The PJ Tatler

New York Times Scrubs Benghazi Narrative for the White House

The New York Times picked the week between Christmas and New Years to help the White House scrub up the narrative on the Benghazi attack of September 11, 2012.

It wasn’t exactly a spontaneous attack – but it sort of was. The anti-Muslim video played no role – except when it did. And there wasn’t much planning involved in the attack – except when there was.

Yes. That should just about cover it.

The big takeaway from the article is that al-Qaeda was not involved. Turns out, it was local militia of bumpkin soldiers who coordinated an attack on two sites a mile apart using heavy weapons and assault tactics.

The Times’ article, which includes interviews with several Libyan militia leaders who helped bring down Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s dictatorship in 2012, says no evidence supports speculation about al Qaeda’s involvement in the Benghazi attack. To the contrary, the Times reports that the diverse and fractured opposition militias, many of whom were at least somewhat friendly toward U.S. interests, most likely contributed to the attack.

That dovetails with the findings of the State Department investigative panel report on Benghazi.

“The Benghazi attacks also took place in a context in which the global terrorism threat as most often represented by al Qaeda (AQ) is fragmenting and increasingly devolving to local affiliates and other actors who share many of AQ’s aims, including violent anti-Americanism, without necessarily being organized or operated under direct AQ command and control,” the report said.

The Times report zeroes in on militia leader Abu Khattala as well as the like-minded Islamist militia Ansar al Sharia.

In a recent interview with CNN’s Arwa Damon, Khattala acknowledged being at the Benghazi mission after the attack but denied any involvement.

Damon spent two hours interviewing Khattala at a coffee shop at a well-known hotel in Benghazi. He allowed Damon to use an audio recorder to tape the conversation, but refused to appear on camera.

Khattala’s narrative of the events that night was sometimes unclear and, at times, seemed to be contradictory, Damon said.

He admitted to being at the compound the night of the attack, but denied any involvement in the violence.

Asked about allegations he may have masterminded the attack, Khattala and two of the men he brought with him to the interview “burst out laughing,” Damon said.

I’ll show you what’s truly hilarious. The New York Times tying itself in knots in order to validate part of the administration’s narrative.

Are they serious?

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.

Mr. Abu Khattala had become well known in Benghazi for his role in the killing of a rebel general, and then for declaring that his fellow Islamists were insufficiently committed to theocracy. He made no secret of his readiness to use violence against Western interests. One of his allies, the leader of Benghazi’s most overtly anti-Western militia, Ansar al-Shariah, boasted a few months before the attack that his fighters could “flatten” the American Mission. Surveillance of the American compound appears to have been underway at least 12 hours before the assault started.

The violence, though, also had spontaneous elements. Anger at the video motivated the initial attack. Dozens of people joined in, some of them provoked by the video and others responding to fast-spreading false rumors that guards inside the American compound had shot Libyan protesters. Looters and arsonists, without any sign of a plan, were the ones who ravaged the compound after the initial attack, according to more than a dozen Libyan witnesses as well as many American officials who have viewed the footage from security cameras.

Perspective is vital in this case, and the obvious perspective of the Times is to totally trash the GOP version of the narrative while carefully upholding some parts of the administration’s story. Somewhere in that mess of illogic and confusion is a germ of truth. Rep. Mike Rogers, Chairman of the House Intel Committee, who has direct access to the raw intelligence and best analysis available, begs to differ:

“I will tell you this, by witness testimony and a year and a half of interviewing everyone that was in the ground by the way, either by an FBI investigator or the committee: It was very clear to the individuals on the ground that this was an Al Qaeda-led event. And they had pretty fairly descriptive events early on that lead those folks on the ground, doing the fighting, to the conclusion that this was a pre-planned, organized terrorist event,” Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., told Fox News in a November interview.

“Not a video, that whole part was debunked time and time again,” Rogers added of the attack which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, Foreign Service officer Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, “which just leads to questions of why the administration hung with that narrative for so long when all the folks who participated on the ground saw something different.”

The comments challenged the findings of a New York Times “investigation” which pointed instead to local militias and claimed an anti-Islam video played a role in inciting the attackers.

The New York Times makes a point of saying that there was surveillance on the mission 12 hours before the attack. What they never get around to telling us is how the attackers knew of the annex a mile away. It was there that the Benghazi survivors fled following the burning of the mission and where three Americans lost their lives. There were no outraged Muslims demonstrating against a video there.

I have problems with parts of the GOP narrative but it’s a darn sight more accurate than what the White House or New York Times have come up with. The resurrection of the video as motivation for some of the attackers is outrageous. Who cares if a bunch of fanatics were demonstrating in front of the mission? They certainly werent’ the ones who killed Ambassador Stevens or were firing .50 cal machine guns and other automatic weapons at our diplmomats. It may also seem a little strange that none of the demonstrators were apparently hit by fire from the attackers. I don’t care how fanatical you are, you don’t stand in front of a building and scream “Death to America” in the middle of a firefight. How “spontaneous” were the demonstrators if they didn’t feel it necessary to take cover during the attack?

The White House owes a debt of gratitude to the Times for trying to rescue their original narrative about the attack in Benghazi.