Just one week ago, North Africa and the Middle East were on fire — the U.S. Embassy in Cairo was overwhelmed and the al-Qaida flag was hoisted. In Libya, much more tragically, the U.S. ambassador was murdered in cold blood. Symbols of America everywhere, even in London, were being challenged.
After a series of hasty and tepid statements, what did the president do in response? He flew to an event in Las Vegas. As our embassies burned — and much remained unanswered — our president glad-handed with casino magnates.
The U.S. response to events on the ground was at best tepid, and at worst negligent not to mention deeply concerning. The embassy in Cairo issued a preemptive apology in hopes of averting the siege. It didn’t work, and after it was exposed, the White House disavowed the statement. However in the days to come, this administration went on to enact the spirit of that apology — embodying the sentiment of self-flagellation at every turn. Somehow, the whole debacle was America’s fault.
In doing so, the president’s press secretary and formal representatives dodged, denied, and deflected evidence from the ground in order to stick to their “it’s our fault” narrative. In their minds, the violent protests were merely spawned by an Internet video. However, evidence on the ground shows otherwise. Most of the protestors had never seen the video in question, and chants like “Death to America” and “Obama, Obama we are all Osama” point to a much deeper hatred.
More pointedly, the Libyan government disputes the White House claims that the attacks in Libya were spontaneous; instead, Libyan government officials believe the attack on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 that killed our ambassador was a long-planned, coordinated attack. The Islamic extremists hate us for who we are — not for an Internet video.
So, here we are one week later — and still without answers or a visible strategy to deal with the problems we face. What truly happened on the ground? Why was the security so lackluster at U.S. embassies in dangerous countries? And how should we have responded? And why wasn’t more direct — and violent — action taken against those who took American lives?
Regardless of these questions, the president is back on the campaign trail but we’ll likely hear little or no talk about Libya, Egypt, Afghanistan, or other hotspots. It is election season, after all.
But as veterans we demand answers — and leadership — from our commander-in-chief. The lives of our compatriots, and reputation of our nation, are at stake. Have we brought the Libyan killers to justice? Have we made sure this type of thing doesn’t happen again? (They still hate us.) And have we sent a clear signal to our enemies that this type of behavior will not be tolerated?
With so many questions unanswered, it’s not surprising that recent polling shows a sharp decrease in support for Obama’s foreign policy. After the type of tepid response we saw — and quick return to politicking — the American people are still looking for answers and leadership.
There are huge problems facing our nation and our veterans — with $16 trillion in debt, runaway spending, a doubling of the VA claims backlog, high veterans unemployment, national security leaks, and looming defense cuts — and we’re still looking for the type of leadership that will restore America to greatness.
Pete Hegseth is the CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, and the former executive director of Vets for Freedom. He is an infantry officer in the Army National Guard, and has served tours in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay.