Tensions remain high at U.S. diplomatic outposts throughout the Middle East and North Africa, where 19 U.S. embassies remain closed following intercepted messages from al Qaeda leaders about a possible strike. Conditions in Yemen appear especially precarious -- U.S. government personnel were flown out of the country earlier today, and the State Department urged all Americans in Yemen to leave "immediately" because of an "extremely high" threat of a terrorist attack.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), who spent the afternoon as a guest host for the Sean Hannity Show, said that while "we don't want any more people to die," the government has failed to learn lessons from last year's attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya."If you will bother to find out exactly what went wrong, why you didn't have security where you needed it, where you need security to shore up, what you can do to make sure that doesn't happen again, you don't have to close your embassies like a bunch of cowards that go running away," Gohmert said.
I have a very difficult time understanding why anyone, least of all an elected federal lawmaker, would think this and say it out loud.
Indeed, I'm trying to imagine what Gohmert would say directly to the Americans in harm's way and their families. "Sure, we have intelligence that terrorists may strike at the embassy, and your life may be in danger, but we've decided to keep the embassy open anyway and just hope for the best. The alternative is to look like 'cowards,' and as everyone knows, bullets and rocket-propelled grenades may break my bones, but names can really hurt me."
Gohmert's ridiculous comments follow related criticisms on Fox News over the weekend, when Republicans blamed the terrorist threats on President Obama for reasons that don't make any sense.
While we're on the topic, we're also seeing a new conservative meme make the rounds. Consider, for example, this report in the far-right Washington Times.
Even as the White House insisted that the U.S. has made great strides in the war against terrorism under President Obama, the president's spokesman acknowledged Monday that officials cannot rule out the possibility that the latest terrorist plot apparently discussed between top al Qaeda operatives could jeopardize the U.S. homeland.
The gist of the argument is that the administration has a contradictory message: on the one hand, officials insist the al Qaeda network has been weakened after years of an aggressive counter-terrorism campaign, and on the other hand, these same officials are warning of a serious al Qaeda threat targeting U.S. diplomatic outposts. The argument led to a lengthy series of questions at yesterday's White House press briefing.
But there really isn't a contradiction. By every metric, al Qaeda really is weakening and its leadership really has been decimated. I don't know of anyone who's said this progress necessarily means the threat of an attack has disappeared, or that the terrorist group is no longer capable of violence.
The right seems a little too eager to politicize this story. It's a genuine shame.