Muddying the waters in Benghazi

For some reason, the New York Times decided to drop a massive report on Benghazi, said to be years in the making, in the middle of the slowest news week of the year.  Critics of this report say it might be the first and biggest in-kind campaign contribution to the Hillary! 2016 presidential bid.  “I find the timing odd,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, who discussed the discrepancies between his committee’s work and the Times report on Fox News Sunday:

There are two big headline-grabbing assertions in the New York Times report: (1) the infamous “Innocence of Muslims” YouTube video played a much larger role in spurring the Benghazi attack than critics of the Administration claim, and (2) the attackers were not linked to al-Qaeda.  Rep. Rogers pushes back on the second point by saying this assertion by the Times “tells me they didn’t talk to people on the ground who were doing the fighting and shooting and the intelligence gathering.”

A senior Democrat member of Rogers’ committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, supported Rogers by saying “the intelligence indicates that al Qaeda was involved.”  Eli Lake of the Daily Beastwho has done a great deal of reporting on the Benghazi attack, criticizes the Times for putting far too much weight on the words of a few Libyan militia people who say different things when they know they’ve got a global media audience.  As Rep. Schiff put it, the NYT was “heavily reliant obviously on people they interviewed who had a reason to provide the story they did.”

It takes quite a bit of hair-splitting to disregard the many links between Ansar al-Sharia, the Libyan terrorists who perpetrated the Benghazi attack, and al-Qaeda’s global operation – declaring them entirely separate in order to beat up Republicans (and, by extension, Democrats like Schiff) who criticized the Administration’s apparent indifference to terrorist activity in Libya.  Quite a few sources have alleged active coordination between the groups, to a degree not entirely erased by their differences.  Of course the connections between terror cells can be murky – that’s a feature of global terrorism, not a bug – but it’s a hell of a stretch to say that al-Qaeda infiltration of Libya played no role whatsoever in the 9/11/12 attacks, just because the gunmen weren’t covered by Osama bin Laden’s dental plan.

Evidently it’s very important to the Democrat loyalists at the New York Times to make Barack Obama look less foolish for declaring that al-Qaeda had been “decimated” and put “on the run.”  Their big story certainly doesn’t do anything to explain why the Obama Administration maintained such lax security in an obviously dangerous area, despite warnings from people on the ground, up to and including slain Ambassador Chris Stevens.  They’re essentially arguing over what color the car was at the scene of a hit-and-run.

The other bone of contention is what role the “Innocence of Muslims” video played in the attack.  Was there really anyone who claimed nobody in Libya saw the video?  This part of the NYT report has the feel of an Obama-style straw man argument, rewriting history to obscure that it’s the Obama Administration that made completely and deliberately false claims of a “spontaneous video protest” that spiraled out of control.  It’s not terribly relevant that some Libyans were also upset by the video, or aware of a concerted effort by Egyptian Islamists to gin up outrage (which, it should be recalled, they were mostly interested in using to get the “Blind Sheikh,” mastermind of the 1990s World Trade Center bombing, extradited to Egypt.)

This attempt to put critics of the Administration’s lies on the defensive is through-the-looking-glass surreal.  The big story here is that President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the rest of their crew knew damn well from the very beginning that a massive, pre-planned attack on the Benghazi consulate had taken place.  They were desperate to crawl through a couple of news cycles by spreading their phony tale of a protest gone wild.  They knew it was a lie, and the truth would come out soon enough, but they were madly spinning the story to avoid immediate, devastating questions about how they allowed something like this to occur, on the anniversary of 9/11.  Obama’s re-election campaign could very well have ended on September 12 or 13, if he had been forced to answer those tough questions while American blood was still damp on the streets.  They bought valuable time by getting the media to portray the Benghazi attack as a total bolt from the blue, which nobody could have seen coming… and hey, if you want to be angry at someone about it, how about the guy who made that video?

Team Obama put the time they bought with this obfuscation to good use, enlisting the aid of friendly media to set up a pre-emptive strike against Mitt Romney (remember how eagerly the press made Romney seem unreasonable for criticizing the Administration’s response to the Benghazi attack, and the overrun of the embassy in Cairo?)  What we’re getting now is revisionist history to make Clinton and Obama look understandably mistaken instead of dishonest.  Nothing in the big NYT expose gets readers any closer to understanding how the Obama-Clinton State Department got completely blindsided by a planned attack whose organizers were happy to take advantage of a controversy that just happened to be bubbling out of Egypt at the same time.

This new media “pushback” on Benghazi is reminiscent of the controversy surrounding “stand down” orders on the night of the attack.  Obama loyalists in the media were giddy with delight when they reported that assets were not in place to rescue the Ambassador and his heroic last-stand defenders.  Okay… why not?  Why are we supposed to be pleased with Obama and Clinton for sending Ambassador Stevens into a hot zone of terrorist and militia violence without any plan whatsoever to assist him, should he run into trouble on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks?  (Come to think of it, the NYT’s attempt to distance al-Qaeda from the Benghazi attacks is probably meant to make it seem less outrageous that Obama’s foreign policy team got caught with their pants down on the anniversary of al-Qaeda’s most spectacular act of terrorism.)

According to Adam Housley of Fox News, people who were on the ground in Libya on 9/11/12 are “angered” by these new efforts to make the Administration’s “spontaneous video protest” fairy tales look less dishonest:

Those sources, who continue to face threats of losing their jobs, sharply challenged the Times??? findings that there was no involvement from Al Qaeda or any other international terror group and that an anti-Islam film played a role in inciting the initial wave of attacks.

???It was a coordinated attack. It is completely false to say anything else. ??? It is completely a lie,??? one witness to the attack told Fox News.

Sean Smith, a foreign service officer, and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were also killed in the 2012 assault.

The controversial Times report has stirred a community that normally remains out of sight and wrestles with how to reveal the truth, without revealing classified information.

Fox News has learned that the attack on the consulate started with fighters assembling to conduct an assault.

“Guys were coming into the compound, moving left, moving right???and using IMT (individual movement techniques). ??? That???s not a spontaneous attack,??? one special operator said.

The Times used this long-developing report to essentially seize control of the Sunday talk shows on a single weekend – the Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  This makes their Benghazi pushback simultaneously high-profile and low-profile; it sets down a marker Democrat partisans and liberal bloggers can reference during Hillary Clinton’s presidential run (“The video was too important – the New York Times said so!”)  without standing tall enough to generate big headlines as its key assertions were discredited.

It’s also a bit suspicious that the Sunday shows were abruptly reprogrammed away from discussing ObamaCare’s failures on the last weekend of the year, which was particularly notable when Rep. Darrell Issa, chair of the House Oversight Committee, appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press.  He came to discuss ObamaCare, but suddenly found himself “on defense” (as pretty much every mainstream media organ put it) over Benghazi.  He did a fine job of defending himself, but as far as Big Media was concerned, nobody playing defense ever gets to score any points:

Issa is exactly right.  The story about Benghazi remains the failure of the Obama Administration to adequately prepare or respond to the threat, not whether their story about unpredictable protests run amok was 90 percent B.S., or 80 percent B.S.  It’s amazing how easily our crusading media can be persuaded to abandon every shred of curiosity about what the Obama Administration did before the attack on September 11, 2012, or what President Barack Obama did once the attack was under way.