New York Times Investigative Report Destroys Right Wing Myths About Benghazi Attack

“Fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam”

The right wing narrative on the attacks against the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi is now well-established. It goes something like this:

The Obama administration lied when they initially said the attack was provoked by an American-made anti-Islam video. Actually, it was a well-planned Al Qaeda terror attack that had absolutely nothing to do with the video.

Today, an in-depth investigative report published by the New York Times explores these issues and concludes that nearly everything about this right wing narrative is wrong: A Deadly Mix in Benghazi.

There are a lot of interesting details in the article, but two points are important to note:

  • Islamist groups did indeed use that anti-Muslim video as a rallying point to launch the initial attack.
  • There's no evidence that Al Qaeda or any other international terrorist organization was involved, and no evidence of meticulous planning.

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.

A fuller accounting of the attacks suggests lessons for the United States that go well beyond Libya. It shows the risks of expecting American aid in a time of desperation to buy durable loyalty, and the difficulty of discerning friends from allies of convenience in a culture shaped by decades of anti-Western sentiment. Both are challenges now hanging over the American involvement in Syria’s civil conflict.

There’s much more to this multi-part article, and you should, as always, read the whole thing. But it shows unequivocally that the reality in Libya is far more complex and murky than the simplistic anti-Obama talking points pushed relentlessly by the right.

UPDATE at 12/28/13 4:34:19 pm

This isn’t the first report in the New York Times that retaliation for that anti-Muslim video was a cause of the Benghazi attack, and that it was carried out by local Islamists. In October 2012, a month after the attack, the Times ran a story with reporting from Suliman Ali Zway in Libya, making these same points:

To Libyans who witnessed the assault and know the attackers, there is little doubt what occurred: a well-known group of local Islamist militants struck the United States Mission without any warning or protest, and they did it in retaliation for the video. That is what the fighters said at the time, speaking emotionally of their anger at the video without mentioning Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or the terrorist strikes of 11 years earlier. And it is an explanation that tracks with their history as members of a local militant group determined to protect Libya from Western influence.

[…]

To those on the ground, the circumstances of the attack are hardly a mystery. Most of the attackers made no effort to hide their faces or identities, and during the assault some acknowledged to a Libyan journalist working for The New York Times that they belonged to the group. And their attack drew a crowd, some of whom cheered them on, some of whom just gawked, and some of whom later looted the compound.

The fighters said at the time that they were moved to act because of the video, which had first gained attention across the region after a protest in Egypt that day. The assailants approvingly recalled a 2006 assault by local Islamists that had destroyed an Italian diplomatic mission in Benghazi over a perceived insult to the prophet. In June the group staged a similar attack against the Tunisian Consulate over a different film, according to the Congressional testimony of the American security chief at the time, Eric A. Nordstrom.

At a news conference the day after the ambassador and three other Americans were killed, a spokesman for Ansar al-Shariah praised the attack as the proper response to such an insult to Islam. “We are saluting our people for this zeal in protecting their religion, to grant victory to the prophet,” the spokesman said. “The response has to be firm.” Other Benghazi militia leaders who know the group say its leaders and ideology are all homegrown. Those leaders, including Ahmed Abu Khattala and Mohammed Ali Zahawi, fought alongside other commanders against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. Their group provides social services and guards a hospital. And they openly proselytize for their brand of puritanical Islam and political vision.

They profess no interest in global fights against the West or distant battles aimed at removing American troops from the Arabian Peninsula.

Jump to top

Create a PageThis is the LGF Pages posting bookmarklet. To use it, drag this button to your browser's bookmark bar, and title it 'LGF Pages' (or whatever you like). Then browse to a site you want to post, select some text on the page to use for a quote, click the bookmarklet, and the Pages posting window will appear with the title, text, and any embedded video or audio files already filled in, ready to go.
Or... you can just click this button to open the Pages posting window right away.
Last updated: 2016-01-01 10:29 am PST
LGF User's Guide RSS Feeds Tweet

Help support Little Green Footballs!

Subscribe now for ad-free access!Register and sign in to a free LGF account before subscribing, and your ad-free access will be automatically enabled.

Recent PagesClick to refresh
SPLC: United States Crime Rates Still at Historic Lows MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The following statement regarding the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program’s annual Crime in the United States report, released September 26, 2016, is from Lisa Graybill, deputy legal director at the Southern Poverty Law Center. "The FBI’s ...
Birth Control Works
4 hours, 43 minutes ago
Views: 78 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Advice She Didn’t Ask For"Save us from fascism but don't be a bitch about it." Thanks for weighing in, but it looks like Hillary Clinton is doing just fine without the help of body language experts. Watch Full Frontal with Samantha Bee next week ...
Thanos
8 hours, 37 minutes ago
Views: 118 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 1
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Actual Scientific Polls Show Big Win for Hillary Clinton in First Debate The consensus is in: viewers overwhelmingly thought Hillary Clinton was the winner of the first presidential debate. Four polls — from CNN/ORC, Politico/Morning Consult, NBC/SurveyMonkey, and Public Policy Polling — all showed that respondents felt Clinton bested Donald Trump ...
Thanos
9 hours, 1 minute ago
Views: 243 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 1 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Senate Update: Races for the Senate and White House Are Moving in Near Lockstep The senate races are so important this cycle, even if Hillary wins she faces an impossible task and we face 4-8 more years of pure obstructionism from the GOP if they hang on to the Senate. Democrats are still ...
Thanos
9 hours, 22 minutes ago
Views: 136 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
America’s Biggest Food Companies Support Hillary Clinton, With One Glaring Exception If you were an exec at a big corporation that mass-produces food or farm chemicals, who would you rather see prevail in November's presidential election? To get an idea of where Big Food and Ag stand on the 2016 ...
Birth Control Works
14 hours, 26 minutes ago
Views: 201 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Want to Reduce Crime in America? Try Giving Kids Better Food. In 2015, the Guardian published a list of 24 ways to reduce crime in the most violent cities in the world. Suggestions included avoiding repressive policies, moving the focus away from poverty and putting the focus more on gun ...
Birth Control Works
14 hours, 30 minutes ago
Views: 152 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Shimon Peres, the Realist Dreamer Tel Aviv — There are very few people in the world whose lives align so effortlessly with the birth and being of their homeland. Shimon Peres, who has died at age 93, left an indelible mark on Israel — ...
Birth Control Works
14 hours, 31 minutes ago
Views: 122 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 1
Comments: 0
: 1
U.S. to Bar Arbitration Clauses in Nursing Home Contracts The federal agency that controls billions of dollars in Medicaid and Medicaid funding has moved to prevent nursing homes from forcing claims of elder abuse, sexual harassment and even wrongful death into the private system of justice known as ...
Birth Control Works
1 day ago
Views: 158 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 1
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 1
Comments: 0
: 1
2017 State Business Tax Climate Index Executive Summary The Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index enables business leaders, government policymakers, and taxpayers to gauge how their states’ tax systems compare. While there are many ways to show how much is collected in taxes by ...
Birth Control Works
1 day ago
Views: 182 • Comments: 2 • Rating: 1
Tweets: 2 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Endorsement: Hillary Clinton Is the Only Choice to Move America Ahead Since The Arizona Republic began publication in 1890, we have never endorsed a Democrat over a Republican for president. Never. This reflects a deep philosophical appreciation for conservative ideals and Republican principles. This year is different. The 2016 Republican ...
Thanos
1 day, 7 hours ago
Views: 215 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 1 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0