On the morning of September 19, 2012, Matthew G. Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, publicly testified before the Senate that Benghazi was a terrorist attack. Since that moment, no one in the Obama administration has challenged that determination. So the American people now know with high probability, the true nature of that attack.
However, for a period of eight days, from 3.40 pm on September 11, 2012, when the American consulate in Benghazi was first rocked by gunfire and explosions, the American people were incorrectly informed about the nature of that attack. They were told repeatedly by the President of the United States, by his press mouthpiece, Jay Carney, and by his stooge in the United Nations, Susan Rice, that the Benghazi consulate attack was a spontaneous outgrowth of a protest over an anti-Islam video.
Within the Obama administration, four key individuals bear responsibility for this eight-day mis-interpretation: Barack Obama (President), Hillary Clinton (Secretary of State), Leon Panetta (Secretary of Defense) and David Petraeous (C.I.A. Director). So, if any outright lies occurred over Benghazigate, in the sense of public denial of the known truth, we can immediately finger the potential suspects. Of course, and in any event, the buck stops with the President because if any of his appointees withheld such information, that is a serious blot on his selection ability.
As with Watergate, it is crucially important to define the timeline of the unfolding tragedy. James Rosen (The Wall Street Journal,October 20, 2012) distinguishes three relevant time-lines.
The first time-line encompasses the pre-period before the attack, when lax security procedures for the consulate and its annexes opened up an avenue for terrorists to exploit. Who knew what and when about this prior situation. Did the C.I.A. fail to retrieve evidence of the plot? Or did the C.I.A. warn the Department of State, only to be rebuffed in its request for increased security. Why was the evidence not gathered, not reported upon and/or not acted on? How much did Obama know? This is the really important issue. Four Americans died because of this intelligence failure.
The second time-line encompasses the five or six hours on the evening of September 11, when the attacks transpired. What really happened to Ambassador Stevens that night and how vulnerable were the U.S. diplomatic corps bravely serving at 275 installations across the world on the eleventh anniversary of September 11, 2001? Why was the rescue effort so lame and so ineffectual. Why were Black Hawks not moved instantaneously to the scene to mow the invaders down and to remove the terror at its source? Who made that fateful decision? And who knew that the decision had been made? And why did they not speak out immediately to the American people?
The third Benghazi timeline – the one that has fostered charges of a cover-up -stretches across those eight days from 3.40 pm on September 11, 2012. If indeed it turns out that the White House engaged in an eight day cover-up over Benghazigate the ostensible motivation bears a striking similarity to that of all the president’s men in Watergate, except in this case two women are involved.
As with Richard Nixon in 1972, Barack Obama faces a rendezvous with the electorate in 2012. Obama’s rendezvous will be much closer than that of Richard Nixon. If Obama indeed has lied to the public about Benghazigate, it would be well for him to lose the election. Richard Nixon learned the hard way that an election victory forged on an important lie can wreck one’s reputation. It would be far worse for Americans if the first black president of the United States were to be removed from office during his second term because he failed to learn the lessons of history.
Hat Tip: James Rosen, ‘The Three Benghazi Timelines We Need Answers About’, The Wall Street Journal, October 20, 2012