Policy: National Security

De-classified Benghazi testimony: The video didn't do it

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Opinion,Austin Bay,Columnists,National Security,Benghazi,State Department,Islamic Jihad,Libya,Islam

Scanning the transcripts of the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi terror attack testimony released this week by congressional committee investigators makes this point quite clear: The video definitely didn't do it.

I am referring to the bizarre blame-tale spun by the Obama administration and repeated in the days following the terror attack. For those with dim memories, here's the plot sketch: A crude anti-Islam Internet video produced by California crank Nakoula Basseley Nakoula incited peaceful Libyan demonstrators. Provoked by an egregious but First Amendment-protected sacrilege virally defiling the World Wide Web, the inflamed citizens of Benghazi spontaneously grabbed automatic rifles, fragmentation grenades and handy rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and impulsively launched coordinated attacks on a conveniently accessible American diplomatic outpost.

From the get-go, many of us didn't buy this crock. For starters, it leveraged several shop-worn left-wing "blame America" tropes, including that Americans are anti-Muslim bigots. The hooey was also at odds with on-the-ground reports, which emerged immediately after the horror. Pro-U.S. Libyans had warned that a well-armed militant Islamist militia intended to launch attacks in Benghazi. Granular reports of an extended firefight between the militiamen and a U.S. security element proved to be very accurate. History has substantiated the heroism of former U.S. Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty as fact. They resisted for over six hours before being killed by enemy mortar fire. Ah, yes, peaceful demonstrators impulsively employing heavy infantry weapons.

According to the now-available congressional transcripts, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey (after speaking with AFRICOM commander Gen. Carter Ham) informed President Obama that the consulate had suffered a terror attack. Panetta and Dempsey told the president within an hour after the first assault began.

Yet Obama administration officials continued to peddle the "video did it" canard for almost two weeks after the assault. Why peddle a blatant falsehood? Because "the video did it" narrative advanced a propaganda campaign supporting central Obama re-election political themes. Obama claimed his presidency would dramatically change Arab Muslim perceptions of America. Though he never equated killing Osama bin Laden with defeating al Qaeda, he implied al Qaeda was fading fast. The Benghazi disaster countered these touts. Obama had to leave the American public with the definite impression that the Benghazi assault was spontaneous. Why, that nasty video incited inexplicable anger!

The president calculated carefully. As his spokespeople blamed the video, Obama hedged and fudged by referring to Benghazi as "an act of terror." His goal was — and still is — rhetorical wiggle room to blunt charges of deceit. However, at least three times during the campaign, Obama refused to call Benghazi an attack by terrorists.

The transcripts leave President Obama and his minions with a lot more deceit to blunt.

The transcripts also indicate that this administration gave security for U.S. diplomatic facilities lip service, not executive attention. Inter-agency security coordination was, at best, slap-dash. Take this exchange between Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Joint Staff vice-director of operations, Maj. Gen. Darryl Roberson.

Chaffetz: General, following up, I just want to make sure I heard this absolutely right. You said, quote, everything requested from State we provided them. This goes back from 2011 when — after the [Libyan] air campaign.

Roberson: Yes, sir.

Chaffetz: To the best of your knowledge, there was nothing else for the security prior to the attack, prior to the attack that State Department asked for that you denied.

Roberson: That is correct.

Chaffetz then added that he asked the question because many apologists for the Benghazi fiasco alleged that the consulate lacked security "because we [Congress] didn't provide certain funding for the embassy. And I think we find that argument is totally false and without merit. They simply didn't ask in many ways. And these assets were available and were there previously, but those on the ground were not able to keep those assets."

Chaffetz' conclusion will be disputed. Alas, long passages of key testimony remain classified, blotted from the transcripts with thick blocks of gray and black ink.

However, as time passes, that thin residue of cover-up will also disappear.

AUSTIN BAY, a Washington Examiner columnist, is nationally syndicated by Creators Syndicate.
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