It’s Republican Temper Tantrum Tactics Déjà Vu all over again. Only this time, it’s Senator Lindsey Graham – fighting a Tea Party challenge to his re-election next year – instead of Senator Ted Cruz and instead of a government shutdown to defund Obamacare, it’s an equally pointless blockage of presidential nominees to showboat over Benghazi. One of those nominees is the head of Homeland Security. So, apparently, while Graham is holding himself up as some big national security maven, he’s also willing to jeopardize it. Not surprisingly, on yesterday’s Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace grilled Graham on the political strategy but gave him a pass on the substance (or lack thereof).
From the Fox News Sunday transcript:
GRAHAM: A year later, only one survivor in Benghazi has been interviewed by the Congress, and that person was subpoenaed.
Why do I want to talk to them?
I want to know from their mouth, not anybody else, no spokesman, no British contractor, Americans on the ground in Benghazi—did you see a protest? Did you ever report a protest? Did you complain before the attack that al Qaeda was growing in strength in Libya? Did you make security request that anybody try to help you enhance security?
Actually, Congress interviewed one Benghazi survivor and one State Department security agent stationed in Tripoli who was on the phone with the Benghazi consulate while it was under attack. Wallace did not point out Graham’s distortion. Why wasn’t the testimony from those two enough? Wallace didn’t ask that, either.
Graham’s concern about whether or not there was a protest is another red herring. Think Progress points out:
Four days after the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, (Susan Rice) then U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. said that “our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present,” — i.e. Rice wasn’t making a definitive statement — is that “there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated.” It was later reported that intelligence officials had information the day Rice made her remarks contradicting her assessment but she “wasn’t warned of their new doubts.”
Graham and other Obama critics maintained that the White House inserted this line — that the attack was spawned by an anti-Islam video protest — in Rice’s talking points for political reasons, as if to downplay that the Benghazi attack was solely a terrorist incident. As Republicans claimed at the time, admitting it was a terror attack (which Obama did the day after) would then undermine the White House’s campaign narrative that President Obama had significantly weakened Al Qaeda. But information later emerged that it was actually the CIA, not the White House, that made the assessment that there may have been a protest to the video that sparked the attack.
But for this non-scandal, Graham is threatening to block all presidential nominees, including President Obama’s nominee to head the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Reserve. Even Wallace suggested that was “over the top.”
And even Graham acknowledged his plan was probably ill-fated. From the transcript:
GRAHAM: The only way this will work is if my Republican colleagues get behind and say to my Democratic friends in the Senate and the administration, we support Lindsey’s request to be able to talk to the survivors, independent of the administration, to look at the evidence, to find out exactly what happened in Benghazi, before, during and after.
…So, here’s the way this will work—I’m hoping that they will relent and allow us to interview the survivors, appropriate congressional committees—
…I will ask my Republican colleagues and Democratic colleagues to stand up to the Obama administration. Don’t let them get away with this.
During this segment, Wallace helped validate Graham’s stance by bringing up a 60 Minutes report on Benghazi the week before. Wallace noted the Obama administration’s (self-interested) pushback. But he didn’t go into the many problems of credibility with CBS’ report. So by making the “debate” over Graham’s tactics, rather than the integrity of his effort, Wallace suggested it was a given that the Obama administration has done something wrong, if not outright nefarious, and the only question is how to deal with it. Which, in turn, helped legitimize Graham’s ploy.
Obstructing government. It’s what Republicans do – and what Fox News enables them to do.
“The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. diplomatic post and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.”
The term “demonstration” is defined in military usage as “a show of force or an attack.” Multiple eyewitnesses testify to the fact that the already well-armed and battle-hardened militants attacked in response to the Cairo protests and regional unrest incited by the anti-Islam propaganda video which was widely televised in the region in the days before the attack. No evidence has arisen to indicate that there was any substantial prior planning any more than hours prior to the attack.
“…the attackers, recognized as members of a local militant group called Ansar al-Shariah, did tell bystanders that they were attacking the compound because they were angry about the video. They did not mention the Sept. 11 anniversary. Intelligence officials believe that planning for the attack probably began only a few hours before it took place. [The New York Times, 10/17/12]
Soon after the attacks — and long before the presidential election — the Director of National Intelligence released a statement on the Benghazi attack:
“As the Intelligence Community collects and analyzes more information related to the attack, our understanding of the event continues to evolve. In the immediate aftermath, there was information that led us to assess that the attack began spontaneously following protests earlier that day at our embassy in Cairo. We provided that initial assessment to Executive Branch officials and members of Congress, who used that information to discuss the attack publicly.”
“It remains unclear if any group or person exercised overall command and control of the attack, and if extremist group leaders directed their members to participate. However, we do assess that some of those involved were linked to groups affiliated with, or sympathetic to al-Qa’ida.”
These intelligence and news reports were the foundation for public statements from the Obama Administration. Ambassador Rice, for instance, described the attack as being perpetrated by well-armed extremists. On September 16, 2012, Rice told Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation, “Whether they were al-Qaida affiliates, whether they were Libyan-based extremists or al-Qaida itself I think is one of the things we’ll have to determine.”
Bloomberg reported on October 12, 2012 that the intelligence was entirely consistent with the Administration accounts and they still stand as the most accurate assessment of the attacks:
“The senior intelligence official said the analysts’ judgment was based in part on monitoring of some of the Benghazi attackers, which showed they had been watching the Cairo protests live on television and talking about them before they assaulted the consulate.”
“We believe the timing of the attack was influenced by events in Cairo,” the senior official said, reaffirming the Cairo-Benghazi link. He said that judgment is repeated in a new report prepared this week for the House intelligence committee."
“Here’s how the senior official described the jumble of events in Benghazi that day: “The attackers were disorganized; some seemed more interested in looting. Some who claimed to have participated joined the attack as it began or after it was under way. There is no evidence of rehearsals, they never got into the safe room . . .never took any hostages, didn’t bring explosives to blow the safe room door, and didn’t use a car bomb to blow the gates.”
“It was a flash mob with weapons,” is how the senior official described the attackers. The mob included members of the Ansar al-Sharia militia, about four members of al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, and members of the Egypt-based Muhammad Jamal network, along with other unarmed looters."
Not only has it long been disproven that the Administration was “lying” about or “covering up” the link between the attacks and the video protests, there was not even any motive for the Administration to do so. While the Administration could rightly take credit for getting bin Laden and decimating the core leadership of al Qaeda, the President never hung a “Mission Accomplished” banner in regard to the war on terror. In fact, President Obama did just the opposite when he addressed the American people on the night bin Laden was killed, reminding us that the work was not over and that the terrorists would continue to target Americans.
Again, the link between the Benghazi attacks and the anti-Islam propaganda video did not originate with the Obama Administration. The early news reports, including interviews with protesters and militants at the scene, described how the already well-armed members of the attacking militia were prompted to act after viewing on TV the protests in Cairo over the anti-Islam propaganda video:
— Washington Post: Stevens arrived Monday from the embassy in Tripoli. “A friend who spent Monday and Tuesday with him said Stevens held meetings with nongovernmental organizations and militia leaders on both days. When the friend dropped Stevens off at the consulate Tuesday afternoon, he said, nothing appeared to be amiss – beyond the protesters.”
“The first protesters had showed up around noon. Wanis al-Sharif, the deputy Libyan interior minister, said in an interview that the demonstrators were angered by a low-budget American film that portrayed the prophet Muhammad in a blasphemous manner. As the day wore on, Sharif said, the anger escalated and people with weapons infiltrated the crowd.”
“By late Tuesday evening,” heavily armed militants “joined protesters outside the consulate who were demonstrating against an American movie that they believed denigrated the prophet Muhammad. They said, `We are Muslims defending the prophet. We are defending Islam,’ ” Libyan television journalist Firas Abdelhakim said in an interview." (September 12, 2012)
— CNN quoted Libyan officials describing that "an “angry crowd” marched on the U.S. compound Tuesday, furious about an American-produced online film considered offensive to Muslims." (September 12, 2012)
— The Daily Telegraph: One eyewitness told “how an armed group infiltrated the ordinary protesters and sounded a warning. They told those nearby to stay back, that they had guns.” (September 12, 2012)
— The New York Times: The Times, which had two journalists on the ground the night of the attack, also reported on demonstrators on the scene who were motivated by the anti-Islam film. “A group of armed assailants mixed with unarmed demonstrators gathered at the small compound that housed a temporary American diplomatic mission” in Benghazi. “Interviewed at the scene on Tuesday night, many attackers and those who backed them said they were determined to defend their faith from the video’s insults,” the Times reported. (September 12, 2012)
— AP reported that, “A lawyer passing by the scene said he saw the militants gathering around 20 youths from nearby to chant against the film. Within an hour or so, the assault began, guns blazing as the militants blasted into the compound.” "One of the Benghazi outpost’s private Libyan guards said masked militants grabbed him and beat him, one of them calling him “an infidel protecting infidels who insulted the prophet.” (October 27, 2012)
— CBS/AP reported that “Wanis al-Sharef, a Libyan Interior Ministry official in Benghazi, said the four Americans were killed when the angry mob, which gathered to protest a U.S.-made film that ridicules Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, fired guns and burned down the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.” (September 12, 2012)
— Reuters, which also had reporters in Benghazi, reported that “the attackers were part of a mob blaming America for a film they said insulted the Prophet Mohammad.” The article quoted 17-year-old Haman, who took part in the attack, as saying: “The protesters were running around the compound just looking for Americans, [and] they just wanted to find an American so they could catch one.” “Hamam said Ansar al-Sharia cars arrived at the start of the protest but left once fighting started.” (September 12, 2012)
— Reuters reporter on NPR: “Almost Everybody Here Believes That It Was A Reaction To The Movie.” NPR’s Morning Edition, the network interviewed Hadeel Al-Shalchi of Reuters, who “had been talking with authorities and protestors.” (September 13, 2012)
— Al Jazeera: Attackers Were Responding To News Of “American Movie Insulting The Prophet Mohammed.” Al Jazeera producer Suleiman El Dressi reported from Benghazi that "a group of people calling themselves as “Islamic law supporters” heard the news that there will be an American movie insulting the Prophet Mohammed. Once they heard this news they came out of their military garrison and they went into the street calling [unintelligible] to gather and go ahead and attack the American consulate in Benghazi." (September 12, 2012)
— New York Times: “Libyans Who Witnessed the Assault And Know The Attackers Say They Cited The Video.” The New York Times reported having spoken with “fighters involved in the assault,” who told the paper “in interviews during the battle that they were moved to attack the mission by anger over a 14-minute, American-made video that depicted the Prophet Muhammad, Islam’s founder, as a villainous, homosexual and child-molesting buffoon.”
“Interviewed at the scene on Tuesday night, many attackers and those who backed them said they were determined to defend their faith from the video’s insults,” the Times reported. “Their attack followed by just a few hours the storming of the compound surrounding the United States Embassy in Cairo by an unarmed mob protesting the same video.” (September 12, 2012 and October 16, 2012)