The Real Benghazi Scandal: Shouting 'al-Qaeda' on a Crowded TV News Set

David Kirkpatrick’s great piece on Benghazi has Republicans and their talk-show pals in a state of panic. If you like that kind of thing – and I do – you should tune in.

You mean it wasn’t al-Qaeda that attacked and killed four Americans?

You mean it was the video that, in part, precipitated the attack?

You can see how these revelations from the New York Times would be a problem for Darrell Issa and the boys who have been screaming for months about a coverup, about Hillary Clinton’s involvement in the coverup, in Barack Obama’s decisions that allowed four Americans be killed because, well, who the hell knows why. Benghazi was Fast and Furious times IRS squared.

And now?

Amy Davidson from the New Yorker has the best read on the situation. Republicans have solved the al-Qaeda problem by calling any and all Islamic militants — local, foreign, Syrian, Libyan, Sunni, Shia, you name it — al Qaeda. Because. You know. It’s the commies-under-the-bed strategy. Everyone’s a red.

Here’s what Kirkpatrick said about that on “Meet the Press“:

“There is just no chance that this was an al Qaeda attack if, by al Qaeda, you mean the organization founded by Osama bin Laden. Now, I’ve tried to understand some of the statements coming out of United States Congress blaming al Qaeda for this, and the only way that they make sense to me is if you’re using the term al Qaeda a little differently. If you’re using the term al Qaeda to describe even a local group of Islamist militants who may dislike democracy or have a grudge against the United States, if you’re going to call anybody like that al Qaeda, then O.K.”

As Davidson points out, it’s not OK. It’s far from OK. Calling everyone al Qaeda not only delivers a complex story without a hint of nuance. It doesn’t begin to tell the truth.

Kirkpatrick spent months on the ground talking to people involved in the attacks and others who were there. There is a scandal here. It’s just not the scandal — coverup, Watergate, Obama didn’t care if Americans die — Republicans want.

According to Kirkpatrick, people who participated in the attack included so-called friendlies whom America had armed. Because we’d helped them during their campaign against Khadafi, we assumed they’d help us out if things got rough in Benghazi, where things were very rough, as Ambassador Christopher Stephens knew well.

So who were the attackers?

“They’re purely local people,” Kirkpatrick said on “Meet the Press.” “Their pasts are known, their records are known, when they were in prison, who they hung out with in prison, who their associations are.”

We know who they were, according to Kirkpatrick, who concedes that their motives are murky and that their connections are tenuous and that figuring out who is allied with whom and and when and why can all be more than a little mysterious. And that just shouting al-Qaeda does nothing to clear things up. But, of course, when the issue is casting blame rather than finding truth, shouting is always the best course.

Kirkpatrick says the attack was planned, but only for a day or two before. And that if it wasn’t quite spontaneous, it was close enough.

This is a guy you can trust. Kirkpatrick is a great reporter who is presently based in Cairo and spent months doing the investigation. Some in the right-wing media attacked the story because it conflicted with earlier Times reporting – as if that weren’t the point of the piece, to get at the truth as we can learn it now. Some Republicans chose to attack him and the New York Times as running a story (during Christmas time 2013) to help Hillary Clinton’s possible presidential campaign in 2016. It’s a joke.

But if you yell loud enough, you don’t actually have to have any of the facts on your side. It’s like shouting al Qaeda on a crowded TV news set.


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