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SANDERS: Unanswered national security questions in Benghazi

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Despite the superficial controversies either purposely manufactured by the Obama administration to cover its tracks or simply invented by a kept mainstream media, fundamental issues about the attack in Benghazi, Libya, and the assassination of four Americans hover ghostlike over the political scene.

Neither Gen. David H. Petraeus' sexual peccadilloes — and, apparently, those of other high-level commanders — which the mainstream media have slobbered over, nor the question of truth-telling by our ambassador to the United Nations ultimately obviates the necessity to understand the events at Benghazi.

Beyond the personal tragedies are questions of important national interest. Those questions are far more important than simply the deaths of loyal and courageous Americans defending U.S. territory, however much that issue, in itself, demands a complete public inquiry.

A failure to defend U.S. interests would represent a collapse of American foreign policy and military strategy in the face of the continuing threat of Islamic terrorism. The Sept. 11 attack proved that the Obama campaign's assurances that Islamic terrorism had been defanged with the death of Osama bin Laden were bogus. In fact, the threat may be more virulent than ever, having spread to a half-dozen new "Afghanistans."

Ultimately, there are four fundamental questions a confused and obfuscating Obama administration still has not answered:

1) Why was there no anticipation of and adequate preparation for the obvious threat posed by the advent of the anniversary of 9/11? That neglect in Libya, of course, came despite repeated calls by Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens for additional security in a chaotic scene of radical Muslim activity, where there had been earlier attacks on the U.S., British and other foreign diplomats.

2) Once the eight-hour battle was joined over control of the U.S. Consulate and a second CIA installation in Benghazi, why was additional aid not sent to the defenders? That is a question dramatically posed by an initial rescue of some 30 survivors who were shipped off to military hospitals in Germany, where ever since they seem to have been kept in, pardon the expression, purdah.

3) Did the president, as he has claimed, order everything done to save the lives of those Americans who put themselves in harm's way in pursuit of U.S. strategic interests in eastern Libya? If so, was there a failure of the U.S. military to respond? If the military did not respond, is the argument being implicitly made that the readiness of America's armed forces has been eroded after two inconclusive wars over more than a decade? Was there instead a failure in the command structure — at the Africa Command, the Pentagon, or, indeed, at the level of the commander-in-chief? The suggestion that no aid effort could have been successful is not acceptable: Since when have Americans under fire been abandoned just because the possibilities of rescue were slim?

4) Why, despite the president's promises, have there been no results in the campaign to apprehend and punish those involved in the attack? This is not a question of revenge, or even retribution, but part of any program by Washington to ward off such attacks in the future by ensuring those who perpetrate them will pay. This question again is only underscored by continuing reports that individuals associated with the Libya attack have been sighted moving freely in the area.

The proposal for an investigation by the State Department is not adequate. Obviously, such an investigation cannot be carried out independently under the aegis of Foggy Bottom itself. With the imminent departure of Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state, it is clear such an inquiry at a later date, under her still-undesignated successor, would be inconclusive, on a matter of extreme importance to American security.

The bickering over turf among the House and Senate committees — the latter, of course, controlled by Democrats and the administration — now under way has produced just the kind of confusion those seeking a cover-up desire. As Sen. John McCain has insisted, it is vital that a select committee of both houses be impaneled as soon as possible, to get to the root of this major failing of U.S. policy and ensure that it does not happen again.

Sol Sanders, a veteran international correspondent, writes weekly on the intersection of politics, business and economics. He can be reached at solsanders@cox.net and blogs at yeoldecrabb.wordpress.com.

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