By Paolo von Schirach
September 27, 2012
WASHINGTON – The story of the (probably) preventable attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi (Libya) is slowly evolving into what may turn into a major scandal, feauturing: bad intelligence, inadequate security, the killing of a serving US Ambassador (first instance in 30 years) and a subsequent deliberate obfuscation aimed at confusing the public and hiding administration responsibilities. In two earlier pieces on September 17 and 21 (see links above) I pointed out that the official “its-all-about-the-video-we-had-no-clue-anything- like-this-may-be-happening” explanation did not add up.
Intelligence failure, and more
The Libyan government had already publicly stated that the attack against the Consulate in Benghazi was premeditated. This was not a spontaneous outburst that had unfortunately turned violent. The US Consulate had been targeted. Well armed militants had a mission to attack and kill. I stated at the time that, assuming what the Libyans had said was true, then as a minimum here we would have a major intelligence failure.
But now that some of the facts are coming out, it looks a lot worse. In a detailed editorial, The Wall Street Journal (The Libya Debacle, September 27, 2012) recounts that American officials in Libya had reported concerns about imminent attacks back in the spring. That notwithsatnding, the US diplomatic facilities had only minimal security protection. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens himself had apparently noted that he was a possible target of extremists.
Given all this, (and surely there is more to come), it is incomprehensible that the US Consulate was only lightly protected on September 11, the anniversary of al Qaeda’s major terror action against the USA.
Bad planning, inadequate security and then obfuscation
If it is all as it unfortunately appears, then this is much worse than what I thought at the beginning. This was not just intelligence failure. This was lack of action after having received credible intelligence that something might happen. If this is indeed so, I would call this negligence.
And it gets even worse because of the deliberate, if clumsy, administration obfuscation attempt to blame the anti-Islam video for everything, when apparently they knew that this was a planned attack practically from day one.
So, there you have it. Bad planning, actionable intelligence not acted upon. As a result, inadequate security in Benghazi. All this was followed by a disaster and by the immediate attempt by the administration to divert attention and deny responsibility.
Administration looks bad
In all this, President Obama looks bad. Secretary of State Clinton looks awful, since the State Department is in charge of Diplomatic Security and therefore responsible for the personal security of all its staff. And UN Ambassador Susan Rice, dispatched to tell the “video” fable on all the TV networks, is made to look like a fool, since her superiors knew exactly what had happened, while they instructed her to make up a story aimed at exonerating the administration.
No pass for George W. Bush
What is most astonishing in this disaster is that hardly anybody is talking about it, except for the major media openly opposing Obama, like Fox News and the WSJ (same Rupert Murdoch ownership). Imagine if unloved George W. Bush just a few weeks before a crucial election had tried to get away with something as egregious as poor planning and poor security measures resulting in the first killing of a serving US Ambassador in 30 years. Would the media have given Bush a pass?