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The truth about Benghazi, and Obama's dangerous attitude toward Islam

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Sep 26, 2012

The president has finally acknowledged the truth about the murder of American diplomats in Benghazi. The president of Libya, I mean; not the president of the United States.

The attack on the US consulate was not an angry reaction to an anti-Muslim film, President Mohamed Magarief told NBC News. If the Islamic radicals had been incensed by scenes from the amateur film, The Innonence of Muslims, they would have reacted 6 months earlier, when those scenes first became available.

"They chose this date, 11th of September, to carry a certain message,” Magarief said. If only President Barack Obama could be equally candid!

Consider: How would you react if you were outraged by a film made in some foreign country? You might picket outside that country’s embassy, I suppose. But would you bring along rocket-propelled grenades? I hope not. The “protesters” in Benghazi did.

But perhaps the violent faction arrived to take advantage of an otherwise peaceful demonstration? Not so, President Magarief tells us; there was no crowd around the American consulate in Benghazi, he reports, until the men with the grenades showed up.

By the way, why was this “demonstration” taking place in Benghazi? A spontaneous display of outrage would ordinarily be organized outside the embassy, which is in Tripoli. But the men with the grenades and mortars—let’s be honest and stop calling them demonstrators—were focused on Benghazi. Not coincidentally, the ill-fated US envoy, the late Christopher Stevens, was in Benghazi that day. Apparently the men with the grenades knew that he would be.

Which leads us to the final outrage. After the initial grenade attack on the consulate, for several hours the US State Department did not know where Ambassador Stevens was. Yet the Islamic radicals did. They attacked the “safe house” where he had taken refuge.

How did the Islamic militants know where that “safe” house was located? How did they know that Stevens would be in Benghazi? We know that Benghazi was a stronghold of the rebels who ousted the Qaddafi regime. We know that Ambassador Stevens had been coordinating American aid to the rebels. Apparently there were some severe security leaks, and by September 11 of this year, America’s enemies knew more than our friends.

Americans had been warned that the rebels included Al Qaida operatives, and that by helping them we would be strengthening our own foes—just as we helped to strengthen the Taliban a generation ago, when the Muslim zealots in Afghanistan were fighting against the Soviet Union. The tragic deaths of American diplomats in Benghazi are a reminder that another president, George Washington, was wise to warn against entangling alliances.

But we always knew that foreign policy is a dangerous occupation. (Foreign-policy failures were the leading cause of death worldwide in the 20th century.) What is particular appalling about the killings in Benghazi is the flat refusal of the Obama administration to tell the truth about the tragedy. For days the administration pretended that the grenade attack on the consulate was the result of a demonstration that got out of control. Eventually the burden of evidence forced the White House to change its story, and acknowledge that the attack had been premeditated. Still even today, in his speech to the UN, President Obama conveyed the impression that the main problem is the understandable outrage of Muslims over a provocative film.

Nonsense! The real problem is Islamic violence. The film is a distraction, a pretext for aggression. By refusing to acknowledge that reality, the Obama administration is playing into the hands of the Islamic radicals.

The disciplined agents of Al Qaida are trying to create the impression that the Islamic world is simmering with barely-suppressed outrage, ready to explode at the slightest sign of provocation from the West. President Obama’s speech to the UN reinforced that impression.

At Regensburg, Pope Benedict issued a challenge to the religious leaders of Islam. (The religious leaders, I emphasize, as opposed to those who exploit the faith as a pretext for political upheaval.) The Pope asked responsible Muslims to address the perception that Islam is subject to spasms of irrational violence. President Obama, I fear, has taken the opposite approach.

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  • Posted by: Minnesota Mary - Sep. 28, 2012 4:07 PM ET USA

    The most important sentence in Lawler's essay is this: "The tragic deaths in Benghazi are a reminder that another president, George Washington, was wise to warn against entangling allinaces." Obama isn't the only president that has gotten the U.S. into entangling alliances. Too many of our past presidents, Republican and Democrat, have ignored Washington's wise counsel as well. Today, we reap what we have sown.

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