We now know that additional security was repeatedly denied to Americans serving in Libya. We know that no additional precautions were taken as the eleventh anniversary of Sept. 11 approached. We also know that the Obama administration was aware almost immediately that the attacks were by a trained and organized Islamic terrorist group. Yet for days, they attempted to hoodwink Americans into believing it was a spontaneous reaction to a California-produced, Islam-defaming video that no one had seen.
But now, the cats – as they say – are out of the bag at a most inconvenient time in Obama’s re-election bid. The video-excuse dog will no longer hunt. So the next line of defense is to claim the White House knew nothing about requests for additional security from our diplomats.
Vice President Biden pioneered that excuse in last week’s debate with Paul Ryan. Monday evening – on the eve of the second Obama-Romney debate – a complicit Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the security buck stopped with her.
“I take responsibility,” Clinton magnanimously announced to the media. “I’m in charge of the State Department. The president and vice president wouldn’t be knowledgeable about specific decisions made by security professionals.”
That excuse has to rub many the wrong way in this military community. Most of us know that you can delegate authority but not responsibility. The buck can’t stop with Clinton despite what she says. It goes all the way to the top whether our president recognizes it or not. After all, he is the commander-in-chief.
Of course this blame-someone-else approach is consistent with all that’s happened over the past four years. The poor economy was Bush’s fault, not Obama’s. A failure to jumpstart the nation’s job machine was due to Republican opposition in Congress … although for two years Obama had the votes to pass any legislative package he wanted. Of course the stimulus he passed didn’t work because – in hindsight – the shovel-ready jobs weren’t shovel-ready. And of course the rise in oil prices is due to the greed of evil oil companies and has nothing to do with the president’s prohibition against energy exploration in federally-controlled areas.
Americans, hopefully, are starting to see the picture for what it is: We have a leadership vacuum in the White House, and ham-handed excuses – and outright falsehoods – are becoming increasingly difficult to swallow even for those who swooned over Obama’s election four years ago. Even some of them want to know why the administration covered up the truth for days following the Libyan incident.
So how will the president try to redeem himself? Unfortunately, it could come in the form of ill-conceived retaliation timed to impact the election. Reports have surfaced that U.S. strike forces are on standby and unmanned U.S. drones are patrolling the skies of Libya.
The problem is that identifying the culprits is difficult. The Libyan militia group Ansar al-Shariah has been mentioned but U.S. evidence is apparently circumstantial. The group is headquartered in northern Mali after carving out a base of operations in that equally troubled country.
The obvious reality is that a strike – particularly one rushed to the forefront – could make matters much worse for our longer-term Middle Eastern goals and for fragile governments in Libya and Mali. Libyan officials apparently recognize that risk and have refused U.S. requests to arm overhead drones.
In Mali, a spokesman for Ansar al-Shariah has denied involvement in the Benghazi raid and promised swift retribution for any U.S. attack.
“If America hits us,” the spokesman told the Associated Press, “I promise you that we will multiply the Sept. 11 attack by ten.”
In short, we have a tangled web in the Middle East and a U.S. government that has proven untrustworthy.
I suspect we will have a tangled web in that part of the world for many years. But we can do something about that untrustworthy government in November.