In A Few Good Men Jack Nicholson, as Col. Nathan Jessup famously declared to Lt. Daniel Caffey (played by Tom Cruise), "You can't handle the truth!" The question today is, can the White House? In the second presidential debate Barack Obama declared self-righteously that he had identified the Benghazi terrorist attack an "act of terror" in the Rose Garden speech the next day. That requires very generous inference from the speech. Then spokespeople, representatives and administration officials, including press secretary Jay Carney, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and UN Ambassador Susan Rice, spent the next 2 weeks identifying a spontaneous demonstration generated by outrage over an obscure internet video trailer as the real source of the problem. Have a look.
Well, today we learn that immediately after the attack, within hours, the White House was informed that this was most likely not a "spontaneous demonstration" gone awry, by State Department emails
(Reuters) - Officials at the White House and State Department were advised two hours after attackers assaulted the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11 that an Islamic militant group had claimed credit for the attack, official emails show.
The emails, obtained by Reuters from government sources not connected with U.S. spy agencies or the State Department and who requested anonymity, specifically mention that the Libyan group called Ansar al-Sharia had asserted responsibility for the attacks.
The brief emails also show how U.S. diplomats described the attack, even as it was still under way, to Washington.
U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the Benghazi assault, which President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials ultimately acknowledged was a "terrorist" attack carried out by militants with suspected links to al Qaeda affiliates or sympathizers.
Administration spokesmen, including White House spokesman Jay Carney, citing an unclassified assessment prepared by the CIA, maintained for days that the attacks likely were a spontaneous protest against an anti-Muslim film.
While officials did mention the possible involvement of "extremists," they did not lay blame on any specific militant groups or possible links to al Qaeda or its affiliates until intelligence officials publicly alleged that on September 28.
At the very least, such emails should have tempered the full-court press that deflected blame to the allegedly offending video. A question I asked earlier is this:
If it is irresponsible to declare this a terrorist attack without definitive evidence that it was, why was it not also irresponsible to absolve terrorists and affix the blame to the video without the same definitive evidence?
I'd also be interested in why such mendacity would be necessary. Perhaps it was thought that it might deflect the questions about lax security. After all, if it was an un-anticipated spontaneous demonstration that ran amok, how could such an event have been anticipated? Perhaps it was because the White House sees insults to Islam as the source of Islamic rage. Which, of course, leads to the incorrect conclusion that according to the administration such rage and killing is understandable if not justifiable whenever insults to Islam occur, and also to the conclusion that the First Amendment in the US Constitution should not protect such speech. Perhaps it's because with Romney winning on the economy, Obama couldn't afford to lose face in foreign policy before November 6. In that event, who would then be playing politics with the loss of American lives?
Ambassador Susan Rice's earnest Tour de Jon Lovitz on five Sunday morning talk shows several days after the attack focused on the video and the word "spontaneous" and made nary a mention of a terrorist attack as the most likely explanation. Yet that appears to be the one that should have been foremost in administration thinking. Spontaneous, indeed.