Tuesday, October 16, 2012


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...

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...
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).

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.


Philo Vaihinger said...

The original story - and it lasted for days - was it was all about spontaneous outrage in Cairo and elsewhere at a video demeaning Mohamed.

But the mass demonstrations on 9/11 in obvious celebration of the original attacks on the US were certainly not spontaneous, the video was a pretext (there is always a pretext), and the Benghazi attack was sheer al-Qaeda terrorism.

Nobody is deafeating al-Qaeda or even the Taliban nor is it possible, really, to do either.

But the hawks are grabbing the opportunity to bash the White House for misrepresenting what actually happened in Benghazi and even in Cairo (they did), for talking a lot of nonsense about al-Qaeda being on the ropes (it is nonsense), and for the mess the whole region is in.

The mess, of course, is Bush's fault and that of the neocons, themsleves, for idiotically jumping to a quagmire.

But that won't stop them effectively pinning the blame for the disaster made by Bush's war policy on Obama, exactly as they are doing with the blame for the economic disaster made by Bush's domestic policies, prolonged by the obstructionism and "austerity" policies of the Republicans in general.

These things have hurt and will continue to hurt.

Especially if O fluffs it, again, tonight.

Victor said...

The Conservatives increasingly have their own belief system.

And, over the last 20+ years, via talk radio and FOX, their own reinforcement mechanisms.

You can't get them to agree on what the rest of the planet sees as reality, since, as Stephen Colbert memorably put it, "Reality has a well known Liberal bias," and whatever doesn't fit in with their mindset, must be a lie, with a conspricacy behind it.

Steve M. said...

These things have hurt and will continue to hurt.

Only on the right and among Paulites/Greenwaldians. Obama is still +10, I believe, over Romney on foreign policy, per the latest ABC/WaPo poll.

And if Obama's too feckless to save us on the obvious date, where were the huge attacks on 9/11/09 and 9/11/10 and 9/11/11?

trnc said...

I think it's entirely possible for an undecided to ask Obama about it since Joe Biden's answer last week was his one weak spot. But while Obama can make the obvious point that there was contemporary evidence that the video was at least a pretext, he can also ask Mitt: "You claimed this would not have happened if you were president; are you stating that no one will be killed by terrorists if you are president?" Romney is already on record with that, and I can't imagine many people finding it a credible claim.

Philo Vaihinger said...

Hope tonight goes well.