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Weissman writes: "Republicans are making a happy meal of last September's terrorist attack in Benghazi, while dopey Democrats play dodge ball."

President Obama returns to the Oval Office, 07/20/12. (photo: Getty Images)
President Obama returns to the Oval Office, 07/20/12. (photo: Getty Images)

Belting Out the Benghazi Blues

By Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News

19 May 13


oping against extremely long odds to impeach Barack Obama and deter Hillary Clinton from running for president, Republicans are making a happy meal of last September's terrorist attack in Benghazi, while dopey Democrats play dodge ball - or is it hide and seek? The whole business has now degenerated into a giant game of gotcha over television talking points about the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans and the failure to protect them. Most of the debate is a waste of time. An old-fashioned journalistic reconstruction offers a much better idea of the big secret that the White House, the State Department, and the CIA are all trying to cover up.

Start with the basics: Why Benghazi?

September 23, 2012: The New York Times calls the attack "a catastrophic intelligence loss," in the words of an anonymous American official who had served in Libya. "We got our eyes poked out." The story reports CIA efforts to monitor changes within the ultra-conservative Salafi community in Benghazi and eastern Libya and to spy on their militia groups, especially Ansar al-Sharia, which reportedly led the attack, and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

October 9, 2012: Republican members of Darrell Issa's Committee on Oversight and Government Reform give more of the game away at a Congressional hearing. "Through their outbursts, cryptic language and boneheaded questioning," writes the Washington Post's Dana Milbank, they left no doubt that the so-called "annex" or safe house" that took as many as three direct hits was, in fact, a secret CIA Base.

November 1, 2012: "The U.S. effort in Benghazi was at its heart a CIA operation, according to officials briefed on the intelligence," writes the Wall Street Journal. "Of the more than 30 American officials evacuated from Benghazi following the deadly assault, only seven worked for the State Department. Nearly all the rest worked for the CIA, under diplomatic cover, which was a principal purpose of the consulate, these officials said." Even Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods Ð the two former Navy Seals who tried to save Ambassador Stevens Ð actually worked as CIA contractors, according to U.S. officials interviewed by the WSJ.

Besides watching the Salafis and their militias, the CIA team in Benghazi was working to stop the spread of Kadhafi's widely dispersed supply of arms, including chemical weapons, along with arms that Washington had supplied the Libyan rebels. But, beginning as early as April 2012, the CIA team begins to allow those arms to reach Sunni rebels fighting against the Assad regime in Syria.

August 19, 2012: Writing in London's Sunday Times, Hugh Macleod describes ships from Libya anchored some 20 miles off the Lebanese coast as impoverished Sunni smugglers use the cover of darkness to ferry surface-to-air missiles ashore and pass them to Syrian rebel fighters.

"Libya has too many weapons and the international community wants to stabilize it," explains one of the smugglers, Abu Ahmad, a former militia leader who had fought the Syrian army's occupation of Tripoli in the 1980s. According to Macleod, the Syrians had imprisoned and tortured Abu Ahmad for three years in Damascus.

"[Libyan leader Mustafa] Abdul Jalil wants to weaken the Libyan militias so there is an agreement to send these weapons to Syria," said Abu Ahmad.

A seasoned foreign correspondent, Macleod traces the Libyan shipments back as far as a container ship, the Luftallah II, captured by Lebanese authorities in April 2012. This was "a huge diversion," explains Abu Ahmad. "Lutfallah was handed to the government so we could bring in more ships. Some people in the army are supporting the Syrian rebels, others are bribed, and others turn a blind eye."

Between April and mid-August, 2012, at least seven other Libyan ships unloaded arms in northern Lebanon, according to Macleod and his sources. These ships carried rocket-propelled grenades, heavy-caliber ammunition, shoulder-launched, heat seeking, surface-to-air missiles (SAMS), and Russian-made, shoulder-launched Grinch SA-24 missiles that can bring down a warplane flying up to 11,000 feet.

September 6, 2012: Another Libyan ship - The Intisaar - turns up in the Turkish port of Iskenderun, 35 miles from the Syrian border. As The Times of London reports, the shipment includes humanitarian supplies along with SAM-7 surface-to-air anti-aircraft missiles and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). "This is the largest single delivery of assistance to the rebel fighting units we have received," says Abu Muhammed, a member of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), who helped to move the shipment from warehouses to the border. "These are things that could change the tide - if they are used correctly."

According to the usually reliable Business Insider, the shipment had been organized by the head of the Tripoli Military Council, Abdelhakim Belhadj, with whom Chris Stevens had worked closely during his time as U.S. Liaison to the Libyan opposition.

The attack in Benghazi came 5 days later, and the last meeting Chris Stevens had was with the Turkish consul general Ali Sait Akin. According to Fox News on October 25, 2012, a source told them that Stevens was in Benghazi "to negotiate a weapons transfer in an effort to get SA-7 missiles out of the hands of Libya-based extremists."

Make of all this what you will, holding in mind that the Internet is full of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about Benghazi that reach out in all directions. But the trustworthy reports that the CIA and probably Chris Stevens were involved from at least April 2012 in backing the Sunnis in Syria and supplying them with Libyan arms looks to me like the big Benghazi secret that Obama has foolishly refused to acknowledge and subject to open, democratic debate.

The CIA has offered the lure of plausible deniability to every American president since Harry Truman, and it almost always ends up creating greater problems than it solves.

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