By Andrew C. McCarthy
October 13, 2012
The desultory vice-presidential debate underscored that, even if there were not a thousand other reasons for denying President Obama a second term, the Libya scandal alone would be reason enough to remove him.
Our emissaries in Libya understood that they were profoundly threatened. They communicated fears for their lives to Washington, pleading for additional protection. That is established fact. Yet Biden maintained that it was untrue: “We weren’t told they wanted more security again. We did not know they wanted more security again.”
Shameful: so much so that even Jay Carney, no small-time Libya propagandist himself, would feel compelled to walk Biden’s denial back the next morning. But the vice president was far from done. His assertion that “the intelligence community told us” that protests over the video had sparked the murders of our officials was breathtaking, even by Biden standards.
For a moment, let’s pretend that there is no historical context — meaning, no Obama-policy context — in which to place what happened in Benghazi on September 11. Let’s just stick with the freshest intelligence.
In recent months, Benghazi has been the site of several jihadist attacks. The International Red Cross offices there were bombed in May by an al-Qaeda affiliate called the “Imprisoned Omar Abdul Rahman Brigades” — named in honor of the “Blind Sheikh,” whose detention in the U.S., on a life sentence for terrorism convictions, al-Qaeda has repeatedly vowed to avenge.
On June 4, four missiles fired from an unmanned U.S. drone killed 15 people at a jihadist compound in Pakistan. The most prominent was al-Qaeda’s revered Libyan leader, Hassan Mohammed Qaed, better known by his nom de guerre, Abu Yahya al-Libi. It was a severe blow to the terror network, and the intelligence community instantly knew al-Qaeda was determined to avenge it.
The following day, the Abdul Rahman Brigades detonated an explosive outside the American consulate in Benghazi.According to CNN, the attack was specifically “timed to coincide with preparations for the arrival of a senior U.S. State Department official.” The Brigades recorded the attack on video, interspersing scenes of the mayhem with footage of al-Qaeda leaders and 9/11 carnage. In claiming responsibility, the jihadists brayed that they were targeting U.S. diplomats in retaliation for the killing of al-Libi. A week later, the Brigades shot rockets at the British ambassador’s convoy as it moved through Benghazi.
By midsummer, al-Qaeda’s emir, Ayman al-Zawahiri, recorded an acknowledgment of al-Libi’s death that exhorted jihadists, particularly in Libya, to retaliate: “His blood urges you and incites you to fight and kill the crusaders.” Naturally, Zawahiri was targeting September 11 as the moment for vengeance. His recording was released on that morning, intimating that a revenge strike would be the most fitting way for Libyans to mark the day when, eleven years earlier, al-Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 Americans. Obligingly, al-Qaeda affiliates carried out the Benghazi massacre later that day.
Not only did the intelligence community have reason aplenty to anticipate trouble in Benghazi on September 11 — reason having nothing to do with the Mohammed video. We now know, thanks to reporting by the Daily Beast’s Eli Lake, that the diplomatic compound’s surveillance cameras recorded “an organized group of armed men attacking the compound.” Mr. Lake adds that the intelligence community had a surveillance drone taking video “for the final hour of the night battle at the consulate compound and nearby annex.” Moreover, U.S. intelligence officials figured out, within a day of the attack, that the operation was pre-planned and several participants were tied to al-Qaeda affiliates.
Yet, the administration continued, day after day, blaming the massacre on the video. The claim was absurd on its face. Plus, it contradicted an intelligence tapestry signaling a well-planned jihadist operation, to say nothing of the manner of the attack — the timing, preparation, and cruelty of which veritably screamed, “al-Qaeda!” Still, even now, Biden and the Obama administration claim that the intelligence community actually believed our people were killed over a video — that Obama officials were simply repeating what they were told, not spouting what they audaciously hoped to deceive Americans into believing.
Why the deception? Because if you conclude the Benghazi massacre had nothing to do with a cockamamie video no one has seen, you soon realize Obama’s favorite campaign theme — namely, that killing bin Laden decimated the terror network — is nonsense. And you realize that what happened in Benghazi on September 11 is directly traceable to Obama’s Middle East policy.
As noted above, the recent intelligence we’ve just reviewed arose in a historic context. Beginning in 2009, the Obama administration, echoing the Republican establishment, told Americans that Qaddafi had become a key ally of the United States against terrorism. Obama even substantially increased the American aid the Bush administration had begun providing to Qaddafi’s regime. The rationale for embracing the dictator was straightforward: Not only had Qaddafi abandoned his nuclear program; he was providing vital intelligence about jihadist cauldrons throughout his country. By percentage of population, more Libyans traveled to Iraq to wage terrorist war against American troops than did citizens of any other country. And in Libya, Benghazi was the epicenter of the jihad.
In 2011, however, President Obama initiated an unprovoked war against the Qaddafi regime. Though Qaddafi had taken no intervening hostile action against the United States, and though no vital American national interest would be served by Qaddafi’s removal, Obama chose to side with the Islamist rebellion against him. Why? As demonstrated in my new book,Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy, the president was determined to sell the “Arab Spring” fantasy of a Middle East seized by the desire for freedom rather than strangled by the ambitions of freedom-killing Islamic supremacists.
In Libya, Islamists were the backbone of the rebellion: the Muslim Brotherhood partnering, as it is wont to do, with violent jihadists — in this instance, al-Qaeda and its affiliates. Toppling Qaddafi would necessarily result in their empowerment. They’d insinuate themselves into any new government. They’d set up sharia enclaves where they were strong enough to do so. And they’d strengthen themselves by seizing chunks of Qaddafi’s arsenal of high-powered weaponry. Being incorrigibly anti-American, they’d use their new influence and power against the United States.
That is why some of us implored Obama not to intervene. As I argued at the time (responsively quoting a Fox News anchor):
I am not “suggesting that we would be better off with the Qaddafi dictatorship still in effect.” I am saying it outright. If the choice is between an emerging Islamist regime and a Qaddafi dictatorship that cooperates with the United States against Islamists, then I’ll take Qaddafi. If the choice is between tolerating the Qaddafi dictatorship and disgracing ourselves by . . . turning a blind eye to the atrocities of our new Islamist friends . . . then give me the Qaddafi dictatorship every time.The “atrocities” of note at the time were twofold: the massacres Libya’s Islamists carried out against black Africans suspected of allying with Qaddafi’s regime, and the barbaric murder of Qaddafi himself — when he was abused and displayed as a trophy, just like Ambassador Christopher Stevens would later be. These opened a ready window on the type of savages Obama’s policy was guaranteed to abet.
The straight line from Obama’s Libya policy of empowering Islamists to the Benghazi massacre is rarely discussed. Maybe it would be clearer if the Republican establishment had not ardently supported Obama’s war against Libya. Maybe it would be clearer if Romney and Ryan stopped sounding nearly as delusional about the “Arab Spring” as Obama and Biden do. Maybe it would be clearer if Romney and Ryan stopped talking about reprising the Libya debacle in Syria, joined at the hip to what they call “our ally Turkey” — Hamas’s new sugar daddy and staunchest defender. It would surely be welcome if the GOP ticket started diagnosing “spring fever” instead of manifesting its symptoms.
In Benghazi, we see the wages of the disease. The pathogen was not a video. Want to know why our people were left unprotected and why mounds of intelligence foreshadowing peril were ignored? Don’t look to Obama’s vice president, look to Obama’s policy.
— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and the executive director of the Philadelphia Freedom Center. He is the author, most recently, of Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy, which was recently published by Encounter Books.