Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ambassador Stevens is still dead

I don't enjoy being so brutally blunt, but the point needs to be made, again and again and again. The sitting U.S. Ambassador to Libya--Chris Stevens was assassinated (not just killed) in Benghazi, Libya on September 11th, 2012 by Islamic terrorists linked to al Qaeda in a pre-planned attack on the U.S. mission in that city. And after months of obfuscation, misrepresentation, and stonewalling by the State Department and the Obama Administration, investigations into the whys and hows of all this have failed to produce much of anything.

This is unacceptable, in my humble opinion.

Yes, there is a big story--and a clearly deep-seated problem--at the IRS. There's also a similar one at the EPA, though it's getting limited attention. Then there's the apparent contempt of the current administration--perhaps shared by previous ones, to be fair--for the First Amendment and investigative reporting. All of these things are important, they deserve the attention of the citizenry and by extension the media, because they all represent unacceptable incursions on liberty by the Federal Government in general and the executive branch in particular.

But none of them--none of them--involve the assassination of a top government official and the attempt to cover up the incompetence that led to that assassination.

Luckily, there are some people in elected office still aware of this distinction, still continuing to focus and press on the Benghazi situation. And I'm going to name them: Senator John McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham, and Senator Kelly Ayotte.

As frequent readers of this blog might know, I'm no fan of Senator McCain in general. But I have never and would never question his patriotism and commitment to keeping America safe. Whatever  faults he has, he is consistently on the right side of things when it comes to national security. Graham I respect a great deal. Ditto for Ayotte who has quickly proven to be one of the most serious-minded elected officials in all of DC. As a group, these three have been all over the Benghazi situation from the beginning, so when they speak on the issue, people--all people--would do well to pay attention. Yesterday, the three issued a joint press release that details what we know and what we don't know about Benghazi. The things we still don't know:
We do not know whether the President was made aware of the classified cable that, according to published media reports, Ambassador Chris Stevens sent in August 2012, stating that the U.S. Mission in Benghazi could not survive a sustained assault from one or more of the threatening militia groups that were operating in eastern Libya.

We do not know whether the President’s national security staff made him aware of the attacks on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi that occurred in April and June of last year and the assassination attempt on the British Ambassador in Benghazi around the same time.

If the President was informed, we do not know what actions, if any, he ordered.

We do not know who within U.S. Special Operations Command, Africa ordered a U.S. special forces detachment in Tripoli not to go to Benghazi to assist the Americans under attack, and why that “stand down” order was given, as the former Deputy Chief of Mission in Tripoli, Gregory Hicks, testified to Congress.

We do not know why, on the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in American history, after multiple attacks last year on U.S. and Western interests in Libya, and with rising insecurity in countries across the Middle East, U.S. military units and assets in the region were not ready, alert, and positioned to respond in a timely fashion to what should have been a foreseeable emergency – despite the fact that there is a U.S. military base in Souda Bay, Crete, which is a short flight to Benghazi.

We do not know what the President did or who he was in contact with during the seven hours of the attack, and we do not know why the President did not reach out to Libyan President Magariaf during that period of time.

We still do not know the names of the survivors of the Benghazi attack, and they have not been interviewed by the Congress.

We do not know why the testimonies of the U.S. personnel who were evacuated from Benghazi on September 12, 2012 – eyewitnesses who knew there never was a demonstration outside the U.S. Mission – were not shared in a timely way with, and immediately factored in to the judgments of, our intelligence community.

We do not know whether this failure reflects obstacles that still exist to the free sharing of information across executive branch agencies, which was a key concern of the 9/11 Commission.

We do not know why the Administration did not do more to support and assist the new Libyan government that took power after the fall of Qaddafi, including in the establishment of civilian-led national security forces that operate under central government control, a counterterrorism force that is trained and equipped to combat Al Qaeda and its affiliates, national justice and prison systems, and effective control over the immense stockpiles of weapons and dangerous materials that exist across Libya. The result of this ‘light footprint’ approach was that Al-Qaeda, its affiliated groups, and local militias were able to establish sanctuaries almost uncontested in the ungoverned spaces of eastern Libya. Some of these individuals were involved in the attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi.”

And a couple of critical things we do know:
In an address on the morning of September 12, 2012, President Obama spoke of ‘acts of terror,’ but later that day, in an interview with CBS’s ‘60 Minutes,’ he refused to characterize the attack in Benghazi as a terrorist attack. He then spent nearly two additional weeks claiming that he did not know whether the incident in Benghazi was a terrorist attack, contrary to what the then-Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have said that they believed to be true at the time. The Washington Post gave ‘Four Pinocchios’ to the President’s claim that he referred to the attack in Benghazi as terrorism on September 12, 2012. 
On September 16, 2012, Ambassador Rice went well beyond the talking points and made misleading statements to the American people. Her statement that ‘we’ve decimated al Qaeda’ was not in the talking points and was patently false. Across the broader Middle East, the threat from al Qaeda affiliates to the United States and our interests was growing, and Ambassador Rice’s comments presented a false picture to the American people. In addition, Ambassador Rice repeatedly suggested that the United States had a strong security presence in Benghazi. That statement was also not in the talking points and was proven false by the successful attack and the subsequent whistleblower testimony.
This is not partisan politics. This is not DC business as usual. This is not "electioneering." In the words of John Mellencamp, "This IS Serious Business." President Bush caught all kinds of flak for being in a school reading a story at the moment 9-11 began, but he didn't keep reading that story for seven hours. And he never attempted to minimize the events of that day by falsely attributing them to some stupid movie, book, or the like. The Administration appears to have been out to lunch throughout the saga and it has never given a satisfactory explanation as to why this is the case.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton and her State Department just look incompetent, wholly and completely, especially with regard to sending out Susan Rice with a fabricated explanation for the events. What is rarely acknowledged by the mainstream press--let alone by State or the Administration-- is just how incensed the Libyan President was by this silliness, since he knew from the beginning that there was no protest about a movie in Benghazi. That's how our "top diplomat" handles things, someone who many think should be the next President? Really?

I don't know if there is any criminal wrongdoing here on the part of the Administration and its minions. Even if there is, it may never come to light or be provable. But nothing it has done with regard to the Benghazi attacks--before, during, or after--is acceptable. All of its actions and decisions suggest it is ill-prepared to make hard and quick decisions, when it comes to national security, that it is more interested in potential political fallout at home than in protecting U.S. interests--not to mention U.S. personnel--abroad. And its inability to be forthcoming about all of this suggests it will not learn from Benghazi at all.

Not to mention, Chris Stevens is still dead. Because he was ASSASSINATED BY ISLAMIC TERROISTS. And there has never been a complete acknowledgement of this fact by the Administration, much less an appropriate response.

Cheers, all.

1 comment:

  1. The first administration in our country's history when our President has to leave the greens, and come into the clubhouse, to be out to lunch.

    There are so many REAL, truly important problems that rightly deserve our collective attention. I think your list and mine do not line up with precision - but I so firmly agree with your assertion. Reminds me of an old Sci Fi piece from Harlan Ellison, "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream".