After extraordinary derelictions of duty, a little misdirection here and some political spin there must seem like minor vices. Even as evidence mounts that the attack on the American embassy in Libya was premeditated, well-coordinated, and only possible given grotesquely inadequate security measures, the Obama administration continues to insist otherwise. Their preferred narrative is one that excludes any undue scrutiny of President Obama’s foreign policy, which has ambitiously managed to reduce the most powerful country in the world to comical irrelevance. The US is neither loved nor feared, only contempt remaining to be divided among friends and enemies alike.
And the evidence is compelling. Almost immediately after the attacks multiple unnamed American officials assessed them as well organized, tactical operations. As reported in these pages, the Libyan offensive was likely planned by various Al Qaeda affiliates responding to Ayman al-Zawahri’s order that revenge be exacted for the killing of a high ranking operative last June in Pakistan by an American drone. The violence in Cairo was almost certainly planned well in advance, probably organized by the terrorist group Gamaa Islamiyya, demanding the release of their spiritual leader, Sheikh Omar abdel Rahman from prison, currently serving a life sentence for his role in the World Trade Center bombing.
Now, Libyan President Mohammed Youssef El-Magariaf too believes the evidence clearly supports the view that the attacks were the result of intentional design:
“The way these perpetrators acted and moved — I think we, and they’re choosing the specific date for this so-called demonstration, I think we have no, this leaves us with no doubt that this was pre-planned, determined,” Magariaf said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Magariaf continued to explain that those culpable had likely been within Libya for months crafting the details of the assaults, had entered the country’s porous borders by way of multiple points of entry, and that many of them could claim Mali and Algeria as their points of departure.
However, US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice has directly contradicted President Magariaf’s interpretation, repeatedly refusing to acknowledge that any intelligence exists which supports either coordination or premeditation:
“Our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous – not a premeditated – response to what had transpired in Cairo.”
Furthermore, Rice continued to pinpoint the Youtube video as the singular cause for the paroxysms of violence that engulfed both Cairo and Benghazi:
“In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated.”
And what about the presence of sophisticated weapons like grenade launchers? Magariaf, like so many American intelligence officials, has taken this as further substantiation of careful organization:
“…if you take into account the weapons used, like RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] and other heavy weapons, it proves that it was preplanned. It’s a dirty act of revenge that has nothing to do with religion.”
Rice dismissed this as similarly inconclusive, still insisting that only a “small number of people” were primarily responsible for the eruption of violence:
” …as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons, weapons that … in the wake of the revolution in Libya … are quite common and accessible.”
In other words, what only appeared to numerous defense officials like a taut military exercise conducted by heavily armed soldiers was really an angry mob with easy access to heavy artillery. The obvious tactical choreography, the symbolic timing, the threats gathering well in advance of the attacks, are all summarily dismissed as the unfolding of chance. The official position of the Obama administration is now that the US is the victim of stupefyingly bad luck.
And our luck worsens by the day, as furious protests all over the world happen to randomly occur in the general vicinity of American embassies. In response to the suggestion that the feral demonstrations are borne out of animosity towards the US she countered that none of them should be rightly construed as an “expression of hostility in the broadest sense to the U.S. or its policies”. Rice’s job right now is not an enviable one.
As to charges that the security at the embassy in Cairo was subpar, she at least conceded that it “obviously didn’t prove sufficient” to repel the attacks. However, her response then splinters down several inconsistent paths. First, there’s the “hey, give us a break, we just got there” defense:
“There are not Marines in every facility. That depends on the circumstances. That depends on the requirements,” Rice said. “Our presence in Tripoli, as in Benghazi, is relatively new, as you will recall. We’ve been back post-revolution only for a matter of months.”
At least in this statement, there is a tacit recognition of inadequate preparation. However, at other times she still insisted there was a”substantial security presence” at the embassy and that they were well prepared: “We certainly are aware that Libya is a place where there have been increasingly some violent incidents.”
Keep in mind that reports have been circulating, particularly in the British press, that “credible information” anticipating the attacks as much as 48 hours in advance was available to the US, its inaction proof of a “continuing security breach”. According to The Independent, these reports were generated by senior US diplomatic officials.
And apparently warnings about the palsied security at the Libyan embassy has been documented for years. A congressionally chartered Commission on Wartime Contracting issued a warning back in 2009 that an excessive reliance upon low-bid contractors was undermining the overall quality of security being provided for the embassy in Libya. Further, the Diplomatic Security office, a department within the State Department, repeatedly warned that its insufficient funding jeopardized embassy security. Despite all this, a senior American official stated, that in regard to Libyan Embassy Security, it was “similar to the way we are postured all over the world”. In other words, no special arrangement was made in response to the gathering threat.
And what of the now prevailing view that the US is a paper tiger, its extraordinary power undermined by a limping lack of will to lead in the international theater? In response to the suggestion that the global protests are symptoms of America’s waning influence Rice responded with feigned confusion: “We’re not impotent. We’re not even less popular”.
Clearly worried Rice’s public relations strategy, to pretend the painfully obvious is a matter of complex dispute, to counter facts and expert testimony with gossamer fairy tales, is failing. So now the State Department is shifting gears to simple stonewalling. Since the matter has been classified an “open investigation”, no new information will be forthcoming:
“I’m going to frustrate all of you, infinitely, by telling you that now that we have an open FBI investigation on the death of these four Americans, we are not going to be in a position to talk at all about what the U.S. government may or may not be learning about how any of this this happened — not who they were, not how it happened, not what happened to Ambassador Stevens, not any of it — until the Justice Department is ready to talk about the investigation that’s its got,” State Department spokeswoman Victorian Nuland told reporters late Friday afternoon. “So I’m going to send to the FBI for those kinds of questions and they’re probably not going to talk to you about it”.
Well, I suppose that’s that then.
Ivan Kenneally is Editor in Chief of the Daily Witness.