What Happened in Benghazi?

Tonight’s foreign policy-themed presidential debate, apparently focusing almost exclusively on terrorism and the Middle East/North Africa, will certainly hit upon the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. The topic was brought up in last week’s town hall debate, with President Obama and Mitt Romney vigorously arguing over whether the president characterized the Benghazi incident as a terrorist attack the next day. Even the moderator, Candy Crowley, joined in, though her bungled and unsure interjection had the effect of taking the conversation off track rather than providing any clarity to the facts.

 Afterwards, Crowley admitted she was wrong , that Romney was “right in the main” about President Obama and his administration’s evolving narrative on Benghazi but that Romney “picked the wrong word”—Obama said he called the Benghazi attack an “act of terror” at the Rose Garden on September 12 and Romney seized on that. Obama did, however, say in those remarks that “[n]o acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.”

However, this 9/12 characterization came within the context, the Administration insisted, of anti-American demonstrations (including a purported one at the Benghazi consulate) spurred by an anti-Islamic film whose trailer could be found on YouTube. Whether or not Obama considered the Benghazi assault a “terrorist attack” is immaterial, he and his administration also undeniably pushed the narrative that the violence in Benghazi, and in Cairo, and in Yemen, and, in fact, all the anti-American demonstrations occurring the week of 9/11, were ignited solely by the YouTube clip.

And, most importantly, Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, went on the major Sunday political talk shows to push just that narrative: that the 9/11 attack “began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo,” where violent demonstrations had taken place. The brother of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, in fact, claimed credit for coordinating the assault in Cairo. The next day the embassy in Yemen was also stormed.

The 9/11 attack on the Benghazi consulate, now believed to have been coordinated by the militant group Ansar al-Shariah, was preceded by at least two others in the previous three months. The attack, of course, took the life of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. It began at the consulate and ended at another building, which may have been a CIA base, and over which drones may have been flying at the time. A report in the Independent just three days later portrayed a complex attack that included theft of specific documents. Nevertheless, the CIA talking points given Ambassador Rice before her appearance on the Sunday talk shows referred to a spontaneous attack that did not appear organized or planned. The Washington Post quotes an unnamed senior official characterizing the 9/11 attackers as a “flash mob with weapons,” and claiming the only part of the talking points he’d revise is changing spontaneous to “opportunistic.” The best intelligence money buys.

How much of this will be drawn out at tonight’s debate remains to be seen, but the chances are bleak that any of the underlying premises of American intervention in Libya, beginning with American and NATO involvement in last year’s civil war, without Congressional approval of any sort no less,  will be questioned. You can have an Irish car bomb if they are.

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  • ||

    Let's see if Schieffer tries to fact check Romney like Crowley did when he suggests that the administration's response was mistaken.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I hope the President comes out with an entirely new narrative of the events tonight. Maybe that they were protecting the American people from the dangerous truth or that it was misinformation aimed at the terrorists and U.S. citizens unfortunately got caught up in the trap or that it's an ongoing exercise to draw the extremists out. Something to keep things interesting.

    Then there's always the truth, that they didn't want voters contemplating the Administration's foreign policy so close to an election, plus there was an awesome crisitunity to plant the seeds of curbing the First Amendment for our own good.

  • FD||

    You had Lehrer coughing up softballs for Obama during his nap.
    You had Crowley disgracefully trying to cover his ass.
    And now it's Schieffer?!!!!
    Why the hell do the Romney-ites accept these unapologetic leftist shills? I don't get it.

  • Drake||

    I had assumed that Romney would have insisted on one debate moderated by a Fox News type.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    The meme that I find interesting is the one that says we shouldn't discuss this at all, until an "investigation"--conveniently taking months--is conducted.

    It must be a great comfort to Americans overseas to know that if anything bad happens, the government won't lift a finger to help them and will take months to even figure out what happened.

  • tagtann||

    This makes a lot of sense dude.

    www.ko-privacy.tk

  • sloopyinca||

    Where's the motherfucking debate thread, reason?

  • Rich||

    I think this is it, sloopy.

  • Banjos||

    Nope.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    At least Fox didn't preempt the ball game for the lying politicians. I'm glad to see that somebody has his priorities in order.

  • ||

    What Crowley did was reprehensible.
    Frankly, I think she got played. Somehow Obama knew she had a transcript, and he also must have known she wouldn't read it thoroughly enough to understand much more than that he used the word "terror".
    She either didn't read the transcript very well, or she blatantly lied and misled the audience and aided Obama in promoting a falsehood.

  • Brutus||

    She didn't get played. She let herself be used by Obama. Is there some other reason she'd have a trascript of that particular speech on her desk, and that Obama would know she did?

  • Drake||

    Yep - That looked rehearsed to me.

    If Romney wins, he should be vindictive on this one. Never allow anyone in the Administration ever to speak to Candy, and revoke all CNN access to the White House until they formally and very publicly apologize.

  • ||

    It did look like a setup.

    But I don't think that she knew necessarily that the "acts of terror" phrase was being used generally. I think someone handed her a transcript before the debate and said that Obama might ask her to fact-check it, but I don't think she actually read it. I think she just skimmed it and saw the words "acts of terror" underlined.

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