The New York Times confronts critics of its Benghazi story

 
Fires burn in the US Benghazi consulate the day after it was attacked by Libyan militants in 2012. The controversy over the 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi shows no signs of going away

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On Sunday, the New York Times published an exhaustive, 7,000-word story by the paper's Cairo bureau chief, David Kirkpatrick, on the 2012 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others.

The report was full of details of the days and hours leading up to the attack, as well as a timeline of the assault itself, and came to several conclusions. Here's the key paragraph:

Months of investigation by The New York Times, centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault. The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO's extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.

While pointing out that the attack was the result of failure on the part of US intelligence and a lack of adequate security for US personnel, Steven L Taylor of Outside the Beltway blog writes: "The story presented does confirm more the general narrative presented by the administration … far more than it does the cover-up theory approach, so this will likely color how many read it."

Start Quote

The Times article is a preview of the Benghazi defense that Hillary will mount over the next two years”

End Quote Paul Mirengoff Power Line

And that sure is the truth. The Times piece has set off a firestorm among conservatives politicians and pundits, who disagree with the Times' conclusions and question the paper's motivations in running the story.

In the Washington Times, Wesley Pruden writes that Kirkpatrick "grunted, burped and produced a tiny mouse of special pleading, an account with nothing new of much importance, except a few colorful facts of the sort that were once the popcorn of newsmagazine journalism."

Several writers point out that the Times investigation conflicts with earlier reporting by the paper, which found that there were al-Qaeda ties.

"The Benghazi attacks included participants from the main al-Qaeda affiliate in Libya and a terrorist network in Egypt, and, contrary to Kirkpatrick's assertion, evidence that both al-Qaeda and other international terrorist groups played some role in the assault," writes Stephen F Hayes of the Weekly Standard.

Other writers echoed the suspicions of some Republican politicians that the Times had an agenda in mind when publishing the piece.

"The Times story tells us little or nothing about Benghazi, but it does remind us that Hillary Clinton is the Times's preferred nominee for president in 2016, and therefore the Democratic Party's," writes Paul Mirengoff of the Powerline Blog. "The Times article is a preview of the Benghazi defense that Hillary will mount over the next two years."

The response from the Times was quick and indignant. Andrew Rosenthal, opinion page editor for the paper, writes:

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Does it even matter whether al-Qaeda was involved?”

End Quote Susan Milligan US News & World Report

Since I will have more to say about which candidate we will endorse in 2016 than any other editor at the Times, let me be clear: We have not chosen Mrs. Clinton. We have not chosen anyone. I can also state definitively that there was no editorial/newsroom conspiracy of any kind, because I knew nothing about the Benghazi article until I read it in the paper on Sunday.

And, in an editorial on Monday, the New York Times issued its own salvo:

In a rational world, that would settle the dispute over Benghazi, which has further poisoned the poisonous political discourse in Washington and kept Republicans and Democrats from working cooperatively on myriad challenges, including how best to help Libyans stabilize their country and build a democracy. But Republicans long ago abandoned common sense and good judgment in pursuit of conspiracy-mongering and an obsessive effort to discredit President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who may run for president in 2016.

So, the poisonous political discourse has been poisoned further. It makes one wonder: how much poison is left?

According to Politico's Blake Hounshell, the debate over Benghazi is not going to go away - and not just because of Ms Clinton's political ambitions. There's so much reporting out there, and so many differing accounts, anyone can construct a theory that suits their particular viewpoint. And no matter what happens, it will never be possible to absolutely prove that al-Qaeda wasn't somehow involved.

"Even if the Times is right, and even if the US intelligence community formally dismisses the idea that al-Qaeda planned the attack, there will always be some who wonder if we simply haven't looked hard enough," he writes.

All this has US News & World Report'S Susan Mulligan shaking her head:

What is the point of this discourse? Does it even matter whether al-Qaeda was involved? It may matter if such a distinction was meant to diminish the killing of Osama Bin Laden as a campaign selling point, but it doesn't matter that much in figuring out how to proceed from here. There are a lot of extremist groups out there, and many of them likely look to al-Qaeda as a heroic group. That's not the same thing as saying al-Qaida orchestrated the attack.

The problem, however, isn't that there isn't a point to the discourse. The problem is everyone has a different one.

 

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 45.

    44. The truest assessment of the rednecks ever posted on a BBC thread!

  • Comment number 44.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 43.

    41. Spot on and 38. makes a valid point - Bush Jr's Neo Cons used the media to sell 9/11 and its bogus Iraq connection to the public (aided by Tony Blair, who's US numbers were high) that resulted in the for-profit war in Iraq. Today's GOP still believe in PNAC as US foreign policy and would re-implement, if they could, in a heartbeat: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article1665.htm

  • rate this
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    Comment number 42.

    What a shame. As an American reading the Times for years I just can't believe them anymore. I just can't imagine that our Ambassador was left to be killed while we had all the military resources so close! . What happened to our American press who used to report only the facts without the political writers or owners view. The world is watching you!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 41.

    So much "reporting out there", Politico? No, there's been a distinct lack of reporting, with Lara Logan's amateur hour mess of a report about Benghazi on 60 Minutes being a recent prime example. The only reason the GOP conspiracy stories still have a leg to stand on is due to that fact. Note how uncomfortable some actual reporting by the NYT makes them.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 40.

    "What is the point of this discourse? Does it even matter whether al-Qaeda was involved? "

    --if it doesn´t matter much in the short term, it definitely won´t matter in the long term.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 39.

    Jim (34), The term "Embassy" has been used by both the left and the right including the WH to describe the facility that was hit, There are elements of CIA and the military in every US Embassy and/or Consulate, but the State Dept is responsible for the running and protection of them all regardless. Earlier attacks on US embassies such as Nairobi have taught State nothing. That fact is shameful!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 38.

    Many are convinced that Benghazi was a CIA operation. If true, "normal options" were extremely limited; "reasonable excuses" are available.

    But, where does that leave Hillary; now or in 2016? She's the N.W.O. - Globalist darling. "Benghazi" must be - and remain - watered-down.

    The American news media has a tough mission on its hands. So far; so good. Hey, they sold 9/11, Afghanistan & Iraq!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 37.

    Why must we cling to the political rhetoric left and right wing masters spoon feed us every day and all day? Why can't we try applying some logic? Sure, the facts are typically scanty so we may not always arrive at the real answers but at least it will be an individual thought as opposed to merely parroting our respective party's official line.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 36.

    Forget "who;" only Hillary's non-response now matters - before, during and after.

    Hillary's "dirt" dates to her role in the Watergate scandal investigation - for which she was fired. But, "Benghazi" is the only soft-spot in her underbelly.

    The psycho-babble "focus flash-shifting" style (study Jay Carney, he's good) will probably keep the issue muddled. "Globalist" Hillary is almost untouchable.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 35.

    32. The flimsy GOP line: 'Hilary did it' on Benghazi will be played constantly through 2016 as the Republicans have no other straw to cling to! Bush Jr's 'keep saying it until it is so' ingrained in GOP folk-lore and they have no other tool in their pathetic propaganda box. Expect that the daily vilification of Obama will also continue as the GOP have no 'plan' for governance of the nation!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 34.

    Why keep calling the Benghazi outpost an "embassy" or "consulate," when we know it was a CIA operation? It had little to do with Hillary Clinton and the CIA director was sacked long ago.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 33.

    29. Shouting misinformation really does not help as al Qaeda was founded by multi millionaire Osama bin Laden of the Saudi bin Laden family: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Qaeda after bin Laden had engineered opposition to the US occupation of Islam's holiest ground, Saudi Arabia (during Bush Sr's Desert Storm) with a series of embassy bombings. Benghazi was just a footnote to the bin Laden era.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 32.

    SMR (30) In regards to the Benghazi attack, I don't think the relative strength of Al Qaeda is the main factor. The results were what they were irrespective. I don't allow myself to be polarized by the political dogma of either stripe. Instead, I look at what resulted in Benghazi and then consider which US agency was in charge of the embassy, and who headed that agency at that time... H Clinton.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 31.

    On September 16, 2012, Ambasador Rice explained 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.” Either way, there were no "lies" and there is no scandal.


    At the core, the GOP/Fox phony scandal claimed that the administration lied about the video. The NYT article

  • rate this
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    Comment number 30.

    RF (27.) - Obama said "the core leadership of Al Qaeda is decimated." For Al Qaeda to re-appear and attack a US hold is essentially "proof" to conservatives that Obama was lying and Al Qaeda remains active. Of course, Obama's statement in no way implied Al Qaeda itself had been vanquished. In fact, US intelligence maintained while its centralised core was gone, local groups were still a threat.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 29.

    Al Qaeda is no more than a story created by the U.S to justify any attack anywhere in the world as terrorism.

    In fact it was created and is funded by SAUDI ARABIA AND THE U.A.E MONARCHS TO SPREAD WAHABISM AND RADICAL ISLAM THROUGHOUT THE WORLD.

    NOTHING TO DO WITH SADDAM OR AFGHANISTAN

  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 27.

    Who cares whether Al Qaeda was behind the Benghazi embassy attack? The issue is a US embassy located in a lawless country being run by militias was not afforded sufficient security/protection in the first place, and when attacked was not sent the necessary reinforcements in time. State Dept has responsibility over all US embassies + Hillary was Secretary of State = Hillary failed. Simple!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 26.

    21. articulates the point made by 24. & 23.: Republican redirection/denial. And that old GOP racist canard 'Planet of the Apes' was rolled out again in 2011: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1318514/ and we will see another episode this year: http://www.imdb.com/media/rm1365954560/tt2103281?ref_=tt_ov_i Thank goodness for Lee Daniels 'The Butler' to offset: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1327773/

 

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