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May 10 2013

There’s just no there there on Benghazi

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I understand there are readers here who, by now, think I’m a hyper-partisan neurotic writer wanna-be prima donna asshole. Hi, thanks for reading. Partisan and the other stuff, yeah maybe. Hyper? Probably not. And imo I’m moderately partisan for a good reason; we have a party deeply compromised by big money that fucks over their base from time to time causing everything from short term disgust to permanent nausea, and then there’s a bug fuck crazy party composed of scads of lunatics and — not sure if this is worse or better — sociopathic grifters shamelessly peddling mind numbing, bug fuck crazy destructive nonsense for a shred of profit of any kind. It’s an easy choice at the ballot box.

Maybe that does color my perception. I’m intellectually honest enough to recognize the possibility. Then something like right-wing Benghazi-hysteria rears its ugly head on a regular basis and reminds me that, no, I’m right and they really are shameless destructive sociopaths:

Daily Kos – So while Rove’s video claims that Hicks was informing Clinton that that al Qaeda was behind the deaths of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans, the reality is that neither Hicks nor Clinton yet knew that Stevens was dead. Instead, they were trying to find him—and protect other American personnel.

As you might guess, Rove’s first distortion was designed to establish the basis for a second distortion: The claim that Clinton personally blamed Benghazi on an internet video despite knowing that it was actually the work of religious extremists. Follow the below fold to continue exploring Rove’s attempted sleight-of-hand.

The Hill – “Of all the great cover-ups in history — the Pentagon papers, Iran-Contra, Watergate, all the rest of them — this … is going to go down as most egregious cover-up in American history,” Inhofe said.

When Humphries suggested that the Democratic-controlled Senate would not impeach the president, Inhofe said that was true. He said that Benghazi would “endure” and impeachment could come after the 2014 midterm elections, when Republicans hope to retake control of the upper chamber.

Republicans have accused the Obama administration of changing the “talking points” about last year’s attack in Benghazi for political gain in the heat of the 2012 presidential election.

OK, first of all, if you want people like me to take this seriously, if you want it objectively thought thru outside of the Fox News/Moonie Times/Rush Limbaugh axis of evil, Karl Rove is not the person you want talking to persons like me. He and a whole skadoodle of his like-minded pals have been utterly discredited, time and time again, and that’s saying it politely. He is the last one among the dozen top finishers for last ones you want.

The greatest cover up in American history? R-r-r-really W-w-w-ilber? Even when I step back from the brink and try to roll this around in my brain like a morsel on the tongue, clinically, checking for any taste of fact, it comes up blander than unflavored gum. At the worst, a President in an election year may have put some minor spin, within hours of a tragic, confusing event before releasing better info, i.e., changing the talking points, over the next few days? That’s the worst case scenario, it’s debatable if that much even happened, and excuse the sarcasm … that’s the greatest cover up ever?!? Or the many examples of mythology that has grown around it, like the President wasn’t quick enough to call it an act of terror?

Let’s go to the tape and see how well that strategy worked out the last time it was presented in an objective format where facts count.

On people like Karl Rove as the messenger (Or Inhofe for that matter): the guys and gals who won elections based on scaring us shitless to disastrous effect, who rammed neocon policy after neocon policy down our throats to disastrous effect, who stacked regulatory orgs with lobbyists to disastrous effect, who clearly and intentionally hyped a traumatic, terrifying terrorist incident and used it to stampede an already tweaked out panicked nation into a pointless bloody, unending trillion-dollar war to disastrous effect, those same guys are bitching about anything? Let alone about politicizing terrorism for electoral or legislative, policy purpose?

There is no sarcasm up to the task.

There are plenty of ways to get me pissed off at Obama. You could talk about drones and Afghanistan, or GITMO, or the drug war, or social security chained CPI, etc. But you’ll never get me to vote for your guy on any of those, you are so far out in the wingnut weeds on every single one of them that the light from Obama would take a million years to reach your perch.

Conservatives, I tell you this from the bottom of my heart, for Benghazi to take off in the non wingnut universe, the way you seem to want it to, you must have an actual deplorable, documented disgusting conspiracy/ideology that crashes and burns hotter than the Hindenburg to even come close to out doing your own recent record. There has to be some there there; in fact it now has to be even worse because you’ve built it up so much anything truthful and significant would get lost in a morass of arm-waving fictional noise at this point. Like someone claiming aliens probed them in bed last night.

It’s just pitiful.

23 comments

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  1. 1
    Argle Bargle

    “I don’t think there’s a smoking gun…I don’t think there’s a lukewarm slingshot.” -Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI)

  2. 2
    khatru2112

    nothing there,
    nothing to see at all,
    don’t pay attn to the lying liars behind the curtain!

    ” In his 22 years of diplomatic service, Hicks testified, every congressional delegation he has ever received has been afforded one-on-one meetings with chargés d’affaires. But in the aftermath of Benghazi, State Department lawyers explicitly instructed Hicks not to speak to Representative Jason Chaffetz, nor to allow Chaffetz to speak with security personnel, without their presence as babysitters — a massive breach in protocol. When lawyers were nevertheless excluded from one meeting because they lacked appropriate security clearance, Hicks received an angry phone call from Cheryl Mills, Secretary Clinton’s chief of staff and chief fixer (whom you may remember as Bill Clinton’s attorney before the United States Senate). Said Hicks of the call: “She demanded a report on the visit and she was upset.”

    The whistleblowers’ testimony is recounted here with little adornment, because to read it is to understand its import. It shows an administration characterized ex ante by incompetence and ex post facto by panic and cold calculation, willing to subvert national security for campaign-season politics. And it paints Hillary Clinton’s inner circle as eager to shift blame from political appointees to mid-level career employees, to intimidate foreign and civil servants into toeing the company line, and to punish those who refused (Hicks was demoted). “

  3. 3
    Stephen "DarkSyde" Andrew

    Why not simply state what it is you think happened and why it’s so bad? Watch: Watergate, Nixon used covert ops techniques to spy on domestic political opponents, that’s illegal, then they got caught covering it up and it made a juicy story. Clinton lied about an affair to the nation and under oath, illegal and super juicy, Reagan really sold weapons to Iran to fund the Contras against explicit law enacted by Congress, etc. Illegal but not that juicy.

    These are simple statements, no one with any credibility and no one much at all disagrees with them any more, even the people who did them. What exactly is it you think happened with Benghazi outside of “changing the talking points”? Not around the edges, not vague accusations of hidden conspiracy, what specifically do you think happened and why do you think it’s as bad or worse as any of those above?

    Because if that’s all it is, the answer is easy: we just saw how shitty first reports can be in Boston, and even after things are sorted out any President damn well better think long and hard, a week or two is the absolute minimum I would imagine, before freely revealing top secret info to the general public simply because Fox News or any other outlet asks him to. It’s not illegal, quite the contrary, and it’s sure not juicy.

  4. 4
    machintelligence

    I am of the personal opinion that the vast majority of the American public realizes that Benghazi type incidents happen in that part of the world, and don’t tend to hold the president in power responsible. Most folks think of it as unfortunate semi-ancient history and really do not give a shit.
    Thanks for the video clip. Note to future debaters: if your opponent says “please proceed”, you are being given a shovel to dig your hole deeper.

  5. 5
    Kevin

    Yeah, that was my reaction as well…

    Who did what wrong? Exactly?

    Ooo, Hillary Clinton did something something something something something…SCARY!!! And made phone calls!!!Eleventy!!11 EEEEEK!! Hide the children!! Run away!!!!

    It’s almost as if they’re trying to spin some scenario where Clinton knew there would be an attack on the embassy, told Obama about it, who then deliberately removed security personnel in order that his own ambassador would be killed. Because reasons. Something about Obama being a Muslim Brotherhood member and importing 500 million Muslims into national parks. And Area 51. Or something.

    Here’s what happened:

    1. Congress cut funding for security at embassies. The State Department stupidly cut security at the Libyan embassy. Because stupid.

    2. Some local group got a wild hair about something that caused a protest at the embassy. Because reasons. Note: even if this were a direct plot to assault the embassy rather than just random milling about ululating about something, doesn’t matter. Because reasons.

    3. The local LEOs were completely out-manned and under-motivated to do anything other than let this protest wind down of its own accord. Because indifference.

    4. The protestors eventually breached the embassy walls and killed some people, including the ambassador. Because hate-filled idiots in a mob.

    5. The State Department then tried to mitigate the fallout of #1. Even though it’s probably likely that increased security would have prevented precisely nothing (with the exception of maybe being able to get the ambassador out of harm’s way). Because protecting their own asses.

    6. Obama said, “what the fuck happened here”? And waited until he got a credible response before making public statements. Because responsible.

    I think that’s about the gist of it.

  6. 6
    Randomfactor

    This is all about taking down the presumed Democratic frontrunner in 2016, since the Republicans haven’t got a single credible candidate apart from Chris Christie, whose lap-band may or may not make him one by then.

  7. 7
    Kevin

    @6: That’s an interesting hypothesis, one that I’ve also entertained. But I don’t think these people are that forward thinking. After all, the whole “controversy” started prior to the last election and has continued pretty much unabated.

    If Obama had lost (yeah, right), I’m sure there would be nary a peep about it.

    I think it’s all about Obama; trying to pin “something” on him. Although to what end, it’s impossible to say. Surely, unless there’s a video tape of Obama chatting with a Libyan terrorist telling him “the coast is clear, attack at dawn” this doesn’t even rise to the level of anything worthy even of a Congressional investigation.

    No, I’m sticking with hatred of Obama. Because black.

  8. 8
    Marcus Ranum

    Yeah. They could (and should) go after Obama for covering for the torturers. That’s a high crime, not even a misdemeanor. There are probably other violations of us law regarding domestic surveillance. Go after him for those; I’m all for it. They’re crimes that make Clinton’s lying under oath look quite benign.

    There’s a curious reluctance on the part of the republicans to see justice done, there, where crimes have been done and admitted to. It kind of makes me think they’re not really so serious about what’s right. For some reason. I can’t figure it out.

  9. 9
    Marcus Ranum

    I am, however, utterly shocked to hear that the State Dept may have been incompetent. What’s next? FEMA?

  10. 10
    machintelligence

    Republicans haven’t got a single credible candidate apart from Chris Christie,

    And we all know how much the Republicans love him, because he said nice things about Obama and told Romney to buzz off because the hurricane was a real crisis and not just another photo-op.

  11. 11
    wpjoe

    Maybe the repubs don’t really care about Benghazi, but instead they are just bored and looking for some entertainment (on the Tues – Thurs that they are actually in Washington). What’s left to do when you have already voted to repeal Obamacare 357 times? It’s not like there are bridges that need repairing in the US where you could direct some money to do something good for the people. It’s not like there is a lack of accountability on Wall Street that needs addressing to avoid another fiscal crisis. It’s not like there are problems with the tax code. And the gun situation is perfectly fine. The sequestor is not hurting anyone, not anyone that matters. Yeah, the best thing to do is get an investigation going that everyone can watch and enjoy on Fox news.

  12. 12
    Stephen "DarkSyde" Andrew

    I kinda forget about that Kevin but you’re right. There’s a powerful undertone that Obama set it up, that’s he a Kenyan Muslim Manchuarian candidate, and since that’s insane even to a lot of republicans they don’t have anywhere to go with it beside grifting to the most ignorant teahadists.

  13. 13
    Ben P

    Here’s what happened:

    1. Congress cut funding for security at embassies. The State Department stupidly cut security at the Libyan embassy. Because stupid.

    2. Some local group got a wild hair about something that caused a protest at the embassy. Because reasons. Note: even if this were a direct plot to assault the embassy rather than just random milling about ululating about something, doesn’t matter. Because reasons.

    3. The local LEOs were completely out-manned and under-motivated to do anything other than let this protest wind down of its own accord. Because indifference.

    4. The protestors eventually breached the embassy walls and killed some people, including the ambassador. Because hate-filled idiots in a mob.

    5. The State Department then tried to mitigate the fallout of #1. Even though it’s probably likely that increased security would have prevented precisely nothing (with the exception of maybe being able to get the ambassador out of harm’s way). Because protecting their own asses.

    6. Obama said, “what the fuck happened here”? And waited until he got a credible response before making public statements. Because responsible.

    I think that’s about the gist of it.

    I find it interesting that you say this, because we know know to a reasonably high degree of certainty that’s not what happened.

    1, 3, and 6 seem to be generally accurate. The whole dispute is narrowly concerned about what happened with 5 and whether the president was involved.

    But two and four are not correct. In replacement, what actually happened.

    2. Some groups around the islamic world (particularly in Egypt) got a wild hair about protesting some random video made in the United States that was intentionally derogatory toward islam. Because ,,reasons (it’s well known muslims get upset about shit like this, even if unreasonable).

    4. At approximately 9:40 p.m. on September 11, 2012, approximately 140 heavily armed men launched a determined military assault on the consulate compound backed up by grenades, explosives and truck mounted heavy machine guns. At the time, there were four individuals present in the Consulate,, Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith an “information management officer” and two bodyguards, Stock Strickland and Glen Doherty. The attackers breached the outside walls in short order and began assaulting the embassy compound itself.

    The ambassador, CHristopher Stevens called Richard Hicks (the *whistleblower*) in Tripoli (several hundred miles away) to tell him that the compound was under attack. Hicks ignored the first two phone calls because he didn’t recognize the number and answered the third. They also called Washington and a quick reaction force at the consulate annex (i.e. the CIA compound) about a mile away. That call was cut off after “We’re under attack and need help.” The Ten Member security team at the CIA compound mounted a rescue at about 10:05. They notified other officers up the chain of command and local military units were trying to find a way to get to Benghazi.

    The rescue force reached the embassy and came under heavy fire. They located the body of one security agent, but were unable to find others in the burning compound. They retreated.

    At about 1am locals found the body of Ambassador Stephens, he was taken to a local hospital.

    4.2 Just after midnight, an attack, presumably by the same group, was launched against the CIA annex in Benghazi. Security officers at the CIA compound held off the attackers for 4-5 hours until a rescue force arrived. This rescue force was comprised of 2 special ops soldiers and 5 CIA personnel who had paid $30,000 in cash for a private plane charter from Tripoli to Benghazi at midnight.

    4.5 Seperately, in Washington, the State Department was notified of the attack at about 9:40 Liybian time, about 3:40 p.m. Washington Time. State Department Officials told Leon Panetta at about 4:30 p.m. and a drone was dispatched to Benghazi from a ship in the Med. It arrived about 5:11 p.m. and began offering a live video feed from the scene. At 5:41 p.m. Hillary Clinton called David Patreus (CIA) to coordinate a response.

    What you’re missing from 5 – The next day (September 12th) Obama made a speech from the White House calling the action an “Outrageous attack” and separately referenced “Acts of terror.” Hillary Clinton made a seperate public statement specifically stating that the attack was perpetrated by a group of “heavily armed militants…not the people or the government of Libya”

    On September 14 Jay Carney said in a press conference

    There was no intelligence that in any way could have been acted on to prevent these attacks. It is – I mean, I think the DNI spokesman was very declarative about this that the report is false. The report suggested that there was intelligence that was available prior to this that led us to believe that this facility would be attacked, and that is false… We have no information to suggest that it was a preplanned attack. The unrest we’ve seen around the region has been in reaction to a video that Muslims, many Muslims find offensive. And while the violence is reprehensible and unjustified, it is not a reaction to the 9/11 anniversary that we know of, or to U.S. policy.”

    Then on September 16th, Susan Rice, based on Talking points she’d been given, said on several different news talk shows that

    Based on the best information we have to date, what our assessment is as of the present is in fact what began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy—sparked by this hateful video. But soon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that– in that effort with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post-revolution. And that it spun from there into something much, much more violent.” “We do not– we do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.””I think it’s clear that there were extremist elements that joined in and escalated the violence. Whether they were al Qaeda affiliates, whether they were Libyan-based extremists or al Qaeda itself I think is one of the things we’ll have to determine.”

    Then on September 18 Carney said in another news conference

    I’m saying that based on information that we – our initial information, and that includes all information – we saw no evidence to back up claims by others that this was a preplanned or premeditated attack; that we saw evidence that it was sparked by the reaction to this video. And that is what we know thus far based on the evidence, concrete evidence.”

    I’ll put my thoughts in a seperate post.

  14. 14
    Ben P

    I neglected to add in the prior post that eventually, by early October, the US government came to the official position that it holds today, which is that the Behghazi Attack was in fact a deliberate, premeditated attack by an armed group on the consulate. The source of the attack is believed to be an Al Queda offshoot in Libya.

    Now, Republicans assert that the two and three days later statements of Carney and Rice suggesting that the attacks arose out of a protest in front of the embassy were a cover up, deliberately designed to suggest that what occurred was a reaction to the video and, as Republicans assert, not a terrorist attack that might reflect poorly on Obama.

    Democrats say “well, no one really knew what was what at the time”

    Republicans have responded “Well, we want to find out exactly who knew what and why these people were saying these wrong things!”

    Hillary Clinton, perhaps unfortunately, said in her congressional testimony said the other way “what does it matter at this point.”

    Although it’s undiplomatic to say so, at the end of the day Hillary Clinton seems to be more or less correct. The whole of the controversy is whether the Obama administration or individuals within it attempted to spin the facts about the attack a certain way in the absence of hard knowledge. That’s it, and there’s really nothing else.

    Republicans of course, want to make as much hay about this as possible, and are pulling the lawyer trick of betting that if you ask enough questions, you’ll get inconsistent statements at some point, then you can pretend that it was a lie. They’ve pretty much failed at this so far, but are loudly crowing that they’ve gotten exactly what they want.

  15. 15
    Ben P

    And because it’s highly relevant to this thread.

    THe Washington Post: What’s the real lesson of Benghazi?

    What’s the real lesson of Benghazi? It’s that the party-aligned press works so well for Republicans that they’ve become too lazy to bother explaining their ideas, or doing the hard work of actual oversight.

    Remember, to begin with, Benghazi was a policy disaster: Four people died, and there’s every possibility that it didn’t have to happen. A normal political party could get some mileage out of that (yes, it’s crass, but that’s politics). In fact, the political system depends on the out-party demanding that the president, the White House, and the executive branch in general be held to account when things go wrong.

    Instead, we’ve had months of gobbledegook about a set of talking points that supposedly were part of an effort to…you know, I don’t even want to bother. What matters is whether there were mistakes made that caused the disaster, whether people who made those mistakes were held accountable, and whether things have changed to make another disaster less likely. Unfortunately, Republicans don’t seem very interested in any of that.

    Part of what’s happening is, as Jamelle Bouie pointed out today, the strong demand within the conservative marketplace for scandal. But there’s more than that; it’s not just a demand for scandal, but how easily the customers accept anything presented to them. The result — and Alex Pareene is very good on this today — is that they don’t bother putting together a “coherent or convincing narrative.”

    Pareene usefully contrasts Benghazi and other Obama scandals to the Bill Clinton scandals of the 1990s. One key difference, however, is that there was no Fox News through much of the Clinton presidency — the GOP-aligned network signed on in 1996 and didn’t pass CNN in viewers until 2000. That meant that in order for a story to reach a really mass audience, or at any rate to get beyond Rush Limbaugh, it had to be sold to the neutral press. True, a lot of those Clinton scandals were pretty nutty anyway, but many of them were at least coherent.

    With Obama, there’s no need for these scandals to make sense; the conservative press will run with them either way. And there might even be an advantage to incoherence. After all, if the accusations are gibberish, the neutral reporters will tend to ignore them — and then conservatives can go on conservative talk radio and Fox News and charge the rest of the press of ignoring these extremely important charges.

    All of which means that Republican politicians have little incentive, and perhaps even some real disincentives, for doing the hard work of government oversight — or even the hard work of first-rate scandal-mongering. No wonder they get lazy!

    Unfortunately, that leaves us with hyped-up accusations, but no real government oversight — no one really probing for real mistakes, or even real malfeasance, from the Obama Administration. There’s just no reason to bother. And that leaves everyone worse off — except perhaps those reaping profits in the conservative marketplace.

  16. 16
    Ben P

    1, 3, and 6 seem to be generally accurate. The whole dispute is narrowly concerned about what happened with 5 and whether the president was involved.

    Although I’m now quad-posting, I’ll revise this slightly before someone calls me out on it.

    There are some, particularly in the fringe elements of the Republican media that openly suggest Obama somehow directly ordered other available military forces not to attempt to rescue people at the Embassy because…well….some made up trash about it being embarassing because they’d have to admit al-queda are terrorists? Plus Obama is evil.

    More mainstream conservative media (i.e. FOX) imply this and hint at it, but don’t say it directly.

    Needless to say, there’s no evidence for this whatsoever.

  17. 17
    Stephen "DarkSyde" Andrew

    That looks pretty rock solid to me Ben.

  18. 18
    d.c.wilson

    The thing is, the republicans are following the exact same playbook they were in the late 1990s:

    1) Refuse to negotiate and play brinksmanship games with the administration (Government shutdown vs. Sequester).

    2) Tie up the administration with endless investigations, hearings, and eventual impeachment (At this point, not a question of “if” but “when.”

    3) Do everything they can to tie the potential successor to the scandals and damage their chances in the next election.

    The only difference is, Clinton actually did lie about a blow job. Obama has done . . . what, exactly? Wingnuts keep saying how “obvious” this scandal is, but none of them can even explain to me what actions he took or did not take that rise to the level of “treason, high crimes, and misdemeanors.”

  19. 19
    No One

    What was the U.S. Ambassador to Libya doing in Bengazi that he could not have done from the embassy in Tripoli? He had a meeting with a Turkish official earlier that day. I wonder what they had to talk about.

  20. 20
    Tsu Dho Nimh

    @13 … pproximately 140 heavily armed men launched a determined military assault on the consulate compound backed up by grenades, explosives and truck mounted heavy machine guns

    Perhaps taking advantage of the protesters as cover and to divert attention?

  21. 21
    brucegee1962

    16 Ben P.

    Thanks for the well-written breakdown. I was going to put in some clarifications, but you’ve done it much better.

    One question though: “There are some, particularly in the fringe elements of the Republican media that openly suggest Obama somehow directly ordered other available military forces not to attempt to rescue people at the Embassy because…well”

    The fact is, though, that someone did order the available military forces to stand down. You’re right, the Republicans haven’t really been able to come up with a reasonable narrative as to why, because really, any explanation would sound crazily conspiratorial. Still, someone did give the order, and we don’t know who. Until we know who, and why, people are going to come up with crazy theories.

    As for me, this scandal certainly would never make me vote for a Republican for anything, or to support some kind of crazy impeachment. But it may be enough for me to take a serious look at Hillary’s primary challengers in 2016, whereas a month ago I’d been figuring on supporting her without question.

  22. 22
    Ben P

    Perhaps taking advantage of the protesters as cover and to divert attention?

    There were big protests at the Embassy in Cairo that day, but little evidence of any protests at the consulate in Benghazi. The point of it being a highly organized terrorist attack is that it is exceedingly unlikely it was organized on the spot, either in reaction to the video or to try to use the video as a cover.

    Subsequently, you had Jay Carney and Susan Rice saying things that, well, are kind of dumb.

    Seperately, as some others have pointed out, there was some bureaucratic infighting over who got access to the investigation. (Gee, during an election season? you don’t say!).

    Republicans very much want there to be a scandal in why Carney and Rice were saying dumb things, but every attempt so far to find a smoking gun has come up kinda short.

  23. 23
    Ben P

    The fact is, though, that someone did order the available military forces to stand down. You’re right, the Republicans haven’t really been able to come up with a reasonable narrative as to why, because really, any explanation would sound crazily conspiratorial. Still, someone did give the order, and we don’t know who. Until we know who, and why, people are going to come up with crazy theories.

    This is based solely on media statements of Greg Hicks and not his actual testimony. During hearing testimony on Benghazi, Republican congressional staffers repeatedly asked about a stand down, but got very evasive answers from hicks. He maintains that a Lt. Col. was told not to board an airplane, but can’t say why the order was given or even who gave it, beyond this, this all purportedly happened after the earlier team had already left. He further maintained he was told jets could not be dispatched from Italy because there were no tankers available to support them.

    Perhaps most importantly, the official report house republicans have put out on the investigation doesn’t mention this purported “stand down” order anywhere.

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