Benghazi: The Definitive Report is not very definitive.
The new and much hyped book by special-0perations vets Jack Murphy and Brandon Webb begins with the promise to “name names and hold accountable those who acted cowardly and those who erred by seeking to protect their political careers at the expense of human lives.” There is not much rain after that big wind, though. The authors’ admiration for the awesome valor displayed by those who laid down their lives for their country pours off every page. Especially gripping is their account of the bravery of Ty Woods and Glen Doherty, the former Navy SEALs who were killed on September 11, 2012, only after saving dozens of Americans. But on the accountability side of the ledger, the authors mostly don’t name names or grapple with the major questions, bending over backwards to help President Obama avoid accountability. And where they offer searing criticism, there is not much hard evidence to back it up.
This is not to say that their allegations are necessarily wrong. We just cannot say, er … definitively. The Murphy/Webb investigative method is to conduct interviews with their network of governmental sources (in the military, intelligence, diplomatic and law enforcement communities) who remain anonymous. The authors stitch together the narrative, and we must trust that they’ve grasped the big picture, asked the right questions, not been played by witnesses who are settling scores or motivated by other biases, filled in the blanks with reasonable inferences rather than supposition, and been willing to challenge not only their sources but also their own predispositions.
One name they do name, and quite controversially, is John Brennan, President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser at the time of the Benghazi massacre and now his nominee to become CIA director. Brennan, the authors claim, is conducting “a secret war across North Africa.” A principal aim of this war, allegedly waged with the president’s rubber-stamp approval but without his active supervision, is to vanquish al-Qaeda-aligned militant groups. Against these jihadists, Brennan is said to direct ”his own unilateral operations … outside of the traditional command structure.”
Messrs. Murphy and Webb also identify Mr. Brennan’s point man as Admiral William McRaven, commander presently of U.S. Special Operations and formerly of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). Brennan, the authors say, hatches the plans and McRaven then mobilizes JSOC assets like SEAL Team Six and Delta Force. These special ops experts proceed to execute lethal anti-terror missions that are “off the books” — as in “not coordinated through the Pentagon or other governmental agencies, including the CIA.”