by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
You don’t hear much these days about Benghazi, but Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin opines that a recent Senate Intelligence Committee report on the fatal embassy attack could hurt Hillary Clinton’s political fortunes.
It is a repudiation of nearly every White House talking point used at some point in the aftermath of the murder of four Americans in Libya. Contrary to White House and Hillary Clinton spin, this was from the outset known to be an al-Qaeda operation, one that could have been preventable. Especially egregious is the lack of preparation for the anniversary for Sept. 11 and the State Department’s repeated denials of requests for security. The Democratic talking point that the security failure was due to sequester cuts is false.
National security analyst Thomas Joscelyn tells me, “The report confirms that terrorists from multiple parts of al-Qaeda’s international network were directly involved in the attack. The report says that terrorists ‘affiliated’ with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Muhammad Jamal Network, and Ansar al Sharia all ‘participated’ in the attack.” He continues, “ AQIM and AQAP are official branches of al-Qaeda. Muhammad Jamal has been a subordinate to al-Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri since at least the 1990s, and was trained by al-Qaeda in the late 1980s. Ansar al Sharia in Derna is headed by a longtime al-Qaeda operative named Sufian Ben Qumu, and some of his men were involved in the attack.” In other words, White House spin conveyed with stenographic precision in a highly criticized New York Times piece is flat out wrong. As Joscelyn puts it, “The U.S. government has desperately tried to avoid saying that al-Qaeda was responsible.”
That is because it would have entirely wrecked President Obama’s pre-2012 election narrative that he had al-Qaeda on the run. It was false then and it is more so today as al-Qaeda threatens to bring down the Iraqi and Syrian regimes. To have told the truth then and to have taken necessary action in Syria meant Obama couldn’t play the role of “war ender.” And he could not have avoided his responsibilities as a war-time president. Gary Schmitt of the American Enterprise Institute remarks, “As best I know, we still don’t have an idea of what the president himself was doing or not while his embassy was being attacked. Stepping back, it seems obvious that the administration was bound and determined not to move more security folks into Libya because to do so was to admit that they had not found some new, successful way of regime change that could avoid putting boots on the ground in the aftermath.”
The Senate report can be seen, then, as a bipartisan recognition of the administration’s negligence and lack of honesty. …
… We don’t know why the White House and Hillary Clinton’s State Department were caught napping and how it could have escaped their notice that Libya was being overrun by jihadis (just as they did in Syria while the administration did nothing). It is not lost on Republicans that this reintroduces numerous questions about Clinton’s competence, candor and attentiveness.