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Wednesday, January 01, 2014

New Year. Same Crap.

Why do right-wingers maintain their storyline about Benghazi? How do they benefit from this exercise in nonsense? Where's the propaganda value?

I didn't want to write a post about the recent NYT investigation into what happened in Benghazi, but this Fox News response demands a closer look. The "Rogers" quoted here is Republican congressman Mike Rogers.
Asked in November what might explain the initial narrative that an anti-Islam film triggered the attack, Rogers did not answer directly but said all evidence points to the State Department, whose leadership skirted the security requirements for the Benghazi mission.
What "narrative"? Just which words were said by the State Department that outlined this narrative?

It is true that Susan Rice told Meet the Press that “What happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo.” As long as you underline the word "initially" and recognize that others on the scene had other motives, this statement isn't problematic. It is certainly disingenuous to point to Rice's words while ignoring what officials said elsewhere.

My video on the Ryan-Biden debate shows you the truth about the government's response. The day after the attack, the administration told the New York Times that "the assailants seemed organized, and the appeared to have at least some level of advance planning." If you watch the first couple of minutes of that video, you'll see a clip from NBC News which quotes U.S. officials as saying that the Benghazi attack was "too sophisticated to have been entirely spontaneous."

That's what officials actually told the major media. What the right-wingers think the administration said is a very different thing. The entire Benghazi hallucination, which the right has sustained for well over a year now, is based on the right-wing media machine's ability to conjure up an alternate reality.

As I read all of those reports back in September and October of 2012, the following scenario congealed: The locals were genuinely enraged by that inane Innocence of Muslims video (which I believe was created by right-wing spooks as a provocation). Meanwhile, militants -- who were well-armed and who had been preparing for violence -- made opportunistic use of a spontaneous protest. Many local townsfolk were just venting steam, but the militia members (particularly those linked to Ansar al-Shariah) had prepared for an assault.

The new NYT investigation portrays Benghazi as a town controlled by competing paramilitary forces. You might say that the place was trapped in something like a Yojimbo situation, except in this case, at least half-a-dozen factions were vying for control. Some of the militants supported elections in Libya and some were dead-set against the very idea of democracy.

For the most part, their connections with Al Qaeda were tenuous or nonexistent. That idea doesn't play well with the Fox-watchers, who are uncomfortable with complexity and cannot grasp the idea that Al Qaeda may not be the only problem America faces in the Islamic world. Even the CIA personnel on the ground apparently were so fixated on Al Qaeda that they tended to ignore Ansar al-Shariah, the group that seems to have taken the lead in attacking the consulate.

From the NYT investigation:
There is no doubt that anger over the video motivated many attackers. A Libyan journalist working for The New York Times was blocked from entering by the sentries outside, and he learned of the film from the fighters who stopped him. Other Libyan witnesses, too, said they received lectures from the attackers about the evil of the film and the virtue of defending the prophet.
Witnesses at the scene of the attack identified many participants associated with Ansar al-Shariah.
But the Republican arguments appear to conflate purely local extremist organizations like Ansar al-Shariah with Al Qaeda’s international terrorist network. The only intelligence connecting Al Qaeda to the attack was an intercepted phone call that night from a participant in the first wave of the attack to a friend in another African country who had ties to members of Al Qaeda, according to several officials briefed on the call. But when the friend heard the attacker’s boasts, he sounded astonished, the officials said, suggesting he had no prior knowledge of the assault.

Al Qaeda was having its own problems penetrating the Libyan chaos. Three weeks after the attack, on Oct. 3, 2012, leaders of the group’s regional affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, sent a letter to a lieutenant about efforts to crack the new territory. The leaders said they had sent four teams to try to establish footholds in Libya. But of the four, only two in the southern Sahara “were able to enter Libyan territory and lay the first practical bricks there,” the letter said.

The letter, left behind when the group’s leaders fled French troops in Mali, was later obtained and released by The Associated Press. It tallied up the “spectacular” acts of terrorism the group had accomplished around the region, but it made no mention of Benghazi or any other attacks in Libya.

More than a year later, the group appears more successful. People briefed on American intelligence say the regional affiliate has established a presence in Derna.
This brings us back to a hoary question: Just what is Al Qaeda?

Some conspiracy website addicts will tell you that the group does not exist, that it never existed. The folks who talk this way usually display a truly absurd level of macho arrogance: They saw that Adam Curtis video and, for them, that settles that. Meanwhile,people who get all of their news from Pam Geller and her ilk insist that Al Qaeda is all-powerful and ubiquitous. These people also brim with jackass self-confidence.

We'll have more to say on this score soon.

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