Seriously, the foreign policy resume the administration was likely trying to protect with their tepid response and silly movie meme--that UBL is dead and AQ is on the ropes--is still alive but damaged. Axelrod probably planned a coordinated attack down the stretch to bolster foreign policy, beginning with Biden at the DNC, expanding to the campaign trail while bolstered by a bin Laden movie by Harvey Weinstein and several killing UBL books by the likes of Peter Bergen and Mark Bowden. They never figured on Benghazi.
Reading the Bowden book now; he tells the story in a fairly straightforward way while weaving in political and personal narratives about the players. It's not overly partisan and he certainly didn't begin his story on 9/11 like Bergen (to protect the Clintons) but the book was surely Obama-approved, especially the parts about O refocusing the hunt, then commanding this, ordering this and that, showing off his commander guy skilz. You all know how it ends.
Curiously there was one reference that won't get any play except from eccentric weirdos doing blogs like this one. On page 43 Bowden begins talking about one of the sons of the original Mujaheddin commander-guy Abdullah Azzam, himself assassinated in Afghanistan in 1989 (presumably due to a power struggle between himself, bin Laden and Zawahiri or others unknown). Bowden apparently interviewed Azzam's son Huthaifa, who told a story about a meeting between Ramzi Yousef, KSM, and Shiekh UBL in 1995 at some kind of terrorist conference in the Sudan:
The younger Azzam was attending a conference in the Sudan in 1995 when he dropped in to see bin Laden. During his visit, he recalls, he met Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who had brought his notorious nephew, Ramzi Yousef, a Sunni extremist who was at that time a fugitive sought by the United States for the first attack on the World Trade Center, two years earlier. Azzam described Yousef as a scrawny man whose bearded face had been scarred in a bomb-making accident. Both he and his uncle would later be characterized in The 9/11 Commission Report as "rootless but experienced operatives."
Yousef would be captured in Pakistan later that year. According to Azzam, the Sheik listened as Yousef outlined a plan to attack targets in the United States again, including the World Trade Center towers, this time by hijacking commercial airliners and flying them into buildings. He wanted al Qaeda to help with recruiting martyrs and raise money for them to travel to the United States for flight training. As Azzam recalls it, the Sheik said, "We have nothing to do with the United States, why should we attack them?"Emphasis added to show the important stuff. If this is true....
One, the window for Yousef to attend a conference in the Sudan in 1995 was tiny. He had been in the Philippines in December 1994 to place a micro-seat bomb on Philippine Airlines flight 434 (a Boeing 747 that barely escaped crashing) and was involved in the chemical mixture explosion with Murad in the Doña Josefa Apartments on January 6, 1995. He reportedly fled to Pakistan, then flew to Thailand in late January to meet an operative who was to place rigged explosive suitcases on two US flights. The operative chickened out then turned in Yousef, who was captured back in Pakistan on Feburary 7, 1995.
It could have been a conference hosted in November 1994 by Sudanese Islamist leader Hasan al-Turabi, whose claim to fame was holding such conferences to bring all the terror factions of Islam together to fight the west. By the way, here's a Rolling Stone interview with Turabi--and bin Laden--during that same time frame, perhaps the same conference, where the former predicts future events of the Arab Spring:
America is so arrogant, he says. Your government feels it can buy anything it wants.... A bit later, he notes — and correctly so — that a free election in Egypt would install fundamentalist allies of his into power. The United States stands in the way of the truth. Don't you see that?What a prophet. The New York Times reported about another Islamic conference in Sudan featuring many terror kingpins but that one was held on April 3, 1995, at which point Yousef was already sitting in a correctional facility in lower Manhattan.
Two, Bowden handles the obvious dichotomy of UBL poo-poo'ing the idea of attacking America in 1995 by saying he was BS'ing for Azzam's benefit, thinking he might be on the payroll of some western intelligence service. Otherwise such an admission would be extremely odd since the likes of Bergen, Wright, and others have been scribbling for years that bin Laden's America-hating really took root when Saudi Arabia rebuffed his offer to allow muj fighters to take out Saddam in 1991 instead of the US Military. America's lingering presence in the Kingdom was supposedly infuriating to Binny. A year later he would declare war on the US, followed by another declaration in 1998.
So Bowden is probably correct--assuming the meeting ever occurred. And to that should go a heavy dose of skepticism, especially since he didn't include any attributes or even an index in the book.
But let's say it did. Notice the way Azzam described Yousef's plea for UBL to help finance the movement of men to hatch this planes plot, as if they two were separate entities. Neither KSM nor Yousef were working for AQ, especially since the meeting was described as their first encounter, which calls into question any narratives about AQ pulling off the first WTC attack. They clearly didn't, which is why bin Laden was never indicted for it.
Again, we're left puzzled at why a Baluchi native born in Kuwait would be so mad at the United States--even after we liberated Kuwait from the infidel Saddam--that he would come to New York using an Iraqi passport, with help of another Iraqi, and attempt to knock down the towers and kill 250,000 people two years before ever meeting bin Laden.
Chances are he and uncle KSM were freelancing for the Blind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman (Yousef was purportedly summoned to New York later in the plot, along with Iraqi Abdul Yasin). Yes, that would be the same Abdel-Rahman stuffed in jail forever for plotting to do worse damage to New York than did Hurricane Sandy, and whose release was at the center of the Cairo protest riots on 9/11, orchestrated in part by Ayman Zawahiri's brother Mohammed, which the administration blamed for causing Benghazi except they used a movie clip as a foil.
But OK, the extremists are "on the ropes". Well, we can always hope.