With Monday’s foreign policy debate quickly approaching, it’s time we take a broad look at the attacks on the US Embassies in Benghazi, Libya, and how the Obama administration handled this situation. The point of this piece is not to use the attack and the violent murders of four Americans to push a political point, but to shed light on the negligence, the unprofessional conduct, and the sheer out-of-touch response of the current administration.
On September 11, 2012—eleven years to the day of the 2001 terror attacks on US soil—militants overran the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya. The compound was burned, a firefight ensued, and grenades were launched. By the end of the attack, four Americans—Ambassador Christopher Stevens, diplomat Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALS Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed.
The day after the attack, President Obama announced from the White House Rose Garden,
“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. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.”
The response to this situation—and the little attention that was paid to the possibility of an attack on the Embassy—reveal a degree of negligence that leaves one a little disenchanted by the lofty claims of this administration’s foreign policy expertise. Let’s look at what happened before the attacks.
Before the attack, the Government Accountability Institute found that Obama skipped over half of his daily intelligence meetings. The GAI found that, “during 2011 and the first half of 2012, his attendance…[fell] to just over 38%.” Eric Nordstrom, a U.S. security officer formerly based in Libya, said in an interview with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that several requests for more security for the Benghazi compound, submitted in March and July of 2012, were ignored. A State Department official, Charlene Lamb, told Nordstrom she wanted to keep security “artificially low” because there was a ‘safe house’ in Benghazi that the American diplomats could use in case of emergency. On Friday, more documents were released revealing Ambassador Stevens’ security concerns and requests for more security (which were denied). Further, Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif stated that he received word of the impending attack, and passed it along to the United States at least two days prior. Ironically, though perhaps not surprisingly, Vice President Biden claimed in the Vice Presidential debate that the U.S. had no prior information regarding the possibility of an attack before September 11, 2012.
It’s not wise to pose hypotheticals when it comes to issues such as these, but I do have to wonder why so many stones were left unturned by the same adminstration that basks in the fact that Osama Bin Laden was brought to justice on their watch.
After the attack, we saw a level of unprofessional conduct which begs the question as to whether or not the administration understood the gravity of this attack and its consequences. As stated previously, and as Obama so ardently claimed during the second presidential debate, he stood in the Rose Garden the day after the attack and stated, that “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation.” With this phrase, Obama claims to have labeled the attack as an act of terror. Yet during his appearance on “The View” he was very unclear as to whether or not it was an act of terror. According to AP, within 24 hours of the attack, the “CIA station chief in Libya reported to Washington that there was evidence it was carried out by militants, not a spontaneous mob upset about an American-made video.”
If Obama claims that with the Rose Garden statement he labeled the attack as an “act of terror,” why did the administration repeatedly apologize for the anti-Muhammed video that was falsely blamed for the uprisings? Why were “apology ads” run in Pakistan in the weeks after the Benghazi attack? You don’t apologize to others for an act of terror against your own people.
In the days after the attack, Obama flew to Las Vegas for a campaign fundraiser. He also taped an appearance on Letterman, and while the Middle East burned with anti-American riots, he couldn’t find time to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It’s disappointing, also, that the President couldn’t so much as take a moment to address the American people as our slain fellow citizens were buried and angry rioters in the Middle East continued to desecrate American flags. Many were incredulous when Vice President Joe Biden literally giggled through the discussion of Libya during the Vice Presidential debate. I personally don’t think a terrorist attack that resulted in the deaths of four Americans is any laughing matter.
Recently, the administration (namely the President himself) has proven just how out-of-touch with the whole situation he really is. In a 60 Minutes interview, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning President stated that the attack in Libya and the deaths of four Americans were “bumps in the road” on the path to peace on the Middle East. And just recently, on yet another appearance on late night television, the President stated in an interview with Jon Stewart, “If four Americans get killed, it’s not optimal.”
Pat Smith, mother of fallen American diplomat Sean Smith, responded:
“It’s insensitive to say my son is not very optimal – he is also very dead. I’ve not been ‘optimal’ since he died and the past few weeks have been pure hell. I am still waiting for the truth to come out and I still want to know the truth. I’m finally starting to get some answers but I won’t give up. There [are] a lot of stupid things that have been said about my son and what happened and this is another one of them.”
The President went on to say, “We’re going to fix it. All of it. And what happens, during the course of a presidency, is that the government is a big operation and any given time something screws up.” Mr. President, I humbly submit to you that you can’t just “fix all of it.” Four Americans are dead, and you can do nothing to bring them back. The best you can do now is hold yourself and your administration accountable, stop blaming others, and start leading.
Looking at how the administration handled this situation, I conclude that foreign policy is an area in which Barack Obama still displays a startling level of amateurism. Did he make the command decision for Navy SEALs to take out Osama Bin Laden when the opportunity arose? Absolutely. But where was that supposed leadership and decisiveness in Benghazi? Consider this evidence and ask yourself whether foreign policy requires competence, or if the two are mutually exclusive. This administration’s incompetence in dealing with foreign affairs is quite clear after the embassy attack in Libya, and such amateurism in foreign policy proves to be a dangerous mix.
Sure, the Obama administration can tout their foreign policy “success” in that Osama Bin Laden is dead. But remember—so are Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the four fallen Americans.
Sarah Hinds | Webster University | @Sarah_Hinds76