A Letter from Benghazi on Crappy Republican Talking Points

A common friend sent me this message from a resident of Benghazi, Libya:

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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.

15 Responses

  1. Juan this was a private correspondence and the author did not want it shared

    • Unfortunately after reading this letter my thoughts are confirmed. With this fight for the White House and the possibility of losing, those with much money, access to information have the power to hire terrorists. Terrorists for hire I am sure is big business for those who have no remorse in killing. My guess this was a pre-orchestrated attack to make the President look bad. We live in an b era where money can buy everything as seen in the past.

  2. In the 47% video, recorded in May, Romney makes a very curious statement: that he’ll be quick to “take advantage of” any missteps by the Obama administration in the Middle East. And then, conveniently, there’s a terrorist attack in Benghazi and what Republicans are striving mightily to portray as a misstep. And it seems to be exceedingly difficult to pin down exactly who launched the attack. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that Republican friends in the region, whether Israeli or Saudi, facilitated the so-called terrorist attack to help get Romney elected. Otherwise, we have the first presidential candidate on record with amazing ESP.

  3. Understand your frustration. We are dealing with one candidate for president that doesn’t seem to even know there is a difference between embassies and consulates .. probably doesn’t even know we have both. So it’s not surprising that americans don’t know we have both or what any of them do. Those of us americans that have lived outside of the states do, but we make up probably less than 30% of the population here (probably less as we just recently had passports go up to 30% and of those probably less than 1/2 actually have done more than take a trip to a Mexican or Caribbean resort).. most americans do not even know that the majority of our laws are per state as they have never been outside of their state, quite commonly, have never have been outside of their county. In Houston which stretches into 5 counties I met people all the time that had never even made it to more than 3 of the counties .. so they had never even been across the city. So for Americans not to know anything about another country is not abnormal .. they can’t even name neighborhoods on the other side of the city they live in.

  4. It seems to me that the Libyan authorities have plenty of self-interested reasons for wanting to push the blame for this attack on rogue militias, “outsiders”, or “foreign jihadists”, whatever the truth to the matter. I would take whatever is said by Libyan officials for public consumption, esp. to American listeners, with a big grain of salt.

  5. “………[t]he video cameras at the consulate did not record ant protest activity at the consulate site itself.”

    This is contradictory to what the initial media reports were when the “Innocence of Muslims “film was being widely blamed for the death of the American ambassador, with a few expressing a healthy dose of skepticism.

    “……..[t]he US can’t step in and just “take out” the perpetrators, because no one’s really sure who actually did it.”

    That fact has not seemed to deter the US before in its drone killings. After all why does due process matter when there is no accountability demanded of the CIA with respect to these targeted killings.

  6. Thanks for sharing this, Dr. Cole,
    I am as sick of the lying RW talking points as the author of this letter. I have shared parts of it on Facebook in an attempt to interject some facts into the conversation about what happened in Benghazi on September 11.

  7. As an English speaker who is not American, it strikes me that resident of Benghazi uses distinctively American phrasing. Does everyone on Benghazi write as if they come from California or just this common friend?

    • To Steerpike: The writer is described as a “resident” of Benghazi – not necessarily someone born there. I was assuming it was an American who is living in Benghazi, maybe permanently, maybe temporarily.

  8. Steerpike,

    Could not a resident of Benghazi be from California?

    It is distressing that Romney seems hell-bent on playing “gotcha” with what is both humanly tragic and relatively trivial in the grand scheme of American diplomacy.

  9. Steerpike: Juan didn’t specify the nationality of the friend who wrote the letter, but s/he sounds American to me. What of it?

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