On Benghazi, Not Very Definitive
That's not all. In his spare time, Brennan is further alleged to be running "a highly compartmentalized program out of the White House" to transfer weapons from Libya to the "rebel fighters in Syria." That is how the authors refer to Bashar al-Assad's opposition, adopting the Obamedia's ennobling convention -- one that deflects attention from the inconvenience that the "rebels" championed by the administration in Libya and Syria feature many of the same anti-American jihadists American forces have been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. In any event, the claimed weapons-to-Syria scheme is secret, and thus "compartmentalized," to provide plausible deniability. The authors mostly steer clear of why deniability might be desirable. Knowledgeable readers will bear in mind, though, that the president has already been derided for forcibly disposing of the Qaddafi regime without congressional authorization, thereby empowering Libyan jihadists with both political authority and Qaddafi's prodigious arsenal. A reprise in Syria would be roundly criticized at home, so the administration leads from behind, in the shadows.
The authors at times theorize, and at times flat out assert, that Brennan's covert war against al-Qaeda in northern Africa is the direct catalyst for the terrorist murders of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans (the aforementioned Ty Woods and Glen Doherty, as well as Sean Smith, a State Department information technology specialist). That is, Brennan's private JSOC forces targeted high-level al Qaeda operatives (including one said to be particularly important, but whom the authors decline to name "out of consideration for operational security"). The campaign is said to have angered Ansar al-Sharia, Libya's al-Qaeda franchise. In retaliation, the jihadists attacked the State Department installation and a nearby CIA annex on September 11, 2012.
According to the authors, there is sad irony in this: Amb. Stevens, they insist, was deeply opposed to Brennan's unilateral warfare, thinking it counterproductive to his mission in Libya. Consequently, the authors intuit that the ambassador "probably" did not know the details of the JSOC missions choreographed by Brennan and McRaven. Similarly in the dark, the authors contend, was David Petraeus, the hubristic figure who rode the media roller-coaster from iconic general to disgraced former CIA director -- done in, according to Murphy and Webb, by his faithless CIA personal security team, which exploited the faithless director's canoodling with the faithless Paula Broadwell. In this sympathetic account, General Petraeus seems more like Mr. Magoo than the hard-driving chief of a superpower's premier intelligence agency.
There are holes in the authors' retaliation theory, beginning with their own catalogue of numerous jihadist attacks against Western targets in Benghazi, long predating September 11, 2012. Certainly, U.S. forces have been killing many terrorists, but it is not like al-Qaeda needed a tit-for-tat reason to attack U.S. installations. In point of fact, al-Qaeda attacks Western targets, especially American targets, for ideological reasons -- a fact that is skirted with regularity lest we focus too closely on the nexus between Islamic doctrine and Islamic extremism.
On that salient point, the authors are not exactly definitive. They refer to the "rise of Islamic extremism in Benghazi," which is said to have posed a growing threat that Stevens uniquely recognized. But there has been no "rise." As the authors themselves concede, Libya has long been home to such "hotbeds" of Islamic extremism as Benghazi and Derna. In fact, the authors acknowledge that Islamic extremism is "homegrown" in these parts. Of course, this indisputable fact was the basis for Qaddafi's counterterrorism partnership with the United States and other Western governments. In light of this, why did the Obama administration suddenly swing from alliance with Qaddafi to alliance with the opposition forces arrayed against him -- forces that were rife with jihadists? The authors indicate that this question is outside their ken; but it is central, and no account can be definitive without addressing it.