EDITORIAL: Benghazigate and the secret cable

Another document casts doubt on the administration’s response to terrorism

Question of the Day

Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

View results

The latest twist in the Benghazigate saga is a newly discovered, secret diplomatic cable. The document, sent two weeks before the Sept. 11 murder of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, warned that the consulate building in Benghazi could not withstand a “coordinated attack.” It is yet another piece of evidence underscoring the Obama administration’s inability to respond to intelligence.

The White House knew the situation in Benghazi was dangerous and unstable. In the preceding months a series of attacks had taken place against western interests — including against the American consulate itself. Repeated requests for increased security were denied on the basis that the threat wasn’t sufficient to justify it. The new cable reveals there were “approximately ten Islamist militias and [al Qaeda] training camps within Benghazi.” That ought to have served as sufficient proof that heightened security was needed, particularly in advance of the Sept. 11, 2001, anniversary.

Once the crisis broke, the administration failed to step up and do the right thing. Potentially life-saving military assets were not dispatched to relieve the besieged Americans, and ready forces may have been ordered to stand down. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said, “The basic principle here is you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on, without having some real-time information about what’s taking place.” This is a recipe for defeat. Every hot crisis is going to have murky intelligence. The principle in this case is the tradeoff between time and opportunity. The longer decision-makers wait for information, the fewer opportunities they will have to act. In fast-breaking crises, the facts on the ground change rapidly, so waiting virtually guarantees losing the chance to act decisively. Mr. Panetta may grouse that his critics are engaged in Monday morning quarterbacking, but the fact is that our team did not even show up for the game.

It’s still not clear exactly what Mr. Obama was doing or where he was while the attack was under way. The White House had been informed of the attack, and Mr. Obama should have been closely engaged with the unfolding events. Mr. Panetta may have advised the president that “wait and see” was the best course of action, but the final decision rested with the commander in chief. Mr. Obama should have given the order for the available military forces to take whatever action they could to either save the besieged Americans or take out the terrorists while they were still in the vicinity. The buck stops with Mr. Obama, not with the State Department, the CIA or the Pentagon. Mr. Obama has made much of his “gutsy call” to send a SEAL team to kill Osama bin Laden, but Benghazi has proved to be a gutless call.

In tragic situations like this, the American people expect openness and candor from their government; they have received neither. The administration’s shifting stories, uncertain timelines and lack of frankness have generated an atmosphere of distrust. Whether the lack of reliable information is because of confusion, deception or election-year calculation remains to be seen. Nearly two months after the Benghazi incident, we are still waiting for answers. It’s time for the administration to come clean.

The Washington Times

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
TWT Video Picks
You Might Also Like
  • Maureen McDonnell looks on as her husband, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, made a statement on Tuesday after the couple was indicted on corruption charges. (associated press)

    PRUDEN: Where have the big-time grifters gone?

  • This photo taken Jan. 9, 2014,  shows New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gesturing as he answers a question during a news conference  at the Statehouse in Trenton.  Christie will propose extending the public school calendar and lengthening the school day in a speech he hopes will help him rebound from an apparent political payback scheme orchestrated by key aides. The early front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination will make a case Tuesday Jan. 14, 2014, that children who spend more time in school graduate better prepared academically, according to excerpts of his State of the State address obtained by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

    BRUCE: Bombastic arrogance or humble determination? Chris Christie’s choice

  • ** FILE ** Secretary of State Hillary Rodham testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the deadly September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Chris Stevens and three other Americans. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

    PRUDEN: The question to haunt the West

  • Get Breaking Alerts