The Benghazi debacle may yet make Mitt Romney president.
Barely 10 days before the election, the persistent whiff of scandal surrounding Barack Obama exploded into the banner headlines of a cover-up – at least among certain press outlets. Everything changed Friday afternoon with the stunning revelations by Fox News that CIA operatives defending the embattled consulate in Benghazi, Libya, called three times for emergency assistance while the attack was in progress. Each time, they were shamefully turned down. One of those defenders, Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, was apparently able to use a laser designator to pin-point the location of the mortar that eventually killed him. It would have been an easy shot for American pilots had any been ordered to respond. Another new and critical detail: An American drone was overhead transmitting live video of the battle scene below.
Only days before, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton airily dismissed new revelations of incriminating emails, also uncovered by Fox. Yet those messages provided startling proof of how Washington decision-makers – from the Pentagon to the White House Situation Room – must have known within minutes or hours that the incident in Benghazi was 9/11.2, the second successful al Qaeda attack on American soil. They also would have known that this well-coordinated assault killed the American ambassador to Libya, as well as three other Americans who fought valiantly to save him.
With all this information – from frantic messages sent by operators on the ground to highly detailed overhead battle-scene video – who invented the asinine idea that the attack was collateral damage from a flash-mob reacting to a provocative video? The record there is incriminating. For weeks afterward, the administration party-line was that the video, not al Qaeda, was responsible for the disaster, a major point of President Obama’s September speech to the United Nations. But when that story had morphed into an indefensible fiction, the party line shifted again, memorably summarized by Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. during his debate with Congressman Paul Ryan: “We didn’t know” because the intelligence establishment was still beavering away.
With all due respect, Mr. Vice President and Madam Secretary: You did know, and so did the horse-holders you rode in on. You also knew that the night-time battle in far-off Benghazi made mincemeat out of the prevailing Obama campaign narrative, “Osama is dead and General Motors is alive!” You realized too late that inconvenient questions were certain to be raised about embassy security in Libya. After all, hadn’t the Library of Congress raised just those questions in an unclassified study only a month before? Worse yet, you also recognized that, wanting to keep a low profile on the anniversary of September 11, no American forces had been placed on alert, despite the Libyan power vacuum.
So you concocted the next best and the most politically correct cover story: the flash-mob video. With unrest everywhere in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, the flash-mob story must have been seized upon with all the fervor of a drowning man grasping at oars – or straws. You could make all the right noises about deploring mob violence and anything critical of Islam. We’re the good guys, remember? To make sure everyone understood, you even sent out U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to spread the cover story on the usual TV talk shows. An ambassador is classically thought of as an honest man sent abroad to lie for his country. In her assigned role, Ms. Rice reached a new gender frontier right here at home.
What could go wrong, especially since the mainstream media was munching like well-fed bovines on anything White House spokesman Jay Carney obligingly dished out? Well, nothing, except that Americans had died at the hands of terrorists and our intelligence establishment knew the truth the Obama administration was trying so hard to conceal. With too many people in too many headquarters, the truth has an inconvenient way of leaking, especially when you’re dumb enough to blame those self-same spooks.
The president keeps trying to cover up his mistakes, and the press establishment is determined to look away, despite the cascading contradictions. Fortunately, Fox News, derided by the media establishment as Faux News, investigated what others ignored. And on a Friday afternoon, just when we were contemplating hurricanes, World Series and a deadlocked electoral race, they may have even changed American history.
The president must now answer for the misdeeds his subordinates and his media allies tried so hard to cover up.
Col. Ken Allard, retired from the Army, is a former NBC News military analyst and author on national security issues.