A common friend sent me this message from a resident of Benghazi, Libya:
I’m so fed up with all the nonsense that’s repeated over and over about the Benghazi attack that I need to vent. You kind of get used to most reporting on international issues being more or less complete crap, but for some reason it’s really bugging me this time. Apologies in advance for the rant-i-ness.
1) The relationship between the anti-“Innocence of Muslims” protests and the attack is still unclear. There were protests against the video that night in Benghazi. There are reports that some people at the protests were also seen at the attack, though it’s difficult to assess credibility. The video cameras at the consulate didn’t record any protest activity at the consulate site itself, and what they did record looked like a direct and determined attack, but it’s not clear how close the demonstrations got, or whether there might have been overlap. Point being that the administration didn’t lie about the attacks–it genuinely wasn’t sure what happened, because no one was.
2) Whether or not someone called the attack “terrorism” is completely irrelevant. No one here [in Libya] cares what politicians in the US call it.
3) The US can’t just step in and “take out” the perpetrators, because no one’s really sure who actually did it. Ansar al-Sharia is the most commonly cited culprit, but their response afterward raised some questions, and there has been some speculation that even if some members participated, the leadership was caught off guard by the whole thing. Accusations by various Libyan authorities against them probably have at least some solid basis, but also deserve a certain amount of skepticism for a number of reasons. The Abu Salim Martyrs Brigade might have been involved, and there’s been speculation about Abu Bakr al-Qayed or other former LIFG members, but there’s no actual evidence that I’ve heard of.
4) Evidence of Al Qaeda involvement is very very slim. Most of the Libyan salafists have their own agenda, and seem to keep their distance from Al Qaeda; Libyans in general see Al Qaeda as untrustworthy foreigners. Everyone points out that Abu Bakr al-Qayed’s brother was in the Al Qaeda leadership, and was killed by a US drone attack; no one’s presented any actual evidence against him though. Even if there was a revenge element to the attack, I would guess that it’s more of a personal/family thing than an organizational one.
5) There was no request for increased security at the Benghazi consulate. There was a request for the embassy in Tripoli, but that would have had no impact at all on the attack; Tripoli and Benghazi are 400 miles apart as the crow flies, and 650 or so by road. Also, requests for additional security at an embassy or consulate are not the sort of thing that goes across POTUS’ desk, or even all that high up in the State Dept. in most cases.
OK. There’s more, but I’m all ranted out for now. Thank you for your forbearance.