One of President Obama’s national security boasts in the 2012 presidential election was that al Qaeda’s ranks have been “decimated,” they’re “on the run” and “on the path to defeat.”
So when the evil terrorist network built by Osama bin Laden destroyed the U.S. Consulate in Libya and killed our ambassador and three other officials on Sept. 11, it sent a chilling message that, contrary to Mr. Obama’s preposterous claim, al Qaeda is very much alive and capable of killing Americans with impunity on U.S. soil.
Indeed, despite Mr. Obama’s election-year claim that al Qaeda had been all but put out of business, their deadly reach has since spread throughout the Middle East, North Africa, the Far East and elsewhere.
This is why when their attacks occurred in Benghazi during the final, critical weeks of the campaign, the Obama administration went to great lengths to soft-pedal its official explanation to the point of hiding the fact that al Qaeda was involved at all.
The first explanation came from the State Department, which said that the attack was a peaceful protest triggered by anger over an anti-Muslim Internet clip in the U.S. that got out of hand. In fact, it led to the killing of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others, who perished in the fiery siege. Its statement made no mention of al Qaeda terrorists.
It was clear soon after that, as details tumbled out in a flood of dispatches and eyewitness accounts, that this was not only a terrorist act, but by the al Qaeda network Mr. Obama said he had crushed.
That wasn’t the story the White House or Mr. Obama’s campaign advisers wanted voters to hear, because they feared it would hand GOP challenger Mitt Romney an effective national security issue against the administration.
Mr. Romney did immediately criticize the State Department’s “protest” explanation, correctly charging that this was a terrorist attack that raised the question why the consulate was not given adequate security to protect its staff.
The administration quickly shot back, accusing Mr. Romney of “playing politics” with the killings, a political tactic the White House and its allies in Congress have been using ever since. A compliant news media gave the Obama response headline treatment.
But just three days after the Benghazi killings, then-CIA Director David H. Petraeus told the House intelligence committee behind closed doors that al Qaeda had led the attack. His conclusion no doubt had already been shared with the White House in Mr. Obama’s daily intelligence briefing.
Nevertheless, on Sept. 16, five days after the killings, the White House sent U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice to five separate Sunday morning TV news programs, where she continued to peddle the phony political explanation that the attack started as a “spontaneous reaction” to Muslim outrage over the anti-Muhammad video.
While Mrs. Rice observed vaguely that “extremists” may have been involved in the attack on our consulate, she never uttered the name of “al Qaeda.”
As Republicans escalated their charge that the White House’s laundered narrative of the attacks had the smell of a cover-up, the administration finally admitted publicly that the incendiary killings in Benghazi were the work of terrorists, though there was no mention of al Qaeda.
That came nearly a week after Mrs. Rice’s unbelievable explanation on the Sunday talk shows that was at odds with the real story on the ground.
“I think it’s very odd the story line they chose omitted al Qaeda, which would help the president enormously,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Sunday on “Meet the Press.”