What really happened?

What really happened?

December 3rd, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

The investigations continue unabated as the accusations and defenses multiply in the aftermath of the murderous attack on our consulate in Benghazi. But this much we know: American lives, including that of our ambassador to Libya, were lost. Chris Stevens was respected at home and loved in Libya, where he had become a symbol of America's good will and, more important, the ability of this country and the West in general to act in freedom's cause, not just talk about it.

The vivacious, energetic and courageous American ambassador had played an important role in Libyans' liberation from the Gadhafi era, whatever the uncertain and tumultuous aftermath of that revolution. And he was playing an even more important one in Libya's uncertain quest for stability and democracy in a part of the world not known for either quality.

Chris Stevens was the kind of American envoy we need, and the kind we lost this September 11th thanks to the incompetence of this administration, whatever is discovered about its explanations afterward. That much we know, and should not skip over lightly.

Competing narratives of what happened at Benghazi still flood the news, often providing more heat than light. But in all the controversy, one obdurate conclusion cannot be denied: This administration, this State Department, this president failed in their first duty: to protect American lives. That is the starting point of this story and it could be the end after all that has been said, is being said, and will be said about what might now be called Benghazi Continued.

First our envoys were killed; now it looks as if any hope of finding out just what happened in Benghazi and why may be lost in all the political infighting.

Our ambassador to the United Nations, among others, was still repeating a dubious account of that attack's origins days after she and perhaps the White House knew better. Or certainly should have known better.

Now the word is that the Hon. Susan Rice, that font of misinformation, may be nominated as the next secretary of state to succeed Hillary Clinton -- a possibility, perhaps probability, that has understandably infuriated senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Not to mention the growing segment of American public opinion that does not get its news pre-masticated by White House spokesmen, NPR and the usual apologists for whatever liberal theory is in danger of being exposed at the moment.

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For the moment, the president has taken refuge in the first resort of a leader under fire: huffy indignation. "If Senator McCain and Senator Graham want to go after somebody," said Barack Obama, "they should go after me."

No sooner suggested than done. Senator Graham immediately took the president up on his suggestion: "Mr. President, don't think for one minute I don't hold you ultimately responsible for Benghazi. I think you failed as commander-in-chief before, during and after the attack."

Senator Graham's direct words to the president are less an accusation than a fact, for this president failed to provide adequate protection for our diplomats on the ground, and then failed to level with the American people for a remarkably long time after the bloody disaster at Benghazi. Even days after the attack, Ambassador Rice and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were still emphasizing the supposedly spontaneous nature of the attack at Benghazi -- without fear of contradiction from the White House. Even now a shred or two of that old story, full of holes as it is, still surfaces among the administration's defenders.

The president's claim to have told the American people that the attack on Benghazi was a terrorist raid from the first won't wash. Just because he added a little boilerplate about this country's standing fast against terror to his initial statement scarcely constitutes candor; it was just an empty rhetorical gesture from a president who specializes in them. The smoldering ruins of our mission and those four coffins arriving home were much more eloquent.

- Arkansas Democrat Gazette