On March 11, 2004, bombs ripped through Madrid’s commuter train system killing 191 people and wounding an additional 1,800. The terrorist attack took place three days before Spain’s general election and completely turned it upside down. The ruling People’s Party lead by then-Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar chose to cast blame on Spain’s Basque separatist organization ETA, while the Socialist opposition pointed to al-Qaeda as the culprit.
By blaming ETA, Anzar’s camp hoped to curry votes by drawing attention to their leader’s tough campaign against the Spanish terror organization. The Socialists, on the other hand, hoped voters would hold Aznar responsible for having incited Islamic extremists by his support of America’s war in Iraq, which was exceedingly unpopular in Spain.
In the end, the Socialists won. Not only were they correct in blaming al-Qaeda, but they were also able to capitalize on a major mistake by Anzar’s team — one almost identical to the mistake being carried out by Team Obama in the wake of the deadly Benghazi attack.
Within hours of the bombings in Madrid, Aznar’s foreign minister sent a memo to Spain’s ambassadors instructing them to blame ETA for the attack. And despite police rounding up a number of Moroccan-born suspects the evening before the election, Spain’s interior minister continued to claim that the police investigation was focused on ETA. The Spanish government wasn’t fooling anyone, especially its citizens. They knew who was behind the bombings. The ruling party’s less-than-credible insistence that ETA was responsible led enough voters to switch their support away from Anzar — who up to that point had been a sure thing — and over to his Socialist challenger, who would go on to a stunning come-from-behind victory and eventually usher in drastic changes in Spain’s domestic and foreign policy.
While not of the same magnitude in loss of life as the Madrid bombings, the Benghazi attack of September 11, 2012, saw Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three of his colleagues (Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty) murdered and our consulate set aflame. Having committed to a political calculation, the Obama administration set off in the wake of those attacks in much the same fashion as the doomed Aznar administration did.
Five days after, and despite clear evidence that there was, in fact, no mob, but instead a well-planned and executed terrorist attack, the Obama administration dispatched UN Ambassador Susan Rice to appear on the Sunday talk shows to give the White House’s version of events. Ambassador Rice was an interesting choice of spokesperson, which brings to mind the question: Why wasn’t Secretary of State Clinton available? Was she perhaps not willing to carry the administration’s water?
Ambassador Rice stated on CBS’s Face the Nation:
Based on the best information we have to date … it began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo, where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy sparked by this hateful video. But soon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that effort with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post-revolution. And that it spun from there into something much, much more violent. … We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.
Three days later, however, in sworn testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Mathew Olson, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, testified that “[y]es, they were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy. We are looking at indications that individuals involved in the attack may have had connections to al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda’s affiliates; in particular, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.”
Nevertheless, ignoring Olson’s testimony and the mounting evidence that Benghazi constituted a coordinated terrorist attack on an American diplomatic facility, the next day, at the Univision Town Hall, President Obama again raised the specter of a protest over the offensive video being to blame for the murders of Ambassador Stevens and his colleagues:
Well, we’re still doing an investigation, and there are going to be different circumstances in different countries. And so I don’t want to speak to something until we have all the information. What we do know is that the natural protests that arose because of the outrage over the video were used as an excuse by extremists to see if they can also directly harm U.S. interests.
Based on extensive reporting by CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and Fox News, there is not only no longer any doubt that Benghazi was a sophisticated and pre-planned terrorist attack against the United States. Indeed, the Obama administration very likely knew this at a much earlier stage than they have admitted.
In the face of congressional hearings, the State Department asserts that it never concluded the consulate attack in Benghazi arose from protests over the video. When asked about the Obama administration’s initial explanation linking the attacks in Benghazi to protests over the video, a State Department official said, “That was not our conclusion.” The implication being that those talking points had come from the White House.
The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker,” Glenn Kessler, wrote that “[f]or political reasons, it certainly was in the White House’s interests to not portray the attack as a terrorist incident, especially one that took place on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Instead the administration kept the focus on what was ultimately a red herring — anger in the Arab world over anti-Muslim video posted on You Tube.” The political reasons for the Obama administration’s portrayal of the attack arise from the fact that Benghazi fundamentally undermines White House claims that “leading from behind” resulted in success in Libya, that extremely conciliatory gestures to the Muslim World would defuse Islamic extremism, that the global war on terror is over and al-Qaeda defeated with the killing of Osama bin Laden, and that the administration had given proper consideration to the safety of American diplomats operating in Libya.
On Monday, in his speech at VMI, Governor Romney gave voice to what Americans already knew to be true:
The attack on our consulate in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012, was likely the work of forces affiliated with those that attacked our homeland on September 11th, 2001. This latest assault cannot be blamed on a reprehensible video insulting Islam, despite the Administration’s attempts to convince us of that for so long. No, as the Administration has finally conceded, these attacks were the deliberate work of terrorists who use violence to impose their dark ideology on others, especially women and girls; who are fighting to control much of the Middle East today; and who seek to wage perpetual war on the West.
Just as Spanish voters figured out in a mere three days between the Madrid bombings and the election (despite their government’s effort to point the finger at ETA) that it was al-Qaeda that was responsible, American voters are determining, as congressional hearings unfold and common-sense analysis takes over, that the Benghazi murders were a coordinated and pre-planned attack on America — not spontaneous mob violence arising from an offensive video as the administration has clinged to for so long.
In less than 30 days, we will know if the Obama administration will pay a price at the polls for its handling of Benghazi and its aftermath, just as the Spanish government did for Madrid.