Beghazi attack could hurt Obama

2012-09-26 08:19
(File: AFP)

(File: AFP)

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New York - The pundits all said foreign policy wouldn't apply in this election, and that even if it did, President Barack Obama would take the advantage. He ended the war in Iraq, he gave the go-ahead for the mission that killed Osama Bin Laden, and although he hasn't jumped the height Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would have liked, his unpopular firmer stances with Israel have not gained all that much traction in the polls.
 
However, there is one huge trap that the White House has opened up for itself going into the 6 November election, and that is its initial response to the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi on 11 September, which killed the ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other staffers.

While foreign policy may not make up a huge part of this year's electoral toing and froing, dead American ambassadors most certainly form part of the public discourse.
 
The White House initially maintained the attack was a spillover from protests that blazed around some cities in predominantly Muslim countries against the now infamous Innocence of Muslims movie trailer. US Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said on television shortly after the attack:
 
"Based on the best information we have to date ... it began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo, where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy sparked by this hateful video. But soon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that effort with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post-revolution. And that it spun from there into something much, much more violent.... We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned."

Changing tune

But at the same time, Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif  made it quite clear that he thought it was, "preplanned, predetermined".
 
The White House has since changed its tune – on 20 September spokesperson Jay Carney said, "It is, I think, self evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack. Our embassy was attacked violently and the result was four deaths of American officials. That is self evident. ... Had this happened on any day of the week on any month, this would have been a terrorist attack.
 
Initial evidence didn't make it seem how Rice saw it, and Republicans over the last week repeatedly accused the Obama administration of being unprepared for such a precise attack. The weaponry used and the execution make it unlikely its origins lay solely in a protest that went awry.

Also, CNN found the ambassador's diary, in which they claim to corroborate with other sources, he expressed fears for his safety: "A source familiar with Stevens' thinking told CNN earlier this week that, in the months leading up to his death, the late ambassador worried about what he called the security threats in Benghazi and a rise in Islamic extremism."

Megaryef has also publicly said that 50 people have been arrested over the attack, many of whom are connected to al-Qaeda.

Fallout

Republican presidential candidate Romney has already seized on comments Obama made during an interview broadcast by the CBS show 60 Minutes on Sunday, claiming during a Monday rally in Colorado, "Look, the world looks at the event going on. They don't see these events as bumps in the road [a term Obama used in the interview with 60 Minutes]. These are lives. This is humanity. This is freedom. Freedom must be on the march. We must stand for freedom."
 
It is obviously easier for the White House if the attack was not planned – not being prepared for something like this in a fairly unstable country looks bad. Very bad.

If an accusation of massaging the facts to make this situation look better for the Obama administration can stick, it could seriously hurt President Obama's re-election chances. And if that accusation is found to be true, there will be a justifiable fallout. Republicans will deservedly pile onto this.
 
If anything is going to majorly hurt the President before the election, it will be this.
 

Read more on:    al-qaeda  |  barack obama  |  simon williamson  |  mitt romney  |  mohammed el-megarif  |  us  |  libya  |  prophet protests  |  north africa  |  benghazi attack  |  us elections 2012
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