Susan Rice said this about the Benghazi attack on 9/11/12:
"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," Rice said.She's been vilified for this by the right -- but how far off was she? David Kirkpatrick of The New York Times reports:
... To Libyans who witnessed the assault and know the attackers, there is little doubt what occurred: a well-known group of local Islamist militants struck without any warning or protest, and they did it in retaliation for the video. That is what the fighters said at the time, speaking emotionally of their anger at the video...There are several issues here. One is whether the video was a precipitating factor. I think this story will hold up and the administration will be vindicated on this -- even if the public never quite realizes that. "Spontaneous" is also looking like a much better word choice right now (although it's clear that this attack did not arise out of a peaceful anti-video demonstration).
The fighters said at the time that they were moved to act because of the video, which had first gained attention across the region after a protest in Egypt that day. The assailants approvingly recalled a 2006 assault by local Islamists that had destroyed an Italian diplomatic mission in Benghazi over a perceived insult to the prophet. In June the group staged a similar attack against the Tunisian Consulate over a different film, according to the Congressional testimony of the American security chief at the time, Eric A. Nordstrom.
... Benghazi militia leaders who know Ansar al-Shariah say it was capable of carrying out the attack by itself with only a few hours' planning...
Another issue that Kirkpatrick focuses on is whether the group seen as responsible for the attack, Ansar al-Shariah, should be regarded as an Al Qaeda affiliate. Kirkpatrick makes clear that the group may be aligned with Al Qaeda, but its focus is local.
That's a really important distinction within the political world. I don't think it's very important to most Americans. The Obama administration and the Obama campaign want to say that Obama has Al Qaeda on the run, and perhaps this screws up that story -- to the delight of Republicans, who want to say the opposite. But I think most Americans don't care about the fine distinctions among violent Islamist groups. They want Americans not to be attacked by such groups. On the other hand, they can't possibly be surprised or appalled that such violence hasn't completely ceased.
If any issue matters to the public, it's whether security was adequate at the Benghazi consulate. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has now said that any lapses were her responsibility. That's just making the howling banshees of the right angrier at Obama. (Sample blog headline: "Hillary Tries to Throw Herself Under the Benghazi Bus"; there's also much talk of Obama's lack of chivalry.)
I don't think any of the undecideds at tonight's debate will ask about Benghazi, but Romney will certainly bring it up. I wonder if Obama has to supersede Hillary and take responsibility, then find a polite way to say he's trying to get to the bottom of this in a presidential way, while his opponents are just trying to score cheap political points -- and also noting that the story is still in flux.
But I fear that the right-wing noise machine's version of this -- that the video was irrelevant -- will become what we "know" about Benghazi, even if that version of the story is completely wrong.