Tom Ricks finally Tells Fox News (“GOP TV”) off on the Phony Benghazi “Issue”

Pulitzer Prize-winning war journalist Tom Ricks was brought on Fox Cable News to discussion Susan Rice and the so-called Benghazi affair. His retort that Fox has been functioning as ‘a wing of the Republican Party,’ which obviously caused the interview to be hastily ended should not obscure what else he said.

Ricks’s main points were that

1. Benghazi was a small firefight, and he has covered many firefights, and no one knows what happens during one. Actually, Tolstoy’s War and Peace is good for conveying that sense of chaos on the battlefield, during which only a view from above can distinguish the progress of flanks and wings; the soldiers caught in the midst of it all can’t see the larger battle. Blaming Susan Rice for not knowing what exactly happened at Benghazi (it was not even her portfolio) is crazy– even the people involved probably don’t know the exact details.

2. The focus on Benghazi is invidious. Ricks points out that several hundred American contractors were killed in Iraq, but no one even bothered to count the exact number (least of all, he implies, Fox Cable News, which presented the war and its sacrifices as somehow necessary to the US and during which anything was forgiven).

3. The minority Republicans in the Senate cannot stop President Obama from making Susan Rice Secretary of State if he wants to, which is what actually explains why Sen. John McCain and others are now softening their talking points about Rice. It is one thing to try to manufacture an artificial scandal before an election in hopes it will help your side win. It is another to go on with a campaign that has evoked zero interest outside the Beltway, which which cannot be won, after you’ve had your ass handed to you at the polls.

4. Fox Cable News played an important role in helping push this artificial non-story, for partisan political reasons. That Fox is GOP TV is not in doubt. It is run by Roger Ailes and its editors dictate a right wing editorial line to the anchors and reporters. In fact, Ailes was already dreaming of ‘GOP TV’ in the Nixon era, when FCC rules would have made it illegal.

As for Benghazi, Republican senators have said all kinds of silly things. Lindsey Graham maintained that ‘al-Qaeda’ was in control of the city all summer. I was there. It is not true. If he means Ansar al-Shariah, it is so weak that it was setting off a few ineffectual pipe bombs on a handful of occasions, and the crowds angered by the death of the US ambassador burned its HQ down and chased them out. Some control.

The Fox line was that Obama keeps saying al-Qaeda is largely defeated, which caused him not to notice that it controlled Benghazi and so caused him not to have the US consulate there properly secured. In order to cover up his embarrassment that the ghost of Bin Laden struck back, he lied and had his officials lie that the consulate attack was the work of an ordinary mob enraged by the Islamophobic ‘Innocence of Muslims’ ‘film.’

But since Ansar al-Shariah is a few thousand people in a city of over a million; since it is not an al-Qaeda affiliate; since Benghazi had civil municipal elections in May, in which a woman won the most votes; since while the city has some militia problems left over from the revolution, it is a perfectly normal place and not some sort of Taliban-controlled Khost; since there were in fact demonstrations near the consulate on September 11 against the film; and since, as Ricks noted, it is hard to know what exactly happened in the aftermath of a small firefight; since Ansar al-Islam denied carrying out the attacks and is anyway not al-Qaeda; the whole Republican/ Fox narrative is completely ridiculous and a mere stroll in the real Benghazi would be enough to make it evaporate.

Or, a few sharp words from a veteran war correspondent would do.

You wonder if, just as Edward R. Murrow did in Joe McCarthy and Jon Stewart got CNN’s ‘Crossfire’ cancelled, Ricks might not just have begun the unraveling of the Fox brand.

16 Responses

  1. A few days before the election I was talking with a woman who assured me that Fox News always is reliable because “it must tell the truth” as compared to all the other media outlets. She knew absolutely this was accurate. How does Fox manage to convince people like this? Amazing!

    • They say things some people want to hear. They say other things that are not true, but to disbelieve the latter requires one critically judge the conveniently untrue former.

  2. “if … Ricks might not just have begun the unraveling of the Fox brand.”

    Dream on. It would nice, if so, but… Dream on.

  3. Nah, the Fox audience is in a self-contained universe. They’re incapable of changing their minds, although they will slowly die out.

  4. It was always pretty clear that the assault on the CIA annex in Benghazi was not a part of any demonstration–it happened hours after the events at the consulate. Susan Rice certainly made no attempt to clarify that aspect of the events in Benghazi. While Fox News would never be my source for reliable information, we should not therefore trust every government statement by the current administration.

    Certainly Susan Rice has a motive for minimizing the responsibility for any problems in Benghazi–the President decided that the War Powers Act didn’t apply and his administration never got Congressional approval for the
    Libyan intervention. Further, within the administration, most accounts of the intervention hold that Defense Secretary Gates and others were against while Susan Rice was prominent among supporters. To say now that Benghazi was not her portfolio is disingenuous…there’s a reason that she was selected to be the public face of the administration’s response.

    If Fox News were to criticize Susan Rice and the Obama administration on their support for Kagame and his operations in the Congo would Informed Comment leap to defend them? Do we know what was going on at the CIA annex in Benghazi? Shouldn’t we ask more questions about Benghazi? Fox News is truly awful, but do you expect that MSNBC will hold Obama to account?

  5. “Fox Cable News played an important role in helping push this artificial non-story, for partisan political reasons.”

    I would hardly call this a non-story, a US Embassy was attacked and Americans did die. Now the hurdles FOX leaped to try and make it more into what it was certainly is insane. Would increased security helped prevent this, probably not the attack would more than likely have occurred but maybe and I’ll use maybe loosely could have prevented some deaths or just as easily had more American lives lost.

    FOX News: “We tell you what you want to hear, you decide whether to take up arms in response,”

    They should be categorized with Iranian TV or China’s where only certain approved information and propaganda is allowed to be aired.

    I think it’ll be an interesting 24 hr news cycle at FOX and around the globe if Ailes or Murdouch were found out beyond a reasonable doubt linked to the KKK, Nazis, or some other disgusting revolting topic.

  6. I wouldn’t call his remarks exactly telling Fox off. Rick’s tone was very calm and matter of fact, as was the smoothness with which the talking head changed the subject. All very civilized.

    No, to put a dent in those guys it’d take more, although I don’t know what. Discipline yourself to watch Fox for any length of time (an hour?), and its hard to imagine them having a more blatant agenda. Still, if you didn’t have the benefit of knowing a bit more, to put their half-truths in perspective, don’t they appear pretty reasonable (excepting angry ranters like O’Reilly, of course)?

  7. The Republicans have not got much else to sink their teeth into, and beating dead horses seems to be one of their favoured tactics. Meanwhile, the real problems surrounding the Benghazi attack are getting buried again. If there is to be a real concern about Susan Rice it is that she is more a mouthpiece and not an active supporter of human rights. Once, she said she regretted failing to take an aggressive role protecting human rights during the Hutu-Tutsi ethnic cleansing and would not repeat that. What role has Ms. Rice played protecting human rights vis a vis Gazan civilians or Syria? It’s a repeat of what sardonic foreign policy critics (remember those guys, lol??) termed the “duck policy” employed by the Clinton administration regarding ethnic cleansing of Bosnians. Anytime something important comes up, officials duck that moment

  8. Yet during Bush years there were 14 or 15 attacks on embassies world wide and at least for a couple of them warnings ahead of time were given. If this isn’t the republicans grasping at straws why wasn’t Bush impeached like the want to do to Obama for Benghazi.

  9. What this is about is the need of the right-wing movement to terrorize anyone who attacks cranks like the makers of the anti-Mohammed video.

    This is simply the movement protecting its great strength: a vast number of ostensibly separate extremists, supposedly acting only out of the goodness of their hearts, and clearly intimidating us normals by the aggressiveness of their convictions, all putting out the same lies on cue. This appears very convincing to those person already disgusted with the way their lives are going under late capitalism, but too in love with the idea of inequality to ever blame it on capitalism.

    As long as the ties between these seditionists are too complex for laymen to decipher, as long as the ones who are “too extreme” can be plausibly denied as being representative of the movement’s aims (for now), as long as genuinely independent cranks are inspired by the professional haters to keep spewing new hate on new media, the bad guys create the alternative universe which you folks are all complaining about, in which Fox News worshippers are steadily prepared to accept ideas even more hateful than what can be pinned on Fox.

    Yes, Obama’s people tried to take a cheap shot at the video cranks, but we all ought to be doing that because this is war right here at home. As for all of you Gaddafi-lovers who are playing along with Fox to get revenge on Obama for not bailing out your hero, well, when the far right takes over thanks to your sabotaging our own unity, you will end up in the same death camp as me. The right’s fanaticism is an excuse to action, extremism, and the most monstrous and Herculean acts, while the left’s fanaticism is an excuse to cop out, to be lazy, to use facts to justify disunity and perpetual pissing on any Democrat who can gain any traction among the mainstream Americans you hate so much.

  10. Pretty good summary of the “issue.”
    I never was interested enough in the Benghazi “controversy” to find out what it was about; now I see it’s just one of his opponents’ counterstories to the “Obama killed Bin Laden” myth created by his friends in Hollywood and the MSM.

    I don’t take anything coming from the Obama “Information Operations” as gospel truth, any more than I’d blindly accept something from Limbaugh or McCain. Everybody has an angle.

    Not sure what firefights Tom Ricks might have been in. My impression is that he has traveled to and reported from war zones around the world. But I thought that he reported on those wars from back at the military headquarters (e.g., Camp Victory in Baghdad, Bagram in Afghanistan.) I don’t think it was his style to “embed” with combat troops, the way Richard Engel has done.
    I think of him as an opinionated analyst on military and political affairs, and an important member of the Petraeus retinue. “Military expert” would be a stretch. Sometimes he has thought-provoking insights; sometimes he’s just shilling.
    That remark about the Mercenaries killed in Iraq, that looked rehearsed. Yes, it was powerful.

    On a related note, has anybody identified the two Mercenaries killed with Ambassador Stevens as such ? Or do polite people still have to call them “contractors ?”

  11. The talking heads guarding the inhabitants of Bullsh*t Mountain from rejoining the world of the sane just won’t budge an inch will they? Fox News is a propaganda machine which dumbs down America by the day through disinformation and their slanted agendas. See their anchors spewing forth feces from their mouths in my visual homage to the network on my artist’s blog at link to dregstudiosart.blogspot.com

  12. Typo: since Ansar al-Islam denied carrying out the attacks …

    I still found the witness account of Sofian Kadura in France24 article quite accurate – “The extremist Islamists were yelling that they wanted to kill everyone in the consulate” (Sept. 12, 2012). There followed a second wave of attack a few hours later in the night which killed the CIA security guards in a firefight.

    Terrorist Designations of Ansar al-Sharia (AAS) as an Alias for Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)

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