Dis­turb­ing ques­tions Obama should an­swer now

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Austin Bay

The re­lent­less drip, drip, drip dom­i­nat­ing the fi­nal days of the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign isn’t a rain­squall spawned by Hur­ri­cane Sandy, it’s the slow re­lease of dis­turb­ing in­for­ma­tion about the al-Qaida-in­spired 9-11-2012 ter­ror at­tack on the U.S. con­sulate in Beng­hazi.

The slow re­lease of solid in­for­ma­tion about the at­tack is po­lit­i­cally and in­sti­tu­tion­ally cor­ro­sive.

Spec­u­la­tions and ru­mors mag­nify the cor­ro­sive ef­fects, but the ru­mors are spurred by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s trou­bling re­luc­tance to an­swer le­git­i­mate ques­tions still unan­swered nearly two months af­ter the at­tack.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­luc­tance com­pounds the dam­ag­ing ef­fects of its in­sis­tence that an anti-Mus­lim In­ter­net video, the prod­uct of a Cal­i­for­nia crank, in­cited an­tiAmer­i­can vi­o­lence in Egypt and Libya.

In what po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents char­ac­ter­ize as a guilty echo of Richard Nixon’s pli­able ac­counts of Water­gate, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s video­did-it nar­ra­tive has be­come “non-op­er­a­tive” re­gard­ing Beng­hazi.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama him­self now claims he called the in­ci­dent a ter­ror at­tack on Sept. 12.

But his claim re­lies on a very gen­er­ous pars­ing of his Rose Gar­den state­ment.

The Wash­ing­ton Post’s me­dia blog con­cluded, “... re­port­ing that the pres­i­dent re­ferred to an ‘act of ter­ror­ism’ (on Sept. 12) ap­pears to over­step the fac­tual ter­rain.”

Obama hedged on Sept. 12. For an­other week, se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials con­tin­ued to con­demn the video, leav­ing the pub­lic with the def­i­nite im­pres­sion that the Beng­hazi as­sault was spon­ta­neous and the video, pro­tected by Amer­ica’s fun­da­men­tal com­mit­ment to free ex­pres­sion, in­cited ex­pli­ca­ble anger.

On Sept. 18, White House press sec­re­tary Jay Car­ney as­serted that the video “pre­cip­i­tated some of the un­rest in Beng­hazi.”

If the video played a role, then Amer­ica was some­how at fault.

Why would the ad­min­is­tra­tion in­sin­u­ate a video di­rectly, and Amer­ica in­di­rectly, were to blame for Beng­hazi?

In 2009, Obama in­ti­mated that his pres­i­dency would dra­mat­i­cally change Arab Mus­lim per­cep­tions of Amer­ica.

His sym­pa­thetic po­lit­i­cal ap­peals to Mus­lims were “smart diplo­macy” that would dampen mil­i­tant hos­til­ity.

His Amer­ica no longer waged a War on Ter­ror, but con­ducted an “over­seas con­tin­gency op­er­a­tion.”

Though he has never equated killing Osama bin Laden with de­feat­ing al-Qaeda, Obama has in­sis­tently touted that raid and his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ag­gres­sive Preda­tor drone at­tacks on al-Qaeda as ev­i­dence that he has weak­ened al-Qaeda.

The Beng­hazi at­tack, if it proved to be a planned at­tack rather than a spon­ta­neous re­sponse to a video cre­ated with­out Obama’s ap­proval, would call into ques­tion at a po­lit­i­cally in­con­ve­nient mo­ment the fun­da­men­tal as­sump­tions that guide his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Mid­dle Eastern diplo­macy — in par­tic­u­lar, the his­tory-chang­ing im­pact of his own per­son­al­ity and his in­sis­tence that his diplo­macy is smart.

A planned at­tack would also demon­strate that the Ter­ror­ists War on Amer­ica con­tin­ues, no mat­ter what Ge­orge W. Bush and Barack Obama call the con­flict, and that al-Qaeda re­mains ca­pa­ble of or­ches­trat­ing ter­ror at­tacks that have strate­gi­cally dele­te­ri­ous ef­fects on U.S. pol­icy.

The video-did-it nar­ra­tive gave Obama a po­lit­i­cal shield to de­flect criticism of per­son­ally dear poli­cies and achieve­ments. It also gave the old community or­ga­nizer a rhetor­i­cal cud­gel to wield against in­tol­er­ant, Mus­lim-de­spis­ing big­ots in Amer­ica.

Par­ti­san Democrats con­nect those code words to bit­ter clingers — Repub­li­can rubes who cling to their guns and re­li­gion while wag­ing war on women.

Obama went with, then stayed with, the video nar­ra­tive be­cause he and his cam­paign ad­vis­ers be­lieved it was a for­eign pol­icy shield and do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal sword. Truth will out. Hard facts have emerged — facts that ex­plain the as­sault far bet­ter than the video-did-it tripe.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion sources ac­knowl­edge that the at­tack lasted seven hours.

I did not know this when I wrote a col­umn on Sept. 18 that ques­tioned the now-de­bunked “spon­ta­neous” nar­ra­tive.

I con­tended that ev­ery­one who made it through ba­sic train­ing knows that or­ga­niz­ing sev­eral hun­dred fight­ers with sup­port weapons “does not hap­pen spon­ta­neously.

Their com­man­ders needed time to ... plan the at­tack and then make sure the fight­ers had ri­fle ammo.”

A seven-hour fire­fight in a city is sus­tained com­bat en­gage­ment.

It in­di­cates the at­tack­ers had plenty of ammo.

I’ve also learned that two of our dead were for­mer SEALs, two Amer­i­cans with the will and mil­i­tary skill to take on sev­eral hun­dred mili­ti­a­men.

The seven hours they fought is plenty of time to dis­patch re­in­force­ments — at the min­i­mum an air strike.

Did they re­quest sup­port, as one news re­port claims?

If so, were their re­quests de­nied? Who de­nied them? Was mil­i­tary sup­port de­nied be­cause it might vi­o­late Libyan sovereignty?

These are rea­son­able ques­tions that de­mand hon­est an­swers.

The pres­i­dent should an­swer them be­fore Nov. 6. Austin Bay is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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