

I bring this up to dispatch with one possibility, which is that the Obama administration was so quick to blame Benghazi on a YouTube movie because of the events that were already taking place in Cairo. They could rationally and innocently have seen Cairo and concluded that Benghazi was related. Neither incident was really about protesting a movie. Ever. And they had the intelligence to prove it. Their own intelligence never pointed to a movie.

Yet they were quick to blame the movie, almost too quick, putting the blame on it during the attack and for two weeks thereafter. Secretary of State Clinton even stood before the bodies of the slain and blamed the movie a few days after the attack.

CLINTON, 9-14-2012: This has been a difficult week for the State Department and for our country. We’ve seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful internet video that we had nothing do to with. It’s hard for the American people to make sense of that, because it is senseless, and it is totally unacceptable. The people of Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia, did not trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob. Reasonable people and responsible leaders in these countries in these countries need to do everything they can to restore security and hold accountable those behind these violent acts. And we will, under the president’s leadership, keep taking steps to protect our personnel around the world. (emphasis added)

Stripped of the politics and evident cover-up, the Benghazi attack was not difficult to understand. It was the latest battle in the ongoing Islamist war against civilization. It was an attack in a known al Qaeda hotbed against a soft American target on the anniversary of 9-11, a target that we now know had been infiltrated by terrorist operatives. It's all quite straightforward. Clinton's remarks muddied, rather than clarified, the attack. That same day, recall, she also told the father of one of the slain that the U.S. government would arrest the man who had made the movie that she and others were blaming. That weekend, Nakoula Nakoula was arrested. The Obama team was building a narrative that the movie had caused a demonstration that evolved into an attack, and they were willing to have a man arrested on parole violations to further that narrative. The same weekend that Nakoula was first picked up was the same weekend that Ambassador Susan Rice would blame his movie on no less than five Sunday talk shows. Even though she and everyone responsible for the administration's story must have known that the movie had nothing to do with the attack.

While the Obama administration was quick to blame the movie, they have been slow to explain what they were actually doing during the 10-hour attack, and who was involved in what. Defense Secretary Panetta has testified that he was not in contact with either President Obama or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the attack unfolded, and despite the fact that it was being monitored in real-time in Washington. The attack would also have weighed heavily on the minds of the president's re-election campaign advisers. It could cost him and them their jobs.

Does it make any sense that on the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, that as another terrorist attack transpires, in a country bearing the fingerprints of Obama and Clinton after their air war helped oust Muammar Gaddafi, that POTUS, SecDef, and SecState all decided not to discuss the attack and coordinate a response? Does it make any sense for a secretary of State to handle the attack without communicating with her counterpart at the Pentagon, who would have been in charge of any military response to it? Does it make any sense for Panetta to green-light or red-light any response without consulting the commander-in-chief? Does he even have such authority?