Saturday, October 20, 2012

Beyond Benghazi

While the incident in Benghazi on 9/11 remains a political target for Romney several nagging questions remain that might partially explain the loopy, clownish narrative put forth by the administration.  What was really going on there?   Was the initial purpose of the video meme simply a cover story to deflect attention until all the i's were dotted, t's were crossed by the intel folks?  Did it get hijacked by political operatives in an election year?  Or was the whole thing just BS from start to finish? 

The posters over at JOM have been busy digging and speculating.  Take a look at this article:
In March 2011 Stevens became the official U.S. liaison to the al-Qaeda-linked Libyan opposition, working directly with Abdelhakim Belhadj of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group—a group that has now disbanded, with some fighters reportedly participating in the attack that took Stevens' life. In November 2011 The Telegraph reported that Belhadj, acting as head of the Tripoli Military Council, "met with Free Syrian Army [FSA] leaders in Istanbul and on the border with Turkey" in an effort by the new Libyan government to provide money and weapons to the growing insurgency in Syria.
We haven't heard much about ole Belhadj since Gaddaffy departed.  The former jihadist is now in the Libyan government.  A quick primer--he was a higher-up in the LIFG, "Libyan Islamic Fighting Group" and once trained at AQ camps in Afghanistan and became a member of the Taliban.  He was arrested in 2004 and thrown into the same Libyan prison where former AQ operator Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi (the guy who flip-flopped on the Iraq-AQ terror connection) later supposedly killed himself in that Gaddaffy jail. Don't confuse him with Abu Yahya al Libi, a high-ranking mole just whacked in Afghanistan over the summer whom AQ number one used as a prop to incite more violence before 9/11.

The LIFG itself eventually merged into AQ--or not.  Nevertheless it wouldn't be surprising to hear Belhadj or others were helping supply mujihadeen and weapons to the Free Syrian Army (and their many jihadist fighters).  The question is how the US might be involved.  Because you know we are involved.  Here's Aaron Klein's opinion from WND, for what it's worth:
Among the tasks performed inside the building was collaborating with Arab countries on the recruitment of fighters – including jihadists – to target Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.
Obviously there was a reason Stevens was in Benghazi on 9/11, one that hasn't fully been explained. His last diplomatic meeting was with the Turkish ambassador, which seems to bolster Klein's story.   They likely weren't discussing a movie clip or the price of goats.  Klein makes a point nobody else is making--this really wasn't a consulate and the administration has not called it one.  The State web page doesn't list it as one.  At the same time the political spinmeisters are not discouraging the notion either.

Of course, it makes the idea of a mob protest a lot sillier if it wasn't an official building.   It also makes it puzzling as to why AQ would attack what amounted to their own logistics base and why Ambassador Stevens was screaming for more security and felt he was on an AQ 'hit list'.    

Petraeus gave a closed door briefing to congressmen the week after the attack.  So the question becomes, if any of the above is true did he tell them?  If he told them, are they grandstanding despite the fact?  The rumor released was that Petraeus was trying to sell them on the movie meme, ie, continuing the cover story for the administration, which would explain why this is still a story for some congressmen (if any of them know and are spinning anyway they need to be sent home, but it's doubtful Lindsay Graham or McCain would allow it).

So here we are.   We have the remote possibility the administration was exposed for having a facility designed to do something other than what diplomatic posts are designed to do, and what it was doing seems to explain why the administration doesn't like using the phrase 'war on terror'.  Romney will either address this Monday and risk his own blowback depending on the hidden story or skip it altogether and make a play on the large scale policy.  Either way might be a tell as to the veracity the above.

It really should surprise no one if some of Daffy's SA7s are flowing to Syria to help shoot down Assad's air force but it would be more surprising if we were helping to make such a thing happen, especially if people like Belhadj or those of his ilk are involved.  There's already enough horrible irony.  Then again, most of our history regarding the Middle East is wrapped in realpolitik.

Even still, damn.   Are we at war with terrorists or not?   Romney could perhaps take a safer road and focus more on Obama's super secret vision for the region.  Right now it seems we have an Arabia dominated by Muslim Brothers and former AQ fighters, with a destabilized Iraq, nuclear Iran, and a revitalized Taliban in South Asia next to nuclear Pakistan.  In other words, pretty much bin Laden's dream.  Exactly where is the win for the west?  Simply responding "Osama is dead" might ring pretty hollow in the proper context.

MORE  10/20/12

ABC News to the rescue.  According to an anonymous 'official' they spoke with, the 'bulk of the available information' points to a spontaneous attack triggered by the Cairo protest.

Just in time for the foreign policy debate.

WORTH A LOOK  10/21/12

This site, presumably written by a retired foreign service officer, asks some very good questions and provides some plausible answers in the comments. 

HOWEVER,   10/21/12

Back to the ABC report from the insider calling it spontaneous, how does Obama square the circle between calling it a terror act on 9/12--placed on the record in the last debate---and a spontaneous event triggered by a movie clip without being accused of shooting first then aiming?

The answer: he'll have no choice but to pivot back to making a distinction between "a terrorist attack" and "an act of terror".   He'll say he called it an act of terror (and nothing more) but waited for further intel before declaring it a terrorist attack--and he turned out to be correct, making him one awesome Decider Guy! Whether such a course of debate, should it come up, would flummox Romney is why we'll have to watch but surely he's prepared from such a criss-cross.  It should surely flummox the average viewer; 'wait, I thought he called it a terror attack in the last debate, etc'.    

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