Down the Times’ Benghazi Rabbit Hole

by Andrew C. McCarthy
Nitpicking over which jihadists did what lets the Obama administration evade the real questions.

What was the commander-in-chief of the United States armed forces doing through the night of September 11, 2012, while he knew Americans were under jihadist siege in Libya? You won’t learn the answer to that question by reading the mini-book-length, six-“chapter” revisionist history of the Benghazi massacre cooked up by David D. Kirkpatrick and the New York Times.

The Times report is a labor of love in the service of President Obama and, in particular, the Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign ramp-up. Former secretary of state Clinton, of course, was a key architect of Obama’s Libya policy. She was also chiefly responsible for the protection of American personnel in that country, including our murdered ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens, and the three other Americans killed by Muslim terrorists — State Department technician Sean Smith and a pair of former Navy SEALs, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods. Still, the Times is banking on your not noticing that in its laborious 7,500 words, Kirkpatrick’s account utters the word “Clinton” exactly . . . wait for it . . . zero times.

The word “Obama” comes in for a mere six mentions, four of which are impersonal references to the current administration. The other two are telling, though fleeting.

One is a rehearsal of the president’s vow to exact “justice” against anyone found responsible for this “terrible act” of killing four Americans, including the formal representative of our nation. As it happens, the only person on the planet to have felt the lash of Obama’s justice is Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the California-based “producer” who filmed the infamous “anti-Mohammed” movie trailer, Innocence of Muslims. In a despicable violation of constitutional free-speech principles, and a bow to sharia blasphemy rules that forbid criticism of Islam, Obama and Clinton publicly portrayed Nakoula and his “film” as the Benghazi culprits — implicitly accepting the Islamic-supremacist premise that verbal insults, no matter how obscure and trifling, justify mass-murder attacks.

In large part, the Times’ autopsy is a futile attempt to breathe new life into this demeaning farce. But Mr. Kirkpatrick is subtler about it than Obama and Clinton. He refers to the trailer as lighting “the fuse” that purportedly contributed to the attack — even the Times cannot quite bring itself to claim the trailer led to the attack. By contrast, Obama and Clinton (a) conspired to defraud the nation into believing the trailer was the singular, proximate cause — then dispatched their minion, Ambassador Susan Rice, to do their dirty work on the Sunday shows; (b) jointly appeared in a preening commercial aired on Islamic (but not American) television to stress that the U.S. government had no part in the video (translation: We elevate sharia blasphemy standards over the Bill of Rights guarantees the U.S. government exists to ensure); (c) told family members of our Benghazi dead that they would get, not the terrorists, but the man responsible for the video; and (d) then trumped up a prosecution against Nakoula: The Justice Department arrested him in the dead of night, imprisoning him on a bogus “violation of supervised release” that no experienced prosecutor would regard as meriting such severe treatment . . . but that could conveniently be portrayed to Muslim countries as the administration’s enforcement of sharia against Americans.

Kirkpatrick’s other mention of President Obama alludes to the president’s policy of supporting what the Times gently calls Libyan “militiamen” — translation: a gaggle of Muslim groups prominently including rabidly anti-American jihadists — in their “uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.” It is a passing reference, and fittingly so. After all, this exercise in revisionism is a politically motivated whitewash. In point of fact, Obama’s reckless Libya policy, part of his broader appeasement of Islamic supremacists, is the heart of the matter.

On that score, the Times may soon be able to run another bells-’n’-whistles story headlined “Mission Accomplished!”

Don’t get me wrong. Kirkpatrick’s account is absurd. Its two themes — namely, that the trailer really did have some causal connection to the massacre and that al-Qaeda really did not partake in the Benghazi attack — do not pass the laugh test. They have been ably refuted by Tom Joscelyn, Eli Lake, Steve Hayes, and the editors of National Review, to cite four of the best rebuttals.

As far as the trailer goes, it should be unacceptable in a civilized society to contend that a movie can “light the fuse” to a murderous assault. And in this instance, as I’ve previously demonstrated, the trailer was not even “responsible” for the September 11 rioting at the American embassy in Cairo, as the Times-approved soap-opera script maintains, much less for the coordinated Benghazi attack several hours later. The anti-Mohammed video has never been anything but a pretext for Islamic-supremacist savagery — a rationalization aggressively peddled by the Obama-Clinton State Department.

As for the Times’ exculpation of al-Qaeda, it doesn’t even comport with the Grey Lady’s own prior reporting. It is, more to the point, a continuation of what we’ve been arguing in this space for over a decade now: What knits together the global jihad is Islamic-supremacist ideology — mainstream Middle Eastern Islam, directly traceable to Koranic scripture. The organizational niceties and shifting loyalties of jihadist groups are a sideshow — including what it has become fashionable to call “core al-Qaeda” and its expanding array of franchises, tentacles, and wannabes.

So why do I say, “Mission Accomplished”? Because the objective of Kirkpatrick’s novella is not to persuade; it is to shrink the parameters of newsworthy inquiry to a punctilious debate over nonsense: The cockamamie trailer and the dizzying jihadist org chart.

Here’s a case in point. In a weak comeback to his critics’ contention that, as U.S. intelligence sources maintain, the al-Qaeda-linked Muhammad Jamal network was involved in the massacre, Kirkpatrick told CNN that this claim was at once “bogus” and “tenuous.” My friend Tom Joscelyn counters, “The Jamal network’s role in Benghazi cannot be both ‘bogus’ and ‘tenuous,’ of course. Either there are ties, however tenuous, or there are not.” Tom then proceeds to demonstrate that, in reality, this al-Qaeda branch’s role was neither “bogus” nor “tenuous.” He’s right, of course — but that’s not the point. Joscelyn wins the argument, but the Times, Obama, and Clinton win more by the fact that we are having the argument.

Coherence and historical accuracy are not what the Times is after. The aim is to drag our consideration of a jihadist act of war down a rabbit hole of nitpicking over which jihadists did what. Meanwhile, the Obama administration’s derelictions before, during, and after the massacre — the matter of greatest consequence — remain studiously outside this wearying crossfire.

Remember, the Times-Clinton tag team has run this play before. Start with a president using a young intern to turn the Oval Office into a brothel and then perjuring himself over it. Ought to be a removable offense, right? But the next thing you know, after some epic media investigation dictated by Democratic talking points, we find ourselves kvetching over whether it was really sex; whether she was of consenting age; whether he really lied; whether the lies were really “material”; whether a president’s Oval Office trysts are really part of his “private life”; and “what the definition of ‘is’ is.”

See? None of the ever tinier questions or answers matter. The idea is to exhaust the American attention span until enough people are persuaded that it’s time to — all together now — move on.

Well, the strategy worked for the comparative low comedy of Bill Clinton’s meretricious White House. Will we likewise be exhausted into “moving on” from Benghazi, an act of war invited and unavenged by Obama-Clinton Islamist-appeasement policies? That depends on whether we accept the analytical boundaries the Times, the Obama administration, and the Hillary! campaign seek to impose on us. Will we instead press the real questions — as tirelessly as the Left is obscuring them?

What, to repeat, was Barack Obama doing on September 11, 2012, in the hours before he blithely hopped aboard Air Force One — not to be deterred from a Vegas fundraiser — while anti-American jihadists invaded our soil to war against our country? While those jihadists murdered four American officials and severely wounded others? And speaking of those others, why have they been kept under wraps by the Obama administration for the ensuing 15 months — with nary a peep from the press? Why have they been prevented from speaking publicly about what happened in Benghazi that night?

After being informed about the siege in the late afternoon, did President Obama have personal or telephone contact with any top military brass or any members of his cabinet that night? Any engaged commander-in-chief would have been burning up the phone lines, but the White House initially represented to Congress that Obama made no calls. That astounding version of events was soon contradicted by Secretary Clinton. In January 2013 congressional testimony, she claimed to have had a phone conversation with the president at around 10 p.m. Washington time. That was shortly after she had been fully briefed by Gregory Hicks, the highest ranking State Department official then on the ground in Libya — another official the administration subsequently tried to keep under wraps, and an official who was adamant in his riveting congressional testimony that an obscure anti-Mohammed video had absolutely nothing to do with the terrorist attack in Benghazi.

Did Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton really speak with each other? If they did not, as the White House initially maintained, why did she testify that they did? If they did — as claimed in the amended version of events offered by presidential spokesman Jay Carney only after Clinton’s testimony — then why did the White House originally tell Congress a different story? If Obama and Clinton did speak, moreover, what are we to make of the fact that the purported 10 p.m. call — which would have occurred while Americans, including Doherty and Woods, were still fighting for their lives — happened only minutes before the State Department put out a statement from Secretary Clinton blaming the attack on the video?

Why were there American diplomatic and intelligence facilities in Benghazi in the first place? It is not only one of the most dangerous places in the world for Americans; it is a place where Western installations — including the very State Department facility attacked on September 11, 2012 — had been subjected to serial terrorist strikes. Why, when the British government had the good sense to pull their people out of Benghazi, did Hillary Clinton deny her beleaguered State Department officials there the increased security they repeatedly requested? Indeed, why was security, in a place where Americans were in constant peril from jihadists, contracted out to local Muslim militias? What arrangements were made to ensure that American military assets were on alert to respond in the all too likely event that our facilities were overrun by Islamic supremacists? And what steps did President Obama take — or fail to take — to make sure American military assets responded to the attack?

Why did the Obama administration, at the encouragement of the McCain faction of the GOP establishment, switch sides in Libya? Obama and McCain first told us that Qaddafi was a key American counter-terrorism ally — precisely because he was providing our intelligence services with information about Islamic supremacists in places like Benghazi who had flocked to Iraq to wage jihad against American troops. Obama, with McCain’s support, even increased aid to Qaddafi before suddenly, disastrously, swinging in favor of the jihadists. It was that policy reversal that ousted Qaddafi, empowered jihadists throughout northern Africa, and — in tandem with Obama and Clinton’s shocking failures to provide security to our personnel — directly paved the way for the Benghazi massacre. Why did Obama initiate an offensive war against a theretofore purported American ally without congressional authorization in the absence of any vital American interest, much less any threat to the United States?

 . . . Or, taking the Times’ cues, we can keep talking about the video trailer and whether the jihadists who slaughtered our people knew the secret al-Qaeda handshake.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute. He is the author, most recently, of Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy.

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