Sen. Graham: Libya is "exhibit A of a failed foreign policy"

(CBS News) As the investigation into the U.S. Consulate attacks in Libya continues, Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the Obama administration was told the attacks were terrorist-related shortly after the incident occurred.

On "Face the Nation" Sunday, Graham said he was told by members of the intelligence community who are on the ground in Libya that the administration knew "within 24 hours" that the attacks in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were coordinated and were conducted by an al Qaeda-associated group.

Graham said that evidence is "overwhelming" that there was no riot and that it was a "sustained attack that lasted for six or eight hours, using heaving weapons."

Five days after the attack, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said on "Face the Nation" that there is no evidence "at present" that proves the attack was "premeditated or preplanned."

Days after Rice's statement, members of the Obama administration called the incident a terrorist attack.

Graham also accused the Obama administration of either "misleading" Americans about the nature of the attack, or of being "incredibly incompetent."

He said the Obama administration tried to blame the attacks on an American-made anti-Muslim video, which had prompted violent demonstrations across the Muslim world, because they are "trying to sell a narrative" that fits into their message that al Qaeda is on the decline.

"They're trying to sell a narrative, quite frankly, that the Middle East, the wars are receding and al Qaeda's been dismantled," Graham said. "I think they have been misleading us, but it finally caught up with them."

Graham added that he has "seen this movie before."

"I went to Iraq in 2004 and everybody told me things are going fine. Iraq was falling apart, and you couldn't get the truth from the Bush administration," Graham said.

"[T]he truth is, we're not safer. Al Qaeda is alive. Bin Laden may be dead, [but] al Qaeda is alive, and they're counter-attacking throughout the entire region," Graham said.

The South Carolina senator called Libya "exhibit A of a failed foreign policy."

"And the truth is that the foreign policy choices of President Obama is allowing the region to come unraveled," he added.

Graham said Iraq hosts twice the number of al Qaeda operatives since the U.S. left, and cited Iran's use of Iraqi airspace to deliver weapons in Syria, and the massacre of Syrian citizens by its leader, President Bashar al-Assad, as signs.

"The whole region s about to explode; al Qaeda is on the march," Graham said.

  • Leigh Ann Caldwell On Twitter»

    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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