Benghazi Eternal

Like an illegal alien, I have decided to “step out of the shadows” and lay down a quick post. The reason why is that I’ve noticed quite a bit of crowing today about the House Intelligence Benghazi report from some of my friends. As much as I know how the fascination some people have over the whole thing perplexes them, I read the report and will explain why the conspiracy theories are not going to stop.

There are two important aspects of Benghazi. The first is the one I’m personally more interested in: what the nature of the CIA’s activities there were and why Ambassador Stevens was there when the security situation was deteriorating and he had even noted this himself.

The only thing the report really says is that the CIA totally wasn’t there to collect weapons and send them to Syria (which, as we know now, would have provided them to ISIS). Instead, they were just gathering intelligence about foreign entities who were doing it.

So the questions I have are:

1. Why did this operation require the presence of an ambassador?
2. Who was moving these weapons to Syria?
3. Was the CIA enabling or facilitating these foreign entities?

Keep in mind that the report doesn’t say that the CIA was actually trying to stop the flow of weapons to Syria and it’s obvious to us now that they weren’t going to call in any airstrikes against those “entities” who were doing it, right?

This report makes the claim that there were no “specific” threats about the attack on the compound and even says right in the beginning that the “CIA ensured adequate security” for the facilities at the Annex. Obviously not, or Stevens would hardly be dead. If anything, the locals the CIA itself had hired to guard the facility appear to have aided the attack. Once the rescue operation was underway, their team couldn’t even get to the hospital to recover Stevens’s body. Their intelligence about whether the militia guarding the hospital were friendly was even wrong.

The headline that the media is going with today is that there was “no intelligence failure” but that isn’t true. There WAS an intelligence failure because the CIA couldn’t even see an attack coming right under its own nose in a jihadist-controlled area and still doesn’t entirely know who did it or why. Their job is to get that kind of information. That they don’t have it is an intelligence failure.

So what you have with that first aspect is:

1. We still don’t know what the CIA’s operation in Benghazi was intended to accomplish or why Stevens was involved.
2. The CIA and the State Department practiced the worst sort of incompetence before, during, and after the incident. It’s really clear when you read the report that this is true.
3. Absolutely nobody has ever been held accountable for the failures.

The lack of accountability is pretty typical of these types of reports, I might add. The political-bureaucratic class always protects itself. And that goes to the second important aspect of Benghazi: the failure of policy and resulting political ass-covering. The report is pretty gentle on the Obama Administration for sending Susan Rice out to blame the whole attack on a stupid YouTube video.

The truth is that the White House had enormous inventive to avoid the impression that this was a “failure of policy.” In fact, its entire Libyan policy (which never even had the blessing of Congress) has since turned into a disaster with our embassy in Tripoli abandoned and ISIS now setting up shop in Libya to take over and expand their war even further. Benghazi was just the first evidence that the policy was a failure.

In 2012, Obama and his Administration were telling us that bin Laden was dead and al-Qaeda was heading for strategic defeat. He was ending the wars and that was pretty important for his re-election.

As we know now, al-Qaeda was not on the run and one of its affiliates or some of its sympathizers helped kill our Ambassador. At the same time, the Administration was totally ignoring what was going on in Iraq. Proving that he learned absolutely nothing from what happened in Benghazi, Obama dismissed ISIS’s strength and got to be surprised by one of his policy failures all over again not less than 2 years later when they suddenly overran Mosul.

Again: zero accountability for it.

I don’t know whether or not the House Intelligence Committee knows what the CIA’s true role in Benghazi was or if they’ve just decided that it’s better not to share that information. Either way, to believe this report, you have to suspend your disbelief about the credibility of the CIA. Nothing I read in this report gives me any reason whatsoever to do so and there’s plenty that leads me to doubt it.

We’re being asked to trust people who have consistently proven that they don’t deserve it; by their lack of cooperation, poor transparency, and appalling incompetence. And that is why the Benghazi conspiracy theories aren’t going away.

Khattalah Capture

One of the terrorists responsible for the attack on our embassy in Benghazi has been capture:

U.S. forces working with the FBI captured a key suspect in the deadly 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

Libyan militia leader Ahmed abu Khattalah was captured over the weekend, officials said. It is the first arrest and detention by the United States in connection with the Benghazi attack.

Abu Khattalah will be brought to the United States to face charges “in the coming days,” said Edward Price, a spokesman for the National Security Council.

Abu Khattalah, who faces three federal criminal charges, will be tried in U.S. courts, said Attorney General Eric Holder.

Only took 21 months. During that time, he was running around openly in Libya, giving media interviews. But I’m glad we finally have him.

More Benghazi Details; More Left-Wing Obfuscation

The New York Times has an in-depth report on the Benghazi incident from a reporter who went there and interviewed dozens of people on the ground. Quick summary:

Fifteen months after Mr. Stevens’s death, the question of responsibility remains a searing issue in Washington, framed by two contradictory story lines.

One has it that the video, which was posted on YouTube, inspired spontaneous street protests that got out of hand. This version, based on early intelligence reports, was initially offered publicly by Susan E. Rice, who is now Mr. Obama’s national security adviser.

The other, favored by Republicans, holds that Mr. Stevens died in a carefully planned assault by Al Qaeda to mark the anniversary of its strike on the United States 11 years before. Republicans have accused the Obama administration of covering up evidence of Al Qaeda’s role to avoid undermining the president’s claim that the group has been decimated, in part because of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

The investigation by The Times shows that the reality in Benghazi was different, and murkier, than either of those story lines suggests. Benghazi was not infiltrated by Al Qaeda, but nonetheless contained grave local threats to American interests. The attack does not appear to have been meticulously planned, but neither was it spontaneous or without warning signs.

The person they finger in the attack is Ahmed Abu Khattala and Ansar Al-Sharia. I would point out that, to many, distinguishing them from Al-Qaeda is academic. Ansar Al-Sharia are an Islamist organization that wants Sharia law implemented and are certainly on the same page as Al-Qaeda even if they are not technically affiliated. But the Times also shows that the US had ample signs that something very serious was about to go down in Libya and distinctly failed to account for it. The video was part of the motivation, but this appears to have mainly affected the timing of the attack. The Islamists were going to hit the US at some point.

As you might expect, the reaction to the Times piece is falling along partisan lines. Republicans are claiming it’s all a cover-up and the NYT is full of crap (although NYT’s reporting is based on far more witnesses (and fewer fraudulent ones) than the 60 Minutes report). Democrats are claiming vindication and that the Benghazi scandal is all a hoax. Ed Morrissey has a great take, pointing out that this confirms what Lee Stranahan has been saying for months.

In other words, the White House story that this was a demonstration that just got out of control was false. As we have discovered through Congressional testimony and the release of communications from that night, the White House and State Department knew immediately that it was a terrorist attack. If the YouTube video played a part in the motivation, it was nevertheless only possible because of a planned attack on an egregiously undefended facility, in the middle of a region controlled by Islamist militias, on the anniversary of 9/11 — when the US should have had its highest readiness.

In other words, this only addresses the relative import of the YouTube video, not any of the questions of the incompetence from State and the White House.

In short, we’re slowly converging on the reality somewhere between the two political poles.

  • Benghazi had become a hotbed of extremist activity and the US had ample reason to believe their personnel were in danger. Nevertheless, security was weak and heavily dependent on locals.
  • Ansar Al-Sharia, an organization not part of Al-Qaeda but sharing its goals, had planned to attack the US for a long time. The “Innocence of Muslims” video served as a spark, but an attack would have come at some point.
  • The first attack wound up with the security forces retreating and Stephens and Smith in a safe room. The attackers set the villa on fire and the smoke inhalation killed Smith and Stephens. The CIA response team arrived within 20 minutes. They rescued the security team and recovered Smith’s body. Stephens’ body was pulled out by sympathetic Libyans and not, contrary to initial reports, violated. It was taken to the hospital and then, eventually, to the airport where the Americans were secured.
  • A seven-man response team was quickly dispatched from Tripoli but ran into problems at the Benghazi airport. By that point, the Americans were in the CIA annex. The compound had come under sporadic initial attack, but this had stopped by the time the response team reached Benghazi airport.
  • About eight hours after the initial attack, shortly after the Tripoli team reached the CIA compound, it was attacked by mortar rounds which kill the two SEALS. The personnel were then evacuated to the airport and from there to Tripoli.
  • In short, both sides were full of it on some points. The Right Wing’s talking points that proved wrong: that Obama had real-time video of events, that the attack was continuous for eight hours, that no response was sent from Tripoli, that Stephens was raped or violated, that the video had nothing to do with what happened, that this was Al-Qaeda. The Left Wing’s talking points that proved wrong: that it was a spontaneous protest, that it was any kind of a protest, that all possible assets were used, that AQ-sympathizing elements had nothing to do with it, that his attack could not have been anticipated.

    In short, the Benghazi conspiracy theories are garbage (with the exception of speculation about the CIA’s presence) but the “there’s nothing to see here; move along” Left Wing knee-jerk defense is garbage too. We’re back to where we were on September 11, 2012: an incompetent State Department that left US personnel in a vulnerable position and then tried to pretend the awful events in Benghazi could not have been foreseen. By the time the attack happened, the die had been cast.

    Sorry, Obama Defense Derangement Syndrome sufferers. This is not a “vindication” of the President.

    Benghazi Report Withdrawn

    60 Minutes has now withdrawn the Benghazi report I blogged on after information came out that “Morgan Jones” gave conflicting statements about what happened that night.

    I must say that “Jones” crossed me as a bit unreliable, especially his story about fighting off a militant, which sounded like bullshit. However, his testimony was only part of what has been uncovered. The fact remains that many other witness support the contention that our security at Benghazi was inadequate in the face of clear warnings that something bad was going to happen.

    Still, I blogged on the broadcast; I’ll note the withdrawal.

    60 Minutes Discovers Benghazi

    Sixty minutes is about a year late and a billion dollars short on this, but you should watch this video that basically destroys the White House’s long-debunked contention that the Benghazi attack could not have been foreseen. Several witnesses have now gone public with what they saw in the months and weeks leading up to the attack that night. Al-Qaeda has stated their intention to launch three attacks and carried out two of them. Al-Qaeda had been openly flying black flags in Benghazi for months. And yet the security in Benghazi remained heavily dependent on local militia who basically fled when the attack occurred.

    What happened that night almost becomes secondary. By the time the attack had started, the die was cast. It was only because of the courage of the scant military forces there that it wasn’t even worse.

    We recently had the thirtieth anniversary of the Beirut barracks bombing, an incident that bears more than a passing resemblance to this one. Warnings were ignored, the approach was not barricaded and the guards were under restrictive ROE. The details that have emerged from Benghazi show that we learned nothing from that. Our State Department and our befuddled President still fail to realize that, in regions of the world where terrorists walk free, any American installation is seen as a big fat target.

    Every day in this country, our phone calls are tracked and some are listened to. Every day, people are groped and harassed in airports despite classified admissions that airplanes are not a particularly high-priority target right now. And yet, when the State Department was warned that Al-Qaeda operatives were openly licking their chops in Benghazi, when they asked twice for more security, the State Department decided that a few locals were security enough.

    The political aspects of this will be hashed out in the years ahead. This should permanently end Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions, but that was also true six months ago. What I’m more interested in is whether anyone at State is going to learn the damned lesson and protect the assets that we necessarily place on the frontier between civilization and barbarism.