Benghazi: Everything You Knew Was Wrong

Robert Wright reminds us how much the Benghazi narrative has changed in the last few days:

Here is the narrative that pretty much everyone was buying into 36 hours ago: Crude anti-Islam film made by Israeli-American and funded by Jews leads to Muslim protests that boil over, causing four American deaths in Libya.

Here is what now seems to be the case: the anti-Islam film wasn't made by an Israeli-American, wasn't funded by Jews, and probably had nothing to do with the American deaths, which seem to have resulted from a long-planned attack by a specific terrorist group, not spontaneous mob violence.

In retrospect, the original narrative should have aroused immediate suspicion. If, for example, this lethal attack on an American consulate in a Muslim country was really spontaneous, isn't it quite a coincidence that it happened on 9/11?

And as for the funding of the film: The filmmaker was said to be describing himself as Israeli-American and volunteering the fact that "100 Jewish donors" financed his project. Well, 1) 100 is a suspiciously round number; and 2) If you were this "Israeli-American," would you be advertising that this incendiary film was a wholly Jewish enterprise?...Maybe one reason these questions weren't asked is because the original narrative fit so nicely into some common stereotypes--about crazy Muslims who get whipped into a death frenzy at the drop of a hat, about the backstage machinations of Jews, and about the natural tension between Muslims and Jews. (How many Americans had ever heard about intra-Egyptian tensions between Muslims and Coptic Christians, which may well have been the impetus for this film? How many had even heard of Coptic Christians?)

I disagree with a small part of this: If the protest over the movie served as cover for a preplanned attack, that doesn't mean the movie "had nothing to do with the American deaths" (unless he just means that the movie isn't to blame for the deaths, in which case I agree). Otherwise I can't dispute Wright's passage. And I recommend reading the rest of his post, in which he suggests some other ways the popular understanding of the story may have to change.

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  • R C Dean||

    I'm comfortable saying the pretext for a given act had nothing to do with the act.

  • Jesse Walker||

    I'm sure they could have found another pretext. But if finding a pretext was a part of the operation, it doesn't have "nothing" to do with it.

  • R C Dean||

    I guess when I say nothing, I mean nothing important, as in, a pretext is by definition irrelevant.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I'm with Mr. Dean--a pretext by definition is an excuse, not a cause. We've had stuff like that going on here all along.

  • Jesse Walker||

    I did not intend to suggest that it was the cause.

  • Pro Libertate||

    The beauty of this, well, whatever you call the relationship between the West and the Middle East, is that we're full of pretexts. Ready made for the violence of the day.

    I keep thinking about Ireland and the UK. Things got better there only when the Irish economy took off. If only we'd do more to get these nations to liberalize their economies and political systems, assuming for the moment that intervention of some sort has to happen, instead of bombing, invading, and embargoing.

  • o3||

    Who made the anti-Muslim video? What L.A. County knows but is not saying (+video)
    After being contacted by the FBI and State Department, L.A. County has blocked public access to the permit that was issued to shoot at least part of the anti-Muslim film. Permits name a film's writer, director, and producer, among others.

    By Gloria Goodale, Staff writer / September 13, 2012
    http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2.....ying-video

  • Drake||

    By "anti-Muslim", do they mean an accurate account of Mohammed's life? He comes off as a rapey, sex-crazed, extremely violent, cult-leading hypocrite in the Koran and Hadith.

  • o3||

    Drake can only wonder where his virgins went

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Yeah... I'm pretty sure most of the HR commentariat had this figured out already.

  • Overt||

    You know, if Obama had originally said "Fuck man, this Arab Spring shit is crazy stuff. Unless you American people want to occupy half a dozen countries for the next 20 years, there ain't much we can do about it but watch."

    I think the Reason people would have gotten right behind him.

    Unfortunately, he instead promised the moon and while Egypt, Tunisia and Libya went the way of Iran, Obama and Biden were doing victory laps. So they deserve to look like idiots.

  • Overt||

    So now Obama- who wanted to "own" the success of the Arab Spring- owns the aftermath. And it ain't pretty.

    "3.5 Years after taking power, Obama now has AQ breeding grounds in 3 or 4 new countries, and he calls that Smart Diplomacy. He calls that success?"

    There, Mr Romney, I have your debate zinger for you. Good luck (asshole).

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    NPR was bloo-blooing about the film this morning; no actual analysis as to whether these protests are linked to something much larger like, say, a multi-year drone campaign or over 2 decades of military personnel being stationed in the region.

    The relativism was ridiculous, too--"Well, what if this showed the Virgin Mary having oral sex?" Right, like Focus on the Family is going to provoke Southern Baptists to fire into a movie premiere.

  • R C Dean||

    The prog-apparatchik press will never accept an explanation for Bad Things happening that isn't our fault.

    Our military activities have certainly not helped, buy IMO the root cause of all this is a toxic, totalitarian religious ideology, providing useful idiots to be exploited by psychopaths.

  • John||

    Yes. That and our culture is an existential threat to them. And they know it.

  • tarran||

    our culture is an existential threat to them

    I disagree; our culture is an existential threat to the mullahs power and grip over society, but not an existential threat to middle-easterner's themselves.

  • John||

    That is what I mean. It is an existential threat to their beliefs and way of life.

  • MJGreen||

    How many middle-easterner's associate their interests and values with those of the mullahs? Probably at least as many as Americans who view a slight against the government as a slight against themselves.

  • tarran||

    It's not as if a million people suddenly noticed this obscure film and rioted.

    No what happened was a small group wanted to incite violence and looked for something, anything, that would outrage.

    If it hadn't been that movie, it would have been something else; I'm sure there are no shortage of candidates.

    Frankly, I think this is a probing attack in preparation for some major bit of hostage taking.

  • albo||

    If it hadn't been that movie, it would have been something else; I'm sure there are no shortage of candidates

    "The Great Satan still allows Amanda Bynes to drive even without a license! And they refuse to whip her! Let's riot!"

  • tarran||

    Well, we have a movie where Ornella Muti is whipped for her wickedness, doesn't that count?

  • Randian||

    *FLASH*...Ahhhh ahh...

    Savior of the Universe!

  • Gray Ghost||

    That movie is among the best Guilty Pleasures of all time.

    It's got BRIAN BLESSED! Gordon's alive?!

  • Pro Libertate||

    I love Brian Blessed. We don't have screens large enough for him.

  • tarran||

    Brian Blessed is the man!

  • Bee Tagger||

    "Well, what if this showed the Virgin Mary having oral sex?"

    They would probably loudly complain in the media and organize boycotts of things. And you know what? Some in the media would mock them for this. So not only does the relativism fail in the offended group's response it also fails when compared to the media's reaction to the offended group's response.

  • Raven Nation||

    Agree. See responses and responses-to-responses to "Piss Christ," "Dogma," and the painting with (elephant?) feces on the Virgin Mary.

  • Randian||

    NPR was bloo-blooing about the film this morning;

    I was listening this morning too and their reporting is just lazy.

    Where did APM/NPR acquire the reputation as hard-hitting and fact-based? They simply parroted that the riots were about the film. No questions, no investigation - nothing. Just one goofy reporter in Egypt repeating the same malarkey I had heard already.

  • ||

    The relativism was ridiculous, too--"Well, what if this showed the Virgin Mary having oral sex?"

    Or what if it was something like this:

    http://www.theonion.com/articl.....age,29553/

  • db||

    Have they never seen all the nun and priest porn out there?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Well, what if this showed the Virgin Mary having oral sex?"

    I think I saw that clip on Redtube.

    Jus' sayin'

  • ||

    How many had even heard of Coptic Christians?

    One of the biggest sacks of shit I've ever known is an Egyptian Copt. Where's my multicultural gold star?

  • John||

    Fun fact. Copts conduct their masses in old Egyptian. The language of the Pharaohs. That is just way cool.

  • tarran||

    Copts are also the guys who decided to start celebrating Jesus' birthday on the Winter Solstice - as it conformed neatly with the old religion's celebration of Osiris' rebirth taking place at the same time.

  • albo||

    My baby sis is married to one. The entire family left Egypt in the 1960s when the Muslims got stabby.

    Where'd they go? All over the Anglosphere, naturally.

  • John||

    http://www.rasmussenreports.co.....cking_poll

    Rasmussen has Romney up 48 to 45 today. Yeah it is only one poll. But so much for the convention bounce. You guys need to understand this is an emergency. The media has much more important issues to deal with than reporting what actually happened over there.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Considering how little a difference there is between the two, the media's role as an adjunct for the Obama campaign is bizarre.

  • John||

    Who is more likely to pony up for a media bailout? That is a big difference at least to the media.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Its all about TEAM, man. TEAM uber alles!

  • NoVAHockey||

    WTOP this morning was on about some 51-43 gallup poll for Obama.

  • John||

    That is an outlier.

  • NoVAHockey||

    I just assumed sampling issue. haven't bothered to look it up.

  • R C Dean||

    Sounds like the poll from just after the convention, and before the 9/11 blowup.

    Yeah, major sampling problems.

  • Anomalous||

    And a dead cat bounce.

  • KPres||

    Gallop's been pro-Obama ever since they were "investigated" by the DOJ. More of the same strong-arming by the administration.

  • MJGreen||

    It's hard to believe the GOP won't make a whole lot of effective talking points around this issue. The more it looks like a substantial, premeditated terrorist attack against the US and less like a spontaneous accident, the softer and less decisive Obama looks. This isn't drone-bombing terrorist associates suspected of maybe planning something in the future; they're people that have successfully damaged the US and which the government presumably didn't see coming. It's an actual foreign policy crisis, not continuing old business or trying to pre-empt trouble.

    Of course, I can already hear apologists scoff, merely by bringing up OBL's death as proof that Obama's tough on terrorism. The difference should be obvious.

  • John||

    No amount of whining about Romney is going to change the fact that people expect the President to handle stuff like this and hold him accountable when he doesn't. This is a disaster for Obama. And the media knows it. That is why they are so desperate to bully Romney into not talking about it.

  • Lyle||

    Well the Salafists and Wahhabists are "crazy, touchy Muslims". That's who people are talking about when they say "crazy, touchy Muslims".

    Bob Wright is one of the biggest moralizing douchebags out there. He has spent the last decade claiming Iraq and Afghanistan has created more "crazy, touchy Muslims" when that is just what Salafists and Wahhabists are. And were before Iraq and Afghanistan. And before 9/11 of course.

  • albo||

    Bosh. Pish Posh. The narrative will not change until the New York Times determines that it should change.

    And when is Mitt Romney going to apologize for daring to undermine The One with his too-quick condemnation of the Cairo office's press release. THAT's the real story here. So shall it be written, so shall it be done.

  • Randian||

    Joe Scarborough just can't quit you, Mitt Romney.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Brokeback Journalism?

  • Randian||

    We don't make gay sex jokes around here, sir.

  • NoVAHockey||

    we just make them better.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Orange line cosmos provide gay comedic relief without even trying.

  • Randian||

    Oh, also, the DOJ is doing the very important job of determining just who had the temerity to make a crappy YouTube video.

  • John||

    IOWAHAWK: Need blasphemers located in the USA? Call 1-800-DOJ-HOLDER and leave the legwork to us! #fastfriendlyservice.

  • Randian||

    I just have to know why that evil Mitt Romney let security at the consulates lapse.

    I blame the Kochtopus for looting the security budget.

  • Killazontherun||

    Needz moar 'Boooshhh!'

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "But many also hope the government will move against the protagonists. 'They have to show a fist of steel,' said Mohammed el-Kish, a former press officer with the National Transitional Council which handed over power last month to Libya's newly elected congress.

    'They have got to rid us of these people.'"

    Good article with input from people actually there:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/worl.....azi-damage

  • The Late P Brooks||

    In retrospect, the original narrative should have aroused immediate suspicion.

    Come now, Shirley; you cannot be serious.

  • db||

    More on the subject from Foreign Policy: Libyan situation has been degrading for months, US not paying attention.

    I think we need to build some nice golf courses in the Middle East...maybe the admin will pay attention then.

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    Hey, I wasn't buying into it more than 50 hours ago. It's proof that Terry Jones is some kind of genius that we're still taking seriously the idea that coordinated attacks on State Department assets over a 3 million-square-mile area are all about bad word of mouth for a movie.

  • Spoonman.||

    I hate to Giuliani this thread, but when the narrative was about the ridiculous video, it's like everybody had forgotten 9/11.

  • Drake||

    Is anyone sure that the film itself wasn't made by a terrorist group in order to stir up the pawns? Did anyone ever hear of it before these attacks?

  • VG Zaytsev||

    I think that is the most likely explanation.

    The funded by 100 Jewish investors in the original press release is a crazy muslim signature.

  • John||

    http://news.sky.com/story/9851.....us-embassy

    They have breached the wall at the Embassy in Tunisia as well. Does the black Jesus plan to do anything about this?

  • Restoras||

    Well, you have to have leadership qualities and a plan of action. Since Obama has none of these, no, no action will be taken. Strongly worded statements will be issued (maybe).

  • John||

    Yes and fund raisers will be attended and golf will be played. He can't let this distract him from the important work of government.

  • Restoras||

    Campaigning is all he knows how to do so when in doubt, fall back on what you know.

  • Restoras||

    Funny how shit-for-brains isn't here to defend his Messiah, don't you think?

  • KPres||

    Oh, no doubt he's reading all this. It's just that even he can't dream up a defense in this case.

  • NeonCat||

    Why hasn't Obama hit on charging the invading protestors $3 each to storm the embassy?

  • Mike M.||

    So are the childishly naive, rose-colored glasses wearing Beltwayrians at Reason ever going to admit how totally and hilariously wrong they were about the fucking "Arab Spring", or are they just going to pretend that they never really said all the stupid shit they said about it?

  • Jesse Walker||

    I can't speak for "childishly naive, rose-colored glasses wearing Beltwayrians," but I stand by pretty much everything I wrote in support of the Arab Spring. Feel free to look through my old articles and blog posts to tell me what specifically I was hilariously wrong about.

  • Randian||

    Looking through old blog posts for facts is a cosmotarian plot.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    he childishly naive, rose-colored glasses wearing Beltwayrians at Reason

    Dude, the phrase is orange line cosmos.

  • Anomalous||

    What's different about an Orange Line Cosmo? Some kind of special artisanal vodka?

  • Killazontherun||

    The air is artisanal. The vodka is made in a Russian's bathtub and taste of cigarette butts. Don't you know anything about hipster irony? No. Okay then, that speaks well of you.

  • db||

    Billions and billions spent on cocktail parties...

  • MWG||

    Damn mooslims need to know their place... and that's under the jackboot of totalitarians supported and funded by good ol Amerikan tax dollars!

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Really?

    That's what you really get out of this? That "Springtime for Muhammad" is an unalloyed good that must be defended at all costs?

    What alternate universe do you reside in, and what is Superman's origin story there?

  • Mike M.||

    Saying that everything bad that happens on earth is America's fault is always the default fallback position for pinkotarians with no coherent answer to the problem.

    What else are they going to, admit that they were wrong? That's obviously never going to happen.

  • Jesse Walker||

    What else are they going to, admit that they were wrong? That's obviously never going to happen.

    ...said the guy who evidently is unable to back up the allegations he made at 11:13, and who now is arguing against a position ("everything bad that happens on earth is America's fault") that no post on the thread has espoused.

  • MWG||

    Wow that's not what I said at all.

    Let me dumb it down for you.

    A dead Gaddafi is a good thing. Mubarak in prison is a positive thing. A dead Assad would be a good thing. Dead totalitarians are god things.

    The results of these dead and I imprisoned dictators is mixed.

    Do you think people in Syria and Iran should just accept things as they are because you, an American, might not like the alternative? Do people have a right to fight oppression?

    What's your "coherent answer to the problem"?

  • MWG||

    That not what I said either, but the idea that the Arab spring is an unmitigated disaster as Mike M seems to think is also not correct. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

  • Paul.||

    The Arab Spring is not an unmitigated disaster, but it was just about exactly what I expected: A switch from a secular totalitarian governments to a strongly religious totalitarian oligarchy of clerics.

    There's still a long time to go here with this "experiment" with Democracy that these countries are having, but when listening to "Arab Street" it doesn't give one a lot of hope. And given the Muslim Brotherhood's open hostility to Democracy doesn't give one much hope either.

  • MWG||

    Meh... as I said above, the results of the AS, so far, are mixed.

    I'm not sure about the Muslim BH everywhere else, but I've been following Morsi in Egypt and he seems to be somewhat of a moderate (in Muslim terms of course)... and you have to admit, him going to Tehran and voicing support for the uprising in Syria in front of the Iranians AND Syrians was pretty badass.

    My prediction is 10 years from now, democracy will be a mixed bag in the Middle East. Maybe not what the west would hope for, but an improvement over what's existed there for, at least, the last 40 years.

  • Paul.||

    I do believe that Democracy will bring Egypt exactly what the Egyptian people want. I have no doubt that it won't look like anything we consider to be a free society. But if it's what they want...

  • The Late P Brooks||

    The Campaigner-in-Chief seems perfectly content to let Eric Holder take the bit in his teeth and gallop over the horizon in pursuit of his own agenda; maybe he should just let Teh Generalz do likewise.

    So much easier than actually participating in a bunch of boring day to day tedium.

  • Skip||

    Calling this thing a "film" is an insult to all film, including porn. It was just a bunch of shitty scenes made in front of a green screen. But I do like white guy California Mohammad.

  • Killazontherun||

    Some church in SoCal is missing it's Passion play Jesus.

  • Paul.||

    In retrospect, the original narrative should have aroused immediate suspicion. If, for example, this lethal attack on an American consulate in a Muslim country was really spontaneous, isn't it quite a coincidence that it happened on 9/11?

    And this...this is what makes Obama such a colossal foreign policy lightweight. He spouted off about something he knew nothing about.

    "What's wrong with condemning hate speech" people keep asking.

    Because it's not the Presidents job to critique the speech of one of 360 million people which may or may not be related to an attack on the embassy.

  • ||

    Dogs flew space ships! The Aztecs invented the vacation! Our forefathers took drugs! Men and women are the same sex! Your brain is not the boss!

    Sorry; got carried away at the graphic...

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