The Obama administration is rejecting the fears of the Libyan government and a growing number of critics like Sen. John McCain as to what exactly happened in the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, which killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice maintains that the Libya attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was strictly a reaction to a film that portrays Islam's Prophet Muhammad as a fraud, a womanizer and a child molester, Fox News reported.
But President Mohammed el-Megarif of Libya said the attack was planned and had possible ties to an Al Qaeda-linked group.
“The idea that this criminal and cowardly act was a spontaneous protest that just spun out of control is completely unfounded and preposterous," Megarif told NPR.
Yet nonetheless Rice said on “Fox News Sunday" that "what sparked the violence was a very hateful video on the Internet. It was a reaction to a video that had nothing to do with the United States."
The distinction is crucial because if the attacks were a well-crafted plot then the burden will be on the Obama administration to respond.
The administration's critics fear that by hiding behind the idea that it wasn't planned, Obama can continue what Sen. James Inhofe described to Newsmax
as a policy of "apology and appeasement."
In an editorial on Monday, The Wall Street Journal said Rice’s aim is to inoculate her boss from blame for his policies.
“Ms. Rice's the-video-did-it explanation is no doubt intended to shield Obama Administration policies from any domestic political blame for the attacks,” the Journal wrote in its editorial headlined, “The Video Did It.”
“But far worse is the message it sends to adversaries and even friendly governments abroad: Overrun sovereign U.S. territory, even kill U.S. diplomats, and the first reaction of the American government will be to blame Americans for somehow provoking the violence.”
The Journal concluded, “The far greater provocation to violence is the appearance of U.S. weakness. What should really concern the White House is how slow and parsimonious were the denunciations of anti-American violence in Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan, Yemen and most of the rest of the Middle East. The Administration's feeble response in the last week only invites radicals to use more such excuses to kill more Americans.”
Rice on Sunday continually insisted the attacks were "spontaneous," not planned or timed for the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.
"The best information and the best assessment we have today is that this was not a pre-planned, pre-meditated attack," Rice told Fox News.
"What happened initially was that it 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. And 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."
While there is no excuse for violence, she said, "as we've seen in the past with things like 'Satanic Verses,' with the cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad, there have been such things that have sparked outrage and anger, and this has been the proximate cause of what we've seen last week."
But Sen. John McCain of Arizona dismissed the Obama administration’s view that the attack “began spontaneously,” instead branding it “an act of terror.”
Appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee cited the heavy arms used in the assault and military tactics.
“Most people don’t bring rocket-propelled grenades and heavy weapons to a demonstration,” said McCain. “That was an act of terror and for anyone to disagree with that fundamental fact I think is really ignorant on the facts.”
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