United States Of Common Sense

How Hard Are We Looking?

Christopher Stevens
Christopher Stevens
John Christopher Stevens (April 18, 1960 – September 11, 2012) was an American diplomat and lawyer who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Libya from June 2012 to September 2012. He was killed when the U.S. consulate was attacked in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012. | Photo: Associated Press | Christopher Stevens, Libya, Ambassador, Terrorism, Diplomat, Violence, Killed,

Why No Response to the Benghazi Attacks?

The Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans on September 11, 2012 are back in the news. Testimony from individuals who were on the ground in Libya when the attacks occurred has provided significant support for the charge that the Obama Administration grossly mishandled the crisis. It has also further buttressed claims that the Administration deliberately mischaracterized the attack on the consulate as a "demonstration" that got out of control, in order to prevent any political impact on the November elections.

A host of questions remain unanswered. Why was the consulate so lightly guarded? Why wasn't the military in a position to respond quickly and effectively when the attack on the consulate occurred? Why was the assault on the consulate, which everyone on site considered a terrorist attack from the outset, characterized five days later in what can only be considered a deliberately misleading manner?

Those are all good questions. I would love to hear the answers. In the meantime, though, I have another question.

Why haven't we responded?

Speaking shortly after the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, the President had this to say, "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done."

Those are bold words, and I echo their sentiment. But, here's the rub.

Since September 11, 2012, the Administration has pursued "justice" for the deaths of four Americans as if there was some sort of mystery about what happened and who did it. There is none. Just as we knew from the opening shots of the assault on the consulate in Benghazi that we were under attack, we have known for eight months now who carried out that attack.

On September 12, 2012, the State Department Operations Center issued an alert that stated, "Al Qaeda linked Ansar Al-Sharia claimed responsibility for the attack and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli." That same day the State Department informed the Libyan Ambassador to the United States that the attack on the consulate had been carried out by Ansar Al Sharia.

A subsequent report by the House of Representative stated outright that "the attackers were members of extremist groups, including the Libya-based Ansar al-Sharia (AAS) and al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)."

The initial CIA talking points on the incident, which were subsequently substantially changed by the Administration, stated that there was intelligence linking Ansar Al Sharia to the attack.

Libyan officials from the outset stated that Ansar Al Sharia was involved. Press reports likewise immediately focused on Ansar Al Sharia.

In short, before the consulate building in Benghazi even stopped smoking it was clear that a Libyan extremist group called Ansar Al Sharia, with links to Al Qaeda, had attacked our official diplomatic installation in Benghazi and killed four of our personnel.

Ansar Al Sharia was not an unknown entity. In August 2012, a Library of Congress report sponsored by the Pentagon stated that Ansar Al-Sharia "increasingly embodied al Qaeda's presence in Libya, as indicated by its active social-media propaganda, extremist discourse, and hatred of the West, especially the United States."

Before the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Ansar Al-Sharia had already been implicated in an attack against a vehicle convoy carrying the British ambassador and a similar attack on the United Nations envoy to Libya. It had also launched an attack on the Benghazi offices of the International Red Cross, desecrated the graves of World War II Allied war dead in cemeteries in Benghazi and shot up western-style hairdressing salons in town.

Since the September 11, 2012 attack, Ansar Al-Sharia has continued to operate openly in Benghazi. In fact, it has not only not gone underground, it has expanded its activities. Members of the group conduct patrols and man checkpoints throughout the city. They circulate widely and openly and are recruiting heavily amongst youth in the city.

Black Flags in Benghazi
Black Flags in Benghazi

The flag was said to be flying over the building alongside the Libyan national flag. We are long past the point in our history, if there ever was one, when we could insulate ourselves from world events and sit on the sidelines as observers. - Charles Faddis | Photo: Archives |
Ansar Al-Sharia operates several Facebook accounts, which it uses to publicize its efforts and characterize itself as a benevolent, charitable institution. At present, among other things, it claims to be operating a medical clinic and to be repairing war damaged schools.

Ansar's stated goal is the creation of a Libyan state run according to a fundamentalist interpretation of Sharia law. It is openly committed to jihad against the United States and other Western nations. In March of this year members of the group raided the Benghazi European School and searched for textbooks they claimed were in violation of Sharia law.

Why, therefore, if we know who carried out the attack on our consulate, and the group in question is operating widely and openly in Libya to this day, have we not responded? We may or may not know the exact names of the members of the organization, who carried out the assault. We may or may not know precisely who is immediately responsible for killing Ambassador Stevens. We sure as hell know what group launched the attack and where to go to exact retribution.

This Administration has dramatically expanded the scope of drone attacks and other lethal actions directed at terrorist networks. It regularly launches attacks on targets based on profiles and signatures without any direct knowledge of the precise identities of the individuals being targeted. Why then in this case, are we playing at having the FBI conduct an investigation and dragging our feet, because we can't make a positive ID of each individual who entered our consulate building?

We were attacked on September 11, 2012 by a group affiliated with Al Qaeda, an organization with which we have been at war for at least twelve years. That group continues to hide in plain sight in Libya to this day. The President can try to obfuscate the issue all he wants in a continuing effort to claim that what happened in Benghazi remains unclear. It is not. We were attacked. We know who did it. It's time to stop pretending otherwise and to respond. Otherwise, we might as well just admit it. We're not looking very hard.

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Updated Apr 22, 2017 7:33 AM EDT | More details

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