Our View: Benghazi attack arrest gives points to Obama

June 18, 2014 

Benghazi Attack

Glass, debris and furniture are strewn inside a room in the gutted U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack on Sept. 11, 2012, killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

IBRAHIM ALAGURI — Associated Press file

The capture of the suspected mastermind behind the deadly attacks against the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi two years ago should put to rest the canard from critics that the Obama administration wasn’t taking the investigation seriously.

To the contrary, before Libyan militia leader Ahmed Abu Khatallah was arrested Sunday, he was under surveillance by American forces for months, officials said. He is being held in a “secure location” before being transported to the U.S. and tried in civilian criminal court, according to the Pentagon. This is extremely good news in a story that has had nothing but bad news.

On Sept. 11, 2012, U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. citizens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, were killed when Islamist militants stormed the U.S. compound with rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns and other heavy weapons.

Republicans used the attack as ammunition in the 2012 presidential race, saying Obama and his administration were pursuing reckless foreign policy in Libya. The administration and then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton were accused of not taking threats seriously enough and, absurdly, of not using the word “terrorist” quickly. Though the president quickly condemned the “attacks” in remarks the day after, he didn’t exactly label it a “terrorist attack” but obliquely mentioned that “acts of terrorism” can’t be tolerated.

Republicans focused on that statement, rather than this one the same day: “And make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people,” Obama said.

We’re not naive enough to think this will quell the conservative zeal for Benghazi postmortems ad infinitum or induce tea party Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., to shut down the Benghazi Committee probe he was tapped for last month. But at least there is a new controversy for the critics to chew over: whether Khatallah should be tried in civilian court or a military tribunal.

Modesto Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service