It’s now increasingly clear that Obama knew as early as the evening of September 11, 2012 that the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi was the work of al Qaida-affiliated terrorists. Gregory Hicks (the deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Tripoli) said he knew immediately. Susan Rice certainly knew five days later when she went on all the Sunday talk shows insisting the attack was the result of a spontaneous reaction to a YouTube video. If Obama knew the attack was the work of terrorists, and he knew that everyone at the embassies in Libya knew it was a terrorist attack, why did he try to hide this from the American people? Obama must have known that the information would quickly leak out, and that this revelation would make him and his administration look even worse.
So today’s puzzler is this: Why did Obama lie to the American public about the nature of the Benghazi attack?
Last week’s puzzler asked why the garment-factory tragedy in Bangladesh uncharacteristically caused Western retailers to rethink operations in that country. I think there are three possible answers to this question. The first is that retailers were simply engaged in a PR game and had no intention of moving operations elsewhere. As Taylor Marvin pointed out “the newsworthy, singular character of the collapse” made it impossible for retailers operating in Bangladesh to ignore the tragedy. They had to offer some response and verbal statements to the press were easy and costless.
The second is that retailers were sincere in their concern about working conditions in Bangladesh, and their threats to leave the country were real. If this was the case, the question is why now and why Bangladesh? I think retailers are willing to pull out of Bangladesh because (a) there are so many other cheap places to manufacture clothes, and (b) Bangladesh represents the bottom of the barrel in terms of working and operating conditions. It’s easy to pull out of Bangladesh if there are numerous better places to go.
But there’s a third, more hopeful reason. An article yesterday by Stephanie Clifford reveals that American consumers are increasingly interested in the origins of their clothing and are willing to pay more for a t-shirt that isn’t made in a sweat shop. If consumers demand to know where and how their clothing is made, operating in the current conditions in Bangladesh becomes a losing business proposition.
Which do I think is the best answer? # 2. I’m not holding my breath that clothing manufacturing will come back to New England anytime soon. Still, it’s nice to know that consumers are beginning to care. Artisanal t-shirts anyone?