USA Today editorial: This Libya mess sure does look like incompetence

posted at 10:01 am on October 2, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Has the national media finally decided to react to the false narrative peddled to it by the Obama administration on the assassination of a US Ambassador and the sacking of a consulate in Benghazi?  Last night, CNN began using the term “cover-up,” and today’s editorial in USA Today wonders whether anyone in this administration knows what’s going on at all:

Three weeks after an attack in Libya killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, we now know that it did not spring from a spontaneous protest, spurred by an anti-Muslim video, as the Obama administration originally described it. In fact, every aspect of the early account — peddled most prominently by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice — has unraveled.

Spontaneous? Hardly. The administration acknowledges that Ambassador Chris Stevens died in an organized terrorist attack, likely mounted by an Islamic extremist group and an al-Qaeda affiliate.

Without warning? Not exactly. Violence against Westerners had been escalating for months in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. In June, an improvised explosive device damaged a perimeter wall at the Benghazi compound. On Aug. 27, the State Department issued a travel warning, citing the threat of assassinations and bombings in both Benghazi and Tripoli. According to a journal found and described by CNN, Stevens himself was worried about safety.

Despite all those signals, the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi relied for protection on the young Libyan government and a small band of mostly private contract guards, according to news accounts. Fewer than 10 armed men, both Americans and Libyans, were in the compound when the attack began with gunfire and grenades on the 9/11 anniversary.

The Christian Science Monitor also wrote last night that this calls Barack Obama’s competence into question, although they tempered their analysis with the suggestion that this isn’t the Iranian hostage crisis redux:

“There are vulnerabilities [for Obama], for sure, that flow from the latest series of events. The questions that are resonating are about competency and whether there was too much nonchalance … about the security of our diplomats and our diplomatic missions,” says Mr. Miller, now a Middle East expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

Calling this new vulnerability on foreign policy “a clear shift in focus” on an issue where Obama seemed previously almost unassailable, Miller says, “Does it limit the president? Yes. But can it cost him the election? No.”

Until the Benghazi attack, Obama was considered to have greatly improved Democrats‘ standing with the public on issues of national security. He pledged to get Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and he did, he ordered many more drone attacks on militants in Pakistan than President George W. Bush did, and perhaps most important, a number of potentially devastating attacks on the US were foiled. …

But Benghazi casts doubts on the president’s preparedness for the uncertainties resulting from upheaval in the Middle East, says Miller. Moreover, he adds, the administration has a “messaging problem” in that there was a “clear effort at painting these events … in a way to make the administration’s response look more favorable.”

It’s clearly more than a “messaging problem.”  Four Americans are dead, and as USA Today points out, it’s not as though no one could have predicted an attack on the Benghazi consulate.  For one thing, it had been attacked before, in June of this year.  The fall of Moammar Qaddafi, engineered in no small part by Obama himself, left a power vacuum in eastern Libya that allowed radical Islamist terror networks such as al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Sharia to operate openly, even in the Benghazi region.  And last but not least, the attack occurred on the anniversary of 9/11.

Why wasn’t the administration prepared to secure Ambassador Stevens and the consulate?  How could they only have less than ten armed men defending that diplomatic mission on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in that particular corner of the world?  And why did the White House, despite designating it a terrorist attack within the first 24 hours, spend more than a week afterward denying the obvious and lying about the nature of the attack?

One of the people in my Twitter stream (I can’t recall who now) remarked last week that it’s better to have incompetence than dishonesty in the White House.  Unfortunately, those come as a pair, as we have seen in the aftermath of this terrorist attack.


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