Libyan President Confirms: Movie "had nothing to do with this attack."


Mohamed Magarief

If you still believe the murder of the American ambassador to Libya earlier this month was the result of "Muslim rage" over a film nobody has seen, you may be eligible for a high-level job with the State Department, but you should listen to the Libyan president.

In an interview with NBC's Ann Curry [video here], Libyan President Mohammed Magarief says the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others was a, well-coordinated, pre-planned operation by terrorist networks in the country and that it was unrelated to the trailer for the movie Innocence of Muslims.

All this should be clear if you have been following our coverage at Reason – and while we've done a fine job of following this story, we're not exactly a hotbed of foreign policy mavens or a publication with an interest in finding terrorists in every shoeless airport security line. So why has it been so difficult to get the Obama team to fess up? Curry drew Magarief out on the differences between his definition and his American counterpart's.

"This is how I am calling at as a responsible Libyan Official," Magarief replied. "But it is for President Obama and Secretary Clinton to describe it as they like and they feel is right. You have your terminology and we have our terminology."

Exactly. So what's terrorism and what isn't? This handy breakdown should clear it up for you:

Playing paintball
Bringing baby formula onto an airplane
Sending nasty texts to your girlfriend

Killing the U.S. ambassador with a shoulder-mounted rocket
Murdering 13 people at a domestic army base
Shooting and killing two people at an El Al ticket desk at Los Angeles International Airport

More from NBC:

Magarief told Curry that based on the accuracy of the assault, he believes the attackers must have had training and experience using the weapons.

"It's a pre-planned act of terrorism," he said, adding that the anti-Islam film had "nothing to do with this attack."

'A strong friend'
Magarief said that while Libyans appeared to be behind the attack that "these Libyans do not represent the Libyan people or Libyan population in any sense of the word."

He added: "We consider the United States as a friend, not only a friend, a strong friend, who stood with us in our moment of need."

More than 40 people have been questioned in connection with the incident, the Libyan leader told Curry.

The Obama administration initially maintained that the attacks were directly linked to protests over the film. Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sept. 16, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said: "What happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, prompted by the video."

By playing politics in such a clumsy way, the Obama State Department has actually managed to bury the part of this story that is most favorable to its own North African policy: The attack seems to have been very unpopular in Libya, with many regular people joining the president in his pro-American sentiments. (At least, that's what the media seem to indicate. My experience is that all such characterizations, pro and con, tend to dissolve when you look closely into them.)