STILLWATER, Okla. — This past week marked two very sobering anniversaries.
The most important was the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. More than 3,000 innocent Americans lost their lives at the hands of Islamist extremists.
But the other deserves recognition as well: Sept. 11 was also the first anniversary of the terrorist attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
In terms of scale, the second seems almost trivial. It must also be said that those who enter the Foreign Service and are posted in dangerous corners of the world are volunteering to face the risks involved – much more so than someone simply going to work in Manhattan on a Tuesday morning.
Still, the anniversary of the Benghazi attack should have prompted many more questions from the media than it did, about the continuing lack of accountability from the Obama administration – you know, the one he promised would be the “most transparent in history.”
The day after the attack, the president declared, “We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.”
But a year later, it seems the mistake is to believe that justice will be done. Nobody has been caught, prosecuted, jailed or killed for participating in the attack.
True, it is not simple to track terrorists down in hostile countries and bring them to justice. But, based on both rhetoric and action, the president seems much more focused on bringing the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria to justice than he does the Benghazi attackers.
Yes, it is a moral obscenity for the leader of a nation to slaughter his own people, many of them children. But the American president ought to be at least as concerned about the slaughter of his own countrymen – who died in the line of duty for their country – as he is about victims of a civil war in Syria.
And sadly, the evidence over the past year is that Obama is much more interested in protecting his political flank than in bringing those terrorists to justice.
For several weeks after the attack, his administration peddled the absurd claim that the Benghazi attack began as a spontaneous demonstration against an anti-Muslim video that got out of hand. Indeed, the only arrest made in connection with the attack was of the maker of the video, on unrelated charges.
This, you see, was necessary so the president’s claim that terrorism was on the run in the Middle East would not be undermined during his campaign for reelection.
But even after he was safely reelected, the verbal tap dancing continued.
In late January, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton perhaps thought pounding the table would make her disingenuous testimony in front of a Congressional committee more credible.
“Was it (the attack) because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night decided to go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again,” she said.
Well, madam former secretary, the difference is that the only way to “figure out what happened and … prevent it from every happening again” is to own up to what actually happened in the first place, which is that it was a premeditated terrorist attack featuring the use of heavy weapons on a compound that remained poorly defended after some significant warning signs.
It took a non-U.S. news agency, Reuters, to report that Ansar al-Sharia, the branch of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, had within hours claimed responsibility for the attack.
Yet, all year, the diversions and thuggish attacks on anyone who countered the approved story line continued. In May, the testimony of three State Department veterans shredded that story line. One of them, former deputy chief of mission Gregory N. Hicks, was demoted to a desk job after he spoke with House investigators and testified that the anti-Muslim video was a “non-event” in Libya. And, surprise, surprise, he was smeared by anonymous State Department sources who told the blog ThinkProgress he was a “disaster as a manager” and said to the magazine Foreign Policy he was “a classic case of an underachiever who whines when big breaks don’t come his way.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney tried to dismiss any questions about it by calling it old news.
And, of course, the president himself complained in July that critics investigating the attack were focused on “phony scandals.”
What was that about not wavering in pursuit of bringing to justice those who had committed such a terrible act? Bring on Emily Litella: Never mind.
Meanwhile, CNN reported recently that some CIA operatives on the ground at the time are being polygraphed monthly to make sure they don’t leak any information about what actually happened.
Patricia Smith, mother of Sean Smith, an information officer who was among those killed in the attack, spoke this past week on Fox News for all those who believed the president when he vowed to see that justice was done. “It’s hard. I never expected this from my government. All they have to do is tell me the truth,” she said.
Yes, it is hard, but she should not be surprised. Telling the truth has regularly been much too difficult for this administration.
Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at email@example.com