At some point during his first term, President Obama allowed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wide latitude over policy on Libya. He probably thought giving her the Libya portfolio would keep her occupied for a while — and out of his hair.
She was busy all right: Under her supervision, Libya imploded, Libyan leader (and U.S. partner) Moammar Gadhafi was murdered at the hands of an Islamist mob, U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were slaughtered in a well-orchestrated terror attack at the U.S. compound in Benghazi, and Libya descended into Islamist chaos.
When Mrs. Clinton’s was asked about Gadhafi’s death, she exclaimed giddily, “We came, we saw, he died.” More than a year later, her tone had changed to self-righteous, shrieking “anger” as she testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about Benghazi: “The fact is, we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or because of guys out for a walk one night who decide to kill some Americans . What difference at this point does it make?”
She appear Thursday before the House Select Committee on Benghazi to take questions that remain unanswered three years after the attack.
Perhaps many of those answers may be found in what was flying over Benghazi within days of Gadhafi’s death: the al Qaeda flag.
The fact that al Qaeda and other Islamists were running the show in Benghazi and elsewhere in Libya was not a surprise. And yet, the lies about the terror attack — from Mr. Obama, Mrs. Clinton, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and others — have flowed endlessly since it occurred: It wasn’t a “preplanned, premeditated attack.” It was some sort of “mob action” that got out of control. It was provoked by an obscure video. They didn’t see it coming. They want to “get to the bottom of it.”
Everybody knew that al Qaeda and its affiliates controlled Benghazi. They had attacked our facility there repeatedly and attempted to assassinate the British ambassador. Al Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, had called for attacks on U.S. interests in Libya after a drone strike had killed a top Libyan al Qaeda operative. Mr. Stevens and his team had reported the escalating violence and had repeatedly requested more security. They were denied by Mrs. Clinton’s State Department.
They were denied even in death, because as we now know, the White House and intelligence agencies were made aware of the attack as it was happening — and they did nothing. The United States had a drone overhead monitoring and reporting the attack, and still they did nothing. They waited at least seven hours before they moved.
On the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2012 — as the attack was underway — the State Department Operations Center alerted multiple government offices, including the Pentagon, the CIA and other intelligence agencies, and the White House Situation Room (including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper).
At 4:05 p.m. Washington time (10:05 p.m. Benghazi time), 20 to 30 minutes after the attack began, the State Department sent the first of a series of messages reporting the attack and that “Ambassador Stevens, who is currently in Benghazi, and four … personnel are in the compound safe haven.”
Critically, an email sent at 6:07 p.m. Washington time said, “Update 2: Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack.”
It reported: “Embassy Tripoli reports the group claimed responsibility on Facebook and Twitter .”
So in real time, top national security personnel and advisers to the president were made aware that it was, in fact, an organized terrorist attack. Not a mob action gone awry, not provoked by an obscure video.
And yet for months, Mr. Obama and those advisers spread the Big Lie. Fourteen hours after the attack, Mr. Obama told “60 Minutes” the video was the cause. Mrs. Rice went on five Sunday morning talk shows — five days later — and cited the video. Mrs. Clinton — whose own department sent the original emails reporting the terror attack — blamed the video, publicly and privately to the families of the dead. Her State Department even made its own video reassuring the Pakistani people that the U.S. government had nothing to do with that other video.
The commander in chief and his secretary of state went to sleep the night of the attack unaware of the location of our ambassador or whether he was alive or dead. And the next day, after he knew that Stevens had been killed, Mr. Obama jetted off to a Democratic fundraiser. Vegas, baby.
Among the array of questions for Mrs. Clinton, perhaps the most important is this:
What was the administration really covering up? Did it secretly sell or give weapons to al Qaeda and other Islamists operating under the “Libyan rebel” banner? Was Mr. Stevens running a CIA operation to reacquire those weapons from al Qaeda for two purposes: to prevent a disclosure that the U.S. was arming our mortal terrorist enemy, and to transfer those weapons to other “rebels” in Syria?
Despite Mr. Obama’s and Mrs. Clinton’s best efforts to cast it as a “phony scandal,” Benghazi has an American body count and an avalanche of lies. Phony, it is not.
The families of Ambassador Stevens, Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods and Sean Smith deserve the truth — and so do we.
• Monica Crowley is online opinion editor at The Washington Times.