The NY Times published a lengthy story by David Kirkpatrick Saturday which attempts to explain what took place last September 11th in Benghazi. Much of the story confirms things reported elsewhere, but the author comes to a different conclusion about two topics which have ongoing political implications: Who carried out the attack and why.
Kirkpatrick argues the attack was carried out by local militias not affiliated with Al Qaeda and that the film Innocence of Muslims played a significant role in fostering the attack.
The former claim has already been questioned on the basis of other reports–including one by the NY Times to which Kirkpatrick contributed–indicating that groups with connections to Al Qaeda were on site during the attack that night. Until the Times retracts or corrects its earlier reporting it seems to be at odds with itself on who was involved.
As for the claim that the film Innocence of Muslims was a motivating factor, Kirkpatrick writes “The attack does not appear to have been meticulously planned, but neither was it spontaneous or without warning signs.” This conclusions was greeted as a new revelation by many but it perfectly echoes a conclusion reached here at Breitbart News 7 months ago:
There is some evidence…that people in Benghazi were aware of the video that night. And yet this is not proof that there was a spontaneous protest. There may have been a semi-spontaneous assault by militants, which is not quite the same thing.
To spell that out a bit more, some people who showed up that night were angry about the video. That anger may have been the edge the militants needed to keep friendly militias at bay. This first hand account published the day after the attack suggests there were “many people tried to persuade the Islamists to stop” but they held back out of fear of reprisals.
More importantly, the attack which took place on September 11th at the hands of extremists probably would have happened eventually even without the pretext of the film. Kirkpatrick goes through the list of some of the significant attacks which took place prior to the video every being seen in Africa. That list includes a prior attack on the US consulate, an RPG fired at the UK Ambassador’s convoy, another fired at the Red Cross compound and an attack on the UN ambassador. (That pattern of attacks was also noted here at Breitbart a few days after the attack.) All of these previous attacks happened in Benghazi before anyone had heard about the video.
As for the politics which seem to frame the entire report, I argued in May that whether or not the attack was spontaneous, planned or something in-between, the Obama administration had a major failure on its hands.
Was this attack, then, a spontaneous reaction to a video or a planned attack? Either way, it was a major security failure. In fact, it’s hard to say which horn of the dilemma would make the administration look worse. A planned attack means a failure of intelligence and security. A spontaneous attack suggests security was so lax, little planning was needed to overrun the compound.
To get even more specific, Hillary Clinton does not look a whole lot better for being caught unaware by a semi-spontaneous attack that took place after months of deteriorating security in Benghazi. The ball still got dropped and it happened on her watch. Nothing in the NY Times report changes that.