Benghazi attack: Why the White House changed its story
President Obama had to reassess his view of what caused the attack in Libya that killed US Ambassador Christopher Stevens, raising questions about whether the White House has a solid grasp on the angry convulsions rocking the Middle East.
President Obama has been forced to reassess his view of what caused the attack in Benghazi, Libya that killed US Ambassador Christopher Stevens, raising questions about whether the White House has a solid grasp on the underpinnings of the angry convulsions rocking the Middle East and the impact of the so-called “Cairo doctrine” laid out by Obama shortly after he took office in 2009.Skip to next paragraph
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The White House initially laid the blame for the attack, as well as dozens of other protests that continue to roil the Mideast, on a YouTube clip from a movie called “The Innocence of Muslims” insulting of the Prophet Mohammed. White House spokesman Jay Carney first said the attack came “in response to … a film that we have judged to be reprehensible and disgusting.”
But this week, Mr. Carney changed the White House position and called the killing of Ambassador Stevens and three more diplomatic personnel a “terrorist attack.” In a TV interview Friday, Obama added that radical Libyan factions had used the movie as an “excuse” for a sophisticated incursion.
IN PICTURES: Anger across the Muslim world
To be sure, when President Obama in 2009 offered a “new beginning” for US-Mideast relations based on “mutual respect and mutual interest,” he also acknowledged that turmoil in the region had historical antecedents that “go beyond any current policy debate.”
But emerging information about the attack and the continuing protests, some of which have turned deadly in recent days, have contrasted the President’s lofty hopes for the region with the impact of that policy, and whether it really quells tensions by reducing hatred for the US and the West among radical Muslims. Favorable views in Muslim countries toward the US dropped from 25 percent in 2009 to 15 percent in 2012, according to a Pew Global Attitudes survey released in June.
To some analysts, the seismic cultural and political convulsions in the past year, including protests in 20 nations over the YouTube clip, is testing the central premise of adjusting American interests while wielding softer power in the region.
“On … big issues that help define U.S.-Muslim relations – Iran, the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and the Arab Spring – the President has seen a combination of setback, stalemate, and frustration,” writes Ben Feller of the Associated Press in a detailed analysis.