Jewish World Review Nov. 27, 2012/ 13 Kislev, 5773
This much we know: What happened at Benghazi
By Paul Greenberg
The investigations continue unabated as the accusations and defenses multiply in the aftermath of the murderous attack on our diplomats in Benghazi. But this much we know: American lives, including that of our ambassador to
The energetic and courageous American ambassador had played an important role in Libyans' liberation from the Gadhafi era, whatever the uncertain and tumultuous aftermath of that revolution. And he was playing an even more important one in
Competing narratives of what happened at Benghazi still flood the news, often providing more heat than light. But in all the controversy, one obdurate truth cannot be denied: This administration, this
First our envoys were killed; now it looks as if any hope of finding out just what happened in Benghazi and why may be lost in all the political infighting.
Our ambassador to
Now the word is that the Hon.
At first, the official story was that the assault on our compound in Benghazi was the result of a spontaneous demonstration against a made-in-America video that had offended the memory of the Prophet. That line is no longer credible -- if it ever was. Doubts about it surfaced almost immediately after the attack, and the director of the CIA at the time, Gen.
For the moment, the president has taken refuge in the first resort of a leader under fire: huffy indignation. "If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham want to go after somebody," he said, "they should go after me."
No sooner suggested than done. Sen. Graham immediately took the president up on his suggestion: "Mr. President, don't think for one minute I don't hold you ultimately responsible for Benghazi. I think you failed as commander-in-chief before, during and after the attack."
Sen. Graham's direct words to the president are less an accusation than a fact, for this president failed to provide adequate protection for our diplomats on the ground, and then failed to level with the American people for a remarkably long time after the bloody disaster at Benghazi.
Even days after the attack -- or was it more like a week? -- Ambassador Rice and Secretary of State
The president's claim to have told the American people that the attack on Benghazi was a terrorist raid from the first won't wash. Just because he added a little boilerplate about this country standing fast against terror to his initial statement scarcely constitutes candor; it was just an empty rhetorical gesture from a president who specializes in them. Those four coffins arriving home were much more eloquent. No wonder the president's initial statement was forgotten in a moment, while what happened at Benghazi hasn't been, and can't be till all the doubts are cleared away, if ever.
One of the first questions confronting any administration, any institution, any president when failure is exposed is: What shall we tell people?
The temptation is always to hedge the facts, if not make up a few.
Consider the initial response of
But no one serious ever accused Ike of lying for some crass political interest rather than the national interest. He no more considered himself lying than he did when he was deceiving the Germans about just where the Allies would land come D-Day. Now the country was engaged in another war, albeit a Cold War, and all was fair in love and espionage.
Nor did that president have to mislead the American people to establish his standing as a leader. He had acquired his reputation the old-fashioned way: He'd earned it -- in war and peace. "I like Ike" wasn't just a political slogan in the Fifties, it was almost a national mood, even if the usual intellectuals tried to dismiss Ike as just an old duffer. Most Americans surely knew better. And even more may do so now in history's light. The U-2 Affair can now be seen in perspective.
This vicious assault on our diplomats occurred in the midst of a hard-fought presidential campaign. At the time,
Then came this humiliating news out of Benghazi, just when al-Qaida was supposed to be a spent force. Was that the source of this essentially false narrative about a spontaneous demonstration just getting out of hand? The suspicion is unavoidable and, as the investigations proliferate, will remain in the background as an underlying explanation of this president's changing story about what happened in Benghazi. Cover-ups do tend to unravel. We'll see if that's true in this case.
It's an old rule in the military: A commander is responsible for all his unit does or fails to do, and now this commander-in-chief, whatever his talk about responsibility, will be held accountable by a judge far more formidable than his political critics or even American public opinion. He will be held responsible before the bar of History.
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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.
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