Members of the Muslim Brotherhood are resorting to vigilante justice in Egypt’s power struggle. During clashes with opponents of President Mohammed Morsi last Wednesday night, the Islamists took prisoners and tortured them with beatings. Eyewitness reports suggest that the police tolerated the attacks.
The Islamists got hold of Mohammed Omar just as he was delivering bandages to a gas station where injured people were being treated. “You’re an enemy of God!” they yelled at him.
“There were five men. They beat me and dragged me away,” says Omar, a computer expert who lives in Cairo. His face is bruised and his eyes are swollen shut, and his wrists are cut from the plastic cuffs they put on him.
They took him to a sort of room consisting on one side of a gate to the presidential palace, with the other walls made up of steel barriers and police officers. Here members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups interrogated and mistreated their “prisoners.”
Mohammed Omar is one of many demonstrators who say they were held by Islamists last Wednesday, in some cases for more than 12 hours. Now, as witnesses are telling their stories of that night, a clear picture is emerging not just of the violence committed by members of the Brotherhood, but also their readiness to mete out arbitrary vigilante justice.
The reporting on what we know about the Benghazi attacks on September 11 just gets more and more interesting. Let’s do a quick Q&A:
Why was President Obama initially unwilling to call it an act of terror?
He wasn’t. The day after the attack, on September 12, he gave a Rose Garden speech in which he said, in reference to the assault, “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation.” At campaign stops that day and the next, he again referred to the Benghazi assault as “an act of terror.” A McClatchy report sums up the evidence: “In the first 48 hours after the deadly Sept. 11 attacks on U.S. diplomatic outposts in Libya, senior Obama administration officials strongly alluded to a terrorist assault and repeatedly declined to link it to an anti-Muslim video that drew protests elsewhere in the region, transcripts of briefings show.”
A day after the attacks, the CIA station chief in Libya reported to Washington that there were eyewitness reports that the attack was carried out by militants. Why didn’t Obama administration officials say so?
They did. Hillary Clinton, for one, referred to it as an attack “by a small and savage group.”
OK, but that McClatchy report quoted above also says that a few days after the attacks administration officials started putting more emphasis on the “Innocence of Muslims” video. Why? It had nothing to do with the Benghazi attacks.
That’s not what locals said. As David Kirkpatrick reports: “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….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.”
So the video might have played a role. But why did UN ambassador Susan Rice put the video front and center in her Sunday morning appearances a week after the attacks?
She didn’t, really. On Face the Nation, she said the “best information” at that moment suggested that the Benghazi attacks were “a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo where […] there was a violent protest outside of our embassy sparked by this hateful video.” She then immediately added: “But soon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that effort with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post-revolution. And that it spun from there into something much, much more violent.”
Still, why even mention the video? By that point, wasn’t it clear that the real cause of the attacks lay elsewhere?
Because, we now know, that’s what the CIA was telling her. David Ignatius reports that a set of “talking points” prepared by the CIA on September 15, the day Rice taped her TV appearances, “support her description of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate as a reaction to Arab anger about an anti-Muslim video prepared in the United States. According to the CIA account, ‘The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.’”
Fine. But why did Rice suggest that the attacks came after a “spontaneous” protest at the Benghazi consulate? There was no protest.