President Obama has ordered drones to fly over northern Africa and has put special operations strike forces on standby, readied for orders to kill suspects as soon as investigators say they’ve identified those responsible for the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya last month.
Based on interviews with current and former officials who were knowledgeable about the plans, the Associated Press reported these preparations show “the White House’s need to demonstrate it is responding forcefully to al-Qaeda,” especially after it having become a campaign issue for the Democrats, who face re-election in November.
“They are aiming for a small pop, a flash in the pan, so as to be able to say, `Hey, we’re doing something about it,’” retired Air Force Lt. Col. Rudy Attalah, the former Africa counterterrorism director for the Department of Defense under President George W. Bush told AP.
But bombing other countries and killing mere suspects in order to look strong and avoid criticism from Republicans is patently illegal.
Indeed, US investigators are saying they have “only loosely linked ‘one or two names’ to the attack,” and they lack all kinds of proof that a threat exists and meets the requirement of imminence to justify the use of force.
The administration officials who leaked the information to the AP said there were concerns about “the risk that such strikes could elevate [al-Qaeda's] profile in the region.”
Indeed, many Islamists in the region are preparing for a reaction from the US. “If America hits us, I promise you that we will multiply the Sept. 11 attack by 10,” a spokesman for the Islamists in northern Mali told AP.