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“The Scandalmongers”: Benghazi, What New Details Reveal About The ‘Scandal’ And Its Promoters

In the years since the terrorist attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, his aide Sean Smith and CIA officers Tyrone Smith and Glen Doherty in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, President Obama’s congressional critics have complained long and loudly about his failure to apprehend the perpetrators immediately. Republican experts like Ted Cruz and Darrell Issa, along with the right-wing media machine, even insinuated that Obama might not really want to catch the Benghazi perps.

So when news came last weekend that US forces had picked up Abu Khattala, the chief suspect, in a long-planned secret raid, all the politicians who have proclaimed their anguish over the murders of our diplomatic and intelligence personnel ought to have been elated. They should have sent congratulations, if not apologies, to the White House.

But if the Benghazi tragedy has revealed anything, it is the utterly partisan obsession of those who have tried to stoke the “scandal.” So naturally, the same Republicans who have been preparing yet another Capitol Hill show trial – their  “select committee” to investigate Benghazi – were barely able to conceal the dismay they so obviously felt over Khattala’s capture.

It is astonishing to watch the long faces of these elected officials, who yield to none in their flag-waving super-patriotic posturing, when the Obama administration manages to neutralize a dangerous enemy of the United States. Their animosity toward the president always seems far more intense than their hatred of our country’s actual adversaries. It is equally remarkable to listen to their petty complaints and phony arguments, as they try in every instance to diminish his achievement.

In this particular instance – as the Republican “terrorism experts” on Capitol Hill, in Washington think-tanks and the national media undoubtedly know – the time required to nab the alleged Benghazi ringleader was fairly short. Remember that the Bush administration never managed to find Osama bin Laden for seven years following 9/11 – after seeming to allow the al Qaeda chief to escape from Tora Bora. Nobody heard a whining peep from the likes of Lindsey Graham or Darrell Issa over that “intelligence failure” – indeed, they appeared content to pretend, along with President Bush, that bin Laden truly no longer mattered. And former vice president Dick Cheney, author of all those failures, even invented a cheap reason to attack the president.

Finding and arresting terrorists abroad is almost always a long game, as proved in the 1998 African embassy bombings that killed a dozen Americans and hundreds of local employees in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.  That investigation entailed 15 years of hunting before Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai was finally grabbed by American forces last October – including eight years during which the Bush administration accomplished nothing, again without eliciting a word of recrimination from the Republicans who now criticize Obama incessantly. Evidently none of those critics thought the Ruqai arrest worthy of notice.

No doubt the Republicans will persist in their Benghazi inquest, without embarrassment – although everyone understands that it is nakedly aimed at Hillary Rodham Clinton, who worries them more than any terrorist could. But even as they brood and plot, the news proceeding from the Khattala arrest is even worse than they might have expected. Now that the alleged ringleader is in custody, the key element behind accusations of a White House “cover-up” is evaporating.

According to the Republican narrative, Ambassador Susan Rice was dispatched to recite misleading talking points about the Benghazi attack. In television interviews, she indicated that a video offensive to Muslims might be the underlying cause of the attack. The purpose was to suggest a spontaneous assault rather than a planned act of terror, which might contradict the president’s assertions, in the midst of the 2012 election, that his efforts had decimated al Qaeda.

The truth turned out to be more complicated than the guidance provided to Rice by the CIA. Terrorists, mainly from a Libyan gang known as Ansar al-Sharia, did participate in the assault on the U.S. diplomatic compound.

But The New York Times last weekend reported that Khattala told his associates he led the attack to “take revenge for an insult to Islam in an American-made online video.

“An earlier demonstration venting anger over the video outside the American Embassy in Cairo had culminated in a breach of its walls, and it dominated Arab news coverage. Mr. Abu Khattala told both fellow Islamist fighters and others that the attack in Benghazi was retaliation for the same insulting video, according to people who heard him.”

He made the same assertion on the record to a reporter for The New Yorker, while denying his own culpability.

So much for the Benghazi scandal, which was never much of a scandal at all: Whatever details may emerge in the months to come about the motives of Khattala, we already have learned all we need to know about the motives – and character – of the scandalmongers.

 

By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, June 20, 2014

June 22, 2014 Posted by | Benghazi, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Legend In His Own Mind”: McCain Was Just As Wrong About Afghanistan And Pakistan

The only thing worse than a policymaker who’s nearly always wrong is a misguided policymaker who falsely believes he’s always right. Take Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), for example, reflecting on the credibility he and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) still pretend to enjoy.

McCain said that Paul, Rubio and Cruz all come to him for foreign policy advice and that he’s not surprised that Republicans still lean on him for his views. McCain said his advice is still popular among Republicans because lawmakers are looking to be led by “who’s highly regarded” – and that means the two amigos.

“We have had long experience and haven’t been wrong,” McCain said.

I honestly had every intention of avoiding McCain content for a while, but seeing the Arizona Republican boast about his track record and credibility is a bit too much to take.

Two weeks ago, for example, McCain complained about the prisoner swap that freed an American POW despite having already endorsed the exact same plan. After getting caught, McCain falsely accused his critics of “lying.” He then suggested the detainees were “responsible for 9/11,” which didn’t make any sense.

Soon after, the senator told a national television audience, “We had literally no casualties there in Iraq during the last period after the surge was over.” That’s ridiculously untrue.

McCain then argued that militants holding prisoners don’t kill Americans, followed by the senator leaving policy briefings before they’re done so he can repeat false talking points for the cameras.

McCain then demanded that the suspected ringleader of the 2012 attack in Benghazi be brought to Guantanamo Bay, telling reporters, “It’s where we put terrorists when we apprehend them.” In reality, (a) that’s not even close to being true; (b) sending Abu Khattala to the detention facility probably wouldn’t be legal, and (c) McCain doesn’t seem to remember his own position, which is that the Guantanamo prison be closed.

McCain is convinced he hasn’t “been wrong”? These are just the more notable mistakes from the last two weeks.

The senator’s track record is all the more appalling when considered in its entirety. As Rachel noted on the show a couple of days ago, following another round of McCain interviews on U.S. policy in Iraq, “Let the record show, John McCain was wrong about Iraq and the war in Iraq, in almost every way that a person can be wrong about something like that. He was wrong about Saddam having weapons. He was wrong about how long the war would take. He was wrong about how big the war would be. He famously said that as far as he was concerned, he thought that maybe Saddam sent the anthrax attacks. John McCain was wrong about whether there might ever be any trouble between Sunnis and Shia in Iraq.”

What’s more, following up on a post from last week, our pals at “All in with Chris Hayes” did a nice job last night pulling together some of the evidence documenting how wrong McCain has been about U.S. policy in Iraq.

Of course, this is a small sampling. I’m also reminded of this Frank Rich piece from 2009.

[McCain] made every wrong judgment call that could be made after 9/11. It’s not just that he echoed the Bush administration’s constant innuendos that Iraq collaborated with Al Qaeda’s attack on America. Or that he hyped the faulty W.M.D. evidence to the hysterical extreme of fingering Iraq for the anthrax attacks in Washington. Or that he promised we would win the Iraq war “easily.” Or that he predicted that the Sunnis and the Shiites would “probably get along” in post-Saddam Iraq because there was “not a history of clashes” between them.

What’s more mortifying still is that McCain was just as wrong about Afghanistan and Pakistan. He routinely minimized or dismissed the growing threats in both countries over the past six years, lest they draw American resources away from his pet crusade in Iraq.

Two years after 9/11 he was claiming that we could “in the long term” somehow “muddle through” in Afghanistan. (He now has the chutzpah to accuse President Obama of wanting to “muddle through” there.) Even after the insurgency accelerated in Afghanistan in 2005, McCain was still bragging about the “remarkable success” of that prematurely abandoned war. In 2007, some 15 months after the Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf signed a phony “truce” ceding territory on the Afghanistan border to terrorists, McCain gave Musharraf a thumb’s up. As a presidential candidate in the summer of 2008, McCain cared so little about Afghanistan it didn’t even merit a mention among the national security planks on his campaign Web site.

He takes no responsibility for any of this.

Let’s also not forget this Maddow Show segment from November 2012, in which Rachel explained, “Even if you’re just in Congress, even if you’re just the opposition, you need to know what you’re talking about. You need to have a basic level of competence. And doing what John McCain says is not a reasonable substitution for basic competence on this subject. Pick somebody else.”

Remember, there are two main angles here. The first is that McCain’s track record on his signature issue is genuinely atrocious. But the second is that McCain remains absolutely convinced of his own self-righteous credibility. When he boasts that he and his closest ally “haven’t been wrong,” this isn’t the punchline to a ridiculous joke; he actually means it.

Dana Milbank asked this morning whether anyone is still listening to McCain. It’s tempting to also ask why anyone should.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 19, 2014

June 20, 2014 Posted by | Afghanistan, Iraq War, John McCain | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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