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Crowley and the Benghazi statements: the debate and mistruths

In the Presidential Debate, Mitt Romney challenged the President saying that he did not come out in the Rose Garden and call the attack an “act of terror.” The debate moderator, Candy Crowley supported the President when he said that he had come out the next morning in the Rose Garden and did refer to the tragedy as an act of terror. If Romney had been better prepared, he might have been able to make the correct point better, but he wasn’t.

Shortly after the debate, CNN’s Candy Crowley had to admit that Mitt Romney had been correct and that she had been wrong – but how wrong?

The reality of the issue is that the following Sunday, President Obama sent his U.N. Ambassadar, Susan Rice, out on Sunday shows talking about an out-of-control protest that never existed – citing a video that had nothing to do with the attack. For two weeks the administration stuck to the video and protest as the cause for the death of four Americans – something they now say was incorrect and that they knew it the second the attack happened.

On the merits of the argument, Romney is correct, but he failed in execution due to poor timeline study. Crowley was out-of-place to interject on either side, but was not necessarily wrong – the President’s Rose Garden Speech has no reference to the video or a protest, but he does talk about acts of terror.

In the President’s official statement (full transcript), he made no reference to terrorism:

“I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America’s commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.

I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe. While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.

On a personal note, Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States. Throughout the Libyan revolution, he selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi. As Ambassador in Tripoli, he has supported Libya’s transition to democracy. His legacy will endure wherever human beings reach for liberty and justice. I am profoundly grateful for his service to my Administration, and deeply saddened by this loss.

The brave Americans we lost represent the extraordinary service and sacrifices that our civilians make every day around the globe. As we stand united with their families, let us now redouble our own efforts to carry their work forward.”

In the full transcript of the President’s Rose Garden speech the next morning, he made a general reference to “acts of terror”, but held short of calling Benghazi a terrorist attack:

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Every day, all across the world, American diplomats and civilians work tirelessly to advance the interests and values of our nation. Often, they are away from their families. Sometimes, they brave great danger.

Yesterday, four of these extraordinary Americans were killed in an attack on our diplomatic post in Benghazi. Among those killed was our Ambassador, Chris Stevens, as well as Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith. We are still notifying the families of the others who were killed. And today, the American people stand united in holding the families of the four Americans in our thoughts and in our prayers.

The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack. We’re working with the government of Libya to secure our diplomats. I’ve also directed my administration to increase our security at diplomatic posts around the world. And make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.

Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. None. The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts.

Already, many Libyans have joined us in doing so, and this attack will not break the bonds between the United States and Libya. Libyan security personnel fought back against the attackers alongside Americans. Libyans helped some of our diplomats find safety, and they carried Ambassador Stevens’s body to the hospital, where we tragically learned that he had died.

It’s especially tragic that Chris Stevens died in Benghazi because it is a city that he helped to save. At the height of the Libyan revolution, Chris led our diplomatic post in Benghazi. With characteristic skill, courage, and resolve, he built partnerships with Libyan revolutionaries, and helped them as they planned to build a new Libya. When the Qaddafi regime came to an end, Chris was there to serve as our ambassador to the new Libya, and he worked tirelessly to support this young democracy, and I think both Secretary Clinton and I relied deeply on his knowledge of the situation on the ground there. He was a role model to all who worked with him and to the young diplomats who aspire to walk in his footsteps.

Along with his colleagues, Chris died in a country that is still striving to emerge from the recent experience of war. Today, the loss of these four Americans is fresh, but our memories of them linger on. I have no doubt that their legacy will live on through the work that they did far from our shores and in the hearts of those who love them back home.

Of course, yesterday was already a painful day for our nation as we marked the solemn memory of the 9/11 attacks. We mourned with the families who were lost on that day. I visited the graves of troops who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hallowed grounds of Arlington Cemetery, and had the opportunity to say thank you and visit some of our wounded warriors at Walter Reed. And then last night, we learned the news of this attack in Benghazi.

As Americans, let us never, ever forget that our freedom is only sustained because there are people who are willing to fight for it, to stand up for it, and in some cases, lay down their lives for it. Our country is only as strong as the character of our people and the service of those both civilian and military who represent us around the globe.

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.

But we also know that the lives these Americans led stand in stark contrast to those of their attackers. These four Americans stood up for freedom and human dignity. They should give every American great pride in the country that they served, and the hope that our flag represents to people around the globe who also yearn to live in freedom and with dignity.

We grieve with their families, but let us carry on their memory, and let us continue their work of seeking a stronger America and a better world for all of our children.

Thank you. May God bless the memory of those we lost and may God bless the United States of America.

 

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Comments (4)

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  1. janbrown says:

    “acts of terror” is a broad term without assignment to any particular deed….”terrorism” is dedicated to a specific action. Rich, appreciatd that your piece concentrted on direct quote as opposed to being stricly opinion. Happy to hitch my wagon to yours

    • Jon says:

      Wouldn’t you say that a definition of terrorism is an act of terror? This is a desperately silly argument from Republicans…

  2. Martijn says:

    So when the president says: “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.” it must have been a totally unrelated comment to the events the speech talks about…. Yeah, right. I think you can safely say who’s lying here.

  3. Matt says:

    The idea that you would print this with your name attached to it is quite remarkable. I’m still waiting for the distinction between an “act of terror” and “terrorism” (as if one isn’t the definition of the other).