After a year of demanding answers about the terrorist attack that took place in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, the right wing got them in the form of a well-reported exposé by The New York Times‘ David Kirkpatrick.
And they don’t like these answers at all.
From the night of the murders, Republicans have been shamefully trying to politicize the attack that killed four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens, first as a means of stopping the re-election of President Obama, and then to damage the reputation of former secretary of state and possible candidate for president in 2016, Hillary Clinton. (We know the desperate attempt to prolong this “scandal” is all about smearing Hillary Clinton because Republicans have said it’s all about smearing Hillary Clinton.)
Within hours of Stevens’ death, GOP nominee Mitt Romney accused the Obama administration of “sympathizing” with extremists, as the State Department tried to protect the lives of diplomatic personnel in the face of protests across Northern Africa ginned up in opposition to an offensive depiction of Islamic religious iconography being spread on YouTube. Sensing they had a crisis to parallel 1980’s taking of hostages in Iran, Republicans continued to wage a campaign designed to paint the Obama administration as weak on terror. The Romney campaign suggested that the president was refusing to label the attack as “terrorism” and Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) suggested former UN Ambassador Susan Rice was lying and covering up the involvement of al-Qaeda when she offered CIA-approved talking points that the video played a major role in the attack.
Kirkpatrick’s reporting substantiates just about everything Ambassador Rice said as she appeared on several Sunday morning news shows just days after the attack:
Months of investigation by The New York Times, centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, turned up no evidence that al-Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault. The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.
This reporting closely echoes the original investigation ordered by Secretary Clinton and led by Thomas Pickering, an esteemed diplomat who served under Presidents Ford, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton.
It was clear that the video played a role, even before Kirkpatrick’s report. But it was unclear if it was the actual motivation for the attack or just a major factor in the unrest destabilizing the region. The Times‘ Middle East correspondent clearly asserts it was central.
It was also unclear if al-Qaeda had played a role in the killings. But this new report likely won’t settle that question, despite Kirkpatrick’s certainty, because the makeup of the terror network is so murky. “There’s a long-running debate among experts about whether al-Qaeda is more of a centralized, top-down organization, a network of affiliates with varying ties to a core leadership or the vanguard of a broader movement better described as ‘Sunni jihadism,'” Politico Magazine’s Blake Hounshell points out.
All of this leads to a question Secretary Clinton asked when testifying in front of a Senate committee.
“What difference – at this point, what difference does it make?” Clinton said.
Republicans argue that this question disrespects the lives of those four Americans who died in Benghazi. They assert that the president expressly told the military to “stand down” instead of trying to help the men. They accuse Clinton of purposeful negligence and evasion. These claims have all been debunked — there was no stand-down order and Clinton was not directly responsible for the security of an impromptu trip Stevens decided to take on his own, yet she still took responsibility for the tragedy.
The government failed to secure diplomatic resources, as it has under both Democratic and Republican presidents. The involvement of the CIA means that some of the story will likely remain cloaked in secrecy. But no misconduct has ever been proven.
The right wing clearly is not interested in answers, only raising questions—entirely for partisan purposes.
In the aftermath of 9/11, as the Bush/Cheney administration refused a bipartisan investigation of the attacks for a year, anyone who challenged the official story of the attacks and suggested government complicity was labeled a “truther,” a smear that helped cost Van Jones a job in the Obama administration more than a half-decade later.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, told Meet the Press on Sunday, “What we do know is September 11  was not an accident.”
He defended his year-long investigation into the tragedy in Benghazi, asserting the same disproven speculation that he has helped fester for months, and concluding, “they went out on five stations and told the story that was, at best, a coverup for CIA, and at worst, something that cast away this idea that there was a real terrorist operation in Benghazi.”
The congressman is still suggesting the military may have purposely refused to help Americans under attack and the administration is covering up the truth, though what it offered, even in the fog of the immediate aftermath of the murders, closely matches some of the best reporting on the subject.
If Issa made those claims about the original 9/11 attacks, we know what he would have been called.
But since much of his party has embraced vague conspiracy theories that suggest the president of the United States either wanted a terrorist attack weeks before an election or “covered up” a terrorist attack that he called a terrorist attack several times before that election, he’s just another Republican.
Photo: stanfordsis via Flickr