Two weeks after Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were murdered in Benghazi, Libya, the Obama administration has conceded it was an act of terrorism.
The attack on the U.S. Consulate, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton now admits, was part of a broader effort by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, working "with other violent extremists to undermine the democratic transitions under way in North Africa, as we tragically saw in Benghazi."
Yet 10 days ago, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice was trotted out on every Sunday talk show to blame the massacre on a mob inflamed by the Internet video "Innocence of Muslims," which insulted the Prophet Muhammad.
As Human Events' John Hayward relates, Rice told Fox News: "This was not a preplanned, premeditated attack. ... What happened initially was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo as a consequence of the video. ... People gathered outside the embassy, and then it grew very violent. Those with extremist ties joined the fray and came with heavy weapons -- which, unfortunately, are quite common in post-revolutionary Libya -- and that then spun out of control."
Behind this gross misrepresentation was the need to absolve the Obama administration of all responsibility by claiming the atrocity was triggered by events -- the showing of a video, the Cairo riot -- over which it had no control.
We could not have foreseen this, Rice was saying. We could not have prevented this. We had no knowledge it was coming. It was an unpredictable, spontaneous event, like a tornado.
Rice was either ignorant of what went on in Benghazi when she was sent out to do those TV shows, or misled by her own government, or sent out to lie to ensure that America's anger was not redirected to her administration.
And this is the diplomat said to have the inside track to be secretary of state if Barack Obama is re-elected?
Rice and her handlers were relying on a friendly media to buy into her story and keep the political spotlight on the statement the Romney campaign released before it was known that Stevens had been murdered.
And this is no small matter.
As Hayward notes, Eli Lake of The Daily Beast reported that "within 24 hours of the 9-11 anniversary attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, U.S. intelligence agencies had strong indications al Qaeda-affiliated operatives were behind the attack, and had even pinpointed the location of one of those attackers."
Three separate intelligence sources confirmed to Lake that "early information was enough to show that the attack was planned and the work of al Qaeda affiliates operating in Eastern Libya."
The issues raised here are matters of extraordinary moment.
Did the United States have advance intelligence saying an attack was being planned against the Benghazi consulate or U.S. personnel in Libya on Sept. 11?
Was the post-attack intelligence Lake describes provided to Clinton, Rice and the White House? If so, Rice not only deceived the nation but did so with the knowledge, if not complicity, of the secretary of state and the president.
What did Hillary and Obama know, and when did they know it?
Other issues have been pushed into the public sphere -- or should have been -- by this act of barbarism.
After the Benghazi attack, al-Qaida has called for attacks on other U.S. diplomats in the region. One or two more such atrocities could bring withdrawal of U.S. diplomats, businessmen and tourists, dramatically reducing the chances the Arab Spring could succeed.
And lest we forget, we invaded Afghanistan to eradicate al-Qaida after 9/11. Yet today, we read of al-Qaida in the Maghreb, al-Qaida in Iraq, al-Qaida in Pakistan, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and al-Qaida in Syria. And Ansar Dine, an al-Qaida affiliate, has taken over northern Mali, a slice of land the size of France.
Though Vice President Joe Biden has Democratic crowds shouting "USA! USA!" when he bellows that "General Motors is alive and Osama bin Laden is dead," who is really winning this war between radical Islamism and America?
It seems the longer we fight the more enemies we create.
Are American values increasingly victorious?
Obama went before the U.N. to defend the First Amendment right to editorially and verbally assault the sacred beliefs of all faiths.
In direct rebuttal, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi channeled Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Speaking of the video insulting the prophet, Morsi said:
"The obscenities that I have referred to that were recently released as part of an organized campaign against Islamic sanctities are unacceptable. ... We reject this. We cannot accept it. We will not allow anyone to do this by word or deed."
Translation: In the Islamic world, our values apply, not yours. If you cannot respect them, we cannot respect you.
The bottom is falling out of Obama's Middle East policy, while the media chortle over the latest Obama polls.