“I’m not striped,” said the zebra, “I don’t want to be.” That’s the mindset of this White House as it tries to “explain” how we got an Ambassador and his security team killed in Benghazi.
The actual situation is the unfortunate result of an administration that is woefully idealistic about the rest of the world – and largely ignorant of the regions in which we choose to dabble (see the “Reset” of relations with a Russia that has no desire to do so – not to mention the reset button SecState Hillary Clinton gave to President Putin that was incorrectly translated into Russian).
Historically, Libya was naturally divided into three semi-autonomous regions – Tripolitania to the west, Fezzan to the southwest, and Cyrenaica to the East. The two coastal regions, Tripolitania, with Tripoli as its capital, and Cyrenaica (Barqa in Arabic), with Benghazi as it capital, drove Libyan behavior, politics and economics. North Africa, like much of the neighboring Middle East, is still very tribal, and these ancient loyalties are more comfortable to most Libyans than the artificial political artifacts of modernity. Benghazi has been the center of political opposition to Tripoli (read: official Libya) since the 1967 coup that brought Qaddafi to power, and as such, Benghazi has been the center of anti-Qaddafi activity.
Benghazi has been a hotbed of jihadist recruiting and staging for years, and strongest, Ansar al-Sharia, was immediately suspected – and later identified – by CIA as the perpetrator of the September 11 attack on our Consulate. The attackers at the Consulate were the only people on the street at that location – i.e., it couldn’t have been “a demonstration that went bad,” because there was no demonstration. These fighters showed up with AK-47s, RPG-7s and mortar tubes. They had diesel fuel to set fires, they went directly from the Consulate to the safe house to which Ambassador Stephens and one security team member had repaired. This was a well-organized, pre-planned terrorist attack, and no one on the ground thought anything else.
Jihadists love to stage large, splashy operations on significant anniversaries. This attack happened on Tuesday, September 11th.
Why, three days later, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was blaming this on reaction to trailers for Innocence of Muslims, an amateurish video; why the administration sent UN Ambassador Susan Rice around to all the friendly Sunday talk shows saying the attack was not a terrorist attack; why, at the United Nations, a full week after the attack, President Obama alluded to the video as causus belli for the attack; only the administration knows. They knew better.
Whatever the motivations, this has the imagery of a cover-up, and in politics, perceptions are everything. I honestly don’t know if they are trying to cover up for the fact that they rejected numerous requests for increased security at the Benghazi Consulate (which was temporarily in a private house, not a purpose-built, fortified facility), or for some policy that required a “small footprint” in Libya, or whatever. But I do know that we are owed an explanation for the bizarre reaction of this administration to this tragic event. And we need it before we are asked to re-hire them.