Did President Barack Obama use the word terror to describe the Benghazi attack


Photo by Molly Riley-Pool/Getty Images

Photo by Molly Riley-Pool/Getty Images

The Democrat’s most recent response to the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the embassy in Benghazi, voiced by Fox News paid contributor Allen Colmes and Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, is that the Republican-led House cut spending for State Department security.{1}  The question that should be asked, in follow-up, is how much money does it cost make the decision to send some troops, any troops, from one locale to another?  The answer that other Democrats have given, to follow up that follow up, is that even if the administration and State Department sent some troops, they wouldn’t have arrived in time?  The follow-up to that, as recently put forth by Charles Krauthammer, is: “How did they know how long the attack would last?”  The Democrat follow up to that follow is that the decision not to send troops was a decision made by the military chain of command.  So, what we’re now saying is that a military commander can move troops and act without civilian authority to do so…in peace time, and on an American embassy?  There has been no follow up to that follow up as far as I know.

As for the idea that this was a terrorist attack versus a spontaneous uprising, Robinson says: “The problem is that there were, in fact, tumultuous anti-American demonstrations taking place in cities throughout the Muslim world because of the video.  President Obama labeled the Benghazi assault an act of terror almost immediately—as Mitt Romney learned in the second presidential debate—but it was hard to imagine that the attack was completely unrelated to what was happening in Cairo, Tunis, Khartoum and Jakarta.”

The first “error” Robinson makes is in stating that there were any other protests taking place as a result of the video before this particular attack on Benghazi.  No one, to my knowledge, had produced any such evidence.  The second, and thoroughly debunked, assertion Robinson makes is to draw the correlation that the attack on the Benghazi embassy was in reaction to the video.  I double checked, just to make sure, and his column was written on May 10, 2013, long after that idea had been thoroughly debunked.  The initial draft of the C.I.A.’s talking points revealed by ABC’s Jonathon Karl mentions that there were“at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi” before the one in which four Americans were killed.  This information is not in the White House or the State Department’s final version.{2}  This initial draft does not mention whether or not any of these five attacks that preceded the attack on Sept. 11, 2012 had five separate videos to fuel them, but apparently Robinson thinks that’s implied.

The second provably false statement Robinson makes is that “President Obama labeled the Benghazi assault an act of terror almost immediately—as Mitt Romney learned in the second presidential debate.”  Mitt Romney did learn that for the first time in that debate, as did the rest of the world, even those of us paying attention, because it did not happen.

One look through the president’s Sept. 11, 2012 Rose Garden press conference shows that he uses the words “outrageous and shocking attack” and “senseless violence” to describe the attack, but that he never used the politically charged “terrorist attack” words to specifically describe this Benghazi attack.  He called those that killed four ambassadors “killers who attacked our people”.  He says, “The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts.”  Then, to presumably satisfy keyword searchers, the president uses the word terror:

“No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.  Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America.  We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act.  And make no mistake, justice will be done.”{3}

Did you see the slight of hand?  He used the word terror, but he did in only the most general sense.  He used it in a manner that gave him an out if he was ever called out on it, in say a presidential debate.  He used it, presumably, so that someone like Candy Crowley could back him up and say that he did use the word terror.  When he redirects his paragraph back to specifically mentioning the attack on the Benghazi embassy, however, he calls that act a “terrible attack”.

This may be seen as splitting hairs by some, but it is germane that he switched from general to specific, and that he changed the terms he used.  To suggest that Republicans are the ones splitting hairs is to suggest that the administration doesn’t carefully comb through their words (twelve edits of the C.I.A. talking points) to arrive at a desired response to an attack that killed Americans.  Alex Koppelman gave a perfect description of the president’s speech.  He was referring to Jay Carney’s stubborn refusal to recognize that there were elemental and numerous changes to the C.I.A.’s talking points by the administration, but I think it applies here too:  “It’s not quite re-defining the word “is,” or the phrase “sexual relations,” but it’s not all that far off, either.”

{1} http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/05/10/looks_like_a_witch_hunt_118349.html {2]http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/05/benghazi-cia-talking-point-edits-white-house.html {3}http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/09/12/remarks-president-deaths-us-embassy-staff-libya

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