Politics
Coffin procession of dead from Benghazi attack Coffin procession of dead from Benghazi attack  

Obama blames deputies for Benghazi defeat

Photo of Neil Munro
Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

President Barack Obama on Sunday blamed “sloppiness” by his deputies — not his national security policy — for the Sept. 11, 2012  jihadi victory in Benghazi.

“There was just some sloppiness — not intentional — in terms of how we secure embassies in areas where you essentially don’t have governments that have a lot of capacity to protect those embassies,” Obama said Dec. 30, during a high-profile, low-pressure interview with David Gregory, the host of the NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

Obama then presented himself as fixing his deputies’ management errors, even though many of the problems stemmed from his risky 2009 strategic outreach to Islamist radicals.

“The review board did a very thorough job in identifying what were some severe [management] problems in diplomatic security … we’re going to implement every single recommendation that’s been put forward,” he claimed.

Gregory declined to to press Obama about his actions before and during the attack, or even about his admission that Libya’s government was too weak to defend the embassy.

That was a critical concession from Obama, because the president helped establish that weak government by using U.S. airpower to overthrow the previous government, which was dominated by the anti-jihad dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

The jihadi groups appeared during the civil war and looted the country’s armories, partly because Obama used U.S. airpower to kill Gadhafi, but did not deploy any troops to guard the armories and bolster the new government.

The country’s new Muslim government lacks the political authority and military capability to suppress the jihadi groups around the city of Benghazi.

On Sept. 11, jihadi groups killed two Americans — including a U.S. Ambassador — at the diplomatic facility, and two more at a nearby CIA facility. Subsequently, both Benghazi facilities were abandoned, reducing the U.S. ability to monitor the proliferating number of jihadi groups in Eastern Libya.

For two weeks after the attack, Obama and his deputies — including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — repeatedly suggested the attack was caused by Muslims’ anger over a little-known anti-Islam YouTube video.

During the election campaign, Obama and his allies denied they ever suggested the YouTube video was the cause, and claimed they knew it was a “terror” attack by unidentified attackers.

Obama continued that claim in the Dec. 30 interview, saying “with respect to who carried it out, that’s an ongoing investigation.”

“The FBI has sent individuals to Libya repeatedly, [and] we have some very good leads, but this is not something that, you know, I’m going to be at liberty to talk about right now.”

Gregory also failed to ask Obama about the impact of his regional strategy, which pressured State Department officials to downgrade security in Benghazi.

In 2009, Obama developed and announced his region-wide strategy, dubbed “A New Beginning,” which gambled that the region’s popular Islamist movements would become moderate once they gain power, and then would suppress ideologically allied jihadi groups.

However, the new or established Islamist governments in Turkey, Qatar, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia have been unable or unwilling to suppress their ideological allies in various jihad groups, such as al-Qaida.