Real-time reports from the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times!

THURSDAY, MAY 30, 2013

It happened in Benghazi, third and fourth accounts: What actually happened in Benghazi?

We aren’t able to tell you. But in real time, many journalists, citing eyewitnesses, said there had been a demonstration before the violent attackers arrived. They said the protesters and the attackers cited the offensive YouTube video at the cause of their actions.

To read what the Washington Times reported, just click here. For the report from the New York Times, click this.

Personally, we weren’t present in Benghazi. But below, you see part of what Greg Miller reported in the Washington Post.

Headline: “Libya consulate attack came after militants joined protesters, say witnesses, officials:”
MILLER (9/13/12): At least an hour before the assault began, a stream of cars was seen moving toward the U.S. Consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. By late Tuesday evening, as many as 50 heavily armed militants had gathered outside its high walls.

They joined protesters outside the consulate who were demonstrating against an American movie that they believed denigrated the prophet Muhammad. But according to one witness, the new arrivals neither chanted slogans nor carried banners.

“They said, ‘We are Muslims defending the prophet. We are defending Islam,’ ” Libyan television journalist Firas Abdelhakim said in an interview.

The gunmen soon opened fire, entered the compound and set the consulate's buildings aflame. Hours later, the compound was overrun and four Americans were dead. Among them were Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, 52, and Sean Smith, a State Department employee.

The chaotic scene was described by senior Obama administration officials, Libyan government officials and witnesses. Details about the attack were still emerging late Wednesday. Key facts remain unclear, particularly how Stevens died and how his body wound up at a Benghazi hospital.

Even as evidence was being assembled, the early indications were that the assault had been planned and the attackers had cannily taken advantage of the protest at the consulate.

"Was this a spontaneous act of violence, was this capitalizing on the opportunity posed by [a protest], or was this separate and apart from al-Qaeda?" asked Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the House intelligence committee. "Any of those are possible," Schiff said, but accounts of the attack and the firepower employed "indicate something more than a spontaneous protest."


The first protesters had showed up around noon. Wanis al-Sharif, the deputy Libyan interior minister, said in an interview that the demonstrators were angered by a low-budget American film that portrayed the prophet Muhammad in a blasphemous manner. As the day wore on, Sharif said, the anger escalated and people with weapons infiltrated the crowd.

Preliminary reports speculated that the violence grew spontaneously out of anger over the film. But U.S. and Libyan officials cast doubt on that theory, with some suggesting that the attackers took advantage of the diversion created by protesters.
Miller quoted one eyewitness who “said the incident was not a protest.” But as in the Washington Times, the Washington Post quoted witnesses and one Libyan official who described a protest about the offensive video.

A similar account appeared in the Los Angeles Times. This was part of Ned Parker’s lengthy front-page report:
PARKER (9/13/12): Witnesses in Benghazi said a small crowd gathered Tuesday night outside the consulate, a villa in a walled compound, to protest the anti-Muslim video, which was disseminated online by Morris Sadek, an Egyptian Christian activist in suburban Washington, D.C. Some in the crowd had learned of the protest through Facebook. Others had heard of the video from Libyan students abroad or seen TV images of the Cairo protest.

About 10 p.m., Abdel Monem Monem, a former advisor to the leader of the rebels' transitional government, went to check and found about 50 people demonstrating without violence.

"It was normal. We were just showing [the Americans] not to insult our prophet Muhammad," Monem Monem said.

About 11:30 p.m., armed men drove up in about 20 cars bearing Islamic slogans. Sheik Mohamed Oraibi, a young Islamic preacher of the hard-line Salafist movement who was involved in the peaceful protest, watched as what he called "religious extremists" armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades arrived and began firing at the consulate. He said he didn't believe they were affiliated with Al Qaeda.

The compound's security guards fired into the air to try to disperse the attackers, but the attackers fired back with "ridiculous amounts of gunshots," Oraibi said.

Fire gutted the compound, according to U.S. officials, and sent U.S. personnel running for safety.
How accurate are these accounts? We have no idea, although Parker sources his report to statements by named eyewitnesses. Needless to say, that doesn't mean the statements were accurate.

For ourselves, we don’t know what happened in Benghazi that night. Nor do we think it hugely matters. When she appeared on those TV programs, Susan Rice warned her hosts, again and again, that she was giving a preliminary assessment.

(Please note: Rice didn’t say that the demonstrators staged the killing attack. She said that was done by “extremists” armed with “heavy weapons” who arrived at the scene and “hijacked events.”)

On September 14, the CIA said, in its first account of the incident, that it believed “the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protest at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate.”

The next day, taping those TV shows, Rice offered a version of that account as a preliminary assessment. As career liberals hide in the woods, she has been trashed and savaged from that day right up to this.

This is a very familiar pattern. Career liberals have behaved in this compliant way for at least the last twenty years.

On the brighter side, they’re being paid extremely good wages. The very large salaries they command may help jump-start the economy.


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  2. "What actually happened in Benghazi?

    We aren’t able to tell you."

    Case solved!
    On November 27, Susan Rice told us what happened:

    "Today, Acting CIA Director Michael Morell and I met with Senators McCain, Graham, and Ayotte to discuss my September 16th public comments regarding the attack against the U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, and the intelligence assessments that formed the basis for those comments. I appreciated the opportunity to discuss these issues directly and constructively with them.

    In the course of the meeting, we explained that the talking points provided by the intelligence community, and the initial assessment upon which they were based, were incorrect in a key respect: there was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi."

    Does TDH doubt Susan Rice and the acting CIA director were being truthful? If so, then call them liars. If not, then don't pretend we don't know now what happened in Benghazi.

    1. Sherlock -- I don't understand your comment. Susan Rice and the CIA said in November that the initial assessment was wrong in that there was no protest before the attacks. That doesn't make either of them liars (and it doesn't even mean that we "know now what happened in Benghazi."

      Let's agree that Susan Rice, not having been present for the attacks, doesn't and didn't know exactly what occurred. I assume you'll also agree that both the CIA's initial assessment and contemporaneous press accounts, based on eyewitness statements, said that there was a demonstration that preceded the attacks. Given those 2 facts, why was Susan Rice wrong for saying that's what was generally understood at the time?

    2. There are no weasel words in Rice's November statement. Rice flat out says there were no demonstrations. TDH is calling Rice a liar when it says we still don't know what happened.

    3. As well as being unable to remember your name, you can't read. TDH says "we weren't in Benghazi..." and then quotes news reports from September, around the time of the attacks. Not based on subsequent investigation, not based on revised CIA talking points but contemporaneous news reports.
      Your bias is showing, dear. Do yourself a favor, whoever you are and shut up.

    4. For Somerby "we" usually "don't know."

      He's right, Anonymous Sherlock Trollmes.

      Should we say say "we know," just because the CIA says so? Probably no, we shouldn't, despite your ill counsel.

      But we can say "we know/knew the CIA says so." And the failure of certain parts of the press to say/admit exactly that is the point.

    5. Hilariously, TDH has spent months saying Susan Rice was unfairly trashed by the press. Then when TDH doesn't like what Rice says, TDH just blows her off as an unreliable source.

      Painful as it is, I can read; "we weren't in Benghazi" is not a magic incantation. TDH cannot deny evidence on this absurd basis. There is a link provided to see what Susan Rice states in November. TDH cannot simultaneously maintain that Rice is credible and that we don't know what happened in Benghazi.

    6. Anon 803,

      "Sherlock Trollmes" is pretty good, I'll grant you that.

      But when you say, "Should we say say "we know," just because the CIA says so?" surely you mean to direct this to Susan Rice. I did not march around Washington with the CIA Director telling US Senators what did or didn't happen in Benghazi, Susan Rice made these rounds.

      TDH has wailed for months over the unfairness of the press toward Susan Rice and now TDH wants to claim that she's just a careerist flunky who would say anything to GOP senators to get ahead? No, say it ain't so, Bob.

    7. Anon 10:35, quite possibly you are the same sourly (and hammeringly disingenuous) sarcastic anon who has been trashing Susan Rice & TDH for months. Now that TDH has demolished the bogus argument that that there was some type of nefarious plot to blame the Benghazi attack on the video in the talking points, you pluck out and distort one phrase in the post. Somehow "What happened in Benghazi? We aren't able to tell you" means TDH is now calling Rice a liar, because she issued a statement on 11/27 that with further investigation, it was apparent that the attack wasn't an outgrowth of a protest over the video. Assuming that 2 1/2 months later it was definitively established this was the case, knowing that the attack did not develop out of a protest of the video doesn't mean that "we" "know" what happened at Benghazi.

    8. "... she issued a statement on 11/27 that with further investigation, it was apparent that the attack wasn't an outgrowth of a protest over the video."

      Rice did not mention any "further investigation." That part is simply made up. The "2 1/2 months" refers only to the time when this new assessment was revealed, not when it was established within the administration.

      "TDH has demolished the bogus argument that that there was some type of nefarious plot to blame the Benghazi attack on the video in the talking points..."

      Frankly, I thought the state of play was that TDH was arguing that there was such a nefarious plot, but that it was Petraeus's scheme to make the CIA look good at the expense of the State Dep't. Whatever...

    9. The failure of much of the press to say/admit that "the CIA said so" is the origin of some Benghazi claims has significant political ramifications.

      The "failure" of Bob Somerby to say "I know what happened in Benghazi: whatever the CIA says happened" has no political ramifications at all and is merely the hobbyhorse of a very sad troll.