Paul Greenberg
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At first, anybody who recognized the murderous assault on the American consulate in Benghazi as a terrorist attack didn't know what he was talking about. It was just the result of a spontaneous demonstration that got out of hand. It was all the fault of a shadowy little video that had taken the Prophet Mohammed's name in vain. It had provoked the violence. The attack couldn't have been planed in advance. Or anticipated, either.

From the White House press secretary to our ambassador at the United Nations, that was the official line and the whole administration stuck to it. For a while. A remarkably long while, considering how implausible it was. The learning curve in this administration can be laboriously slow.

Now, weeks later, after the funerals have been held and the bodies buried, and investigations have begun, the same White House press secretary who once dismissed all talk of a terrorist attack says, "It is, I think, self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack."

Good morning, Mr. Carney. So good to have you with us. At last. It's taken long enough. When a senator named John McCain referred to what happened at Benghazi as "an act of terror" a few weeks ago, a spokesman for the Obama campaign said the senator was just being political.

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks in Cairo and Benghazi, the White House press secretary had explained that all this violence in the Middle East was a response "not to United States policy, and not obviously the administration or the American people," but "in response to a video that is offensive to Muslims."

He just didn't get it. He had confused the pretext for these rampages with the reason: the war still being waged against America and the West by a fanatical group of Islamic zealots who will exploit every religious prejudice and historical grievance in their part of the world to attack us. Theirs is not just an ideological movement but a violent criminal conspiracy. Not unlike Nazism and Communism when they were rampaging.

How long, oh, how long before this administration comes fully awake, and realizes that peace is assured by strength, not by cringing statements that only further inflame the fanatics and terrorists of the Middle East. The president's response is to reduce foreign policy to another campaign soundbite: "If Gov. Romney is suggesting that we should start another war, he should say so." Our president still doesn't get it; it is appeasing the aggressor that is the sure road to war, not standing up to him.

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Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.