By JAMES H. "SMOKEY" SHOTT
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The terrorists in Benghazi, Libya, who attacked our consulate last month on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and killed four American Foreign Service personnel have highlighted in tragic detail how deeply naïve President Barack Obama’s idea of foreign policy is.
His manic effort to deny the existence of Muslim terrorism to avoid offending Muslims confounds those of us grounded in reality. He put an end to the “war on terror,” and in its place we now have “Overseas Contingency Operations.” When a Muslim U.S. Army doctor screamed “Allahu Akbar” as he mowed down 13 of his fellow soldiers, Mr. Obama’s administration prefers to call it “workplace violence.”
With that background it is no wonder that Mr. Obama and his disciples inside and outside of the administration twisted themselves into illogical knots to avoid admitting what was obvious to most people: that it was a planned terrorist attack.
However, Mr. Obama tried desperately to claim the opposite during the second presidential debate, declaring that he identified the attack as a terrorist act the next day in a Rose Garden statement, and moderator Candy Crowley inappropriately backed him up on it. But the facts do not support Ms. Crowley or Mr. Obama.
The president made a five-and-one-half minute statement consisting of 801 words. Several times he used descriptive language, such as:
• “... four of these extraordinary Americans were killed in an attack on our diplomatic post in Benghazi.”
• “The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack.”
• “ ... we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people”
• “The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts.”
Notice that he did not say “terror,” “terrorism,” “terrorist” or “terrorist attack,” and he did not utter any such word in the first three-fourths of the statement.
About three and one-half minutes into the statement Mr. Obama referenced the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks: “Of course, yesterday was already a painful day for our nation as we marked the solemn memory of the 9/11 attacks.” Still, there was no reference to terrorism.
And then, four minutes and 15 seconds into the five and one-half-minute statement, and 618 words into the 801 words of the text, he spoke the words “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation ...” That oblique reference — plural, not singular — was the only time the concept of terrorism entered into Mr. Obama’s text. Right after that he said: “We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act.” “Terrible,” but not “terrorist.”
If he truly wanted the nation to understand that he thought terrorists killed those four Americans, he deftly disguised the message.
As if to prove the assertion that he didn’t “really” call the attack an act of terror, for the next two weeks members of the administration — including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, Press Secretary Jay Carney and President Obama himself (who mentioned it again and again at a speech to the United Nations on Sept. 25) — repeatedly blamed the attack on a violent protest in reaction to an anti-Islam video produced by an American. Yes, an American; that “shadowy character” who created a video about Islam was the cause of the Benghazi attack.
The administration offered the video as the only cause of the violence for days on end, despite the common-sense reaction that people don’t show up with RPGs and mortars at a spontaneous protest, even in places occupied by radical Muslims.
Was there a protest prior to the terrorist attack, or wasn’t there? It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that the security provided to our people in Libya was dismally inadequate. There were eight attacks in Libya in a six-month period, one on a British convoy and another on the Red Cross facility, causing both the Brits and the Red Cross to leave Libya because of the growing level of violence. And in June, there was an attack on the American Embassy in Tripoli.
U.S. personnel in Libya knew danger was mounting and practically begged for increased security measures. But Mr. Obama is fond of boasting that “Al Qaeda is on the run and Osama bin Laden is dead,” and mounting violence in Libya really doesn’t fit into that narrative. Al Qaeda is still alive and well, and Barack Obama’s dream of a “New Dawn in the Middle East” has proved to be a nightmare. Putting the “dream” ahead of protecting Americans at home and abroad, the administration declined those requests for help, and now four brave Americans are dead.
Extremists in the Middle East may make it impossible for that long-troubled region to ever become a peaceful place, and perhaps no president can change that. But a position of strength on the part of the United States best serves the interests of peace and stability. We don’t have that in President Obama’s America, where foreign policy focuses on offering apology and appeasement. Leading from behind just doesn’t cut it.
James H. “Smokey” Shott, a resident of Bluefield, Va., is a Daily Telegraph columnist.