Obama’s Benghazi blues

by DR. PETER BROOKES November 19, 2012

We don't have all the details of former CIA Director David Petraeus' testimony to congressional Intelligence Committees yesterday, but it looks like the American people were grossly misled about the Benghazi attack.

Is anyone surprised? You shouldn't be.

The last thing the Obama administration wanted to tell the American public during a tight presidential campaign was that al Qaeda had attacked a US consulate on the 11th anniversary of 9/11, killing four brave Americans.

That sort of revelation flew directly in the face of the narrative being spooned out by Team Obama during the fall campaign, laden with phrases like "Osama bin Laden is dead" and al Qaeda is "on the run" or "on the path to defeat."

It also messed up the administration's narrative on Libya and the Arab Spring generally, where we were supposed to be on the verge of a new and improved Middle East and North Africa, the result of Team Obama's deft diplomacy.

Now news reports tell us that Petraeus told the Intelligence Committees yesterday behind closed doors that the CIA knew Benghazi "was a terrorist attack and there were terrorists involved from the start."

Petraeus also reportedly said in the classified briefing that references to "al Qaeda involvement" were removed from the CIA memo on the tragic incident provided to the administration.

He wasn't able to say who changed or disregarded the CIA's memo - nor were other senior intelligence community members (such as Petraeus' boss, Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper) who testified before Congress a day earlier, according to news reports.

So, how did we get from there to UN Ambassador Susan Rice's now-infamous performance on five Sept. 16 Sunday talk shows, where she repeatedly said the attack was the result of a spontaneous protest over an online video offensive to Muslims?

We don't have the exact answer to that question - yet.

But it's likely that someone at senior levels in the administration decided that Rice - already an odd choice for the assignment, which had nothing to do with the UN - wasn't going to sing the CIA's song on TV that day.

Since this news broke on a Friday - by far the best day to air dirty laundry - the White House crowd will have at least a day, maybe two, to huddle before they have to start answering questions about "Benghazi-gate."

The administration's spinning on this increasingly troubling chain of events will make whirling dervishes resemble amateurs, but when they face the court of public opinion, it's likely to come out something like this:

Team Obama will insist that they had no intention of misleading the American people; it's just that they'd received a number of conflicting assessments on what happened on that tragic September day in Benghazi.

They may even say that while they saw the CIA's assessment on terror and al Qaeda, there were other intelligence reports from other agencies which cast doubt on Langley's claims, leading to a consensus "estimate" that led to Rice's characterization.

The White House may even say that it was reluctant to disclose the truth about the attack for fear of divulging intelligence sources and methods or warning the terrorists that they were onto them.

Now re-elected, the president may even take the blame himself for some of the actions taken in the roll-out of the news on the events in Benghazi. That might protect Rice, who he's likely to nominate as the next secretary of State.

Unfortunately, more than two months after this terrible tragedy, there are still more questions than answers. The notion that Team Obama politicized the intelligence is deeply disturbing - and the American people clearly deserve better. 

Dr. Peter Brookes is a Senior Fellow for National Security Affairs at the Heritage Foundation and is a member of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. He writes a weekly column for the New York Post and frequently appears on FOX, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, NPR and BBC. He is the author of: "A Devil’s Triangle: Terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction and Rogue States." Mr. Brookes served in the U.S. Navy and is now a Commander in the naval reserves. He has over 1300 flight hours aboard Navy EP-3 aircraft. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy; the Defense Language Institute; the Naval War College; the Johns Hopkins University; and Georgetown University.

Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense. 

Twitter: @Brookes_Peter

blog comments powered by Disqus

10 year FSM Anniversary

What could it be? Sen. Marco Rubio teases 'big announcement' on 'The Five'

March 30, 2015  06:26 PM

Whatever it is, it will take place April 13.

Paging self-awareness! In Kennedy speech, Obama bemoans 'money, special interests'; Then he did THIS

March 30, 2015  05:48 PM

So, did Obama's Kennedy speech again show a staggering lack of self-awareness? (Hint: Heck yes)

Gov. Dan Malloy bans state-funded travel to Indiana despite Connecticut's own RFRA

March 30, 2015  05:48 PM

Some consider that travel ban more awkward than brave considering the laws on Connecticut's books.

What Obama said about Ted Kennedy today wasn't just outrageously idiotic; It was enraging [photos]

March 30, 2015  03:15 PM

How sickening were Obama's remarks about Ted Kennedy today? THIS sickening (you will fume).

ICYMI: That awkward moment when Hillary Clinton boards #BoycottIndiana train, but forgot about THIS [video]

March 30, 2015  11:13 AM

Oops! Here is a flashback reminder for you, Hillary. Since you seem to be forgetting something in your Indiana outrage.

FSM Archives