New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick recently published a lengthy piece arguing that President Obama’s original al-Qaeda-free description of the September 11, 2012 attack on our Benghazi consulate was accurate, and that National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s claim that the attack was instigated by a YouTube video was correct.
Do we have to explain the Bush Doctrine to liberals all over again?
Since September 11, 2011, the major provision of the most brilliant foreign policy doctrine of the past half-century asserts that the U.S. will make no distinction between local thugs-for-hire who perpetrate terrorist acts, extremist militia offshoots of larger terrorist networks, international terrorist organizations, and state sponsors of terror that train and fund and harbor the above. Is that so hard?
Apparently it is.
Kirkpatrick wrote, “Months of investigation by The New York Times, centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault.”
Kirkpatrick’s argument rests on the premise that Ansar al-Shariah, the group believed to have plotted the Benghazi attack, is not technically part of the formal al-Qaeda leadership structure, but rather a local Libyan branch of a network closely allied with and supportive of al-Qaeda’s goals.
This is like saying that Organizing for Action is not technically a Democratic Party outfit, because it isn’t listed in the Democratic National Committee’s org chart.
Ansar al-Shariah is an extremist militia that is known to be part of al-Qaeda’s fundraising network. Therefore, according to the Bush Doctrine—which Obama has endorsed in practice—we do not distinguish between the two.
As head of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers noted, “It is accurate that of the group being targeted by the bureau (FBI) at this point, there’s strong Al Qaeda ties. You can still be considered to have strong ties because you are in the ring of operations of [the] Al Qaeda core.” Fox News also reported that two of the key suspects in the Benghazi attacks had histories of working with al-Qaeda leadership.
Kirkpatrick also produced the following laughable line: “The attack also suggests that, as the threats from local militants around the region have multiplied, an intensive focus on combating Al Qaeda may distract from safeguarding American interests.” So Obama’s obsessive focus on tracking down an arthritic Yemeni hermit living in a cave who no longer had any role in al-Qaeda was key in winning the War on Terror, but stopping the terrorist network and its affiliates who were responsible for the September 11 attacks and dozens of others is a “distraction.” Got it.
Kirkpatrick also claimed that the attacks were instigated by the infamous 13-minute, low-budget YouTube movie trailer populated by out-of-work actors from a local L.A. repertoire. He wrote, “And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, [the attack] was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.” His evidence? After Egyptians in Cairo protested at the American embassy, some random looters and arsonists in Benghazi who had seen the video ransacked the compound following the initial attack.
But these Johnny-come-lately thugs were the equivalent of disaffected teens who wander into a flash mob half an hour after the organizers start it and grab sneakers and radios. Their haste to take advantage of a chaotic situation doesn’t mean there weren’t instigators who carefully planned it.
As Kirkpatrick wrote, “Men looted suits of clothes and carried them out on their hangers. They lugged out televisions. Some emerged from buildings clutching food they had found, and one poured what appeared to be Hershey’s chocolate syrup into his mouth. Others squabbled over trophies as small as a coil of rope left on the ground.” If this behavior reflects proud Muslims upset over a religious insult high-mindedly defending their faith, I don’t see it.
Note also the independent analysis from December 2012 showing that the anti-Islam video didn’t garner a single reference in Libyan social media outlets until a day after the Benghazi attacks.
In sum, Kirkpatrick claimed that there is “no evidence that al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault,” but he provided no evidence to support such a claim. Kirkpatrick gave the most generous possible interpretation of Obama and Rice’s remarks, and held those who believe the attack was planned by an al-Qaeda affiliate to the strictest standards of evidence.
But this is not a criminal trial, in which the prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and the slightest bit of contradictory evidence sets the defendant free. Even if the truth lies halfway between Obama’s initial telling and the House Intelligence Committee’s version, the administration is guilty of grave distortion of the facts and possibly impeachable efforts to prevent the country from learning the truth in advance of a Presidential election.
As Kirkpatrick admitted, “The investigation by The Times shows that the reality in Benghazi was different, and murkier, than either of [the two] story lines suggests.”
Or, as President Clinton might put it, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘al-Qaeda’ is.”
Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics
- Intelligence Committee Members Dispute NYT Assertion That al-Qaeda Had No Role in Benghazi Attack (cnsnews.com)
- Benghazi attack wasn’t ‘core’ Al-Qaeda, U.S. says (news.yahoo.com)
- Who Was Behind Benghazi? (dish.andrewsullivan.com)
- Rep. Darrell Issa says he stands by claims that a group affiliated with al Qaeda was involved in the Benghazi attack – @meetthepress (presspass.nbcnews.com)
- The New York Times – off the rails for an ulterior motive (powerlineblog.com)