Judging from the reaction of liberals on my Twitter feed, the appropriate reaction to any #Benghazi talk is snickering and derision. And the defense offered by administration, which amounts to mocking conservatives for offering any questions – former National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor dropping “dude” on Fox News’ Bret Baier was tailored to parallel this dismissive attitude – reminds me that even if all this was about a video, even if the GOP’s “conspiracy theory” regarding talking-point timelines is all wrong, the Obama administration’s reaction is still a scandal.
By downplaying the Benghazi attack during the 2012 race, by grandstanding and attacking critics, the president saved himself any serious debate about, not only the attack, but our misguided Libyan intervention, our Egyptian policy, and the administration’s claims that al-Qaeda terrorism had been largely subdued. And by continuing to make the ludicrous assertion that a sophisticated tactical terrorist attack was merely a spontaneous protest by hypersensitive Muslims in reaction to a halfwit’s silly video, Obama defenders remind us that nothing is more important than politics.
From the beginning the administration misrepresented what occurred. And not only in Libya. When Judicial Watch recently made available documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act public, one of them, an email dated September 14, 2012, showed national security official Ben Rhodes editing Libya talking points for Susan Rice. Jay Carney (who initially claimed that these were “stylistic changes“) says the talking points reflected all protests across the Muslim world. The goal: “underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.” But that’s a lie, no matter when the edit was made. It would have been a lie the night of Sept. 11 and it was a lie if Rice was referring to the entire Muslim world or simply Benghazi. And it’s a scandal because the administration knew it was untrue and went out and tacitly blamed the United States for the barbaric actions of others.
Remember the “protests” – as the administration and media characterized them – that broke out in Egypt that day. Thomas Joscelyn at Foundation for Defense of Democracies (h/t to Andrew C. McCarthy at NRO) writes that these protests “turned into an all-out assault on the compound, with the stars and stripes being ripped down and replaced by al Qaeda’a black banner. The protest-turned-assault was a pro-al Qaeda event from the first, with protesters openly praising Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. I have identified at least three other senior al Qaeda-linked jihadists who helped spark the protest: Tawfiq Al ‘Afani, ‘Adel Shehato, and Rifai Ahmed Taha Musa.”
That sounds a lot like a premeditated “attack,” not merely a “protest.” It sounds like the embassy was under siege, left unprotected in a nation run by a Muslim Brotherhood government that the United States helped install into power. A political entity, which you may also remember, was being treated as some sort of moderate element in the Middle East by the administration. That’s a scandal.
You also remember the embassy’s apology?
The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy.
Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy? What baloney – especially coming from an administration that has consistently been hostile towards religious liberty. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even condemned the film on Pakistan television emphasizing that it was not produced or authorized by the United States government. Despicable “apologies” to the citizens of authoritarian nations should be a scandal in its own right.
First of all, the United States government should be actively defending the right of Americans to make stupid videos if they want. Not only does it have no right to make excuses for its citizens’ freedom of expression, it sets a dangerous precedent by doing so. The president probably reinforced the notion that the U.S. can control the political expression of its citizens. He likely made the existence of this so-called movie known to millions of Mulsims who’d never even heard of it. (We won’t even get into the jailing of the maker of “Innocence of Islam” or the government “asking” companies to remove the trailer, which is a baby step away from actual censorship.) And, as we now know, this was all done for political cover.
That’s a scandal worth talking about.
Follow David Harsanyi on Twitter.