...there's no evidence in the emails that the idea of spontaneity was initiated by anyone associated with Obama, the White House, or the president's wider political fortunes. Did Obama benefit from the spontaneity narrative? Yes. But to embrace intelligence from your CIA that is favorable to you - when you have no reason to doubt your intelligence service - is not the same as making up a false story. It's not even a sin ~ John Dickerson; an American journalist. He is chief political correspondent for Slate magazine and political director of CBS News. Before joining Slate, Dickerson covered politics for Time magazine for 12 years, serving the last four as White House correspondent.
This commentary is in response to a post on the site of a Libertarian blogger who asserts 35 witnesses and survivors of the Benghazi terrorist attack will tell us - if only the administration were not stifling their desire to tell the American people the truth - that President Obama has "patently lied" to us. The "lies" are spelled out by the Libertarian Willis V. Hart (WTNPH) as follows...
|Willis Hart: They will tell us that a) there wasn't any protest outside of the consulate (and hence no spontaneous eruption resulting from it), b) the weaponry that was used was of a high-powered nature (mortar, AK-47s, etc.) and not the type of shit that an individual would simply have in their back-pocket, c) a terrorist splinter cell was claiming "credit" for the attack WHILE IT WAS HAPPENING, d) the terrorists knew where everything was and had obviously cased the facility well prior to the attack (in other words, THEY PLANNED IT), and e) the consulate itself was being used as a conduit to a gun smuggling operation into Syria and that many of the weapons probably landing into the hands of al Qaeda - none of which this President wants the American public to hear, obviously. (2/5/2014 AT 9:43pm).|
According to WTNPH this was a "cover-up"; but he lies. There was no "cover-up", at least in regards to things that don't concern national security (which I'll get back to), but there are logical explanations for the issues raised by Hart, which I will address point by point, starting with his assertion that "there wasn't any protest outside of the consulate" with the rest of this commentary (assertions B through E will be addressed in a subsequent post).
First of all, The Obama Administration NEVER said there was a "spontaneous eruption" outside the Benghazi Mission; or Susan Rice (who was tasked with presenting the official White House response). On 9/16/2012 then United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice "appeared on five major interview shows to discuss the attacks". In delivering her CIA talking points, Rice asserted the following...
|Susan Rice (relaying CIA/State Dept Talking Points): 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. ...we do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned. (Wikipedia/2012 Benghazi attack/U.S. government response).|
Notice that then ambassador Rice referred to "what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo". Rice didn't claim there were protests outside the American diplomatic mission at Benghazi, although there were reports at the time that the attack was in response to the Innocence of Muslims video (IOM), as this excerpt from a 10/15/2012 Huffington Post article points out...
|Michael Calderone, writing for HuffPo: On Sept. 12, Reuters reported that there were protesters present when the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was attacked and described the assailants as "part of a mob blaming America for a film they said insulted the Prophet Mohammad". (Reuters' Early Report Of Protesters At Libya Attack Raises Questions, 10/15/2012).|
The book The Benghazi Hoax cites this Huffington Post article, and further points out that "Reuters correspondent Hadeel al Shalchi... "reported what people told me they saw that day, all of whom she met face to face" [The Benghazi Hoax, Page 30]. So there actually WAS a question regarding whether or not the attacks were in response to the IOM video, however, "State Department officials said they never concluded that any protests over the video took place near the Benghazi mission on Sept. 11 (and the Rice talking points referenced protests in Cairo, NOT Benghazi, as I already pointed out) [quote from Calderone HuffPo article cited above].
|Michael Calderone: In the initial round of emails, one CIA official reports that the White House signed off right away on the full initial CIA assessment. ... So rather than being the authors of the bowdlerizing effort, the White House was just fine with the fully caffeinated version that mentions [Islamist militia group] Ansar al Sharia, al Qaeda, and that the CIA had produced numerous warnings about extremists in Benghazi. White House aides reviewed the talking points, made no substantive changes, and moved them along. (I Was Promised a Cover-Up, 5/16/2013).|
"Bowdlerize", according to Dictionary.com is "to expurgate (a written work) by removing or modifying passages considered vulgar or objectionable", and John Dickerson says the emails don't show that the White House did that. So, how did the terrorism references get bowdlerized (and the IOM video and the attack being a "spontaneous eruption" get the blame)? John Dickerson says "when the language does eventually change in the talking points, it is clear that it is at the behest of State Department officials, not anyone in the White House" [same article as quoted above].
I think that pretty much proves that the following assertion by WTNPH has very little merit...
|Willis Hart: ...the Obama people... pushed this imbecilic narrative about a spontaneous eruption... from some stupid-arsed Youtube video and then continued with it for weeks. Yes, the Republicans are playing some politics here but so, too, is the Obama administration (their brazen attempt to convince us that Al Qaeda was somehow on the run). (5/12/2013 at 11:44:00am, From the "Rational Nation USA" blog).|
They may have "pushed" it, but they didn't author it - and there was no narrative about Al Qaeda being on the run. WTNPH's assertion that the Obama campaign was claiming this (in order to help win the election) echoes statements made by Senator John McCain, who, on the 11/14/2003 airing of Greta Van Sustern's "On the Record", said "it interferes with the president's narrative, We got bin Laden, al Qaeda's on the run, therefore, I'm a great commander-in-chief".
In regards to the supposed "brazen attempt to convince us that Al Qaeda was somehow on the run", David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt (authors of The Benghazi Hoax) put forward the facts that squash this lie concerning a narrative the Obama White House didn't have a hand in creating...
|Excerpt, The Benghazi Hoax: Obama had never sought to declare an early end to America's stepped-up operations against terrorism... Conservatives claimed that Obama didn't want to discuss "terror" because he wanted to fool voters into thinking Al Qaeda had been vanquished. Yet at the president's acceptance speech at the Democratic convention in Charlotte several days before the Benghazi attack, he said: "[F]or all the progress we've made, challenges remain. Terrorist plots must be disrupted". (Page 23).|
But, back to the corruption of the talking points, which, as I already pointed out, originally contained terrorist references WTNPH says were removed so the Obama Administration could push a narrative of Al Qaeda being on the run. That allegation, as I have just proven, is false. It was the State Department, as John Dickerson revealed, which modified them, specifically Victoria Nuland, a former Dick Cheney aide at the State Department.
It was Nuland who pushed for the revisions because she worried members of Congress [might] "beat the State Department for not paying attention to agency warnings", and why, Nuland asked, "would we want to seed the Hill?".
So, in conclusion... the talking points were NOT "all about the administration protecting Mr. Obama's narrative". This is simply more bunk from the Hartster. Even Fox News admits this with a 5/10/2013 article titled "Benghazi attack: State Department pushed for changes in the administration's talking points" (Note: the article is via the Associated Press, but the link is to Fox's website), and emails the White House released prove this to be the case. Also, there was evidence to suggest the attacks were indeed a "spontaneous eruption" in response to the IOM video (the on-the-ground Reuters reporting by Hadeel al Shalchi).
Given these facts, was it a lie to go with the talking points as modified by the State Department's Victoria Nuland and present them to the American people - while noting that "This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and as currently available information continues to be evaluated" (as Susan Rice did)? I say NO.
The Obama administration may have accepted a spin that benefited them (as pointed out by John Dickerson in the quote at the top of this post), but they originally signed off on the "fully caffeinated version", so when State came back with the version that said the attack began spontaneously in Benghazi in reaction to the earlier Cairo protests over the IOM video, the administration going with that story for the time being (until the investigation was complete) "is not the same as making up a false story". What IS a false story (and a canard) is WTNPH's dishonest narrative that President Obama "patently lied".
At worst I think the administration could be criticized for taking the politically safe road (if you believe the argument that the original talking points that included the terror references would have hurt them in the election) by accepting the talking points as modified by State (at the hands of Victoria Nuland), but you can NOT say the president "patently lied". He patently did NOT lie, as the facts I just presented unequivocally prove.
1/28/2016 Update: Despite this post being labeled "part 1" and me promising a "part 2" in the body of the commentary... I haven't yet authored a second installment. Anyway (given the fact that a 2nd installment likely will not be forthcoming)... to answer the other point raised by WTNPH concerning the assailants having weapons "of a high-powered nature" that they wouldn't have "in their back pockets", I heard that people were there with those weapons because (at least ostensibly) to turn them over under the weapon recovery program (Source).