WASHINGTON — A White House email that appears to reveal the Obama administration was “making sure President Obama looked good” in the aftermath of an organized terror attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi that killed four Americans is giving ammunition to members of Congress who are pressing for the truth.
The House Oversight and Government Reform committee, headed by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., on Thursday questioned retired Brig. Gen. Robert Lovell.
Lovell admitted that the American military should have tried that night to save Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans who died at the hands of terrorists linked to al-Qaida.
The email, however, has thrown Washington into disarray, as it apparently confirms what Obama’s critics have said since the details of the attack became known – that there was a deliberate plan to portray the president in a positive light.
That’s even though the facts support the criticism that his foreign policy, which he was promoting during his re-election campaign at the time as having killed Osama bin Laden and put al-Qaida on the run, instead had failed and al-Qaida was surging with enough strength to overwhelm American interests when it chose.
Lovell told the committee Thursday that for the first time in his experience, the American military was not running toward the sound of gunfire.
“The point is we should have tried,” Lovell said. “As another saying goes – always move to the sound of the guns.”
But Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said: “We didn’t run to the sound of guns. They were issuing press releases. We had people dying. Did we respond in time?”
“We may have been able to, but we’ll never know,” Lovell said.
“Because we didn’t try,” Chaffetz said.
Chaffetz also asked Lovell why the U.S. military never deployed military assets from Europe to Libya. Lovell blamed the State Department.
“Basically, there was a lot of looking to the State Department for what it was that they wanted and the deference to the Libyan people and the sense of deference to the desires of the State Department in terms of what they would like to have,” he said.
“Did they ever tell you to go save the people in Benghazi?” Chaffetz asked.
“Not to my knowledge, Sir,” Lovell said.
Lovell confirmed he knew “very soon” that nothing about the attack by al-Qaida was connected to an Internet video, “Innocence of Muslims,” that the White House later blamed for the violence.
The White House cited the video as the reason for the violence for weeks.
“It was not [the] video,” Lovell said.
But it was exactly that obscure video that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, dispatched by the White House to a round of Sunday morning talk shows on television, blamed for the attack. The claim was that the video so upset Muslims in general that some rioted and attacked the U.S. facility.
However, virtually none of the evidence produced has supported that claim.
The government watchdog group Judicial Watch obtained an email through a Freedom of Information Act case from Ben Rhodes, then-White House deputy strategic communications adviser, indicating a public relations campaign was under way to “reinforce” Obama’s claim that an anti-Islam video triggered the violence.
The email from Rhodes said: “Goal: … To underscore that these protests are rooted in [the] Internet video and not a broader failure or (sic) policy.”
That was from Sept. 14, 2012, only days after the attack.
Rhodes continued: “We’ve made our views on this video crystal clear. The United States government had nothing to do with it. We rejected its message and its contents. We find it disgusting and reprehensible. But there is absolutely no justification at all for responding to this movie with violence. And we are working to make sure that people around the globe hear that message.”
“It is now abundantly clear that senior White House staff were directly involved in coordinating the messaging in response to the Benghazi attacks and were actively working to tie the reason to the infamous Internet video,” Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., told House Speaker John Boehner in a letter Thursday.
Wolf called for a select committee to investigate, interview Obama administration officials and hold hearings.
Fox News reported the “emails indicate a White House adviser helped prep Rice for her Sunday show appearances and pushed the explanation linking the attack to an anti-Islamic film – and now, the White House is facing credibility questions after having downplayed their role in Rice’s ‘talking points.'”
ABC’s Jonathan Karl and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney sparred for more than eight minutes over the issue.
Carney insisted the new emails released by Judicial Watch are not related directly to Benghazi but refer more broadly to the regional protests.
The New York Times bluntly headlined: “Email suggests White House strategy on Benghazi.”
Critics have alleged that the diversion was used to avoid the question of whether the facility was being used to transfer weaponry to al-Qaida-linked groups.
Other emails released by Judicial Watch showed officials were worried about Stevens’ welfare.
“Yes, I’m very, very worried. In particular, that he is either dead or this was a concerted effort to kidnap him,” State Department official Eric Pelofsky wrote in a Sept. 11, 2012, email to U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice.
As WND reported last September, Thomas Pickering, the State Department’s lead investigator, refused to deny there was a plan to kidnap Stevens.
In June 2013, Abdallah Dhu-al-Bajadin, who was identified by U.S. officials speaking to the Washington Free Beacon as a known weapons experts for al-Qaida, wrote on a jihadi website that Stevens was killed by lethal injection after plans to kidnap him during the Benghazi assault went awry. But Gregory Hicks, a Benghazi whistleblower, said the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, was told Stevens was taken to a hospital controlled by Ansar Al-Shariah, the group originally believed to have been behind the Benghazi attack.
According to a November 2012 London Guardian report, ex-CIA Director David Petraeus told Congress that references to militant groups Ansar al-Shariah and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb were removed from the agency’s draft talking points of what sparked the Sept. 11, 2012, attack.
The recently released Judicial Watch emails apparently corroborate Petraeus’ claim.
“Got off the phone with someone near the scene in #Bhengazi – clashes going on between Ansar al-Shariah and #Security forces at U.S. Consulate,” eyewitness and CNN freelance reporter Jomana Karadshesh tweeted in the recently released emails.
It was the Citizens Commission on Benghazi that said last week that the central issue was the U.S. facilitating the delivery of weapons and military support to rebels in Libya.
“Thousands of guns and weapons were handed over to the enemy, and now we are supposed to feign surprise and shock that the September 11th, 2012, attacks in which Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other brave Americans were killed,” Townhall’s Scottie Hughes observed.
Meanwhile, families of fallen heroes still await justice and American patriots feign its absence.
“Benghazi rips one’s heart out,” said retired Army Col. Harry Riley, American Spring coordinator.
“Of particular note is the event attended by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton when the coffins of our Americans killed in Benghazi arrived in the U.S. In the shadow of these coffins, both Obama and Clinton used the video as the reason our men were killed, looking into the eyes of grieving mothers, when they both knew the video had no role in the attacks in Benghazi. It is clear based on email from the White House the video talking points were trying to save Obama’s policy of ‘al-Qaida on the run.’ These two leaders looked into eyes of grieving parents and told them a bald-faced lie to protect their political positions and impact on the upcoming election.”