Continuing shame of Benghazi
September 11 was a day of remembrance for those killed in the 2001 terrorist attacks on America. But it was also the anniversary of a brutal terrorist attack on a U.S. mission in Benghazi during which four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed.
The tragic Benghazi outcome was a consequence of indefensible decisions not to secure the mission, taken at the State Department and elsewhere in government, for which no one has been held responsible. And the failure of the administration to take effective action while the mission was under a six-hour siege was an indictment of its readiness to respond to the legendary “3 a.m. call,” which in this case came shortly after midnight.
These failures were compounded by administration efforts to shift the blame, from its own lack of preparation, to an alleged public uprising in Libya against a crude amateur video attacking the Prophet Mohammed, a charge that turned out to be wholly false.
The official who spread the lie about the video, then United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, is now President Barack Obama’s national security adviser. The White House has called complaints about her role in trying to mislead the public a “phony scandal.”
The Benghazi 9/11 anniversary was marked by President Obama in a speech at the Pentagon mentioning, in passing, that among those who have given their lives for their country since 2001 are “diplomats who serve in dangerous posts, as we saw this day last year in Benghazi.”
In Benghazi it was marked by a powerful car bomb that severely damaged a building that used to house the U.S. Consulate and was occupied by the Libyan Foreign Ministry.
The car bombing — there were no fatalities — is a reminder that terrorist elements responsible for last year’s attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi are still very much part of the scene in Libya. Indeed, one of the groups that the State Department said at the time was responsible for the attack, Ansar al Sharia, an al-Qaida affiliate, appears to be allied with the Libyan government.
On several occasions in the past year President Obama has passionately vowed to “hunt down” and punish the Benghazi perpetrators because, as he explained to Jon Stewart on Comedy Central last October, “When four Americans get killed, it’s not optimal.”
It is fair to say that the administration’s record of pursuing justice for the Benghazi murders is not “optimal” either. In August the Justice Department issued a sealed indictment of Ansar al Sharia’s leader in Benghazi, Ahmed Khattalah, and four others, but all remain at large.
The administration said in January that it wanted to talk with Mr. Khattalah, but apparently it has not done so to this day. Just before the indictment against the militia leader was announced in August, however, CNN broadcast an interview with him from Benghazi, where according to the report he was very easy to find. During the interview he said he had not been contacted by the FBI or other American officials in the 11 months since the Benghazi attack.
Meanwhile, Fox News has reported that a Special Forces team allegedly tasked with capturing the Benghazi suspects was withdrawn from Libya during the summer after its weapons were stolen, apparently by Libyan militias.
Sadly for Mr. Obama, the “phony scandal” of Benghazi is all too real, and it keeps on getting worse.