The PJ Tatler

Why Benghazi is Not Just a Foreign Policy Issue

American presidents are charged with few sacred duties. The Constitution is silent on a president’s direct role in the economy, and says nothing about jobs plans or health care overhauls.

But the president is clearly charged with protecting America and her interests. The president’s oath of office, sworn before God and the American people, stipulates that the president will defend and uphold the Constitution and its guarantees of Americans’ freedoms. Among those freedoms is the right to free speech. Another is the individual’s right to accept or reject any given religion.

The sacking of the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012 touches directly on the president’s sacred duties. It also touches on a basic character issue with the president and his top officers.

As the security situation in Benghazi deteriorated, Ambassador Christopher Stevens and his security officers on the ground repeatedly requested more security. Those requests were repeatedly denied across several months. Some have tried to blame budget cuts for those denials, but the US State Department itself has dismissed those claims.

While the security situation in Libya was clearly deteriorating and Islamist forces were gaining traction, President Barack Obama and his campaign adopted a theme upon which they pinned the president’s re-election hopes. That theme was that terrorist group al Qaeda was “on the run” after the killing of their leader Osama bin Laden. But was that theme based on truth?

In the months leading up to the sacking of the US consulate in Benghazi, al Qaeda re-branded its worldwide war against all things not in accord with their view of Islam. It had chosen a new leader, Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood alum Ayman al-Zawahiri, in the wake of bin Laden’s death. It had taken a leading role in the ousting of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. It was moving to play a leading role in the Syrian revolution against dictator Bashar Assad. It was moving to gain power in Tunisia, another Arab Spring state that had overthrown its tyrannical government. In Egypt, arguably the most pivotal Arab country of them all, the Muslim Brotherhood itself had won elections and began to dominate that country’s political life. The Muslim Brotherhood established the Islamic supremacist ideology that gave rise to al Qaeda.

But the president and his campaign kept telling America that al Qaeda was “on the run,” implying that they were a spent and defeated force.

The Sept 11, 2012 sacking of the US consulate presented a potential problem. If it could be tied to al Qaeda, then it presented strong evidence that the president had failed in his duty to protect America, her citizens and her interests even after repeated security warnings. If the attack could be tied to al Qaeda, it also presented strong evidence that the terrorist group may not be on the run at all, but may be on the march.

The evidence that has become available after the attack points to a conspiracy at the highest levels of our government to tell the American people a story about the Benghazi attack that was not true. The White House Situation Room and the US State Department had information from the field that terrorists pre-planned and carried out the attack. The United States had at least one drone aircraft overhead monitoring the ongoing battle and relaying information back to US command centers in real time. One email from the field that reached the president’s Situation Room during the battle stated that terrorists under the banner of Ansar al-Sharia claimed responsibility. Ansar al-Sharia is one of al Qaeda’s new brand names. Another email sent from the field during the battle stated that the attackers were using mortar fire, indicating that the attack was pre-scouted and pre-planned. There was no protest prior to the attack.

Four Americans died in the battle. The United States lost weapons and intelligence to the attackers. The world saw an American consulate fall, and no aid was dispatched to rescue those in peril. The prime suspect believed to have led the attack remains at large. The attack may have some of its roots in the Arab Spring and in Iraq, which President Obama left on a political rather than strategic timeline. The world watched as it took American investigators more than three weeks even to reach the burned consulate compound. By that time, reporters and militants and everyday people had been through and ransacked it. The United States is reported to have lost valuable intelligence information left behind in the sacked compound.

Rather than work from the preponderance of the evidence in hand and label the assault a terrorist attack and pursue the attackers when time was of the essence, the Obama administration blamed it on a YouTube movie made in the United States. That YouTube movie, obscure and amateurish, criticized Mohammed. Americans enjoy the right of free speech and the right to adhere to or reject religion and religious figures.

Safeguarding the right of free speech and the right to accept or reject a religion is among a president’s sacred duties. Protecting America and her interests is among a president’s sacred duties.

But President Obama and his administration falsely blamed a movie, and the man who made that movie has been publicly identified by the government. That exposes him to harm. The government is now holding him on a parole violation, with no hearing until after the November 6 elections. He is for all intents and purposes a political prisoner being held because he exercised his First Amendment rights.

The American government also paid a reported $70,000 to air TV ads in Pakistan blaming the movie and apologizing for it. Those ads serve to undercut American free speech rights. They lent credence to the false story that a movie caused the attack. The ads presented a humiliating image of America. Five days after the attack, someone in the administration dispatched Ambassador Susan Rice to five Sunday talk shows to blame the movie. For two weeks after the attack, the administration from the president down continued to blame the movie while ignoring the evidence that a re-branded al Qaeda had launched the deadly assault.

The Benghazi attack and its aftermath bear directly on the president’s sacred duties. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton failed to protect Americans in harm’s way. Americans and our nation’s interests are attacked worldwide all too frequently, without regard to which political party holds power. But the president has an obligation to tell America the truth after attacks occur, and to pursue those who attack us. But Obama and Clinton, along with several other administration figures, recklessly threatened Americans’ rights of religion and free speech. The president also has a duty to tell Americans the truth about the extent and nature of threats to us abroad. But President Obama chose to lie, telling Americans that al Qaeda is on the run when the evidence says that it is gaining strength.

This week, President Obama has been campaigning on trust. But Benghazi and the cover-up that followed bear directly on the question of trust. Can President Obama be trusted to safeguard our rights and protect our people and interests? Benghazi tells us that he cannot be trusted to protect Americans and American interests, and he cannot be trusted to safeguard our basic, Constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms of speech and religion. He cannot even be trusted to tell the truth when the truth is obvious to everyone outside his administration and campaign. Though it happened on the other side of the world, the Benghazi attack is a character issue for Barack Obama now.