Last night’s debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York brought an uncharacteristic display of verbal fireworks as well as an unexpected intervention by a jobless NFL replacement referee disguised as the moderator. To be sure, Candy Crowley was doing a creditable job in a difficult position; that is until the issue of the Administration’s description of the September 11 attack on our diplomatic post in Benghazi surfaced.
Governor Romney sternly asked the President why he spent two weeks promoting the improbable claim that the four murders were part of a protest against the anti-Islamic video posted on the internet. Obama countered that he stated the attack was an act of terrorism the day after it happened. He pointedly challenged Romney to review the transcript of his statement. At that point, Candy Crowley inappropriately intervened. She supported the President’s claim that on the afternoon of September 12 he had indeed expressed the idea that it had been a terrorist attack, much to the delight of the uninformed members of the audience. While the transcript shows the President asserting that the U.S. will not be deterred by acts of terrorism, he did not connect such acts to the events in Benghazi. He had been speaking about his part in the annual 9/11 memorial services, and terrorist attacks in general, when he mentioned the attack of the previous day. In addition, his comments over the next two weeks showed no desire to label the Benghazi attack as coming from terrorists, either when being questioned directly or being given an opportunity to confirm what other governmental officials had said.
So what is the real chronology of the statements following the murders and fire which destroyed our diplomatic post? On September 20, Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian, posted the following on their web site, referring to statements made September 14, or three days after the attack:
1) “Last week, White House spokesman Jay Carney insisted that ‘these protests, were in reaction to a video that had spread to the region.’ On Friday, he claimed: ‘This is a fairly volatile situation, and it is in response not to US policy, not to, obviously, the administration, not to the American people. It is in response to a video – a film – that we have judged to be reprehensive and disgusting. That in no way justifies any violent reaction to it. But this is not a case of protests directed at the United States, writ large, or at US policy. This is in response to a video that is offensive and – to Muslims.'”
Greenwald included this quote from September 16:
2) “On Sunday, UN ambassador Susan Rice, when asked about the impetus for the attack, said that ‘this began as, it was a spontaneous – not a premeditated – response to what had transpired in Cairo,’ and added: ‘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.’ In other interviews, she insisted that the Benghazi violence was a “spontaneous” reaction to the film.”
Yet, CNN had stated the following in an article posted the evening of September 12:
3) “The Benghazi consulate was one of several American diplomatic missions that faced protests after the online release of a film that ridiculed Muslims and depicted the Prophet Mohammed as a child molester, womanizer and ruthless killer.”
“But U.S. sources said Wednesday the four-hour assault in Benghazi had been planned, with the attackers using the protest as a diversion.”
My comment: Who were these sources, were their suspicions disregarded, and if so, for what purpose?
From Glenn Kessler, five quotes from his “The Fact Checker” article in the September 27 site of the Washington Post show a gradual shift in the opinions of those in Washington (other than the President) and after Libya had already understood what had happened:
4) “The way these perpetrators acted and moved, and their choosing the specific date for this so-called demonstration, this leaves us with no doubt that this was preplanned, predetermined.” — Mohamed Yusuf al-Magariaf, president of Libya’s General National Congress, Sept. 16
5) “I would say yes, they were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy….The best information we have now, the facts that we have now indicate that this was an opportunistic attack on our embassy. The attack began and evolved and escalated over several hours at our embassy — our diplomatic post in Benghazi. It evolved and escalated over several hours.— Mathew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, testimony before Congress, Sept. 19, after being asked a direct question.
6) “It is, I think, self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack. Our embassy was attacked violently, and the result was four deaths of American officials. So, again, that’s self- evident.
“He also made clear that at this point, based on the information he has — and he is briefing the Hill on the most up-to-date intelligence — we have no information at this point that suggests that this was a significantly preplanned attack, but this was the result of opportunism, taking advantage of and exploiting what was happening as a result of reaction to the video that was found to be offensive.” — Carney, news briefing, Sept. 20
7) “Witnesses tell CBS News that there was never an anti-American protest outside of the consulate. Instead they say it came under planned attack. That is in direct contradiction to the administration’s account.” — Margaret Brennan CBS News correspondent, CBS News report aired Sept. 20
“What happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack, and we will not rest until we have tracked down and brought to justice the terrorists who murdered four Americans.” — Hillary Clinton, statement at a meeting with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Sept. 21, 2012
Yet, President Obama still continued to resist calling it a terrorist attack, as of two weeks after it had occurred:
9) “That is what we saw play out in the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. Now, I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity.” — Obama, speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Sept. 25
Next Monday October 22, the third and final presidential debate will be held at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. The topic—– Foreign Policy!
Mr. President, I join a few million of my fellow U.S. citizens who are curious as to how you will try to spin your way out of this latest, shall we call it, “misrepresentation?”