The Free Press, Mankato, MN

September 29, 2012

Our View: Use Libyan attack as call for action, not politics


The Free Press

— It is now being acknowledged that the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya that ended with four Americans killed including our ambassador was a planned, premeditated attack by terrorists.

Earlier, statements coming from the Obama administration were tying the attacks to mob reaction over an anti-Islam movie trailer that enraged Muslims worldwide. Three days after the attack, White House press secretary Jay Carney said "Let's be clear, these protests were in reaction to a video that had spread to the region." Six days after the attack, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said the attack was "spontaneous -- not premeditated."

And Director of National Intelligence James Clapper reportedly told top officials that the terrorist attack was one of opportunity, not pre-meditation.

Thursday, however, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said there can be no doubt terrorists planned and carried out the attack. Republicans and even some Democrats were accusing the Obama administration of playing down any link to terrorism for the attack.

But Panetta said it took a while for more information to come in before the administration could come to that conclusion. And, he said, investigators are still trying to determine which terrorist group was involved.

And now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was reported saying the Al Qaeda affiliate in North Africa was involved in the Benghazi attack, and other reports said the militant Ansar al-Shariah was also involved.

White House officials had acknowledged that as intelligence was being processed and confirmed, that assessments of the attack had to change. And they insist no information was given out to downplay the attack or obscure the truth.

That may be so and no evidence has emerged to refute this. But the more worrisome aspect of the response came Thursday when President Obama said "Al Qaeda's on the path to defeat," adding "Bin Laden is dead."

Yes, Bin Laden is dead but that in no way means terrorism is waning. There continue to be reports of terrorism in Kenya, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Rwanda, Syria and more.

In fact, the FBI, which has been dispatched to Libya to lead the investigation of the consulate attack, still has not reached Benghazi, two weeks after the attack. Why? Fear for their safety.

We should not labor on the useless exercise of partisan finger pointing "What did people know and when did they know it?"

Rather, we need an honest assessment of terrorism in the world, acknowledge it is very much alive and determine what will be our best efforts on how to protect our interests and our citizens. Let's show leadership with an intelligent bipartisan, yes, even global discussion of how to curb it.