- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 23, 2012

Democrats and their agents in the liberal media attacked Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for daring to criticize President Obama after U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was murdered by an Islamist mob in Libya on Sept. 11. Apparently for some inexplicable reason, Obama administration bungling overseas is supposed to be above political reproach in an election year. Such a sentiment is nonsense. A senior diplomat from the lone remaining superpower is dead and responsible presidential action could have prevented the tragedy but didn’t; that is a legitimate political issue if ever there was one.

The domestic outcry over Mr. Stevens‘ death has been muted, but that shouldn’t obscure what a momentous occurrence his demise represents. The last U.S. ambassador to be murdered was in Afghanistan in 1979 during the Cold War. That this month’s killing was coordinated by radical Muslim groups and perpetrated to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America should serve as an unwelcome but important reminder that - like it or not - the United States is again facing a global foe. Mr. Obama, who has pandered to Islam since taking office, is ignoring this reality. Three major lapses in judgment enabled this year’s Sept. 11 carnage:

A naive lack of seriousness about the Sept. 11 anniversary infected the White House. The president can blather all he wants about America not being at war with a religion and that Islam is a religion of peace, but the ugly fact is a large part of the Muslim world doesn’t see it that way. If the Islamic world wanted peace, there would be peace. Instead, there were major uprisings across the world celebrating al Qaeda’s triumphs 11 years ago on Sept. 11. During the George W. Bush administration, U.S. overseas installations were put on high alert and diplomats were instructed to be extra cautious around Sept. 11. The Obama administration, which downplays the Islamic threat, neglected to undertake these precautions this year with dire consequences.

Constant violence in Benghazi was ignored. This region of Libya is armed to the teeth, dominated by extremist warring militias and has been in a state of chaos since dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s ouster and death last year. In the last six months alone, there have been attacks in Benghazi on the Red Cross, the United Nations and the local consulate of the United Kingdom. Unlike Washington, a more world-savvy London shut down its Benghazi office due to the danger in the area. Our State Department failed to take similar moves to protect U.S. personnel even though the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi itself was previously bombed in June.

The U.S. compound was conspicuously vulnerable due to a woeful lack of security. Although our consulate is located smack in the middle of one of the world’s riskiest hot spots, only four Libyan security officers guarded the entrance and walls to an installation holding approximately three dozen American public servants. According to CNN, Ambassador Stevens wrote in his private journal that he was nervous about the decaying state of security in Benghazi. Yet his government took no measures to protect him, and staff evacuated during this month’s attack without knowing if he - the principal U.S. official in country - was safe or even where he was. This exposes a shocking disregard for the individual in charge and the prestige of the nation he represented.

The Obama administration failed to take action to defend U.S. personnel and sovereign territory abroad despite numerous warnings that mayhem was afoot. Despite Americans being sent home from Libya in caskets, Mr. Obama and his officials continue to defend their incompetent handling of the situation and have changed their stories numerous times to avoid being held to account for the tragedy. The president has run the economy into the wall, and now the walls of our diplomatic outposts are being overrun by terrorists on his watch. Mr. Obama’s Benghazi blowup is a valid political issue for debate heading into November.

Brett M. Decker is editorial page editor of The Washington Times. He is coauthor of the new book “Bowing to Beijing” (Regnery, 2011).