Austin Bay
2012 is an election year. Meanwhile, 9/11 is an iconic date, for most Americans a symbol of terrorist savagery, for al-Qaida-inspired militant Islamists a demonstration of their determination to contest American influence.

On Sept. 11, 2012, the election year and 9/11 intersected, with disastrous results at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and embarrassing results for the U.S. embassy in Cairo and the Obama administration in Washington, D.C.

Military defeats will occur, even when you are prepared. In the 24/7 media world, gaffes and embarrassment are inevitable. However, the fact that the U.S. government was clearly surprised by last week's attacks -- on 9/11 in an election year -- and was not prepared to respond with clarity and confidence, is inexcusable. It indicates a profound strategic blindness compounded by an indefensible ignorance of American history.

Post-combat analysis and witness reports of the attack in Benghazi, which led to the murder of U.S. ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, have produced solid evidence that 100 or more (possibly 400) al-Qaida-aligned militiamen conducted the assault. They attacked in two waves and had heavy infantry weapon support -- mortars, for sure.

Though the Obama administration initially insisted the assault began as a protest against an anti-Muslim Internet video, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland began backing away from the video-did-it line on Sept. 13. Nuland said the State Department was "very cautious about drawing conclusions" regarding the perpetrators' motivations and links until the U.S. and Libya had conducted a joint investigation.

On Sept. 16, however, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice continued to flog the video-did-it narrative. That was the same day Libya's interim president, Mohammed el-Megari, announced that he had no doubts the Benghazi militia had predetermined the date of the attack.

Other Libyans have claimed they warned U.S. government personnel that armed extremists had plans for 9/11. Well, of course. Every graduate of basic training knows that organizing 100 militiamen and their support weapons and then moving them into assault positions does not happen spontaneously. Their commanders needed time to pick the target, gather intelligence, plan the attack and then make sure the fighters had rifle ammo.

Besides, a militia spokesman claimed on Sept. 12 that Christopher's slaying was revenge for the Predator drone remote-controlled assassination of al-Qaida deputy commander Abu Yahya al-Libi. A Predator killed al-Libi in June.


Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
 
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