Streetwise Professor

November 19, 2012

Murder on the Orient Express, Benghazi Talking Points Edition

Filed under: Politics — The Professor @ 7:29 pm

There is intense debate over the Benghazi Talking Points Not Made by Human Hands.  Somewhere between the CIA and Susan Rice’s yap, all references to terrorism, Al Qaeda, etc. were murdered.  By whom? everyone wants to know.

There are numerous suspects.  The White House.  The State Department.  The intelligence community.  All had motive and opportunity.

My hypothesis: just like in Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, they all did it.  Everyone involved had a motive to obscure what happened, in order to conceal their culpability for the shocking events in Benghazi.  The bureaucratic powers that be in DC colluded to eliminate references to terrorism and Al Qaeda.

Unfortunately, apparently is no Poirot to unravel this “mystery”.

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  1. Grow the skimpy mustache and put a slow hitch in your step. Hercule Professor.

    Comment by scott — November 20, 2012 @ 1:59 am

  2. You should have included a spoiler alert in the title for the novel. But I guess if you started that you would have to include a spoiler alert in most of your posts for the real future (except those on China). 🙂

    Comment by pahoben — November 20, 2012 @ 8:04 am

  3. @pahoben. LOL. Thanks for the compliment. Re China, maybe you and I should have a wager, like Michael Pettis and The Economist.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — November 20, 2012 @ 12:05 pm

  4. @Scott. Poirot is fastidious. No one has ever called me fastidious, believe me. It would take more than a waxed mustache and a mincing walk to turn me into Hercule 😛

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — November 20, 2012 @ 12:06 pm

  5. Well, I have studied this carefully and I’m still arguing “IO” or “regional desks at State”. That’s because they are far, far more likely to be captured by the belief that terrorism needs to be minimized, that evil neocons and conservatives overhype it, that the smart people who know languages and travel to foreign countries know better than clumsy CIA agents who mess up stuff, and so on.

    They’re the people who believe zealously that there should be no war on terror because calling it warfare makes warriors of the terrorists and makes them worse — although there is no evidence whatsoever that suicide bombings and terrorist attacks in general have waned because a few wonks at State have developed this groovy theory.

    Here’s my argumentation.

    The State Department is like the Catholic tradition. There’s the written tradition — the cables, the memos, the documents and what happens in them — but there’s the oral tradition as well. And the oral tradition can happen in meetings, phone calls, even emails.

    If you’re at the UN, and the draft of the president’s GA speech mentions the video version multiple times, you’ve also gotten a theological context reinforcing the “no war on terror, no terrorism” doctrine.

    That’s why to keep hounding on the physical text may not flush out the culprits. It’s more complicated. The text may have really only had the one redaction that the White House is saying now. Or there may be another memo from State that McCain hasn’t thought to drill as much late. Or, what’s more likely, there is an entire context where the grouping is in charge and creates the intellectual ecosphere, the group that believes in the minimizing of terror, who refuse to use the word terrorist or terrorism, who keep saying “acts of terror” to diminish the phenomenon into discrete acts that police, not military or intelligence might address.

    Comment by Catherine Fitzpatrick — November 20, 2012 @ 9:10 pm

  6. What I mean is that if you go in the direction of saying “they all did it for CYA reasons” to avoid accountability, that may be true, but it isn’t sufficient. Because the sickness goes much deeper. It isn’t just about incompetence or negligence. It’s about an entire school of thought that refuses to admit there is terrorism in the world and works avidly 24/7/12/365 to spin another narrative that they think is bravely bold and innovative and independent of evil neocons and conservatives with whom they clash. Amb. Stevens was in Benghazi to open a hospital wing and meet with development project heads as well as meeting with the Turkish ambassador about the Libya account in general in world affairs. The story that he was there to negotiate return of arms from rebels doesn’t make sense to me because the State Department doesn’t burn people with ambassador titles and languages and such on such meetings, it’s not their profile. That’s what the military attache or CIA covers do. And maybe they were doing it. But Stevens believed in development, and he was in an atmosphere were they believed they had won, that the resistance was waning, and that they weren’t in a dangerous place. And that’s because they don’t have a theory for terrorism; they think terrorism comes because people lived under dictatorship or didn’t have enough hospitals.

    Comment by Catherine Fitzpatrick — November 20, 2012 @ 9:15 pm

  7. Catherine-I think you may well be right that Steven’s presence in Benghazi may have been completely unrelated to what the CIA was doing there. I know you are right about the sickness going deeper, and that the denial of terrorism and the desire to treat it as a criminal problem is at the root of that.

    With respect to the TPs themselves, I suspect that there was a lot of, like you say, oral communication zinging around between ODNI, State, CIA, DoD, the White House, and they converged on an agreed narrative that airbrushed any mention of terrorism, Al Qaeda, etc., out of the public presentation. CYA and deeply held beliefs about the nature of the threat (or lack thereof) reinforced one another.

    At the end of the day, somebody had to draft what was agreed on. But to make that party solely culpable is a joke. It was a team effort.

    And that’s what I was getting at with the Murder on the Orient Express comparison.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — November 20, 2012 @ 10:22 pm

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