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

    Comment number 25.

    Nothing Republicans say anymore seems rational or believable. They have become nothing but political buffoons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    The Republican's desire to politicize the death of an American diplomat is just one more reflection of their general lack of character -- demonstrated time and time again since Nixon.

    Constructive conservatism is dead in the United States -- and the GOP murdered it. They need a Pope Francis -- but they have a Ted Cruz instead.

    Increasingly, they seem to deserve what they have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    I love it when the conservatives attempt to blame Obama & Co. for causing death and mayhem at Benghazi, yet still say the Iraq war (and it's related death and mayhem) was justified. Causing a few deaths is impeachable if you're a democrat, but starting unjust wars which kill thousands (millions?) makes you a hero if you're a republican.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    The American political landscape is now littered with such extremists on the right they are debating whether the Pope and/or Jesus is/was a socialist. Capitalism and "free enterprise" are both predatory and favor the 1%. Is there really any debate about whether the gap between rich and the 99% is growing?! The only question remains where will it end.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    How do we know Hillary Clinton didn't send down Space Aliens to attack the Benghazi compound, then cover it up? HOW DO WE KNOW??? Prove it didn't happen, Liberals, or it's true!

    Notice that the last three letters of "Benghazi" are the same as "Nazi?" Oh yeah, New York Times (AKA PRAVDA!!!!), just gloss over that FACT in your report! Obvious Liberal MSM cover up! Connect the dots, Sheeple!

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    The liberal/progressive media controls the narrative in this country. Anyone or anything that does not fit their agenda will be distorted, denied, deflected or not reported. Sounds like the liberal/progressive media wants everyone to believe Hillary and Obama's story about the video. They lied to protect Obama's re-election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Ask yourself one simple question. Why would the "New York Times" do a re-write on a story?
    Answer: The American people are selective in believing the liberal media's stories.
    The propaganda news needs to be re-administered to allow Hillary Clinton to run for president without tarnish.
    The fact is that the embassy called for help, yet nobody came to their aid so they perished. Date 9.11.2012

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Libya is another mess for the UK and USA.
    By militarily intervening to overthrow Gaddafi, they have plunged the country into a lawless society, governed by militia groups, using force of arms. The country is now a shambles
    Another great example of bringing western democracy to Arab countries.
    When will we ever learn to keep out?

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    This debate seems to be taking on some of the fantastic character one might imagine among medieval clerics savagely debating with opponents about the number of angels which could sit on the head of a pin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Benghazi is the only smoking gun from Hillary's tenure as Secretary of State that the worthless GOP have to attempt to destroy her chances in a 2016 run; and in usual GOP fashion is flimsy at best. Benghazi also signals the depth of the hatred for Obama by the racists and an indicator of the continuing dysfunction in Washington by frustrated Republicans who now see the abyss of their extinction!

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    To suggest that the US Sec of State micromanage security at all US diplomatic facilities worldwide is just silly. Of course Clinton delegated the responsibility. The people on the ground were JSOC - CIA, Delta, Seals the best trained people we have - and they blew it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    The right wing don't like the conclusion that it was their own dogmatic defence of the country's 18th century constitution which provoked this attack.
    Americans might on principle defend the right to freedom of expression by someone setting out to insult Islam but, many in the middle east don't share this mind set. To them, insults require retribution - which is what happened.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Its funny how many US consulates where attacked during the Bush administration and even during Obama. Many where killed but the ones killed in Lybia are all you here from on the right. Its simply BS and just political. More then 90 US workers have been killed but there is know out rage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    What difference does it make?

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Let's see... the consulate was attacked on 9-11. Nothing special about that date, right New York Times? Unaffiliated Libyan mobs just happened to get upset about the internet video on that day of all days.

    As for Susan Mulligan's "head shaking" - that's a great imitation of Hillary Clinton's own "what difference does it make" comment when asked about the deaths of the Americans in Benghazi.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    The NYT story was well written and diligently researched. However, based on the facts available at the time of the incident, any resemblance between this article and the cover story released to the public at that time is purely coincidental.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    So, Hayes insists that there is "evidence that both al-Qaeda and other international terrorist groups played some role in the assault. Conveniently unproduced "evidence," I see.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    1st I wonder how many responders have actually read the NYT article? 2 Obama acknowledged mistakes were made in Libya. 3 Apparently the “Fog of War” is only applicable when a GOP president & administration are involved in a conflict; otherwise, if it’s Dems, then it’s a “Cover-up”. 4 How much longer will US voters put up with the GOP’s transparently partisan disinformation tactics?

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    When extreme right wingers rear their ugly heads in Europe, US & European press names what they are. In the USA, the press just sits on their hands as extremist stake over the US House, not with numbers, but by intimidation. Help us, Europe, call these people out. US press is too afraid of Fox News.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Obama prevented Benghazi survivors from giving evidence to Congress;
    Americans may draw their own conclusions from that.
    No military assistance was sent to save the Americans in Benghazi,
    the White House/State Department concocted bogus press commentary.
    A viable FBI investigation was never conducted, facts are being withheld.
    Benghazi is now a snowball rolling down a mountain...


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