Yes, the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate (or CIA station) in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012 was a disaster—and badly handled by the State Department beforehand and the Obama Administration afterward.
A special investigation headed by former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Joint Chiefs chairman Mike Mullen found the State Department did not respond to early warnings and provide Ambassador Chris Stevens with adequate security on his dangerous mission to the Benghazi facility. Nor did State Department brass and Secretary Hillary Clinton act forcefully immediately after the attack, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Stevens.
Afterward, State and the CIA, in full CYA mode, battled each other over the “talking points” UN Ambassador Susan Rice used on the Sunday talk shows—Washington’s real concern. And the Obama Administration, in the home stretch of the presidential campaign, was reluctant to admit a breach in its largely successful antiterrorism efforts.
But is Benghazi the worst scandal in American history, as 41% of Republicans say it is? Is it even the “worst tragedy since September 11th,” as rising star Sen. Rand Paul averred?
As tragic as the losses of the four American lives were, they were small compared with the 13 terrorist assaults on U.S. embassies and consulates during the Bush Administration, costing dozens of lives—after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Here are the fatal incidents (according to Wikipedia):
- January 22, 2002: Islamic terrorists attacked U.S. Consulate in Kolkata, India, killing five.
- June 14, 2002: Al Qaeda-linked suicide bomber killed 12, injured 51 at U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan.
- February 28, 2003: Gunmen fired on U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, killing two.
- May 12, 2003: Al Qaeda terrorists killed 36 people, including 9 Americans, at the diplomatic compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
- July 30, 2004: Islamist suicide bomber killed two at the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
- December 6, 2004: Al Qaeda terrorists attacked U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, killing nine.
- March 2, 2006: Suicide bomber attacked U.S. Consulate in Karachi again, killing four, including U.S. diplomat David Foy.
- September 12, 2006: Four heavily armed gunmen stormed the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria, killing four and wounding 13.
- July 9, 2008: Four terrorists attacked the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, and six people were killed.
- September 17, 2008: For the second time in seven months, terrorists attacked the U.S. Embassy in Sana, Yemen, killing 16, including a young American student and her husband.
Notice all the repeat incidents—in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen—as Al Qaeda and its sympathizers attacked U.S. facilities with impunity, showing how ineptly the Bush Administration handled the “war on terror,” despite invading Afghanistan and Iraq.
And not to be partisan, the near-simultaneous attacks on the U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya by Al Qaeda and members of Egyptian Islamic Jihad on August 7, 1998 killed 223 and injured more than 4,000. In response, President Clinton ordered cruise missile strikes against targets in Afghanistan and Sudan.
President Obama has been far more effective in decimating Al Qaeda than either of his predecessors were.
And yet he’s been vilified and threatened with impeachment by the GOP’s lunatic fringe. Did Democrats attack President Bush for his failure to protect American embassies abroad? No. Did Republicans? Are you kidding? Did anybody hold a single hearing on embassy security? Not to my knowledge.
Back then, congressmen and senators of both parties knew that terrible things happen when you’re battling terrorists in such a volatile region, and they wanted to give the commander in chief the benefit of the doubt.
But this is President Obama, who is fair game. That’s why when it comes down to it, Benghazi is at bottom more about politics than embassy security or anything else.