UPDATED 25/10/12 09.0
A hastily-called press conference was held yesterday, in which US State Department officials gave a detailed account of the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi, Libya.
Officials described “a relentless attack in which dozens of armed men invaded the US consulate in Benghazi, setting it on fire and hunting through the building for staff.”
Maybe I’ve seen too much of The West Wing, in which CJ Cregg yells “LEAK IT!” at least once an episode, but it seems improbable that ‘officials’ would readily talk ‘off the record’ about an ongoing FBI investigation, putting their jobs and the reputation of the Department at risk.
Instead, it reeks of backside-covering as State prepares for a Congressional grilling over security concerns.
And so it should: Obama is facing heat from both sides of the aisle over his claims an angry mob, incensed by an anti-Islam film, stormed the embassy, and the later retraction, which I commented on here.
It was revealed last week that intelligence officials in the US knew the assault on the embassy was no spontaneous combustion of over-zealous zest against a film, but a planned and deliberate assassination attempt, less than 24 hours after the fact.
Yet the decision was made to spin the story as a protest-gone-awry which, of course, the main news outlets picked up and ran with.
No questions, no doubt, just certitude that Obama and Clinton were being honest.
Mitt Romney in blaming Obama’s lack of leadership in the Middle East, said this: "As the administration has finally conceded, these attacks were the deliberate work of terrorists."
No doubt Romney receives a daily security briefing, but it raises the question: should the government be a major source of information in the public sphere?
The answer ought to be a resounding ‘no’ as it leads to all kinds of wayward untruths floating about masquerading as fact – the original Libya/protest/mob line is a perfect example of this.
All the while, al-Qaeda’s power is growing in Libya and Obama is passing up an oppourtunity to crack down on terrorists in unstable nations like Libya. His cover-ups and hand-wringing around extra-judicial drone strikes on civilian populations on the Afghan/Pakistan border is proving only to terrorise innocent villagers and harden Islamic extremists against American exceptionalism.
A new rhetoric is needed: Those in positions of power should not stand idly by while US citizens are maimed at the hands of extremists, but also should respect one’s right to choose one’s own leaders, and to quash one’s own dangerous insurrections.
In an age where protests over a petulant and ridiculous film can lead to death, or a 14-year-old girl can be shot in the head in broad daylight for campaigning for what should be her free right without contest, we must take more opportunity to stand up to this extremism, either from the radicals in the dusty streets of decrepit Tripoli, to the marble halls of the US State Department.
I’ll leave Hitch with the last word:
“Once again it is demonstrated that people do not love their chains or their jailers, and that the aspiration for a civilised life, that "universal eligibility to be noble”… is proper and common to all.”
UPDATE: As if we needed any more evidence to add to the pile, documents leaked yesterday show that the White House knew at least two hours (as opposed to 24 hours which was the original report) that Ansar al-Sharia were responsible for the attack. This is the group that were driven from Benghazi by a mob protesting the attacks.Case closed? Probably not.
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