The White House surely rues the day that someone came up with the bright idea of blaming an obscure YouTube video for the "demonstrations" that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. As cover stories go, this one never accomplished anything more than distracting Congress from the real issue.
Three State Department officials with direct knowledge of what happened pointed the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in the right direction on Wednesday. Their testimony makes it clear that whether the administration altered talking points, or lied about a video, distracts from the question of life and death: Who ordered the military to abandon Americans under fire?
Gregory Hicks, the career diplomat who took charge of the Libyan mission upon Stevens' death, told the committee he desperately sought a special forces team to fly to the aid of his besieged comrades in Benghazi. "Bring our people home," Mr. Hicks pleaded to the head of special operations for Africa. This commander was "furious" that he was powerless to help, as superiors ordered him to leave the Americans to fend for themselves. The rescue teams were assembled in Tripoli, ready and spoiling for the fight, but they were "not authorized to travel."
"Leave no man behind" is the inviolate rule of the men and women of the military who willingly put their lives on the line to carry out duty. An order to violate the inviolate principle would have to come from a politician, and the White House has no interest in clarifying where the order came from. President Obama's spokesman, Jay Carney, blew off the hearing and its revelations as a mere partisan attempt to politicize the tragedy. "The president has been committed from Day One to two things — making sure that those who are responsible for the deaths of four Americans are found and brought to justice, and that we do everything we need to do to ensure that this kind of attack cannot happen again."
The only man brought to "justice" so far has been Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, producer of the low-budget "Innocence of Muslims" video that didn't actually inspire anyone. The FBI waited until May 2 — nearly eight months after the attack — to release photographs of three jihadists filmed at the scene of the crime.
The FBI, the State Department and the White House knew from Day One that the Islamic militant group Ansar al-Sharia played a lead role the attack. This inconvenient truth wasn't publicized because it runs contrary to the administration's foreign policy, built as it is on the belief that the war on terrorism is over. The administration acts as if Islamic radicals put their suicide vests in storage after Mr. Obama won the Nobel Prize for achieving world peace.
Telling lies to preserve the president's election prospects and his image as a peacemaker is bad, a willful decision to leave Americans behind on a battlefield is worse, and blindness to Islamic extremism is worst of all because it will continue to get Americans killed.
The evidence so far suggests that pleas to strengthen the defenses of the Benghazi compound before the attack were rebuffed at the highest levels of the State Department. (That's the level where Hillary Clinton worked.) Additional men and equipment could have provided the precious minutes between the attack and safety for the ambassador.
The investigation continues, and if the buck stops at Hillary Clinton that should be the end of her dreams of 2016. Rep. Darrell E. Issa, the oversight committee's chairman, says he won't stop until he finds out who ordered the military response team to stand down. Given the increasingly defensive crouch at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, it's likely that the buck stops on the avenue.
The Washington Times
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