An armed man waves his rifle as buildings and cars are engulfed in flames after being set on fire inside the U.S. consulate compound in Benghazi late on Sept. 11, 2012.
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The continued finger-pointing between the GOP and the Obama Administration over "what really happened in Benghazi" may be obscuring a much more disturbing narrative -- a story in neither party's interest.
WhoWhatWhy's discussion of that new possibility comes below, but first, here's the background:
On September 11, 2012, a heavily armed group of more than 100 gunmen destroyed the US consulate compound and a nearby CIA facility in the Eastern Libyan city; ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died. The attack has been characterized as "the most significant attack on United States property...since Sept. 11, 2001."
Shortly after the incident, Susan Rice, then Obama's UN ambassador, claimed publicly that the uprising was spontaneous -- a reaction to an anti-Islam YouTube video that had just aired. She, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others soon came under severe attack for purportedly making a false claim to deflect attention from administration security failures, and the blogosphere has continued to resound with the issue ever since.
The GOP -- along with its allies at Fox News and elsewhere -- insistently drummed allegations that the Obama Administration was responsible for the tragedy. The charges have ranged from a failure to address Al Qaeda's purported presence in Benghazi to not properly controlling weaponry in the hands of local militias.
These critics also decry what they say is a long-running cover-up. According to one count, nearly 80 percent of House Republicans now say they want a Watergate-style inquiry convened. Liberals have charged the Republicans with being recklessly partisan and exhibiting "lunacy."
Recently, the controversy's simmer went back to boil when The New York Times published an investigative report on Benghazi. Some of its conclusions vindicated the Obama Administration. It concluded that there was no Al Qaeda role, and that indeed the inflammatory video may have played some role. However, while finding that the crowd attack was partially spontaneous, the paper's reporter suggested that some intelligence lapses might have contributed. Specifically, he laid out superficial evidence that a local, non-Al Qaeda militia leader played some possible role as an inciter and sympathizer with the attack -- and that the man should have already been drawing scrutiny from American spies. In other words, a kind of draw, with neither the GOP nor the Obama administration fully vindicated.
When the Times piece came out, the GOP and its echo chamber, including Donald Trump, raced to accuse the paper of covering up the role of Al Qaeda in the attacks. By most accounts, though, that critique is dependent on perpetuating a still-popular though overly simplified notion of Al Qaeda as a unified, globe-girdling command, ignoring the local origins of so much Islamist activity. The perpetuation of the "Al Qaeda threat" has worked well because it continues as an easy sell for those stoking the fear machine.
On a scorecard comparing the traditional news outlets, the Times would, not surprisingly, score higher on the credibility and integrity meter with the Benghazi story than, say Fox News. But that's not saying a lot. Because very few establishment news entities of any stripe are willing to look deeper at the true causes of convulsive events; to wade into the shadowy world of larger interests duking it out through surrogates and deception.
Sometimes, to be sure, such events as the Benghazi "uprising" are as they appear: spontaneous acts of anger and passion. But often enough, there is more to the story.
That appears to be the case here. Delve deep into the particulars and you will uncover clues that, when carefully juxtaposed, suggest a more coherent design.
Here are some of those pieces:
-The date of the assault: anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks
-The evidence of advance planning and preparation
-The timing, content, provenance, and beneficiaries of the inciting video
-The nature of the uprising itself and its similarity to other supposedly spontaneous or locally-ignited debacles with international implications and hints of a guiding hand.