This week: Benghazi, Jon Karl and how I’m not coming down off of drugs.
One of the more interesting tales of conspiracy and intrigue are the allegations as to what President Obama and White House did and didn’t say about the Benghazi attacks and what they may or may not have told various government departments and agencies to deliver as “talking points” to the Media.
On September 11th, 2012, prior to the POTUS election, there was an attack on American diplomatic mission at Benghazi, in Libya. The ambassador was killed, as were three other people in the compound. Initially it was suspected that the attacks were a reaction/uprising to the trailer of the “film” “Innocence of the Muslims” but it is now known to have been a pre-mediated attack by militants.
Benghazi has been a bit of a sideshow: Republicans have chided Obama for not labelling the attacks as terrorist attacks (he did call the attacks “acts of terror”, but apparently an “act of terror” is not the same as a “terrorist attack”). The Obama administration was also taken to task for singling out “Innocence of the Muslims” as a factor in the attacks, both of the Left (who said this played into a naive notion of “Muslim rage against the decadent West”) and the Right (who said Al Qaeda was obviously behind the attacks).1
What has happened now is this: some members of the Republican Party have tried to create “talking points” which suggest political inference by the White House and the State Department in whitewashing the “talking points” various political agencies were working with just after the attack on the embassy in Benghazi in order to help Obama’s re-election chances. Certain politicos want to create the impression the White House was telling agencies exactly what to say and making sure they were watering down key talking points (like the role of Al Qaeda in the attacks). For example, a leaked quote from Ben Rhodes (White House) about the attacks, supplied to Jon Karl, a reporter for ABC went:
“We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation.”
This indicated that the White House was being disingenous/lying in their press conferences in the immediate aftermath of the attack, particularly with respect to deleting talking points (say, the role of Al Qaeda) or scrubbing information to make things look better than they were.
This seemed newsworthy, since there have been quite a number of investigations into what happened in Benghazi and how much people new beforehand and how much information was suppressed afterwards.2
Now, it does seem there are legitimate concerns. The embassy in Benghazi was understaffed and the protection details inadequate. However, what the opponents of the Obama Administration want to push is a conspiracy theory that shows the administration manipulated the public and told lies about who was responsible for the attacks in order to secure Obama’s re-election. To large extent, this is a version of the October Surprise Theory (Iran, the hostages and Reagan), although many are also comparing it to Watergate (by claiming that Obama has actually lied).
So, what happened. Well, according to Mother Jones (http://m.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/05/its-official-bogus-email-leaks-came-republicans):
“Republicans in Congress saw copies of these emails two months ago and did nothing with them. It was obvious that they showed little more than routine interagency haggling. Then, riding high after last week’s Benghazi hearings, someone got the bright idea of leaking two isolated tidbits and mischaracterizing them in an effort to make the State Department look bad. Apparently they figured it was a twofer: they could stick a shiv into the belly of the White House and they could then badger them to release the entire email chain, knowing they never would.”
However, the White House did the unthinkable: they released the entire e-mail exchange, which showed that the selective leaks supplied to journalists by members of the Republican Party contained fabrications.
Jon Karl, ABC’s White House correspondent, still stands by the story, even though the leaked e-mail turns out to be part-fabrication (which makes for a strange “standing by a story”). However, it seems the truth of the story is not based upon the facts but rather the suspicion that maybe there is a smoking gun somewhere.
It seems the truth of the story is not based upon the facts but rather the suspicion that maybe there is a smoking gun somewhere.
What has happened here is that a purported conspiracy by the White House has failed to be supported by hard evidence, whilst a suspected conspiracy by the Republicans to use Benghazi against the Obama Administration seems to have been proven.
Now, let’s be clear, Obama has done plenty of things to justify suspicion of his presidency. From “The Atlantic”: (http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/05/the-biggest-obama-scandals-are-proven-and-ignored/275960/)
He’s ordered the assassination of American citizens in secret without respect to due process.
Refused to reveal the legal reasoning he used to conclude his targeted killing program as being legal/lawful.
Hated on whistleblowers.
Spied on a multitude of (presumably) innocent Americans without a warrant or probable cause.
Counts dead military-aged males killed by U.S. drones as “militants”.
Signed a bill that enshrines in law the previously merely-alleged executive power of indefinite detention without trial of terror suspects?
- According to the Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/may/22/benghazi-consul-attack-us-identifies-suspects):
“Officials in the US say they have identified five men who might be responsible for the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 and there is enough evidence to justify seizing them by military force as suspected terrorists or killing them with a drone strike. However, there is not enough proof to try them in a US civilian court as the Obama administration prefers.”
- According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Benghazi_attack#U.S._government_response):
“Several official investigations have been completed, are ongoing, or are under consideration:
Federal Bureau of Investigation (opened September 2012 – ongoing)
Five House Committees (Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, Judiciary, and Oversight and Government Reform) initiated their own inquiries (opened October 2012 – ongoing)
Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (October 2012 – report delivered December 31, 2012)
State Department Accountability Review Board (opened October 4, 2012 – report delivered December 20, 2012)
House Select Committee on the Terrorist Attack in Benghazi (proposed, in HR 36)”