Rick Perry’s latest “oops” moment may not have actually been all that mistaken

When he accidentally referred to Libya as Lebanon on Saturday, Rick Perry was putting himself in good company — he’s now the second 2012 Republican Presidential primary candidate who can’t keep the country straight, after Herman Cain famously self-immolated when asked to comment on Obama’s policy there. Here’s one account of Perry’s speech:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry had a bit of an “oops” moment today when he mistakenly referred to the administration’s response to the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi as occurring in Lebanon instead of Libya.

“I fear where we’ve come to in America, where our administration won’t make one phone call to save our men and women in a embassy in Lebanon,” Perry said at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference.

I suppose you could classify it as an “oops” moment — it’s certainly tempting to lump Perry’s comments in with his long personal history of gaffe-manufactory — but I would venture that the politician’s reference to an attack on the U.S. embassy in Lebanon was less of a mistake and more of a Freudian flub. You see, while it’s true that American lives were tragically lost in last year’s attack on our embassy in Libya, the degree to which the event has been politicized is nicely reflected in Perry’s comment.

Those with longer memories and more patience than myself have detailed how similar attacks took place throughout Bush’s presidency: for instance, Bob Cesca compiled a list of thirteen attacks on American embassies that occurred between 2001 and 2009 and claimed nearly 100 lives — including at least one U.S. diplomat — without a peep of protest out of FOX News. And that’s not even including the endless attacks perpetrated against the Green Zone in Baghdad (or anywhere else in Iraq — how’d we get there, again?).

For the sake of perspective, four people died in Benghazi, and Republicans are still talking about it nine months later. Four. Not to belittle their sacrifice, but if FOX devoted a proportionate amount of coverage to those who died in American embassies while Bush occupied the White House, they’d still be going at it well into 2027.

While the juxtaposition with the immediately-past Presidency is certainly illuminating, the contrast grows ever more stark the farther back you’re willing to go — and here, Perry’s comments helpfully and ironically expanded the scope of the conversation. No, there was no recent attack on the U.S. embassy in Lebanon — but there certainly was one in 1983.

Just over thirty years ago, 63 people were killed in a suicide bombing on the American embassy in Beirut. Seventeen Americans numbered among the dead, including embassy staffers and CIA agents. It was certainly not the first Islamic terror attack ever perpetrated, but it is worth noting that it was the very first time an American flag appears on Wikipedia’s (incomplete) List of Islamic Terrorist Attacks. According to Wikipedia’s account of the event:

The attack came in the wake of the intervention of a Multinational Force, made up of Western countries, including the U.S., in the Lebanese Civil War, to try to restore order and central government authority.

In other words, that attack came in the immediate wake of some early Middle East adventurism. Remind me, who was President in 1983? Oh, that’s right: Saint Ronald Reagan.

Yes, four Americans died in Benghazi. But do you know many died in the course of deposing Muammar Gaddafi? Zero. And I think that’s the statistic FOX News has been trying its hardest to help you to forget.

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