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September 11, 2013

Benghazi: The Wounds Are Still Open

By

The one year anniversary of the tragic events in Benghazi is a reminder that U.S. Foreign Policy cannot be built on wishful thinking. The Obama Administration had declared that the war on terror was over, Al Qaeda was defeated and the tides of war had receded.

They were wrong, dead wrong.

In the midst of a tough Presidential race, with one huge vulnerability being his perceived weakness in foreign policy, President Obama and his folks had to change the narrative. Their plan was to convince everyone that they had in fact made huge progress in defeating terrorism. They actually stated that Al Qaeda was on the run, and we were quickly moving to an end of the threats.

Even when the career Foreign Service Ambassador Obama had sent to Libya to try and help rebuild the desert nation specifically asked for help, he got none. His requests for more security were not based on “gut feelings” or even rumblings in the street, but because of actual attacks on U.S. and other western facilities.

Chris Stevens was repeatedly turned down.

There were no good reasons given either before or after the investigation, other than poor decisions by Department of State personnel. It was clear that sending additional security assets would have send the wrong message – Libya is not a victory, Al Qaeda is active in Libya – and therefore could not be allowed to happen. The narrative won out over safety of U.S. lives.Next the attack occurred.

Nearly immediately it was clear to everyone, that this was not the result of a spontaneous demonstration, or wrath against a video. It was a high-planned, relatively sophisticated, well-executed military operation conducted by terrorists looking to make a splash on a key date.

Their use of indirect mortar fire, and combined small arms and rocket propelled grenades trapped over 40 Americans and caused the Ambassador to be evacuated to a second safe house (with the help of the two former Navy Seals who rushed to help). The attackers lifted their fire on the first facility, as soon as they recognized the movement of the Ambassador, and redirected their attack on the safe house. This alone should be ample evidence of the sophistication of the force.

The failure of the military to move to aid those left to die is inexcusable. The explanations given by then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey are implausible and unacceptable. Saying that they knew any rescue would be “too late” is laughable. You never know how long a firefight will last when it starts, it could be minutes, or it could be days. The leadership still had a responsibility to try.

The second disclaimer was that they didn’t want to put more people at risk. Really? That is the role of the military, one they proudly accept, that they are to stand between Americans in danger, and those who would do them harm. There was clearly no appetite for a response because again, it blew the narrative away. There is no need for a rescue if this is not a significant event.

After this horrific tragedy, the Obama Administration went into damage control. Instead of admitting what even a blind man could see, they stuck with the absurd video story for days. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even told the parents of the dead that they “will get the man who made the video.”

They were hoping against hope that this story would die, and they could continue to peddle the vision of President Obama as a success in the foreign policy arena. The effort cost Susan Rice her chance to be Secretary of State because she lost the trust of Congress. Hilary Clinton received a huge black mark for her callus comment of “what does it matter?!” during the investigation. Over all the failure to be forthcoming was tawdry at best and criminal at worst.

The bottom line is that the wounds of Benghazi are still open. The survivors have not been given closure. Those whose decisions led to the death of Americans have had no sanctions, and the American People have had inadequate answers.

Mr. President, America deserves to be able to close these wounds. Only you can do it. Put aside pride, politics, and privilege, and give America straight and truthful answers, and do so as soon as possible.

- Steven P. Bucci is director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.

Originally appeared in The Blaze.

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