The New York Times presented a lengthy report on the Benghazi attack in its Sunday edition (12/29), and one of its central tenants was that the attackers had no connection to al Qaeda. Specifically, there was “no evidence that al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault.” I was flabbergasted. No evidence? And not “any role”? Seriously? Pretty strong, quantifiable words. I could live with “not a preponderance of evidence leading to the conclusion that al Qaeda senior leadership directed the attack.” Or, “little evidence to support that the attack was committed by al Qaeda members from outside of Libya.” But NO evidence? And NO role from al Qaeda? At all? I wondered how that could be, since even a cursory study of Benghazi would turn up a Library of Congress report written one month before the attack. The title? Al Qaeda in Libya: A Profile.
Beyond the fact that the researchers for the Library of Congress report found plenty of evidence that Ansar al Sharia (the group that perpetrated the attack and that the NYT’s calls a “local militia”) had/has ties to Al Qaeda, the report alone is evidence. In addition, we recently caught a core al Qaeda member in Tripoli (strangely, as reported by the New York Times), who was sent specifically to develop al Qaeda networks throughout the country. Even the NYT itself has reported on al Qaeda connections in the Benghazi attack in the past. How then did this reporter miss all of this? On the surface, it appears because he relied exclusively on “eye-witness accounts” and “people with direct knowledge”. So if they said they weren’t al Qaeda, then they weren’t al Qaeda. Simple. I mean, really, after we ripped the last AQ member off the streets of Tripoli, why on earth would they want to hide an al Qaeda link? Surely the’d brag about it to a NYT reporter, right? They wouldn’t want to keep the affiliation secret, like the Library of Congress report found (Understand, this report was written one month before the attack, and thus has no partisan leanings about what ultimately occurred – unlike the NYT story). Some excerpts:
- Ansar al-Sharia, led by Sufian Ben Qhumu, a former Guantanamo detainee, has increasingly embodied al-Qaeda’s presence in Libya, as indicated by its active social-media propaganda, extremist discourse, and hatred of the West, especially the United States.
- AQSL in Pakistan dispatched trusted senior operatives as emissaries and leaders who could supervise building a network. Al-Qaeda has established a core network in Libya, but it remains clandestine and refrains from using the al-Qaeda name.
- The al-Qaeda clandestine network is currently in an expansion phase, running training camps and media campaigns on social-media platforms, such as Facebook and YouTube. However, it will likely continue to mask its presence under the umbrella of the Libyan Salafist movement, with which it shares a radical ideology and a general intent to implement sharia in Libya and elsewhere.
When it fit his narrative, the NYT reporter relied exclusively on interviews of those theoretically involved in the attack as proof-positive that what they said was the rock bottom truth – but when the interview was off-narrative, it was “bizarre” to the reporter, as when “Other Benghazi Islamists insist, bizarrely and without evidence, that they suspect the C.I.A. killed the ambassador.”
Bizarrely and without evidence. Exactly what I would say about the NYT piece given what I know about al Qaeda – and therein lies the rub. How you define al Qaeda is at the crux of the debate. The NYT reporter went on Meet the Press to discuss the story, and when pressed, stated that if one meant al Qaeda as “Founded by bin Laden and run by Zawahiri”, then no, there was no AQ involvement. The problem with this is that the NYT is using a nation-state construct to define a sub-state threat. In effect, using old analog definitions to describe a digital phenomenon.
In the reporter’s eyes, al Qaeda is restricted to a core group of people who fought alongside bin Laden in Afghanistan and is currently struggling to survive in the mountains of Pakistan. Other individuals and groups, no matter how much they wish to become al Qaeda, will never be so without this core bestowing the mantle upon them, much like citizenship.
For a nation-state construct, this definition is correct. A person in Nigeria cannot wake up tomorrow and say, “I’m a citizen of the United States” and expect to garner any of the privileges that would bestow. But that isn’t how al Qaeda functions. It isn’t a nation-state, and a person in Nigeria could very well wake up tomorrow and say, “I’m a member of al Qaeda” – and he would be. Al Qaeda itself has repeatedly stressed it is the Muslim Ummah’s duty to attack the west, and anyone who did so is welcome in its arms. There are plenty of examples of terrorist groups that existed before bin Laden entered the world stage, and who now follow the al Qaeda mantle—most notably al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. That group started out as the GSPC, an Islamic group fighting to overthrow the government of Algeria – much like Ansar al Sharia in modern day Libya. In 2006, the GSPC changed its name and is now known as an al Qaeda affiliate, and would be with or without the core group in Pakistan bestowing any legitimacy upon them. In fact, the reverse is what usually occurs. A group calls itself al Qaeda, and if they become effective, the core group then acknowledges them, as is what happened with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Flying an American flag does not make you a U.S. citizen, but flying the black flag of Al Qaeda most certainly bestows affiliation with that group whether the core group acknowledges you or not – and there were a multitude of AQ black flags flying in Benghazi after Qaddafi fell.
And that is where the NYT article falls short. It neither understands nor explains asymmetric threats, and falls back on what it does understand: an archaic nation-state construct. To use the reporter’s definition, there is no al Qaeda in Iraq or Syria, despite the massive reporting that proves otherwise. And where, a year after the Benghazi attack, are these non-al Qaeda fighters getting trained? In Benghazi, facilitated by Ansar al Sharia. But that doesn’t indicate any connection between that “local” militia group and any trans-national jihadist organizations because Zawahiri didn’t direct the action.
The NYT would say there was no al Qaeda involvement in the slaughtering of the British soldier by two maniacal Nigerians, and by their definition they would be correct. The group “founded by bin Laden and lead by Zawahiri” did not order the attack, but one of the murderers stated in open court, “Al-Qaeda, I consider to be mujahideen. I love them, they’re my brothers.” Does that imply an al Qaeda connection? Even if he’s never met another al Qaeda member? Yes, it does. It’s the digital age, and they are exactly the disciples al Qaeda wants.
Remember Jim Jones? The cult leader who had his entire merry band drink poisoned Kool-Aid, spawning the saying that anyone who mindlessly believed something despite evidence to the contrary was “drinking the Kool-aid”? Say we brought him forward to modern day, and instead of being restricted to his sermons, his reach limited by his personal presence, he was now online spreading his vision. Ultimately, he conducts the same acts as before, and hundreds in Guyana drink his poisoned Kool-Aid, only this time seven people in Detroit are also found dead, having drunk poisoned Kool-Aid. On their computers the police find a plethora of propaganda from Jones, then the ultimate command to kill themselves. The seven have never met another member of the cult, have never been to South America, and have never heard Jim Jones’ voice. Are they members of the cult? The NYT, using their nation-state construct, would say no, they’re not.
Much like their assertion of no al Qaeda connection in the Benghazi attack, I’d say they’re drinking some purple Kool-Aid.
UPDATE, 10 JAN 2014:
The state department has decided to designate Ansar al Sharia as a Foreign Terrorist Organization – along with the leader, a former GITMO detainee who trained with and fought alongside bin Laden in Afghanistan. The State Department press conference was a tortured mess as they tried to tap-dance their way through whether AQ – or other foreign terrorist organizations – were involved in Benghazi.
STATE: “Core AQ did not plan this event,” and “Ansar al Sharia is not an official affiliate.”
REPORTER: “But Jen, the leader of Ansar al-Sharia, Bin Qumu, he has ties to bin Ladin, he trained with him in camps in Pakistan in 1993. Doesn’t that give him ties to al-Qaida?”
STATE: “Well again, Lucas, there’s no indication at this point that core al-Qaida was involved or planned these attacks, and these are not official affiliates of al-Qaida.”
REPORTER: “If you’re an alumnus of al-Qaida, doesn’t that give you ties to al-Qaida? What does it take to have ties to al-Qaida? Is it an email? Is it a certificate of completed training? I’m just curious what it takes to have ties to al-Qaida.”
Room erupts in laughter. State continues its tortured logic dance.
I grew up a devout Democrat (no doubt due to my parents’ fervent Republican bent); I suppose I wanted to at least somewhat attempt to balance the scales, and rebellion was attractive to me at the time..long hair, rock music, etc. However, I recall also possessing a deep sense of justice/compassion my whole life, and a recognition of Truth that not only exists to this day, but has exponentially expanded. However, I lacked the courage of my convictions back then; I no longer do.
(I’m also no longer a Democrat. I honestly don’t know what the hell I am, and may need to start my own Party.) I guess ‘Independent’ would sum it up, although I am leery of any label, especially one subject to society’s habit of manipulation/engineering. To me, ‘society’, as far as I experienced it growing up, is not something to fear, live up to, or even respect, but has unfortunately appeared to me more in the form of an acting-out adolescent.)
Brad’s assertions are on the mark; his words ring true to me. While I am no fan of the “fair and unbiased” reporting of Fox TV (..not that I’m a diehard fan, but do they ever say ANYTHING good about Obama? If so, I must have missed those 19 or so seconds..), I neither embrace the NYT’s slant (no pun intended). Personally, I believe most people avoid balance, instead opting for the black vs. white of an issue, extremes rather than compromise and/or viewing The Big Picture (or simply taking five minutes to step in another’s shoes for a differing viewpoint) are what sells, money surely seeming to be the bottom line. And, of course, add liberal (! !ha- again, NPI..) doses of Drama, which gives the average viewer a short-lived rush, hence the blizzard of Breaking News Live Scrolling TV Lines Is There Any Other Possible Way To Strangle You Into Submission? living room assaults. How can they not have invented the means to scroll screaming headlines projected from televisions onto your actual living room walls and ceilings? Or have they?
I canceled my TV service six years ago. If anything, I feel MORE informed today. And no, I really don’t know where I get my information. I don’t honestly know what’s true anymore, only what I sense is so. Works for me, so far. I do have an affinity for reading ‘good vs. not-quite-so-good/evil’ novels that include the likes of Pike Logan, Mitch Rapp (a special Thank You to the late Vince Flynn), Scott Harvath, Special Agent A. Pendergast, Jack Reacher, even Lincoln Rhyme; grouchy SOB that he is, he usually still DOES do the right thing..
…and for me, THAT is what it’s all about. Doing the right thing, which I believe EVERYONE knows in their heart of hearts. Yet it does take courage to claim it; not everyone can, and that’s ok (just please keep quiet or Step Out Of The Way). I feel extremely grateful for all those unsung heroes who do their utmost to ensure a safe life for others, and not just Americans. I believe it takes true strength to include compassion, empathy, service to others simply because one can, and for no other reason. As a contractor/builder, I once supervised a group of Habitat For Humanity volunteers in building houses for families in need. No money involved, and certainly no glory. I couldn’t STOP them from working. Couldn’t get them to take breaks or lunch. I remember getting choked up at the time (..and also thinking,”how can I get my OWN building crew to work this hard?…” note: I never did.) A wonderful feeling, beyond words and beyond the abilty to explain or even touch. It was pure magic.
Wow. I do go on.
Media Malpractice is rampant in this country. Look what happened to Sarah Palin. John Ziegler did a great video on it. As with everything the Founding Father’s identified for us to be free from England, they may not apply to today. Freedom of the Press is no longer valid when the press is spinning and manipulating for dollars and web hits and not reporting true and factual information. Do I think our species is any different than in 1778–NO. Americans will do the right thing after all other possibilities are exhausted according to Winston Churchill. I tend to agree!
We’ve both been in the military long enough to know what we’re talking about. We simply do not put Americans in hoistile territory without contingency planning out the Whazoo. So the ‘who knew what when’ is a giant smoke screen and has been from the beginning. What would be of interest to the American public would be a disclosure (I don’t like disclosures…but) of the personnel involved, and the after action reports of each. How many were engaged, at what sites, a time line narrative with observations, casualties taken, when and where, the extent of injuries, ect. Then I’d like to the communication link loop dissected. I know the command structure and believe me, when you tell your boss shit hit the fan, there’s a fat checkmark that goes into that box. I’d be collecting the checkmarks and taking names, with suponeas to follow.
There is no investigation. Period. Quote me if you like. Instead, we have a directive downloaded through the pornographic media sites that are willing accomplices of a higher agenda. So begins the conspiracy. (I am a champion of conspiracies) Somebody knows the facts because the genisus of any conspiracy starts with knowledge and all actions are framed like a single cell in a beehive that are the superstructure of the nest. Like a ping pong ball, if you haven’t figured out the trajectory by the second bounce, someone is dicking with the physics or you’re a really bad ping pong player.
I’m going to throw this out as I am also an author. Word crafting is an art form so you really have to be very observant how words create impressions of something that did or did not happen. Soldiers keep their mouths shut, (an internal memo) while politico’s disregard intelligence overrides and commit what is essentially treason to CYA. The word crafting is like yesterday’s comics, fiction, laughable and incomprehensively implausible. Did anyone NOT see the ping pong ball? We all did.
Did you ever use a crappy pencil sharpener and you grind and grind and all you have is wood shavings and no lead? …and no pencil. That’s how it works with disinformation or the lack of any information. The insaitiable need for the truth to be revealed allows the distortion and dilution of facts, because we NEED a sharp pencil to write the facts down. Misrepresentation (unchecked) creates an apathy and soon the truth seekers are uncertain what truth they were looking for. (Mass saturation of the target area) We’re all socially reprogrammed to move on and the truth seekers are hustled off as trouble makers. (So why did Hamilton shoot Assron Burr) sort of mentality.
Point being, the ping pong ball has a trajectory and by now it’s in outer space, but it still has a destination with an agenda, and that’s the real story here.