Tags: Libya

Arms Continue to Flow From Benghazi to Syria


Today’s Morning Jolt features the Pentagon smacking down Secretary of State John Kerry, some politicians going on a showy diet, and then this easily overlooked development . . . 

Meanwhile, Back in Benghazi . . . 

Remember my story about the smuggling of shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft missiles in and out of Libya during that country’s civil war? Public reports indicate U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was working on tracking those missiles when he was attacked and murdered in Benghazi. While the most lurid allegations of U.S. arms smuggling to Libya are not yet proven, the Obama administration did give its blessing to Qatar’s smuggling of arms to the Libyan rebels in 2011 — and later realized that the weapons were ending up in the hands of Islamist militants. The quiet approval of the arms smuggling violated a United Nations arms embargo — and probably ended up exacerbating a problem that would eventually require Stevens to be in that city at that time — when the danger was so considerable.

There is a new Reuters report from Benghazi that further corroborates the account of Libyans smuggling their leftover weapons, including missiles, through Benghazi to Syria and adds additional details:

Abdul Basit Haroun says he is behind some of the biggest shipments of weapons from Libya to Syria, which he delivers on chartered flights to neighbouring countries and then smuggles over the border.

 . . . The first consignment of weapons was smuggled into Syria aboard a Libyan ship delivering aid last year, Haroun says, but now containers of arms are flown “above board” into neighbouring countries on chartered flights.

That Libyan ship departed shortly before the attack against Americans in Benghazi:

On September 14, 2012, three days after Stevens was killed, Sheera Frenkel, a correspondent for the Times of London, reported from Antakya, Turkey:

“A Libyan ship carrying the largest consignment of weapons for Syria since the uprising began has docked in Turkey and most of its cargo is making its way to rebels on the front lines, The Times has learnt.

“Among more than 400 tonnes of cargo the vessel was carrying were SAM-7 surface-to-air anti-aircraft missiles and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), which Syrian sources said could be a game-changer for the rebels.

“Frenkel’s report identified the ship’s captain as ‘Omar Mousaeeb, a Libyan from Benghazi and the head of an organisation called the Libyan National Council for Relief and Support, which is supporting the Syrian uprising.’”

The Reuters report continues:

A Reuters reporter was taken to an undisclosed location in Benghazi to see a container of weapons being prepared for delivery to Syria. It was stacked with boxes of ammunition, rocket launchers and various types of light and medium weapons.,,

The UN report appears to confirm at least some of Haroun’s account, in its investigation in the case of a second vessel, the Al Entisar.

The [UN] Panel investigated a news report that a Libyan ship with around 400 tonnes of aid had supplied Syrian rebels with “the largest consignment of weapons . . . since the uprising”.

The Panel found that the loading port was Benghazi, that the exporter was “a relief organization based in Benghazi” and the consignee was the same Islamic foundation based in Turkey that Haroun said had helped with documentation.

Great omen for our efforts to arm the Syrians, huh?

Tags: Benghazi , Libya , Syria

Libyan Anti-Aircraft Missiles, Now Apparently in al-Qaeda Hands


An update to my article a few weeks ago on arms-smuggling in Libya, before, during, and after the civil war there: The AP found documents from an al-Qaeda-affiliated group showing that they indeed have shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft missiles:

The 26-page document in Arabic, recovered by The Associated Press in a building that had been occupied by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb in Timbuktu, strongly suggests the group now possesses the SA-7 surface-to-air missile, known to the Pentagon as the Grail, according to terrorism specialists. And it confirms that the al-Qaida cell is actively training its fighters to use these weapons, also called man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADS, which likely came from the arms depots of ex-Libyan strongman Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

Note that while the Libyan rebels took these sorts of missiles from Qaddafi’s stockpiles during the war, the Qatari government was also smuggling in this type of weapon across Libya’s southern border, with secret approval of the U.S government.

In April 2011, Reuters quoted an Algerian security official who claimed that al-Qaeda was smuggling missiles out of Libya:

The official said a convoy of eight Toyota pick-up trucks left eastern Libya, crossed into Chad and then Niger, and from there into northern Mali where in the past few days it delivered a cargo of weapons . . . al Qaeda’s north African wing, known as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), had acquired from Libya Russian-made shoulder-fired Strela surface-to-air missiles known by the NATO designation SAM-7.

The dateline of today’s AP story is . . . Timbuktu, Mali.

There is significant evidence that both U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and the CIA personnel in Benghazi were focused on recovering these type of missiles in the days leading up to his death on September 11.


Tags: Libya , Benghazi

The Government of ‘What Difference Does It Make?’


I hope you’ll forgive the grim tone that launches the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt . . .

Benghazi Hearings Mark End of Accountability, Forever

At the end of a day of Senate and House hearings on Benghazi, we know . . . not much more than we knew the day before.

Four Americans dead.

Nobody brought to justice. The lone suspect in the attack was released earlier this month by the Tunisians, citing a lack of evidence.

The release dramatized the negligible progress in any investigation into the attack, which killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans on Sept. 11 last year. The feebleness of Libya’s transitional government since the fall of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi has stymied any progress, despite what Benghazi residents describe as an abundance of leads.

In fact, the perpetrators are up to new attacks:

Several Egyptian members of the squad of militants that lay bloody siege to an Algerian gas complex last week also took part in the deadly attack on the United States Mission in Libya in September, a senior Algerian official said Tuesday.

The Egyptians involved in both attacks were killed by Algerian forces during the four-day ordeal that ended in the deaths of at least 38 hostages and 29 kidnappers, the official said. But three of the militants were captured alive, and one of them described the Egyptians’ role in both assaults under interrogation by the Algerian security services, the official said.

If confirmed, the link between two of the most brazen assaults in recent memory would reinforce the transborder character of the jihadist groups now striking across the Sahara. American officials have long warned that the region’s volatile mix of porous borders, turbulent states, weapons and ranks of fighters with similar ideologies creates a dangerous landscape in which extremists are trying to collaborate across vast distances.

No one at the State Department fired for failing to heed the requests for additional security on the ground. And nobody can specify what the heck “administrative leave” entails:

Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Clinton “pledged not only to accept all 29 of the recommendations, but to have the implementation of those recommendations well under way before her successor took over. So I think she’ll want to give a status on that.”

Asked for the number of State Department employees fired for their handling of Benghazi, Nuland said four people were put on administrative leave. They included Eric Boswell, who resigned from the position of assistant secretary of diplomatic security.

But Nuland declined to say if Boswell and the others still are working for the department in some capacity.

And no elected Democrat in Congress gives a hoot.

Oh, they say they care, but every time their turn came in the Clinton hearings, they shifted the topic to House Republican proposals to limit the budget, as if we hadn’t just had this issue resolved, by State Department officials in October:

REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R-CA): “It has been suggested the budget cuts are responsible for lack of security in Benghazi, and I’d like to ask Ms. Lamb, you made this decision personally, was there any budget consideration and lack of budget that led you not to increase the number of people in the security force there?”

STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMS CHARLENE LAMB: “No, sir.” (U.S. House Of Representatives, Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Hearing, 10/10/12)

What we did learn is that Hillary Clinton thinks it is silly or unreasonable to ask why the administration kept talking about a video for five days, when everyone and their brother could have figured that the date of September 11 was pretty a key indicator that al-Qaeda-sympathizers or like-minded Islamists were out to mark the anniversary in their own murderous way.

“The fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest? Or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?” Clinton told Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. “It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, senator.”

What’s astounding are the number of folks on the Left who think this is a fantastic answer.

For starters, if your assessment of why an attack happened is wrong, doesn’t that make it less likely you’ll be able to prevent another one?

I’ll leave it to the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple to state the obvious:

No matter your view of the media’s role in Benghazi; no matter your take on whether U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice leveled with the country on the Sept. 16 talk shows; no matter your view of Fox News’s Benghazi campaign, it surely does make a difference whether it was “because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans.” It makes a difference to the media, the public, the government, everyone.

The trustworthiness of the administration’s version of events — even the early one — makes a difference. Whether it was hard-core terrorism or a spontaneous attack or something else — that makes a difference too, with strong implications for intelligence accountability. Goodness gracious, in her very own statement, Clinton herself even seems to acknowledge that it makes a difference, when she says, “It is our job to figure out what happened . . .”

Pardon me a comparison that may seem frivolous or silly, but I was reminded of a quite furious response from screenwriter Terry Rossio after he saw the 2006 movie Superman Returns. To say Rossio hated the movie was an understatement; on his web site, he laid out all the different ways in which the movie simply didn’t “work” given the characters and concepts the creators chose to begin with, and made it clear that as a professional, as someone who believes in aiming for the best in his craft, it deeply offended him that the movie could be made the way it did, with such disregard for quality and respect for the audience, and that the movie’s success illustrated something profound to him:

Okay, here’s the part about the profound effect it had on me. First off, I just felt really, really good that I worked on Pirates and had nothing to do with that movie. I know crap-plus-one is a mistake, but on an emotional level, I just felt genuine relief and contentment to bear no responsibility for that film.

But here was the epiphany. From Superman Returns on, I realized that there are truly no standards any more.

The film got better reviews than Pirates, it got made, it’s going to make $190 million dollars.

There are actually people in the world who enjoyed it.

The next time I get notes on a screenplay (‘’I think this main relationship doesn’t work,’ ‘this ending isn’t clear, etc.’) I can just point to Superman and say, “You may be right but so what? It’s better than Superman Returns.” It’s the ultimate, “Keep your notes to yourself and just tell me if you’re making the film” movie.

Why would anyone, anywhere, even bother to attend a creative meeting on any project — after seeing that film?

Ultimately, stuff goes up on screen because somebody wanted it up there, not for any other reason. So it might as well be me who decides — right?

When we look at how our government has responded to the night of September 11 in Benghazi, Libya, we see there are truly no standards any more.

If the decision making before, during, and after the Benghazi attack is insufficient to get anyone fired, what decision in government will ever warrant that consequence? If Democrats on Capitol Hill can’t take off their partisan blinders for one day to attempt to hold people accountable for decision-making that resulted in American deaths at the hands of extremists, and then lying to the public about it, then when will they ever? If Hillary Clinton can exclaim that it doesn’t matter that the administration spent five days talking about a video when the video had nothing to do with it, and everyone on her side applauds, why should she or anyone else ever respond to an accusation with anything but audacious defiance?

This is it, folks. This is the government we have, and the lack of a public outcry about Benghazi ensures this is the government we will have for the foreseeable future.

Tags: Hillary Clinton , Libya

State Department: Someone Failed on Benghazi, But We Won’t Say Who


The concluding paragraph of the unclassified version of the State Department’s internal review of what happened in Benghazi:

5. The Board found that certain senior State Department officials within two bureaus in critical positions of authority and responsibility in Washington demonstrated a lack of proactive leadership and management ability appropriate for the State Department’s senior ranks in their responses to  security concerns posed by Special Mission Benghazi, given the deteriorating threat environment and the lack of reliable host government protection.  However, the Board did not find that any individual U.S. Government employee engaged in misconduct or willfully ignored his or her responsibilities, and, therefore did not find reasonable cause to believe that an individual breached his or her duty so as to be the subject of a recommendation for disciplinary action.

So the review found “certain senior State Department officials within two bureaus” who dropped the ball on the security risks… but it won’t name them.

And no one has been recommended for disciplinary action.

The beauty of blaming “broad, systemic failures” the way this report does is that no individual must be held accountable.

UPDATE: I wrote a column for the New York Post in mid-October, discussing the Obama administration’s tradition of having top lawmakers loudly declare, “I take responsibility”… and then seeing no significant changes or actions follow from that declaration.  It’s the appearance of accountability, without all the complications and headaches of actual responsibility.

The tradition continues.

UPDATE: The AP reports, “Official: State Dept security chief, 2 others resign after report on Benghazi attack.”

Tags: Benghazi , Libya , State Department

Susan Rice’s Greatest Hits, Going Well Beyond Benghazi


If, indeed, President Obama’s choice to be the next secretary of state is the current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, perhaps it is worth looking beyond her record on Benghazi. Just about four years ago, I laid out some of these greatest hits . . .

From April 1994:

At an interagency teleconference in late April, Susan Rice, a rising star on the NSC who worked under Richard Clarke, stunned a few of the officials present when she asked, “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional] election?” Lieutenant Colonel Tony Marley remembers the incredulity of his colleagues at the State Department. “We could believe that people would wonder that,” he says, “but not that they would actually voice it.” Rice does not recall the incident but concedes, “If I said it, it was completely inappropriate, as well as irrelevant.”

A smear piece, Obama’s defenders will likely claim. A biased correspondent.

The author of that piece? Samantha Power, a former foreign-policy adviser to the Obama campaign, whom the president then appointed to the National Security Council staff, and served as a special assistant to the president on human rights. (I wonder if Power and Rice had some awkward meetings in recent years . . .)

On February 28, 2008, Rice insisted “there had been no contact” between Obama adviser Austan Goolsbee and representatives of the Canadian government. There in fact had been a meeting.

On March 6, 2008, Rice said of Obama and Hillary Clinton, “they’re both not ready to have that 3 am phone call.”

On May 12, 2008, she told the New York Times that Obama had not pledged to meet unconditionally with Iran or any other “rogue” state, despite what he had just said at the YouTube debate.

On July 1, 2008, she insisted that Obama’s pledge to get all combat troops out of Iraq in 16 months was not a deadline.

On July 21, 2008, she said Obama “bows to nobody in his understanding of this world.” (A particularly ironic word choice, considering how Obama has greeted foreign monarchs during his presidency.)

After Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, she declared that the “aggressive,” “belligerent” actor in the situation was . . . John McCain.

A recent Dana Milbank column laid out other . . . ignoble moments:

Back when she was an assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration, she appalled colleagues by flipping her middle finger at Richard Holbrooke during a meeting with senior staff at the State Department, according to witnesses. Colleagues talk of shouting matches and insults.

And clearly someone in the Obama administration isn’t a fan of Rice, otherwise you wouldn’t see comments like this one to Maureen Dowd:

“She saw this as a great opportunity to go out and close the stature gap,” said one administration official. “She was focused on the performance, not the content. People said, ‘It’s sad because it was one of her best performances.’ But it’s not a movie, it’s the news. Everyone in politics thinks, you just get your good talking points and learn them and reiterate them on camera. But what if they’re not good talking points? What if what you’re saying isn’t true, even if you’re saying it well?””

The touting of Rice often comes to her record as ambassador to the United Nations, citing the sanctions on Iran and the ability to get China and Russia on board. Of course, this little detail is overlooked:

Still, the resolution fell short of the “crippling sanctions” that she had pledged to impose on Iran a year ago, and the Obama administration was unable to secure a unanimous vote at the Security Council, as the Bush administration did on other sanctions resolutions on Iran.

The administration did succeed in preserving support from China and Russia, although only after assuring them that the measures would not impair their ability to continue trading with Tehran.

Make enough exceptions, and any sanctions policy will eventually be acceptable.

The strongest argument for Susan Rice is that the president ought to be able to appoint his preferred people to executive-branch positions. And there’s a certain perverse logic to Rice; having proven, repeatedly, that she will lie for the president, her appointment will assure the world that the secretary of state indeed speaks for the president.

Tags: Barack Obama , Libya , Ron Barber

Benghazi, the Story That Won’t Go Away — and Shouldn’t


The final Morning Jolt of the week offers a lot of swing-state coverage, but also a look at that other story that keeps bubbling back up every few weeks . . .

Benghazi, the Story That Won’t Go Away – and Shouldn’t

Okay, if Obama loses his bid for reelection, does he get to move to retirement quietly without a thorough investigation of Benghazi? Or will Republicans in Congress want to lay out, in vivid detail, the awful Obama administration decisions in the months before the attack, the night of the attack, and in the days after the attack? A Romney administration may want to begin on a new page, and may not want to spend its opening months dealing with former Obama staffers claiming it’s a partisan witch hunt. On the other hand, if you want to begin a new era of accountability, don’t you need to get all of this dragged out into the light?

Either way, the mainstream media reporting on Benghazi seems to move cyclically – it gets tough for a while, fades a bit, then gets tough again. Here’s CBS Thursday:

CBS News has learned that during the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi, the Obama Administration did not convene its top interagency counterterrorism resource: the Counterterrorism Security Group, (CSG).

“The CSG is the one group that’s supposed to know what resources every agency has. They know of multiple options and have the ability to coordinate counterterrorism assets across all the agencies,” a high-ranking government official told CBS News. “They were not allowed to do their job. They were not called upon.”

Information shared with CBS News from top counterterrorism sources in the government and military reveal keen frustration over the U.S. response on Sept. 11, the night ambassador Chris Stevens and 3 other Americans were killed in a coordinated attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya.

The circumstances of the attack, including the intelligence and security situation there, will be the subject of a Senate Intelligence Committee closed hearing on Nov. 15, with additional hearings to follow.

Counterterrorism sources and internal emails reviewed by CBS News express frustration that key responders were ready to deploy, but were not called upon to help in the attack.

And then Jake Tapper:

The Washington Post’s respected foreign policy columnist David Ignatius just yesterday posed “Lingering Questions about Benghazi.” One of them, pointedly, was “At a time when al-Qaeda was strengthening its presence in Libya and across North Africa, why didn’t the United States have more military hardware nearby?”

In the place of a detailed description from the Obama administration about what happened more than six weeks ago comes the drip-drip-drip of stories about the failures of the Obama administration to provide those Americans on the ground in Libya with all the security assets they needed.

ABC News broke some stories on this, ranging from a security team being denied continued use of an airplane its commander wanted to keep in country to better do his job;  to the security team leaving Libya before Ambassador Stevens wanted it to.

Fox News Channel’s Catherine Herridge last night reported on a newly discovered cable indicating that in August, less than a month before the attack, the diplomatic post in Benghazi convened an “emergency meeting” concerned about local Al Qaeda training camps. Said the cable: “RSO (Regional Security Officer) expressed concerns with the ability to defend Post in the event of a coordinated attack due to limited manpower, security measures, weapons capabilities, host nation support, and the overall size of the compound.”

The cable stated that “In light of the uncertain security environment, US Mission Benghazi will submit specific requests to US Embassy Tripoli for additional physical security upgrades and staffing needs by separate cover.”

The State Department’s comment to Fox: “An independent board is conducting a thorough review of the assault on our post in Benghazi. Once we have the board’s comprehensive account of what happened, findings and recommendations, we can fully address these matters.”

It was the exact same statement given to ABC News earlier in the month about a different revelation.

ADDENDA: The Las Vegas Review-Journal offers a subtle, nuanced criticism of President Obama: “To return to office a narcissistic amateur who seeks to ride this nation’s economy and international esteem to oblivion, like Slim Pickens riding the nuclear bomb to its target at the end of the movie ‘Dr. Strangelove,’ would be disastrous.” 

Tags: Barack Obama , Libya

Vice President Biden’s Most Crass, Tasteless Gaffe Ever


“Did your son always have balls the size of cue balls?” — Vice President Joe Biden to Charles Woods, grieving father of slain Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, during a memorial service at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

Any comment here would be superfluous.

Tags: Joe Biden , Libya

White House Told of Benghazi Militants Within Two Hours


Ever since the first question of the final debate, Republicans have wondered why Mitt Romney was so subdued in discussing the attack on our consulate in Benghazi and the administration’s shifting story. One theory is that discussion of the Benghazi attack, the ignored warnings, and the lingering erroneous explanation was hurting Obama as is — it’s one of the few stories where the mainstream media has asked hard questions and broadcasted hard-hitting pieces — and that Romney discussing it actually makes the story less damaging to Obama, as some voters may dismiss it as the usual partisan back-and-forth.

That unexpected approach may now look vindicated, with this eye-popping scoop from Reuters this morning.

Officials at the White House and State Department were advised two hours after attackers assaulted the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11 that an Islamic militant group had claimed credit for the attack, official emails show.

The emails, obtained by Reuters from government sources not connected with U.S. spy agencies or the State Department and who requested anonymity, specifically mention that the Libyan group called Ansar al-Sharia had asserted responsibility for the attacks.

The brief emails also show how U.S. diplomats described the attack, even as it was still under way, to Washington.

The article reports, “A third email, also marked SBU [Sensitive But Unclassified] and sent at 6:07 p.m. Washington time, carried the subject line: ‘Update 2: Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack.’” For perspective, this was right around the time the attackers removed Ambassador Stevens from the consulate. Thus, the White House was being told about an al-Qaeda affiliated group taking credit for the attack before Stevens died.

Here is what Susan Rice said, five days later, on ABC News’ “This Week“:

Our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous — not a premeditated — response to what had transpired in Cairo. In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated.

We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people came to the embassy to — or to the consulate, rather, to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo. And then as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons, weapons that as you know in — in the wake of the revolution in Libya are — are quite common and accessible. And it then evolved from there.

… and on NBC News’ “Meet the Press”:

But putting together the best information that we have available to us today our current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of– of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video.  What we think then transpired in Benghazi is that opportunistic extremist elements came to the consulate as this was unfolding.

… and on CBS News’ “Face the Nation”:

based on the best information we have to date, what our assessment is as of the present is in fact what began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy.

and on “Fox News Sunday“:

Well, first of all, Chris, we are obviously investigating this very closely. The FBI has a lead in this investigation. The information, the best information and the best assessment we have today is that in fact this was not a preplanned, premeditated attack. That what happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo as a consequence of the video. People gathered outside the embassy and then it grew very violent and those with extremist ties joined the fray and came with heavy weapons, which unfortunately are quite common in post-revolutionary Libya and that then spun out of control.

But we don’t see at this point signs this was a coordinated plan, premeditated attack. Obviously, we will wait for the results of the investigation and we don’t want to jump to conclusions before then. But I do think it’s important for the American people to know our best current assessment.

By October 9, the assessment was completely different: “Prior to the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi late in the evening on Sept. 11, there was no protest outside the compound, a senior State Department official confirmed today, contradicting initial administration statements suggesting that the attack was an opportunistic reaction to unrest caused by an anti-Islam video.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Libya , Ron Barber

CIA: We Said Benghazi Was a Militant Attack From Day One



The CIA station chief in Libya reported to Washington within 24 hours of last month’s deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate that there was evidence it was carried out by militants, not a spontaneous mob upset about an American-made video ridiculing Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, U.S. officials have told The Associated Press.

It is unclear who, if anyone, saw the cable outside the CIA at that point and how high up in the agency the information went. The Obama administration maintained publicly for a week that the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans was a result of the mobs that staged less-deadly protests across the Muslim world around the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks on the U.S.

Boy, I’ll bet this comes up on Monday’s foreign-policy debate.

Here is Obama on September 24, during the Univision debate, still saying, “What we do know is that the natural protests that arose because of the outrage over the video were used as an excuse by extremists to see if they can also directly harm U.S. interests.”

Why is the president telling the public something that the CIA is saying is not true, twelve days after the attacks?

Tags: Barack Obama , Libya

Obama, Romney, and the Libya Exchange


Well, Obama checked one of the boxes he needed to: He came across more energetic and pugnacious. I’m sure liberals will be ecstatic. For what it’s worth, the CNN instant reaction on the bottom of the screen indicated that undecided voters weren’t pleased with the attacks and back and forth; I’m not sure if the remaining undecided really are so negative-attack-averse, or whether they’ve been conditioned to tell others that they are.

Romney had some strong moments, taking one voter’s basic, “what have you done for me” question — as one person observed, the one undecided black voter on Long Island — and offering a litany of Obama’s grand promises and how little progress had been made. Probably Romney’s best early points came on the issue of gas prices; perhaps no line from Romney or Paul Ryan will do as much damage as the questioner who began his query by noting that Energy Secretary Steven Chu has said that lowering the cost of gasoline for American consumers isn’t one of his priorities.

Of course, Obama’s answer never mentioned Chu.

Undoubtedly, the post-debate discussion is likely to focus on one exchange over Libya.

The president showed glowering indignation over the accusation that his administration misled the public on what happened in Benghazi and why. It was a potential slam-dunk moment . . .

. . . and then Romney got caught up in what Obama said in the Rose Garden on September 12. Take a look at Obama’s Rose Garden comments here. Obama refers to the murder of Stevens and the other Americans as an “attack” — duh — but then he says:

Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. None.

Those lines clearly imply that the events were a reaction to the YouTube tape. The word “terror” appears once, in the entirety of Obama’s remarks, in this context:

No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America.

That’s not specifically referring to the Benghazi raid, although one could argue it’s implied.

However, by telling the audience — to applause! — that Obama did refer to the murders as a terror attack, Candy Crowley is responsible for one of the most egregious misjudgments of any moderator in the history of presidential debates.

Still, the American people may remember the administration spending a lot of time talking about a YouTube video in the days after the Benghazi attack, and Obama’s sudden insistence that his administration never really pushed that implausible-from-the-start alternative explanation may strike them as odd and implausible. Viewers may also notice that the president never responded to the audience member’s question about what the administration did in response to the reports indicating Benghazi was growing increasingly dangerous.

The Libya question may not be as damaging for Romney as the Obama team may hope; it came more than 70 minutes into this debate. Other than some early fireworks, much of this debate seemed to plod along, with each candidate insisting that what the other was saying was just flat not true. But considering how many conservatives thought Libya could be a huge issue in these campaign’s final weeks, Romney’s handling is deeply disappointing.


Now she tells us: “[Romney] was right in the main, I just think he picked the wrong word.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Debates , Libya , Mitt Romney

U.S. Military Strikes in Libya Coming Soon?


The Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt includes a debate preview, look at both the USA Today swing-state poll and new intriguing results in Pennsylvania from Quinnipiac, and then the busy night for news on Libya . . .

U.S. Military Strikes in Libya Coming Soon?

You’re going to hear a lot about “wag the dog” scenarios in light of this news

The White House has put special operations strike forces on standby and moved drones into the skies above Africa, ready to strike militant targets from Libya to Mali — if investigators can find the al-Qaida-linked group responsible for the death of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Libya.

But officials say the administration, with weeks until the presidential election, is weighing whether the short-term payoff of exacting retribution on al-Qaida is worth the risk that such strikes could elevate the group’s profile in the region, alienate governments the U.S. needs to fight it in the future and do little to slow the growing terror threat in North Africa.

Details on the administration’s position and on its search for a possible target were provided by three current and one former administration official, as well as an analyst who was approached by the White House for help. All four spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the high-level debates publicly.

But if we have an opportunity to capture or kill the folks who had a hand on the attack on our consulate and the murder of our ambassador and three other Americans — and presuming the Libyan government is unable, unwilling, or untrustworthy enough to take action against the perpetrators — shouldn’t our government be doing this?

(By the way, with three current and one former administration official, as well as an analyst talking to the Associated Press on this . . . I guess it’s not much of a sneak attack now, huh?)

As for the “untrustworthy enough” angle on the Libyan government . . .

U.S. State Department officials suspected that two Libyan guards hired by its own security contractor were behind an April incident in which a homemade bomb was hurled over the wall of the special mission in Benghazi, according to official e-mails obtained by Reuters.

But the men, who had been taken into custody the day of the attack, were released after questioning by Libyan officials because of a lack of “hard evidence” that could be used to prosecute them, the State Department emails show.

As for the “unable” angle . . .

The Pentagon and State Department are rushing to help the Libyan government create a new commando force to combat Islamic extremists like the ones who killed the American ambassador in Libya last month and to help counter the country’s fractious militias, according to internal government documents.

The Obama administration quietly won Congress’s approval last month to shift about $8 million from Pentagon operations and counterterrorism aid budgeted for Pakistan to begin building an elite Libyan force over the next year that could ultimately number about 500 troops. American Special Operations forces could conduct much of the training, as they have with counterterrorism forces in Pakistan and Yemen, American officials said.

The effort to establish the new unit was already under way before the assault that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans at the United States Mission in Benghazi, Libya. But the plan has taken on new urgency since then as the new civilian government in Tripoli tries to assert control over the country’s militant factions. According to an internal State Department memo sent to Congress on Sept. 4, the plan’s goal is to enhance “Libya’s ability to combat and defend against threats from Al Qaeda and its affiliates.” A companion Pentagon document envisions that the Libyan commando force will “counter and defeat terrorist and violent extremist organizations.” Right now, Libya has no such capability, American officials said.

But is this going to be a real operation that disrupts al-Qaeda’s ability to pull off an attack like the one on September 11, or just a symbolic one to alleviate the sense that our ambassador’s murder is going unavenged? Some in Congress have their doubts:

Longtime Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra — the former chairman of the powerful House Intelligence Committee — tells Newsmax TV that the Obama administration probably lacks “the kind of intelligence that will enable us to attack” those responsible for killing Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other members of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya. What he fears is an empty gesture with some staged attacks on loose targets designed to give the appearance the administration is on the case.

“You’re only acting decisively if you have the clearly identified target and you take the target out,” warned Hoekstra in an exclusive interview on Monday. “I’m concerned that what we may see with this administration is they may fire a few missiles from some drones at some suspected target and will either kill the wrong people or we won’t kill anybody at all.”

Needless to say, we live in a cynical age.

Jim Pethokoukis: Strikes “on whom, the guy who made the video?”

James Poulos: “Eeny meeny miney drone.”

John Podhoretz: “Is there an aspirin factory near Benghazi?”

Heck, we haven’t bombed Libya in, like, a year.

Meanwhile . . .

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accepted blame for the security lapses before the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

“I take responsibility,” Clinton told CNN Monday in Lima, Peru. “I’m in charge of the State Department’s 60,000-plus people all over the world, 275 posts.”

She added, “The president and the vice president wouldn’t be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals.”

Clinton also said that the U.S. has been aware that militants were regrouping in Libya and that there would be an effort to reestablish bases.

Is this Hillary Clinton falling on her sword to help the president to get the Benghazi debacle out of the headlines? Or is responsibility jujitsu, where she looks presidential by declaring the buck stops with her, and he looks cowardly for using her as a scapegoat?

Last night, Senators John McCain (R., Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.) released a statement on Clinton’s comments:

We have just learned that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has claimed full responsibility for any failure to secure our people and our Consulate in Benghazi prior to the attack of September 11, 2012. This is a laudable gesture, especially when the White House is trying to avoid any responsibility whatsoever.

However, we must remember that the events of September 11 were preceded by an escalating pattern of attacks this year in Benghazi, including a bomb that was thrown into our Consulate in April, another explosive device that was detonated outside of our Consulate in June, and an assassination attempt on the British Ambassador. If the President was truly not aware of this rising threat level in Benghazi, then we have lost confidence in his national security team, whose responsibility it is to keep the President informed. But if the President was aware of these earlier attacks in Benghazi prior to the events of September 11, 2012, then he bears full responsibility for any security failures that occurred. The security of Americans serving our nation everywhere in the world is ultimately the job of the Commander-in-Chief. The buck stops there.

Furthermore, there is the separate issue of the insistence by members of the Administration, including the President himself, that the attack in Benghazi was the result of a spontaneous demonstration triggered by a hateful video, long after it had become clear that the real cause was a terrorist attack. The President also bears responsibility for this portrayal of the attack, and we continue to believe that the American people deserve to know why the Administration acted as it did.

Tags: Barack Obama , Hillary Clinton , Libya

Biden: If Only Our Diplomats Had Asked for More Security!


Besides the laughing, grinning, interrupting, and so on, this may be one of the more consequential Biden statements of the night:

“Well, we weren’t told they wanted more security there. We did not know they wanted more security again.”

That remark is remarkably incongruous with everything we know about communications from diplomatic staff in Libya, as well as this report from CBS News this morning:

The regional security office for the U.S. Embassy in Libya compiled a running list of 230 security incidents through July 2012 in a memo that ultimately concluded that “the risk of U.S. Mission personnel, private U.S. citizens, or businesspersons encountering an isolating event as a result of militia or political violence is HIGH.”

The document, obtained by CBS News, is the latest piece of evidence suggesting security in the country was tenuous ahead of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead.

Since the attack, there have been increasing questions about whether the State Department did enough to safeguard its diplomatic personnel in Libya, with some security officers for the mission claiming that repeated requests for additional security were ignored by officials in Washington.

In an email to congressional investigators dated Oct. 1, Regional Security Officer Eric Nordstrom said he sent similar lists of security incidents to superiors as a “significant part of (diplomatic post’s) and my argument for maintaining” Diplomatic Security and Defense Department assets in Libya through October because the Libyan government “was overwhelmed and could not guarantee our protection.”

Tags: Joe Biden , Libya

Romney Campaign: Obama Administation ‘Continually Misled’ the Public


Andrea Saul, the Romney campaign’s national press secretary, just released a statement in response to the Obama campaign’s comments on the terrorist attack in Libya:

President Obama’s campaign today said that Libya is only an issue because of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. They’re wrong. The reason it is an issue is because, for the first time since 1979, an American ambassador was assassinated and President Obama’s foreign policy strategy of “leading from behind” is failing. This administration has continually misled the American public about what happened in Benghazi and, rather than be truthful about the sequence of events, has instead skirted responsibility and dodged questions. The American people deserve straight answers about this tragic event and a president who can provide leadership, not excuses.

A few hours ago on CNN, Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter discussed the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and contended that “the entire reason that this has become the political topic it is, is because of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. It’s a big part of their stump speech, it’s reckless and irresponsible what they’re doing.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Libya , Mitt Romney

Stephanie Cutter’s Bad Day, Still in Progress


Obama’s deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, began the day by contending that “if you look at the recent polls, the race is roughly the same as it was before the debate.”

She continued this afternoon by discussing the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and contending that “the entire reason that this has become the political topic it is, is because of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. It’s a big part of their stump speech, it’s reckless and irresponsible what they’re doing.”

What will she say this evening in the post-debate spin room?

UPDATE: Her poll statement comes at about 16:50 on this video:

Tags: Barack Obama , Libya

A Likely List of Thursday’s Debate Topics


For much of today, there has been some grumbling on the right about Martha Raddatz, the ABC News senior correspondent who is moderating the vice-presidential debate. In 1991, Barack Obama attended her wedding. This is rather weak tea as far as evidence of bias; she has since divorced and remarried. (Wonder what Obama got her as a gift . . . a cassette tape of his speeches?) If anything, this story coming up might make her a little more determined to appear to be playing it down the middle.

But take a look at her recent work, and we may have a good sense of the likely topics:

Martha Raddatz was named Senior Foreign Affairs correspondent for ABC News in November 2008, after serving as White House correspondent during the last term of President George W. Bush’s administration. In addition to covering the day-to-day foreign and domestic stories from the White House, Raddatz has traveled from Haiti to Yemen to the Mideast and through south Asia.

Raddatz has traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan dozens of times, and to Iraq 21 times to cover the ongoing conflict. She was on the last convoy out of Iraq and is the only television reporter allowed to cover a combat mission over Afghanistan in an F15 fighter jet, spending nearly 10 hours in the air on two separate missions. In the early hours of June 8, 2006, she was the first correspondent to report that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, had been killed in a U.S. air strike north of Baghdad. In 2011 she reported exclusive details on the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. That same year she had an exclusive interview on the USS Kearsage off the coast of Libya with the Marines who helped rescue two American pilots who had gone down in Libya. In 2012, Raddatz was on a USS destroyer as it made its way through the Strait of Hormuz.

Libya’s a certainty, and some related or separate question on the status of al-Qaeda and U.S. efforts against that group. Afghanistan and our draw-down of troops is also almost certain. Expect at least one question on Iran and its nuclear program. Sequestration and its impact on the defense budget is another very likely topic.

The format is “nine 10-minute segments, each candidate will have two minutes to respond to an opening question. The moderator will then lead a discussion.” Libya, al-Qaeda, Afghanistan, Iran, and sequestration would make five topics; the remaining four would be on domestic policy and would probably focus heavily on the economy. With Ryan on stage, the debt and his budgetary proposals are almost certain to get their own segment.

Tags: al-Qaeda , Debates , Joe Biden , Libya , Paul Ryan

Why Was the Libya Explanation So Wrong for So Long?


The Heritage Foundation has put together a video of the Obama administration’s statements about the Benghazi attack being driven by the Islam-mocking YouTube video . . . It’s all useful; I just wish they listed the date of each statement, to show how long the administration insisted that this was driven by the video, instead of a terror attack by al-Qaeda affiliates upon a strikingly under-protected facility.


Thankfully, Heritage’s Helle Dale put together a timeline in print form:

April 6: IED thrown over the fence of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.

April 11: Gun battle erupts between armed groups two-and-a-half miles from the U.S. Consulate, including rocket-propelled grenades.

April 27: Two South African contractors are kidnapped by armed men, released unharmed.

May 1: Deputy Commander of U.S. Embassy Tripoli’s Local Guard Force is carjacked, beaten, and detained by armed youth.

May 1: British Embassy in Tripoli is attacked by a violent mob and set on fire. Other NATO embassies attacked as well.

May 3: The State Department declines a request from personnel concerned about security at the U.S. Embassy in Libya for a DC-3 plane to take them around the country.

May 22: Two rocket-propelled grenades are fired at the Benghazi office of the International Committee of the Red Cross, less than 1 mile from the U.S. Consulate.

June 6: A large IED destroys part of the security perimeter of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. Creates hole “big enough for 40 men to go through.”

June 10: A car carrying the British ambassador is attacked in Tripoli. Two bodyguards injured.

Late June: The building of the International Red Cross attacked again and closed down, leaving the U.S. flag as the only international one still flying in Benghazi, an obvious target.

August 6: Armed assailants carjack a vehicle with diplomatic plates operated by U.S. personnel.

September 8: A local security officer in Benghazi warns American officials about deteriorating security.

September 11: Protesters attack the U.S. Cairo embassy. U.S. Embassy releases statement and tweets sympathizing with Muslim protesters/attackers.

September 11: U.S. Consulate in BenghaziLibya is attacked, Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans are killed.

September 12: Secretary Clinton and President Obama issue statements condemning both the video and the attacks.

September 12: U.S. intelligence agencies have enough evidence to conclude a terrorist attack was involved.

September 13: Press Secretary Jay Carney condemns video and violence at a news conference.

September 14: Carney denies Administration had “actionable intelligence indicating that an attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi was planned or imminent.”

September 14: The bodies of slain Americans return to Andrews Air Force Base. President Obama again blames the YouTube video.

September 16: U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice appears on Sunday talk shows and says the attacks were provoked by the video, exclusively.

September 16: Libyan President Mohamed Magarief says, “no doubt that this [attack] was preplanned, predetermined.”

September 17: State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland refuses to call attacks an act of terror.

September 19: CNN reports having found Ambassador Stevens’s diary, which indicates concern about security threats in Benghazi.

September 19: Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Matthew Olsen tells Congress the attack in Libya was “terrorism.”

September 20: Carney tries to back up Olsen, says it was “self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack.”

September 20: Obama refuses to call attack terrorism, citing insufficient information.

September 21: Secretary of State Clinton, at meeting with Pakistani Foreign Minister, says, “What happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack.”

September 25: On ABC’s “The View,” Obama says, “we don’t have all of the information yet so we are still gathering.”

September 25: To the U.N. assembly, Obama blames “A crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world.”

September 26: Libya’s Magarief on the “Today” show says, “It was a preplanned act of terrorism directed against American citizens.”

September 26: Published reports show U.S. Intel agencies and the Obama Administration knew within 24 hours that al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist were involved.

September 27: Innocence of Muslims filmmaker Mark Basseley Youseff (aka Nakoula Basseley Nakoula) is arrested and denied bail on the charges of “probation violation.”

September 28: Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, Jr., issues a statement backing the Obama Administration’s changing story about the Libyan attack. Says facts are evolving.

October 2: Carney declines to comment on reported requests from diplomats in Libya for additional security, citing the State Department’s internal investigation. 

Tags: Barack Obama , Libya , State Department

An Exciting, Fresh, Bold New Form of Media Bias


In the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt . . . sent along to the editors at the usual time, and reaching readers a bit later under our new distribution system (we’re working on it) . . .

A Bold New Form of Media Bias

In light of the Washington Post basing its front-page headline on a survey with an astonishingly small sample and an astonishingly high margin of error, it is good to sum up what we’ve seen from the press in recent weeks.

ONE: For about eight days, the Obama administration told the public that their best assessment of the murder of our ambassador in Libya and three other Americans was that it was the result of a spontaneous protest against a tape mocking Islam on YouTube. This explanation sounded funny from the beginning — even in a place like Benghazi, who brings rocket-propelled grenades and mortars to a protest? — and it seemed surprising that so many in the administration, including U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, seemed to dismiss the idea that a terror attack against American targets on September 11 was a serious possibility. Subsequent reports have revealed astonishingly insufficient security for a site with American lives and American intelligence. The administration’s sustained focus on the YouTube tape seemed to make little sense, outside of a desire to deflect from the continued pervasiveness of anti-American rage in the Middle East and signs of a resurgent al-Qaeda, themes that greatly complicate the argument of the Obama campaign. As of Friday, 17 days after the attack, the FBI had still not reached the consulate site to conduct a forensic investigation.

To their credit, certain places like CNN and ABC News have pursued this story with more vigor than their critics acknowledge.

On a related note, violent protests and threats of violence against American embassies continue, barely mentioned or acknowledged by most venues of the U.S. press. I guess it isn’t newsworthy until someone dies again.

TWO: Univision, a Spanish-language channel, has done an in-depth, detailed, long-form television journalism about the “Fast and Furious” program, showcasing that the violence from the “walked” guns was much worse than previously claimed by the government, and demonstrating the cost in human lives in searing images. (Moe Lane talks a bit about it here.) This report is much more vivid, detailed, and outraged than anything from almost all of the U.S. media, which accepted an inspector general’s report that claimed that repeated warnings and information kept coming up from the field agents but somehow mysteriously never reached the Attorney General. The report claimed that both Acting Deputy Attorney General Grindler and Counsel to the Attorney General and Deputy Chief of Staff Wilkinson were informed about the connection between the firearms found at the scene of fatal shootings and Operation Fast and Furious, but neither believed “the information was sufficiently important to alert the Attorney General about it.”

THREE: With unemployment above 8 percent for forty-four straight months and GDP slowing to 1.25 percent, BuzzFeed declares “one of the central mysteries of 2012” is “How did we stop focusing on the economy?”

FOUR: Day after day, our troops in Afghanistan are targeted and killed by the Afghan troops they are supposed to be training. This barely merits more than periodic brief mentions in the national press. As Walter Russell Mead puts it:

If George W. Bush were president now, and had ordered the surge and was responsible for the strategic decisions taken and not taken in Afghanistan over the last four years, the mainstream press would be rubbing our noses in his miserable failures and inexcusable blunders 24/7. The New York Times and the Washington Post would be treating us to pictures of every fallen soldier. The PBS Newshour would feature nightly post-mortems on “America’s failed strategies in the Afghan War” and every arm-chair strategist in America would be filling the op-ed pages with the brilliant 20/20 hindsight ideas that our pathetic, clueless, failed president was too dumb and too cocky to have had.

Ace of Spades observed something we’re seeing in this cycle that is different even from the hope-and-change euphoria of Obama’s 2008 coverage:

Let me explain why this is different than previous bias.

Previously, the press has been both biased in a partisan way and an in an ideological way, but usually the partisanship was driven by ideology. As you may have noticed, the press are great fans of gay marriage and abortion, and they shape their coverage to put the best possible face on these positions, and the worst possible face on opponents. (To the extent they feature contrary voices at all.)

That’s bias, of course. We’ve gotten used to that.

But in the Benghazi debacle, there is no possible ideological grounding to explain their bias.There is, I trust, no ideological movement that advocates for intelligence failures and the deaths of good-guy diplomats. There is no ideological movement in favor of reckless incompetence bordering on malice in providing security for consulates abroad (which, as a legal matter, are considered US territory).

There is no ideological movement — or at least there was not before — championing the government’s right to lie to the public about its failures in order to avoid accountability.

There is no room here where one can say, “Ah well, they can’t help but be pulled a bit to the left by their own beliefs.” Because no one champions the right of government to let people be murdered and then lie about it.

This isn’t ideological bias, then. This is pure advocacy for a political party. Obama’s embarrassment is not an ideological issue — or should not be. I hope we can all agree that a president should attend security briefings — especially as 9/11 approaches — and provide adequate warning and security for US government personnel. I hope we can all agree that the government does not suddenly gain a Right To Shamelessly Lie about its failures, simply because it finds it politically advantageous to do so.

But, as Nina Totenberg’s chuckle indicates, the press now in fact believes exactly these things — so long as the president we’re talking about is Democrat, and Obama in particular.

Tags: Afghanistan , Barack Obama , Economy , Fast and Furious , Libya , Media , Mitt Romney

U.S. Intel: Benghazi Attack Wasn’t Spontaneous


Yes, I know that the media is having the biggest meltdown about an accurate Romney comment since . . . Wednesday, but I think the more important bit of news comes in this morning’s Jolt’s second item:

U.S. Intelligence: No, Ambassador Rice, the Benghazi Attack Wasn’t Spontaneous

If you thought U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice’s account of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi didn’t quite add up . . . apparently some U.S. intelligence sources agree with you:

An intelligence source on the ground in Libya told Fox News that there was no demonstration outside the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi prior to last week’s attack — challenging the Obama administration’s claims that the assault grew out of a “spontaneous” protest against an anti-Islam film.

“There was no protest and the attacks were not spontaneous,” the source said, adding the attack “was planned and had nothing to do with the movie.”

The source said the assault came with no warning at about 9:35 p.m. local time, and included fire from more than two locations. The assault included RPG’s and mortar fire, the source said, and consisted of two waves.

The account that the attack started suddenly backs up claims by a purported Libyan security guard who told McClatchy Newspapers late last week that the area was quiet before the attack.

“There wasn’t a single ant outside,” the unnamed guard, who was being treated in a hospital, said in the interview.

Doug Mataconis has the cockamamie idea that when U.S. diplomatic personnel are killed, the U.S. government should play it straight about what happened and why:

It’s worth noting that initial reports of any incident like this don’t always turn out to be complete. However, up until now, the public story had always been, or at least implied, that the attack occurred contemporaneous with the protests but now even the U.S. Government is admitting that isn’t the case. The attack, clearly, occurred several hours later. This makes the claim that Ambassador Rice made yesterday that the attack was all about a movie and wasn’t pre-planned even harder to believe. The idea that the attack was spontaneous, which doesn’t seem credible to begin with given what we know about how it happened, becomes even less believable once you realize that the attack occurred several hours after a small protest against the movie. That fact alone makes the idea that there was any real connection between the two events even less likely, especially since the attackers clearly used the cover of darkness, and surprise, to launch their attack. That doesn’t seem like the action of a bunch of protesters riled up by a movie. This incident needs to be investigated thoroughly, and the Administration needs to be honest with the American people about what happened, because that does not appear to be what’s happening now.

Separately, over at CNN, we see one more disturbing claim of warnings disregarded:

Three days before the deadly assault on the United States consulate in Libya, a local security official says he met with American diplomats in the city and warned them about deteriorating security.

Jamal Mabrouk, a member of the February 17th Brigade, told CNN that he and a battalion commander had a meeting about the economy and security.

He said they told the diplomats that the security situation wasn’t good for international business.

“The situation is frightening, it scares us,” Mabrouk said they told the U.S. officials. He did not say how they responded.

Mabrouk said it was not the first time he has warned foreigners about the worsening security situation in the face of the growing presence of armed jihadist groups in the Benghazi area.

The main building in the compound is in charred ruins.

That report mentions, “there are numerous questions about what happened at the consulate where protesters had gathered to demonstrate against the film ‘Innocence of Muslims,’” but another account offers a time that seems . . . strange for a protest: “One of five private security guards at the consulate said the surprise attack began around 9:30 p.m. when several grenades that were lobbed over the outer wall exploded in the compound and bullets rained down.”

Tags: Libya , Susan Rice

Three Policy Points for Romney to Raise


There was nothing inappropriate about Mitt Romney’s statement on the Libyan attacks this morning. If anything, his remarks were strikingly limited in scope. (The inane, narrative-obsessed, and apparently coordinated questions from the press didn’t help generate a substantive discussion.)

The events of the past 24 hours spotlight at least three major policy decisions by the Obama administration that are deserving of scrutiny in this election season:

1) So the Obama administration disavowed the statement released by the U.S. embassy in Cairo declaring that the embassy “condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.” That’s fine, but the boilerplate responses of the administration continue to suggest that the federal government believes that statements or expressions that offend certain religions are not acceptable, and that our policy is that they should somehow be not permitted or not aired in the public square.

From Obama’s initial statement: “The United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.”

From Obama’s Rose Garden statement: “We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.”

No we don’t! No one in the U.S. government rejects Bill Maher’s documentary Religulous, or the Broadway musical mocking the Mormon faith, or Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady” character. Denigrating the religious beliefs of others, whether popular or unpopular, is protected speech under the First Amendment, and there is a long history of this in American life.

You only see U.S. lawmakers denouncing mockery or criticism of a religion when the religion in question is Islam, and the primary cause of that is that Muslims in certain countries tend to lash out against perceived blasphemy by attacking Westerners, foreigners, and U.S. troops and diplomatic personnel. Large swaths of the Muslim world insist that the American interpretation of the First Amendment must adapt to conform with their faith’s blasphemy definitions and punishments.

The right to speak freely is non-negotiable, but the vague comments of the administration appear to be suggesting that we think some unspecified limitations on speech critical of Islam is compatible with our laws, Constitution, and traditions.

2) Why were the security measures for our embassy in Cairo and our consulate in Benghazi so insufficient? Did this administration underestimate the risk to our personnel in these cities and in other cities around the Middle East? Did the administration’s belief that the “Arab Spring” is good for our interests lead them to complacency about anti-American sentiment and the potential for violence in these cities?

3) Perhaps most importantly, when the Egyptian government, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, has refused to denounce the attacks, why are we even considering forgiving $1 billion of their debt? The administration’s proposal for forgiving $1 billion in debt must be dead on arrival on Capitol Hill, and it is a prime example of the administration being naïve, far too generous, and far too trusting in its dealings with the Egyptian government.

Tags: Barack Obama , Egypt , Libya , Mitt Romney

Obama, Not the Balm for Anti-Americanism We Were Promised


Remember the expectations for how Barack Obama could transform U.S. relations with the Muslim world once in office?

Andrew Sullivan, writing in The Atlantic, July 2007:

What does he offer? First and foremost: his face. Think of it as the most effective potential re-branding of the United States since Reagan. Such a re-branding is not trivial—it’s central to an effective war strategy. The war on Islamist terror, after all, is two-pronged: a function of both hard power and soft power. We have seen the potential of hard power in removing the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. We have also seen its inherent weaknesses in Iraq, and its profound limitations in winning a long war against radical Islam. The next president has to create a sophisticated and supple blend of soft and hard power to isolate the enemy, to fight where necessary, but also to create an ideological template that works to the West’s advantage over the long haul. There is simply no other candidate with the potential of Obama to do this. Which is where his face comes in.

Consider this hypothetical. It’s November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man—Barack Hussein Obama—is the new face of America. In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. A brown-skinned man whose father was an African, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, who attended a majority-Muslim school as a boy, is now the alleged enemy. If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama’s face gets close. It proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can.

And here we are:

• After improving with the election of Barack Obama in 2008, U.S. favorable ratings across the Arab world have plummeted. In most countries they are lower than at the end of the Bush Administration, and lower than Iran’s favorable ratings (except in Saudi Arabia).

• The continuing occupation of Palestinian lands and U.S. interference in the Arab world are held to be the greatest obstacles to peace and stability in the Middle East.

• While many Arabs were hopeful that the election of Barack Obama would improve U.S.-Arab relations, that hope has evaporated. Today, President Obama’s favorable ratings across the Arab world are 10% or less.

• Obama’s performance ratings are lowest on the two issues to which he has devoted the most energy: Palestine and engagement with the Muslim world.

Another survey:

There is little support for Obama, however, in the predominantly Muslim nations surveyed. Fewer than three-in-ten express confidence in him in Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey and Jordan. And roughly a year after he ordered the Abbottabad raid that killed Osama bin Laden, just 7% of Pakistanis have a positive view of Obama, the same percentage that voiced confidence in President George W. Bush during the final year of his administration.

The divisions, frustration, anger, and recrimination between the United States and much of the Muslim world were not a reaction to George W. Bush or “cowboy” mannerisms or “neocons” or any of the conventional wisdom of the Bush years. The divisions stem from fundamentally different values, ones that no amount of flowery speeches in Cairo can change.

Tags: Barack Obama , Libya


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