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October 15, 2012: Reconcile This

October 15, 2012

Yesterday, the NYTimes ran an op-ed by columnist Ross Douthat — “The Mystery of Benghazi” — in  which he describes the Obama administration’s “very strange” behavior following the Benghazi attack:

“Having first repudiated the embassy’s apology to Muslims offended by a movie impugning their prophet, the Obama administration decided to embrace that apology’s premise and insist that the movie was the crucial ingredient in the Sept. 11 anniversary attack.

“For days after the attack, as it became clearer that the Benghazi violence was an al-Qaeda operation rather than a protest, White House officials continued to stress the importance of the ‘hateful’ and ‘disgusting’   video, and its supposed role as a catalyst for what Susan Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, insisted was a spontaneous attack.    

“…Eventually, the White House let the video slip quietly out of its public rhetoric, and refocused on terrorism instead.  But everything else that’s come out about Benghazi has seemed much more damaging because the administration practiced a strange denial at the outset.  The missed warnings, the weakness in security…all of it would have been received differently if the White House hadn’t spent a week acting as if it had something big to lose by calling terrorism terrorism.”


Asks Douthat, “What explains this self-defeating strategy?”

He proposes the possibility that “this White House can’t resist the urge to appease our enemies when America comes under attack.”  He then rejects this, although I think it’s very much on the mark.

Or, perhaps, he says, “precisely because this White House wants to be seen as tough on terrorism, it’s loath to acknowledge the possibility that it doesn’t have al-Qaida completely on the run.”  Another good thought that he also rejects (see more on this below).


Finally, he suggests this:

“Perhaps, then, the real explanation of the White House’s anxiety about calling the embassy attack an act of terror has less to do with the ‘who’ than with the ‘where.’  This wasn’t al-Qaeda striking just anywhere: It was al-Qaeda striking in Libya, a country where the Obama White House launched a not-precisely-constitutional military intervention with a not-precisely-clear connection to the national interest.

“In a long profile of Obama published last month by Vanity Fair, Michael Lewis suggested that the president feared the consequences of even a single casualty during the Libyan incursion, lest it create a narrative about how ‘a president elected to extract us from a war in one Arab country got Americans killed in another.’   How much more, then, might the president fear a narrative about how [American] Libyan intervention helped create a power vacuum in which terrorist groups can operate with impunity?…it’s easy to see  why the administration would hope that the Benghazi attack [was] just spontaneous mob violence rather than a sign of al-Qaeda’s growing presence in post-intervention Libya…” (Emphasis added)


An interesting thesis. 

What Douthat fails to mention, because it is not directly relevant to the Benghazi issue, is that Obama’s meddling in Libya also created a situation, still on-going, in which weapons that had belonged to Ghaddafi found their way out of the country and into the hands of Islamists. 


Now let’s look at remarks made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on “Democratic Transitions in the Maghreb.”  (The Maghreb is northwest Africa west of Egypt: Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco.)

“…recent events have raised questions about what lies ahead – what lies ahead for the region, what lies ahead for the rest of us who have watched with great hope…the events that have unfolded in the Maghreb. A terrorist attack in Benghazi, the burning of an American school in Tunis – these and other scenes of anger and violence have understandably led Americans to ask what is happening. What is happening to the promise of the Arab Spring? And what does this mean for the United States?

“Well, I certainly think it’s important to ask these questions…And let me, on a personal note, start with what happened in Benghazi. No one wants to find out exactly what happened more than I do. I’ve appointed an Accountability Review Board that has already started… we are working as thoroughly and expeditiously as possible, knowing that we cannot afford to sacrifice accuracy to speed. And of course, our government is sparing no effort in tracking down the terrorists who perpetrated this attack.”

At least now she refers to terrorism in Benghazi. But notice, not a word, not a mention, of al-Qaeda, although it is well understood that this is the group that perpetrated the terrorist attack on US personnel.

And so it seems that it’s not just an issue of terrorism in Benghazi, but al-Qaeda operating there.  This is “the” enemy, according to Obama, and he’s had them on the run since the marines took out bin Laden.  Or so we are told.  It’s a campaign theme.  


Clinton makes one other reference to Benghazi later in her talk; I cannot let it pass:

“Diplomacy, by its nature has to be often practiced in dangerous places…That is the reality of the world we live in….

“…we will never prevent every act of violence or terrorism or achieve perfect security. Our people cannot live in bunkers and do their jobs.

Chris Stevens understood that diplomats must operate in many places where soldiers do not or cannot, where there are no other boots on the ground, and security is far from guaranteed. And like so many of our brave colleagues and those who served in our armed forces as well, he volunteered for his assignments.”  (Emphasis added)


Excuse me, but what a colossal cop-out.  It was not that Stevens operated where soldiers cannot.  It was that requests for additional security in Benghazi went unanswered and no particular precautions were taken on the anniversary of 9/11.


Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is furious with Hezbollah’s Nasrallah for having launched that drone over Israel without consultation with the government; Hezbollah’s action, he said, was an “uncalculated adventure.”

Former PM Fouad Siniora also spoke harshly about the matter:

“It was an Iranian action that implicated Lebanon in regional and international struggles and consequently, made us in Lebanon a platform for the exchange of messages.”  Leave us out of this, before we get hit, is the implied message.


Meanwhile, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor has warned the Security Council that southern Lebanon (where Hezbollah was not supposed to be permitted to operate) has become a storage facility for 50,000 Hezbollah rockets


And Israel has unveiled a new, improved drone, the “Shoval,” which has four cameras that can provide clear identification of objects from dozens of miles away. It carries radar and uses satellite communications to relay pictures to distant locations.

It is being used for sea surveillance by the Israeli Air Force and Navy and likely will play a part in protecting off-shore installations.

Israeli drone
Credit: Flash 90


The situation is growing hotter still in south Israel.  Because of rockets being launched, residents of the region are advised to stay within 15 seconds of a shelter.  Consider please, what that means.  Three Kassams and one mortar were fired today.

In the area adjacent to the Sinai, the IDF is on high alert, because of concern of a terror attack being launched across the border there.  Jihadists have vowed to revenge the death of the two leaders hit by Israel two days ago.


YNet quotes IDF Gaza division commander Tal Hermoni today:

“There will be a [ground] operation [by Israel] in Gaza. The only question is when.”

Another sigh from me.  This is not news.  It will only be news when it happens.


The 18th Knesset held an opening meeting today, as required by law, and then passed the first reading of a bill to dissolve, with none opposed. The final reading, expected to be a formality, will take place tomorrow morning.

We are officially in election mode, a frenetic time.

© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.




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