So far the administration has attributed its lapses to the “fog of war” and suggestions that only the Tripoli embassy not the Benghazi consulate was deemed vulnerable. Now, from a recent cable, we know that the latter was untrue, and that the only fog of war consisted in a handful of administration spokespeople frantically trying to get their stories straight. Real-time aerial video of a battle is not the fog of Wellington trying to figure out where Napoleon will strike next.
The central issue of the entire Libyan debacle remains motive: Why did the administration ignore repeated warnings of the vulnerability of our people on the ground, and of likely Islamist attacks? Then, in the middle of a video-filmed assault, why were they frozen into inaction as Americans fought to the death, Alamo style? And then why in the aftermath did they they fob culpability off on an obscure two-month-old video, and arrest the director on trumped-up probation charges? And why now do they have no fallback narrative other than silence?
In place of truth, we have only speculations about an upcoming election: Obama’s Libya-as-a-success narrative, and the greater Obama narrative of a Middle East Arab Spring in the post–al-Qaeda, post–bin Laden age were endangered by the truth of an al-Qaeda preplanned hit amid the chaos of post-lead-from-behind Libya. That was considered toxic, and meant that supposed foreign-policy competence could not offset, in the voters’ minds, economic incompetence.
Until the attack, the administration had also squared the circle of quietly adopting the Bush anti-terrorism protocols, while waging a PC offense on citing radical Islam as the danger (e.g., man-caused disasters, workplace violence, overseas-contingencies operations, KSM in civil court, Mutallab and his Miranda rights, the al Arabiya interview, Muslim Outreach as NASA’s mission, the Cairo Speech, Muslim Brotherhood as secular, etc.). But the Libya hit also undermined that entire narrative, suggesting that the PC chickens had finally come home to roost with dead Americans precisely because of such politically driven laxity.
We are now in a surreal situation in which the administration, its congressional protectors, and the compliant media are all in a no-comment holding pattern until after the election, when the truth will come out, in the same way that Watergate could no longer be suppressed after the 1972 election. It is only a matter of time when those who told initial untruths leak information about who told them to promulgate such unbelievable narratives. And we still do not know exactly why the ambassador was in Benghazi, with whom he was meeting, what exactly was the U.S. doing or not doing in postbellum Libya, and why did Stevens so fear for the safety of his people in a country declared a model of U.S. and allied intervention.
The secretary of state is in a bind. Susan Rice was groomed to replace her, as she prepared to successfully bow out after the reelection of Barack Obama, ostensibly to ready herself for Clinton 3.0. Now she dares not leave, given that in her absence her directorship at State will be scapegoated by the administration and the Obama-fed media. So she stays, as Susan Rice recedes into the background after being used — and subsequently humiliated — in advancing a scripted administration falsehood about the video. Amid this chaos, there will be some officials, who warned of the danger, who knew Libya was not safe, who wanted to send help to our trapped contingent, who did not think the attack came from mere protesters angry over a video, who were enraged by the cover-up, who resented the blame-gaming — and who will ultimately not stay quiet.