The Obama campaign keeps having to answer questions about White House reluctance to use the word “terrorism” in describing the Sept. 11 killing of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya. The latest argument in Mr. Obama’s defense is that he had no reason to conceal the attack’s true nature. We’re to believe he was simply the victim of conflicting intelligence reports. For this gambit to work, we’d have to forget the president’s well-established pattern of going easy when discussing terrorists.
If the attack is a “spontaneous mob action,” it clears the White House from charges of intelligence failure. No one could be blamed for something that’s unpredictable. What happened in Benghazi, however, was easily anticipated given the repeated anti-U.S. and anti-western terrorist attacks and threats in the city, particularly going into the highly symbolic Sept. 11 anniversary. The evidence shows Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens knew the nature of the threat and wanted additional security. Mr. Obama may also have a difficult time explaining why a U.S. surveillance drone was on hand to observe an attack that was unanticipated.
The “blame it on YouTube” story also fits the administration’s curious pattern of downplaying the motives of jihadists operating in the United States. The most infamous case was the Nov. 5, 2009, Fort Hood massacre. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan screamed “Allahu akbar” before opening fire on his fellow soldiers, killing 14 and wounding 30. The attack was originally labeled a case of “workplace violence.” A comprehensive “force protection review” of the attack omitted any reference to Hasan’s jihadist motives or contacts with al Qaeda.
On June 1, 2009, Abdul Hakim Mujahid Muhammad, a Muslim convert who had recently traveled to Yemen and claimed to have al Qaeda connections, shot and killed U.S. Army private William Long and wounded private Quinton Ezeagwula at a recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark. The White House waited two days before making a statement about this “criminal” attack, which omitted any reference to terrorism, the attacker or his jihadist motives.
On Dec. 25, 2009, al Qaeda-linked terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted his “underwear bomb” attack on Northwest flight 253. He was not initially charged with attempting to commit an act of terrorism. Faisal Shahzad, who attempted the Times Square bombing in May 2010, was also called a lone wolf with no ties to terrorism. Instead, he was described as a victim of the economic downturn more than a committed Islamic extremist.
On March 2, 2011, Senior Airman Nicholas J. Alden and Airman 1st Class Zachary Cuddeback were gunned down at the Frankfurt, Germany, airport by Albanian Muslim Arid Uka. At trial, Uka said he had been motivated by a jihadist YouTube video that allegedly showed American troops raping Muslim women. After the shooting, Mr. Obama appeared at the daily White House press conference to make a statement but made no mention of terrorism or the jihadist nature of the attack. Mr. Obama ducked out of the press room when a reporter tried to ask a follow-up about “fear of terrorism” in Libya.
Studiously avoiding the use of the word “terrorism” is standard operating procedure for this White House. In downplaying the jihadist content of the Benghazi attack, Mr. Obama was behaving true to form. The mystery is not that he did it, but only why he always has.
The Washington Times