The Times reports new facts on Benghazi!

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2012

Still can’t explain what Rice said: Yesterday morning, the New York Times published a very important report.

(Too bad it appeared on page 6.)

Reporting from Cairo, David Kirkpatrick reported new facts about the fatal attack on the consulate in Benghazi. Kirkpatrick’s report flies in the face of various claims which have been used as political weapons in the ongoing race for the White House.

What actually happened in the attacks which took the lives of four Americans? Remarkably, Kirkpatrick says the attack probably was an act of retaliation for that tragically stupid anti-Muslim video.

He also seems to reject the idea that al Qaeda was involved. Given the charges flying around, this is significant stuff:
KIRKPATRICK (10/16/12): 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 without mentioning Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or the terrorist strikes of 11 years earlier. And it is an explanation that tracks with their history as a local militant group determined to protect Libya from Western influence.

“It was the Ansar al-Shariah people,” said Mohamed Bishari, a 20-year-old neighbor who watched the assault and described the brigade he saw leading the attack. “There was no protest or anything of that sort.”

United States intelligence agencies have reserved final judgment pending a full investigation, leaving open the possibility that anger at the video might have provided an opportunity for militants who already harbored anti-American feelings. But so far the intelligence assessments appear to square largely with local accounts.
Given the poisonous claims which have swirled all about, those are remarkable findings:

From his reporting on the ground, Kirkpatrick says this basically wasn’t al Qaeda. He says the attack wasn’t preplanned to coincide with September 11. And he says the attack probably was a reaction to that tragically stupid video.

Kirkpatrick could be wrong, of course. But those findings fly in the face of things which have been widely said.

Those four American are still dead, of course. Why should these conclusions matter? They matter because they fly in the face of reckless charges being made by aggressive political players.

Propagandists have insisted that the attack couldn’t have been about the video—and that it had to be al Qaeda. Beyond that, the Administration just had to be lying when it held back from reaching early conclusions about the motivations and affiliations of the killers.

If Kirkpatrick’s reporting is right, several aggressive Republican charges will turn out to be bogus. We’ll guess that’s why this striking report appeared on page A6, even as the Times filled its front page with several examples of its typically fatuous fare. (For one piece of front-page fiddle, just click this.)

We’d have to guess that a dollop of fear may explain that placement. And doggone it! Kirkpatrick himself may have cowered a bit before his report was done.

Kirkpatrick debunked several treasured GOP claims. By law, he had to say the following, which appeared in our hard-copy Times:
KIRKPATRICK: Other 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, and as recently as June one of its leaders, Mr. Zahawi, declared that it could destroy the American Consulate. The brigade is described as consisting of 10 leaders, more than 100 armed men and a small arsenal of Kalashnikovs, rocket-propelled grenades and truck-mounted artillery.

Witness testimony supported the local narrative.

But in the days after the attack the Obama administration’s surrogates described it as a peaceful protest against the video.

''The line was 'Osama bin Laden has been killed, the war on terror has been won,' so why muddy that?'' argued Peter Feaver, a political scientist at Duke University who advised the Bush administration on the domestic politics of its foreign policy. ''Faced with a range of possibilities, they went with the one that was politically convenient.''
On-line, that highlighted statement has been cleaned up a bit (see below). But good lord! Who ever made the ridiculous statement described in that highlighted passage?

How could an attack which killed four people be “described as a peaceful protest against the video?” Obviously, no one ever said such a thing. And that ridiculous claim by Kirkpatrick led into a strange bit of speculation by Feaver.

In his speculation, Feaver criticizes the Obama Admin—but for what? According to Kirkpatrick, this assault was not an act by al Qaeda. On the other hand, the Administration always said that the attack was conducted by a well-armed group of extremists.

That said, what is Feaver complaining about in that passage? It isn’t entirely easy to tell.

Kirkpatrick let him spout anyway.

If there was no demonstration before the attack, then the administration was wrong to say otherwise. But as we showed yesterday, the administration always said that the fatal attack was conducted by a well-armed group of extremists.

But even in yesterday’s cleaned-up editions, Kirkpatrick jumbles that fact, just as the Washington post did in yesterday’s disgraceful report:
KIRKPATRICK (on-line version): Other 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, and as recently as June one of its leaders, Mr. Zahawi, declared that it could destroy the American Mission. But in the days after the attack the Obama administration's surrogates said it grew out of a peaceful protest against the video.
Did surrogates like Susan Rice say the attack “grew out of a peaceful protest against the video?” As with the Washington Post’s hatchet job, that is a very poor paraphrase. Once again, this is what Rice actually said on Meet the Press:
RICE (9/16/12): But putting together the best information that we have available to us today, our current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of—of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video.

What we think then transpired in Benghazi is that opportunistic extremist elements came to the consulate as this was unfolding. They came with heavy weapons which unfortunately are readily available in post-revolutionary Libya. And it escalated into a much more violent episode. Obviously, that's, that's our best judgment now. We'll await the results of the investigation. And the president has been very clear—we'll work with the Libyan authorities to bring those responsible to justice.
As with the Post, so too with the Times. Kirkpatrick makes it sound like Rice said a “peaceful protest” evolved into violence—full stop.

But Rice said something quite different: She said that a heavily-armed, extremist group came to the scene of an ongoing demonstration. She didn’t say that a peaceful protest just spun into something else.

According to Kirkpatrick’s reporting, there was no demonstration before the extremist group arrived. If the Administration believed there was such a demonstration, the Administration may have been wrong. But just like the Washington Post, Kirkpatrick seems to be having a very hard time reporting what Rice actually said.

Or is he describing Rice at all? Slickly, he names no names as he paraphrases what those “surrogates” said.

Kirkpatrick’s reporting seems to suggest that many aggressive Republican charges may turn out to be wrong. So too for the (basically irrelevant) claim that some sort of unrelated demonstration preceded the violent attack. His reporting suggests that the administration showed good sense in withholding judgment about the motives and affiliations of the extremist group Rice described on all those Sunday shows.

But Kirkpatrick, like the disgraceful Post, seems to be having a very hard time telling the world what Rice said.

Did Susan Rice really say that the fatal attack “grew out of a peaceful protest?” That is a very misleading account. For whatever reason, reporters keep defaulting to right-wing scripts as they distort what was said.

9 comments:

  1. "a heavily-armed, extremist group came to the scene of an ongoing demonstration"

    "a peaceful protest just spun into something else"

    To say there's a difference is just splitting hairs.

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    1. There's a very obvious difference. The former clearly indicates that the heavily armed attackers were unrelated to any protest. The latter indicates that the protesters themselves became more agitated and committed the violent acts. As El Rushbo says when it suits his purpose words have meaning.

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    2. But since there was no demonstration at all, both descriptions are deceptive.

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  2. No "Idiot": Ambassador Rice said initially it looked like extremist elements took advantage of an unfolding demonstration. Now according to the latest information there was in fact no unfolding demonstration, just a premeditated attack.

    Bob: could you look at Hillary Clinton's interview with Margaret Brennan of CNN. I find it unbelievable that Brennan is so focused on who approved Ambassador Rice's talking points, as if she had strayed from the known facts; which she did not! Clinton was very clear about the how the facts had come out, but the interviewer seemed incapable of taking that information and changing her line of questioning accordingly. What a frustrating job Secretary Clinton has. I feel for her.

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  3. "...the interviewer seemed incapable of taking that information and changing her line of questioning accordingly."

    That's what happens when the interviewer is on a fishing expedition. Scandal caused by incompetence (perceived or actual) is ever so much juicier to report on, especially with Hillary Clinton attached to it.

    Here's the transcript. Look at the questions:

    Madame Secretary, the attack lasted over 6 hours. Why weren't 100,000 men immediately shipped in from thousands of miles away to fend off the attack?

    Don't you look like an idiot now for not ordering those troops to be sent in? (After all, you're the Secretary of State so you have that authority.)

    Were you incompetent by not having a contingency plan? Oh, you did have a plan? Never mind then...moving on...

    Susan Rice went on the Sunday shows and said there was no information that it was a preplanned attack. But the totally credible Libyan President said days before that it was preplanned. So who was incompetent, you or your subordinate? And if it was your subordinate, that means you were incompetent for not briefing her, so ha ha you're incompetent either way!

    And lastly, since your term as SecState has clearly not been a success, what do you think you can do in the last three months of it (because one way or another, you're toast come Jan 20th) to make it a success?

    Yeah, that was a great interview.

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  4. Bob is missing the forest for the trees here. For two weeks after the attack, various Administration officials, including Obama himself, were pushing the story that the attack somehow 'evolved' from an 'entirely justified' protest over a crappy youtube video that few in Middle-East had ever seen. They say their claims were derived from 'intelligence reports'. It now comes to light that the State Dept knew from the beginning that there was no protest.

    Was the Obama Administration relying on 'intelligence' that reported a phantom protest and apparently ignored or was unaware of evidence from the State Dept or did they fabricate the protest story from whole cloth?

    Both possibilities are disturbing. Either our intelligence gathering capabilities in the area are totally unreliable or the WH deliberately tried to obscure the truth of what happened in Benghazi.

    IMHO these questions are of much more import than whether or not the NYT correctly parsed Amb Rice's statements.

    A timeline of events:
    http://thehill.com/blogs/global-affairs/terrorism/261839-timeline-of-libya-attack-reveals-administration-contradictions-

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    1. Sept. 12: Obama denounces an “outrageous and shocking attack” without mentioning the video or terrorism

      OK, well we know that entry in the timeline relies on "semantics" as the critics are fond of saying.

      "Without mentioning terrorism."

      Just as Romney was wrong last night, that's also wrong.

      The September 16 entry also contains the tendentious
      misleading truncation of Rice's quote, omitting that she said "What we think then transpired in Benghazi is that opportunistic extremist elements came to the consulate as this was unfolding. They came with heavy weapons which unfortunately are readily available in post-revolutionary Libya. And it escalated into a much more violent episode."

      Slanted much? Quite a bit, actually.

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  5. If some fact was in error in early information it proves that we need a Romney presidency!

    Yes, I know Romney gets "facts" wrong all the time, even outside "the fog of war" -- but we need him anyway!

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  6. This is about as manufactured as manufactured outrage can get. It is obviously purely political, and as it does so often, the mainstream media lets the right wing set the news agenda.

    Susan Rice could not possibly have made it clearer on each and every Sunday morning talk show on September 16 that her best assessment at the time was tentative -- that it could be wrong. Those who say or imply otherwise in the pathetic effort to make a Federal case out of what she said are either grossly reckless or outright liars. I think it is probably the latter, but that conclusion is pending a more complete investigation.

    ReplyDelete