The Absentee Commander in Chief
The Defense secretary told the president that Americans in Benghazi were under attack. Then: nothing.
- By WILLIAM KRISTOL AND PETER WEHNER
We’ve both had the honor to work in the White House. We’ve seen presidents, vice presidents, chiefs of staff and national security advisers during moments of international crisis. We know that in these moments human beings make mistakes. There are failures of communication and errors of judgment. Perfection certainly isn’t the standard to which policy makers should be held.
But there are standards. If Americans are under attack, presidential attention must be paid. Due diligence must be demonstrated. A president must take care that his administration does everything it can do. On Sept. 11, 2012, as Americans were under attack in Benghazi, Libya, President Obama failed in his basic responsibility as president and commander in chief. In a crisis, the president went AWOL.
Associated PressPresident Barack Obama shakes hands with outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Thanks to the congressional testimony of outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey late last week, we know they met with President Obama on Sept. 11 at 5 p.m. in a pre-scheduled meeting, when they informed the president about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. The meeting lasted about a half-hour. Mr. Panetta said they spent roughly 20 minutes of the session briefing the president on the chaos at the American Embassy in Cairo and the attack in Benghazi, which eventually cost the lives of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, security personnel Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, and information officer Sean Smith.
Secretary Panetta said the president left operational details, including determination of what resources were available to help the Americans under siege, “up to us.” We also learned that President Obama did not communicate in any way with Mr. Panetta or Gen. Dempsey the rest of that evening or that night. Indeed, Mr. Panetta and Gen. Dempsey testified they had no further contact at all with anyone in the White House that evening—or, for that matter, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
That’s not all we discovered. We now know that despite Gen. Dempsey having been informed of Ambassador Stevens’s repeated warnings about the rise of terrorist elements in Benghazi, no forces were put in place or made ready nearby to respond to possible trouble. It also seems that during the actual attacks in Benghazi, which the administration followed in real time and which lasted for some eight hours, not a single major military asset was deployed to help rescue Americans under assault.
And we learned one other thing: Messrs. Panetta and Dempsey both knew on the night of the assault that it was a terrorist attack. This didn’t prevent President Obama, Secretary Clinton and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice from peddling a false version of events in the days and even weeks that followed, as the administration called the incident spontaneous, said there was no evidence of a coordinated terrorist attack and blamed the violence on an anti-Muslim video. So the White House, having failed to ensure that anything was done during the attack, went on to mislead the nation afterward.
Why the deception? Presumably for two reasons. The first is that the true account of events undercut the president’s claim during the campaign that al Qaeda was severely weakened in the aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden. The second is that a true account of what happened in Benghazi that night would have revealed that the president and his top national-security advisers did not treat a lethal attack by Islamic terrorists on Americans as a crisis. The commander in chief not only didn’t convene a meeting in the Situation Room; he didn’t even bother to call his Defense secretary or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Not a single presidential finger was lifted to help Americans under attack.
This is an embarrassment and a disgrace. Is it too much to hope that President Obama is privately ashamed of his inattention and passivity that night? And that he has resolved, and instructed his senior staff, to take care that he not be derelict in his duty as commander in chief ever again?
Mr. Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, served in the George H.W. Bush White House. Mr. Wehner, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, served in the George W. Bush White House.
In 2 Kings 19 Hezekiah received the most terrifying letter he would ever receive. King Sennacherib had sent a vast army against Judah. Judah had zero chance of victory. Hezekiah went to the House of God to pray.
2 Kings 19: 14 “And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. 15 Then Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said: “O Lord God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God.”
The key to prayer is to have as clear a grasp of the crisis as possible. Hezekiah minced no words about what Sennacherib was and what his intention was.
The answer to the tyrant came by prophecy by Isaiah in verses 27,28: “But I know your dwelling place, Your going out and your coming in, And your rage against Me.28 Because your rage against Me and your tumult Have come up to My ears, Therefore I will put My hook in your nose And My bridle in your lips, And I will turn you back By the way which you came.”
In the Benghazi scandal it is clear that we must grasp of the facts in prayer: A crime far greater than Watergate has been committed. For political reasons, Obama was AWOL as Americans were dying. Why Obama committed this crime is clear: As William Kristol and Peter Wehner said, “Why the deception? Presumably for two reasons. The first is that the true account of events undercut the president’s claim during the campaign that al Qaeda was severely weakened in the aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden. The second is that a true account of what happened in Benghazi that night would have revealed that the president and his top national-security advisers did not treat a lethal attack by Islamic terrorists on Americans as a crisis.”
In order for all true patriotic Christians to pray today they must understand that Constitutional Democracy has been removed in America. We are indeed living under tyranny. When the president commits a crime greater than Watergate and there is not so much as a peep from the media we are under tyranny. When no uncomfortable facts about Obama can be investigated and those that speak up are ostracized and threatened then we are under tyranny.
When we admit that our Constitution has been overruled we have hope in prayer. Like Hezekiah, we must call it what it is and then ask the Living God for help! All of those who would remove the America of our Founding Fathers, the America that God has blessed, and the America that protects Israel face the same retribution as Sennacherib if we pray honestly and fervently.
Here is how Sennacherib’s story ended: Verse 35-37 “And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead. 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went away, returned home, and remained at Nineveh. 37 Now it came to pass, as he was worshiping in the temple of Nisroch his god, that his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him down with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. Then Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.”
Only God can decide Obama’s fate but through prayer we must for the sake of the nation pray that he is brought into account, brought under the rule of law, and his abuse of power is exposed.