Echoes of September 11 Attacks in Libya

As news from the Benghazi attack slowly leaks out, columnist Lisa Bigelow wonders if our foreign policy failures are doomed to repeat themselves.

They brought the war to us at the World Trade Center in 1993. They brought the war to us in Kenya and Tanzania. They brought the war to us on the USS Cole. And when we didn’t pay enough attention, they brought it to us a second time at the World Trade Center.

Now they brought it to Libya. And while we all hope that this senseless cycle of violence will soon end, rational, realistic thought points to the contrary.

Initially, officials from the Obama administration — such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — insisted that the Libyan attack that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, resulted from an anti-Islam movie made by a little-known American.

After several days of communication misfires, the administration quietly acknowledged that the attack was, in fact, coordinated and was not a spontaneous uprising resulting from the film (although the film certainly didn’t help).

Yet recent findings demonstrate that not only are we not taking adequate care of our overseas personnel, it appears as if we are in danger of repeating the same tragic missteps that led to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

The U.S. House of Representatives took up the matter this past Wednesday, where the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee pressed the State Department’s Diplomatic Security unit as to why requests for additional security were denied on multiple occasions, despite direct appeals from the late Ambassador himself.

Although the unit has doubled in size since the 1990s, no one could adequately explain why the United States is continuing to operate diplomatic missions in dangerous locations where past policy would have dictated evacuating American personnel and closing the post.

And no one could explain why the administration chose to increase local security staffing at the post in lieu of closing the post altogether or increasing American security — akin to “ordering in children’s Tylenol for someone who has cancer,” a senior official told Reuters — despite escalating violence, inadequate infrastructure and apparently-poor emergency planning logistics.

Undoubtedly, the Obama administration does not want to acknowledge that a terrorist attack occurred on its watch. Nor does it wish to admit that security should have been tighter, particularly during an intense campaign.

Yet doesn’t it make sense to keep security tightened, especially in a region marred by the recent violent acts euphemistically referred to as the Arab Spring? Would it not be wise foreign policy to keep our professional overseas diplomatic staff safe during the 11-year anniversary of the heinous World Trade Center attacks, especially as it was requested directly from the staff themselves, and most poignantly, in Stevens’ own diary, written on the day he died?

One cannot help but wonder if we are not walking the same sad path as we did in the years prior to 9/11, when our responses to attacks on our people and property overseas were met with a tepid response from home.

Are we doomed to repeat the sad history of that September day with the passive foreign policy of the Obama administration? Or worse, the insistence from Vice President Joe Biden that the White House “didn’t know” about the requests for additional security, as if such matters are trivial and beyond the scope of top administrative management responsibility? Or, astonishingly, are we expected to believe Democrat claims from Jay Carney and Stephanie Cutter that the only reason Benghazi is an issue is because it’s campaign season?

The fact of the matter is, these are scary times in the Middle East. And when the threat is real, there is no such thing as fear mongering.

In the years prior to 9/11, the overseas attacks were met with much the same response the Libya attack is getting now. Are we foolish enough to doom ourselves to repeated history and overlook the sacrifices that our overseas personnel make every day?

Let us hope not. I look forward with anticipation to the presidential foreign policy debate, scheduled for Oct. 22. I hope you are, too.

Rob Gianazza October 18, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Lisa, they brought the war to us on November 4, 1979.
Lisa Bigelow October 19, 2012 at 05:25 PM
You are right, Rob. My apologies for leaving it out. Thanks for reading and commenting. Lisa B.


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