The controversy over the Benghazi attack, once seemingly on life support if not dead, roared back to life the other day with the disclosure of a White House email suggesting blatant political motives in how the administration portrayed the deadly attack to America during a presidential campaign.
Whether the email is the smoking gun, as administration critics claim, proving that the White House lied to voters remains to be seen, but that argument can no longer be dismissed out of hand. There’s little doubt the email, and White House reaction to it, show an administration willing to manipulate events to suit the political needs of President Barack Obama.
The attack in Benghazi came on Sept. 11, 2012, the anniversary of the 2001 al-Qaida attack on America; after the 2011 U.S.-supported overthrow of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and in the middle of a presidential campaign. Four Americans died in the attack, including the first U.S. ambassador killed in 30 years.
Libya after the death of Gadhafi became increasingly chaotic and dangerous. The ambassador, Christopher Stevens, made that clear to his bosses at the State Department, but security for him and the Benghazi consulate was not bolstered.
Several days after the attack, the White House sent Susan Rice, then U.N. ambassador and now Obama’s national security adviser, on five Sunday morning network news shows, an unusual event. She attributed the attack to protests in the Middle East by Muslims angry over a little-seen Internet video disparaging Islam.
It turned out that it was obvious from the start that the attack was a well-coordinated assault involving terrorists affiliated with al-Qaida. That was in conflict with a presidential campaign theme that al-Qaida had been “decimated” and that the Libyan campaign had been a success.
So where did the video explanation come from? The CIA, which advised the White House on “talking points” for Rice, never advanced the video as the cause of the attack, according to congressional testimony.
The newly disclosed email came from Benjamin Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, and listed goals for Rice’s TV appearances. One was to “underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”
A White House spokesman offered the ridiculous argument that the email wasn’t about Benghazi. The very next goal stated that the administration was “resolute in bringing to justice people who harm Americans.” Only in Benghazi were Americans harmed. Only the outrage of four murdered Americans would have the White House put Rice on five shows.
Even members of the mainstream media friendly to the Obama presidency couldn’t swallow spokesman Jay Carney’s patently absurd reading of the email and peppered him with skeptical questions about the email.
This document came to light due to a suit filed by the watchdog organization Judicial Watch. It quickly became apparent that the email had not been released to congressional committees investigating the attack.
One reason Benghazi had been receding from the public eye was the sometimes inept, sometimes overtly partisan, often uncoordinated nature of these probes. Republicans have urged House Speaker John Boehner to appoint a special select committee to examine the Benghazi episode. With the revelation that the White House had withheld evidence from Congress, Boehner on Friday committed to setting up such a committee. Maybe the American public finally will get the unvarnished truth about the events of Sept. 11, 2012, and whether the White House misled the nation for partisan political reasons.