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Right Turn
Posted at 11:28 AM ET, 10/12/2012

Obama’s Libya debacle: Willful blindness

The Libya debacle is not merely a case of inadequate security. It is a case of willful blindness to the progress of al-Qaeda in a locale that the Obama team had boasted was a grand success for its “leading from behind” strategy. The administration despite every available bit of evidence continued to cling to a false narrative, and repeat that narrative to the public, because it refused to recognize that Libya was a terrorist victory, not a U.S. success story.

With each passing day, we learn that the administration had full knowledge that the attack was a planned terrorist operation but continued to tell voters otherwise.

Eli Lake again has the latest scoop on Benghazi. He reports:

Video footage from the United States consulate in Benghazi, Libya, taken the night of the Sept. 11 anniversary attacks, shows an organized group of armed men attacking the compound, according to two U.S. intelligence officials who have seen the footage and are involved in the ongoing investigation. The footage, which was recovered from the site last week by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, offers some of the most tangible evidence yet that a military-style assault took place, according to these officials. . . .
In addition to the footage from the consulate cameras, the U.S. government is also poring over video taken from an overhead U.S. surveillance drone that arrived for the final hour of the night battle at the consulate compound and nearby annex.
Video from the compound’s cameras debunk the initial line from the Obama administration that there was a protest in front of the consulate on the night of the attacks, according to one of the U.S. intelligence officials who has seen the footage, and a senior Obama administration official familiar with what they show.

Why did it take nearly a month to recover these tapes? Well, if you are still uncertain if this is a “crime” or not, you have to wait weeks for the FBI to move in rather than send in special forces to sweep up critical intelligence data. We are back to a pre-9-11-2001 mode in which intelligence gathering takes a back seat to criminalizing anti-terrorism efforts.

Lake’s big find however is that President Obama on Univision on Sept. 20 and at the United Nations on Sept. 25 was spinning the story that the attack was all a spontaneous demonstration after the State Department had been briefed on what actually unfolded. Lake writes:

The video footage also supports the accounts of four diplomatic-security officers who were at the Benghazi compound and who initially responded to the attack. On Sept. 17, these officers told State Department investigators in formal briefings that there was no spontaneous protest the night of the attack, U.S. officials tell The Daily Beast. This information was what led the State Department to conclude there was no protest at the consulate on the day of the attacks, according to these officials.
Nonetheless, White House spokesman Jay Carney continued to say until Sept. 20 that the Benghazi assault resulted from a protest over the Internet film.

And so did the president. It is hard to believe the information from the State Department briefings in three days hadn’t made its way to the Oval Office. Obama, however, had a narrative to defend.

Last night, VP Joe Biden, in addition to misrepresenting that there had been no request for security from Libya, accused the Republicans of cutting embassy security funds. But once again this is simply a red herring. We know, because Charlene Lamb testified under oath that funding had nothing to do with the refusal to supply security to the Benghazi contingent.

So why is Biden still spinning the idea that it was a great mystery as to what the Libyan consulate needed? Why was it that when other countries were removing their people from Libya in August because of the deteriorating security situation the U.S. was sending its military protection unit home to the United States? Why was the president as late as Sept. 25 still trying to pass off the attack as an outgrowth of protests against the anti-Muslim video? The answer is blind ideology triumphed over facts.

In August 2012, the United States knew that Libya had become a terrorist hell hole. In a Library of Congress report, we then knew:

Al-Qaeda has tried to exploit the “Arab Awakening” in North Africa for its own purposes during the past year. Al-Qaeda Senior Leadership (AQSL), based in Pakistan, is likely seeking to build a clandestine network in Libya as it pursues its strategy of reinforcing its presence in North Africa and the Middle East, taking advantage of the “Arab Awakening” that has disrupted existing counterterrorism capabilities. Although AQSL’s previous attempt to co-opt the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) was inconclusive, the Libyan Revolution may have created an environment conducive to jihad and empowered the large and active community of Libyan jihadists, which is known to be well connected to international jihad.

As many opponents of U.S. involvement in Libya had warned, al-qaeda was flourishing in Libya. (“[A] few hundred” jihadists were operating there, according to the report.) The report noted, “Al-Qaeda’s clandestine network is likely recruiting local militiamen in order to infiltrate and manipulate militias, which are expected, at least for a while, to maintain their armed capabilities and political clout.”

As in other failed states throughout the Middle East, radical jihadist flocked to Libya in the wake of the “Arab Spring.” The report explains: “Al-Qaeda militants are using the countries that toppled their leaders in the ‘Arab Awakening’ as bases to train radical Western youths for potential attacks. A small number of British would-be jihadists are also making their way to Arab countries to seek training and opportunities for militant activity, as they do in Somalia and Yemen. Such an influx of fresh recruits will likely allow al-Qaeda to expand in numbers and capability, using training methodologies similar to those employed in Somalia and northern Mali.” Especially in eastern Libya, the report explained, al-Qaeda terrorists operated with impunity.

The Obama administration had touted Libya as a great success, a model of nation-building. But, in fact, like the accusation it hurled at the Bush administration for its handling of the Iraq war, the Obama team had sublimated reality to ideology. They were grand liberators! They like us! So, therefore, there could be no danger to Americans in Benghazi or elsewhere.

But the facts that the Obama team had access to back in August told a different story: “Al-Qaeda appears to constitute a significant threat to the state-building process in Libya. The current Libyan leadership seems unable to deliver on the promise of security or to carry out meaningful reforms in order to build strong popular support for state institutions, destroyed by the former regime.”

Four Americans paid the price for the Obama administration's refusal to pay attention to inconvenient facts. The vice president and president are still spinning false stories, hoping they can ride out the next 3 1/2 weeks until the election. Unfortunately, too many in the media are playing along, refusing to finger the administration for a national security scandal that rivals the incorrect conclusion that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In doing so, they fail their readers and viewers, and in the process destroy their own intellectual credibility.

UPDATE (12:10 p.m.): The lies within lies multiply. Now the White House is saying in perfectly Clinton-esque style that when Biden said “we” didn’t know about the security request from Benghazi he just meant himself and the president. This is pathetic. Does the State Department not report to the president? Was the national security adviser unaware of what was going on in Libya? An administration that must resort so frequently to pleas of incompetence is not one to be entrsuted with national security.

By  |  11:28 AM ET, 10/12/2012

 
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