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2012 Benghazi attack

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Some dare call it
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What THEY don't want
you to know!
Sheeple wakers
Benghazi is a stupid witch hunt. Basic fault falls on a courageous ambassador who (thought) Libyans now love me and I am ok in this very vulnerable place.
—former Secretary of State Colin Powell in a private email, referring to his fellow Republicans' desire to burn the witch at all costs[1]

On September 11, 2012, the United States consulate and a nearby CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya were attacked by Islamic extremists. Four Americans were killed, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens. There was no clear evidence that the Obama Administration ordered the troops to "stand down" prior to the attack, nor was there any evidence of a cover-up. None of that stopped Trey Gowdy from putting on a novelty-size Inspector Javert hat and pursuing it to the ends of the earth.

Obama administration response[edit]

The Obama administration's response was poorly coordinated. The President described the attack in terms of a terror attack the day after, but the administration was not consistent later, with some officials saying that the attacks were due to the Innocence of Muslims films.[2] They were also not clear whether the attack was premeditated or whether members of al-Qaeda were involved, and in what capacity they were involved.

Whitewater II Electric Boogaloo[edit]

In all the Benghazi furor, I keep looking for Congress' comprehensive legislation to improve embassy security.
—Steven Metz[3]

Naturally, the lackluster handling of the situation was a ripe target for the Republican Party, with many accusing the President of drawing an unwarranted connection to the aforementioned film. At the time, Innocence of Muslims had just sparked protests in other areas, and a connection seemed reasonable; the GOP alleged that the Obama administration exaggerated this to downplay the continuing threat of terrorist activity in the Arab world. (How that would downplay the continuing threat is another question altogether.)

Had they stopped at the reasonable assertion that there was a fatal, and preventable, lack of security, Republicans might have won back some respect from disgruntled independents. Of course, "knowing when to quit" is not an attribute selected for in the GOP, and the party went much further than was reasonable, claiming that the so-called "cover-up" was worse than Watergate, that Obama was directly responsible for the Americans' deaths, that impeachment was inevitable, etc.

After the first half a dozen investigations turned up nothing it became perfectly clear that Benghazi investigations aren't about justice, but about running a Congressionally-sponsored smear campaign with unlimited taxpayer funding.

Conspiracy theories and general nuttiness[edit]

As you might suspect, this incident was rife with conspiracy theories. Memes spread quickly on the Internet, namely that the State Department for some reason sat back and watched the attack occur, while purposely doing nothing about it.[4][5] Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) went so far as to say that there were teams ready to stage a rescue, but they were told to stand down. This is not true, because those teams were called after the attack occurred, and thus could do nothing to help.[6]

Another meme spread around was an image of Ambassador Stevens (the first victim of the attack) with descriptions usually along the lines of "These are pictures you will not see in the Obama media. Our US Ambassador to Libya being dragged through the streets before being murdered."[7] The image is real, but it in fact depicts a group of Libyan citizens pulling him from the wreckage and bringing him to the hospital (where, after unsuccessful attempts to resuscitate him, he died from smoke inhalation), and not an angry mob of people dragging him through the streets.[8]

At no point has any coherent motive been presented for "conspiracy".

Manufactroversy development hell[edit]

The Benghazi uproar was effectively negated due to two more serious scandals and a complete non-scandal. In May 2013, we learned the Department of Justice conducted a massive and unprecedented seizure of the phone records of everyone working for the Associated Press (after the organization received details of a terrorist attack halted by the CIA coinciding with Osama bin Laden's death).[9] Then in June 2013, Edward Snowden leaked proof of continuing NSA mass surveillance under the PATRIOT Act.[10] Meanwhile, wingnuts raved over another conspiracy theory that the IRS was singling out organizations looking for tax exemptions that had political goals in mind (leading to the agency's commissioner, Steven T. Miller, resigning on request); this was eventually deemed bullshit.[11][12]

A Smoking Gun?[edit]

Conspiracy believers were given a potential breakthrough in the case in a 2013 airing of the television show 60 Minutes.Wikipedia Correspondent Lara Logan interviewed “Morgan Jones” (a pseudonym for security contractor Dylan Davies) who claimed to be the ground for the events of the Benghazi attacks. He described his first-hand account of poor security, emphasizing the alleged “stand down” order that prevented the embassy from receiving aid.

Davies was not even at the scene, having been in his villa the whole time. The account he gave CBS differed vastly from what he told the FBI, and CBS had not properly vetted Davies. In short, CBS had no actual leads to what they saw as a ratings-winning story, and fudged their fact-checking and vetting policies in order to run an interview with someone who turned out to be an unreliable witness. As a result, CBS was forced to retract the story; Logan was required to make a public apology, and was fired and was given a temporary leave of absence, which as of this writing, she has yet to return from.[13][14]

Closing the door[edit]

In late 2013, The New York Times completed an investigation of the attack and couldn't find anything that deviated much from the administration's talking points, particularly that it was not influenced by international terrorists but by local fundies either pissed off about the film and/or using it as an opportunity for exploitation.[15] Of course, all Republicans could do was whine about the reporter's writing style, leading a Politico editor to say "Even if the Times is right, and even if the US intelligence community formally dismisses the idea that al-Qaeda planned the attack, there will always be some who wonder if we simply haven't looked hard enough."[16] (Basically, this could enter into Truther territory.)

Then a foot gets put in the door[edit]

And on May 2, 2014 it finally went into Truther territory, with the Orange Overlord calling for another (and by another, we mean the eighth[17]) investigation just in time before the midterms.[18] If Travelgate et al. is a template for anything, give this another three years to fan out. During his initial Presidential campaign, Trump would proceed to make the absurd claim that Ms. Clinton was asleep during the attack and missed the 3AM phone call meant to alert her, despite the attack actually occurring at 9:30 PM, EST; it seemed he forgot to take Time Zones into account. Witness confirm Clinton was, in fact, at her State Department office at the time.[19]


On June 17, 2014 it was reported that the main suspect in the attack was captured by US Delta Force without firing a round.[20] It was later reported that he was motivated (at least in part) by the aforementioned video.[21]

Conspiracy nutters believe that this is too convenient as Hillary Clinton was on a tour for her book Hard Choices. This falls just as flat as Obama revealing his long-form birth certificate the same week of Bin Laden's death.[22]

And then Michael Bay gets involved[edit]

Hollywood's favorite punching bag, Michael Bay, decided to create his own film based on the events of the attack, and supposedly on the bestseller book 13 Hours. As if the events of Pearl Harbor weren't enough for him to take a giant dysentery shit over. The film is basically just a big dumb action movie, with all of Bay's infamous tropes in full display. While supposedly working to be as apolitical as possible, Bay leaves various dog whistles in the film, especially concerning the stand down myth and the protest confusion.[23]

Naturally, conservative media and Fox staff hyped the film to an extent even more than American Sniper, especially in predicting that it would affect Hillary's campaign. Of course, when 13 Hours opened on the same weekend that American Sniper did the year before (and Lone Survivor did the year before that), the film was crushed at the box office by not only the dumb buddy cop film Ride Along 2, but the leftover success of The Revenant and the latest Star Wars film. Plus, the film was only opened in red states, and people were just getting tired of Michael Bay after 20 years of the same shit over and over. Of course, the right-wingers didn't take that into consideration, and attacked the evil liberal media, accusing them of deliberately torpedoing the film and holding it back.

The End?[edit]

Within days after Clinton losing the 2016 presidential election, the numerous congressional hearings, committees and soforth were brought to a sudden halt. We at RationalWiki can only wonder why.

External links[edit]


  1. Colin Powell calls Benghazi a 'stupid witch hunt' in DCleaks emails by om Kludt (Updated 12:38 PM ET, Wed September 14, 2016) CNN.
  2. Romney says Obama waited 14 days to call Libya attack terror, PolitiFact
  3. Um... erm... oops?
  4. How a Real News Story Became the 'Obama Watched Them Die' Meme, HuffPo
  5. Attack on the U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi, Snopes
  6. Chaffetz on PolitiFact
  7. Photos of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens Dragged Through the Streets?
  8. US ambassador killed in Libya attack: Chris Stevens 'given CPR for 90 minutes' says Benghazi doctor, The Daily Telegraph
  9. Gov't obtains wide AP phone records in probe, AP
  10. NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily, The Guardian
  11. IRS Sent Same Letter to Democrats That Fed Tea Party Row, Bloomberg
  12. Revisiting the I.R.S. "Scandal", The New York Times
  13. 60 Minutes apologizes for Benghazi report, CBS News, 8 November 2013.
  14. Erik Wemple, The disaster of the ’60 Minutes’ Benghazi story. The Washington Post, 5 May 2014.
  15. A Deadly Mix in Benghazi, The New York Times
  16. The New York Times confronts critics of its Benghazi story, BBC
  17. New report won’t ‘stand down’ Benghazi conspiracy theories, Washington Post
  18. New Inquiry Sought on Benghazi Attack, The New York Times
  20. US seizes Benghazi raid 'ringleader', BBC
  21. Apprehension of Ahmed Abu Khattala May Begin to Answer Questions on Assualt, The New York Times
  22., Yes, the Birthers flipped their shit about that too.]