After the fall of Muammar Qadhafi Libya quickly collapsed into chaos. He was a ruthless dictator, but he was also the only stabilizing force in the country, and he despised the extremists who threatened his grasp on power. As the Central Intelligence Agency wrote in a 2012 assessment titled “Extremist Progress Toward a Safe Haven in Libya”:
“[T]he decimation of national-level security agencies—which during the Qadhafi regime made Libya a hostile environment for extremists—have allowed al-Qa’ida—associated extremists, including previously Pakistan-based al-Qa’ida members…to procure weapons and develop networks in line with the goals of al Qa’ida senior leaders to establish a permanent presence in Libya.”
No doubt this situation deeply troubled the Obama Administration, which was just months away from an election and was running on a campaign message of killing bin Laden and decimating al-Qa’ida. One of the stated goals of the State Department’s presence in Libya was to counter Islamist extremists, noting that there was a need to “avoid allowing the most extreme and certainly violent Islamist groups to use the new Libyan government and civil society as a platform.”
“The American people and the U.S. Congress will be understandably irritated if a revolution that the United States supported ends up spewing hatred or advocating violence against the United States,” Jake Sullivan, a senior State Department official, wrote to Secretary Hillary Clinton.
And yet, the final report from the House Select Committee on Benghazi, makes clear that that’s exactly what happened. The result was a deadly attack on the Mission Compound that led to the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador John Christopher Stevens. Worse, rather than own up to their failures or level with Americans, the Obama Administration engaged in a staggeringly inept campaign of deception to align with their preferred narrative.
Here are some snippets from a timeline compiled by Representatives Jim Jordan and Mike Pompeo and included as an “additional views” supplement to the Committee’s final report:
- 9/11 at 6:49 pm – Summary of call between Secretary’s Clinton and Libyan President Mohammed al Magariaf: [O]ur diplomatic mission was attacked[.] . . . [T]here is a gun battle ongoing, which I understand Ansar as-Sharia [six] is claiming responsibility for.”
- 9/11 at 10:08 pm – Clinton’s first statement on the attack – “I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today. … Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet.”
- 9/11 at 11:23 pm – Clinton’s email to daughter Chelsea – “Two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an Al Queda-like [sic] group”
- 9/12 – Clinton’s Remarks on the Deaths of American Personnel – “We are working to determine the precise motivations and methods of those who carried out this assault. Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior, along with the protest that took place at our Embassy in Cairo yesterday, as a response to inflammatory material posted on the internet.
- 9/12 – Clinton’s statements to Egyptian Prime Minister Kandil – “We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack – not a protest. . . . Based on the information we saw today we believe the group that claimed responsibility for this was affiliated with al Qaeda.”
- 9/13 – Clinton’s Morocco Remarks – “I also want to take a moment to address the video circulating on the internet that has led to these protests in a number of countries. … To us, to me personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible. It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose; to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage. But as I said yesterday, there is no justification, none at all, for responding to this video with violence.”
- 9/13 – White House spokesman Jay Carney during a press conference – “We have no information to suggest that it was a preplanned attack. The unrest we’ve seen around the region has been in reaction to a video that Muslims, many Muslims find offensive. And while the violence is repressible and unjustified, it is not a reaction to the 9/11 anniversary that we know of, or to U.S. policy.”
- 9/13 – Email from White House advisor Ben Rhodes – Listed under “Goals” he wrote, “To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy[.]”
- 9/13 – Statement to mother of Sean Smith – “We were nose-to-nose at the coffin ceremony. She told me it was the fault of the video. I said ‘are you sure?’ She says ‘yes, that’s what it was . . . it was the video.”
- 9/14 – Email from State Department press officer in embassy in Tripoli, Libya – “Relatively few [social media posts] have even mentioned the inflammatory video. So if we post messaging about the video specifically, we may draw unwanted attention to it. And it is becoming increasingly clear that the series of events in Benghazi was much more terrorist attack than a protest which escalated into violence. It is our opinion that in our messaging, we want to distinguish, not conflate, the events in other countries with this well-planned attack by militant extremists. I have discussed this with Charge Hicks and he shares PAS’s view.”
- 9/16 – Ambassador Rice on Fox News – “But we don’t see at this point signs this was a coordinated plan, premeditated attack.”
- 9/18 – Deputy Director of CIA Michael Morell’s statement to House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence – “The critically important point is that the analysts considered this a terrorist attack from the very beginning.”
- 9/18 – E-mail exchange between State Department security officers commenting on news article titled “White House sees no sign Libya attack premeditated”: DS Agent #30: “Can you believe this?” DS Agent: “Was there any rioting in Benghazi reported prior to the attack?” DS Agent #30: “Zip, nothing nada”
- 9/19 – Worldwide cable from Secretary Clinton to all U.S. embassies – “Since September 11, 2012 there have been widespread protests and violence against U.S. and some other diplomatic posts across the Muslim world. The proximate cause of the violence was the release by individuals in the United Staes of the video trailer for a film that many Muslims find offensive.”
- 9/20 – Excerpt from Obama’s Univision Town Hall – “What we do know is that the natural protests that arose because of the outrage over the video were used as an excuse by extremists to see if they can also directly harm U.S. interests[.]”
This shows that the Obama Administration, with Secretary Clinton at the helm, were saying things behind closed doors that were diametrically opposed to their comments to the public. They knew the truth, but it didn’t jive with their election year message. As spin-master Ben Rhodes recognized, the public had to buy the idea that the video was at fault, not Obama’s Libyan policy (which, coincidentally, Obama admitted was his “worst mistake” as president). But Americans deserved better than a crafty narrative. The men who died in Benghazi deserved nothing but the truth.