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The Flummoxing Case Of

What Susan Rice Said

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Ambassador Chris Stevens and MFA Director of the Americas Desk Abdurrahman al-Gannas cut the ribbon to mark the opening of the new Consular section in Tripoli about two weeks before Stevens was killed. Images by U.S. government.
The Scandal Of What The U.S. Ambassador To The United Nations Said When On A Tour Of Sunday Talk Shows Stops One Cut From The Truth

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By John Monahan
Modern Times Magazine

Nov. 20, 2012 — After more than three decades of reading, writing and caring about American politics, I have become completely flummoxed by conservatives and their reaction to the attack in Benghazi and Susan Rice’s subsequent talk show tour.

Words truly define us, and flummoxed is the best word for how I feel.

Sure, synonyms for flummoxed could also tell the story. Similar words such as baffle, bewilder, buffalo, confound, discombobulate, disconcert, mystify, nonplus, perplex, puzzle, stump, and throw off could serve as viable substitutes.

But nothing fits this “scandal” like flummoxed.

The word gives the impression of being caught in a thicket or web which one cannot seem to intellectually escape.

That is precisely the cauldron of absurdities that is happening in this “scandal.”

It leaves this writer flummoxed.

It is not that being flummoxed is a new feeling for a political junkie. It is that the Susan Rice Benghazi “furor” is just so unbelievable.

No matter if one thinks this is the biggest cover up since Watergate, or an unpreventable tragedy akin to the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon, doesn’t it make sense to actually review what she said on those news shows? Republicans, after all, are saying that Rice maintained that the attack was a spontaneous event.

Period.

And that because of this “lie,” she is the biggest liar in modern history, proven by the fact that after Benghazi, Barack Obama’s administration did not mention “terrorism” except for that one time in the Rose Garden that Candy Crowley scuttled Mitt’s date with destiny, of course.

Ooh.

But a dedicated citizen would go out and review the tape, right?

Hell, a journalist would do the same, right?

Actually no. It seems like no one has taken the less than five minutes it takes to review what was said by Susan Rice on her Sunday news show tour. The scariest point of the escapade, even, might be that the argument that all Rice said on Meet The Press was that the attack was a spontaneous reaction to what had happened in Cairo was repeated by the man who actually asked the question, David Gregory.

View Ambassador Rice's remarks to David Gregory on Meet The Press

Flummoxed by David Gregory. Damn.

This Sunday on Meet The Press, he repeated that assertion over and over again. He even played a clip from Rice recorded a month or so before when this furor began, saying, “Let me tell you the best information we have at present. First of all, there's an FBI investigation that's ongoing and we look to that investigation to give us the definitive word as to what transpired. But putting together the best information that we have available to us today, our current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was, in fact, initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video.”

Gregory then lampooned that statement, ridiculing her and the fact that it was a flawed assumption. The fact that a large handful of protests were spawned from the video filmed by a parolee on Sept. 11, 2012, does not mean that although real extremists showed up with heavy weapons, the video had nothing to do with it.

The flummoxing crux is that the argument that Rice didn’t say it was a terrorist attack is based on skillful editing of the tape. If the quote was not cut at that precise moment, it would have revealed that the administration did say it was something more than a spontaneous reaction.

In the very next breath, Rice said the most important part of the interview.

“What we think then transpired in Benghazi is that opportunistic extremist elements came to the consulate as this was unfolding. They came with heavy weapons, which unfortunately, are readily available in post revolutionary Libya. And it escalated into a much more violent episode. Obviously, that's our best judgment now. We'll await the results of the investigation, and the president has been very clear we'll work with the Libyan authorities to bring those responsible to justice,” she said.

So she said “extremist elements” instead of terrorist groups or al Qaeda.

One of the first rules of any investigation is to not name the suspects, isn’t it? And, really, does it matter that al Qaeda had anything to do with it?

Still flummoxed.

Everyone knows that less than a year ago, Benghazi was a war zone and that some groups associated with al Qaeda and other “terrorist” or “extremist” groups took part in the fighting. Peace is still coming slowly to the area.

The consulate that was blown up was opened a little more than two weeks before it was destroyed in the attack. The CIA had a post not far from there.

There was a lot of secret stuff going on. Would it be wise to let the American people — all of them, including a politicized Congress — know about diplomatic and intelligence operations?

Or maybe this was just another political ploy gone wrong in the 2012 election. Maybe republicans are just really upset that they did not get to pull off a great “September Surprise.” Maybe they really thought that this attack would doom Obama by reminding the electorate that al Qaeda is still alive and a serious threat. In reality, though, terrorism is on the decline. Al Qaeda that can only pull off an operation today in a country that is just beginning to heal after a civil war.

If only republicans would look at the words Ambassador Christopher Stevens uttered in his closing remarks at the opening of a consulate section in Tripoli on Aug. 26, 2012, we all might be better off. His statements express the best of what this country used to be: a place where people are more important than politics.

“Relationships between governments are important, but relationships between people are the real foundation of mutual understanding. That's why the reopening of our consular section is such an important milestone in relations between our two countries,” Stevens said. “So, my message to Libyans today is ahlan wasahlan bikum. You are welcome to visit America, and there's the door! Thank you.”

Are you flummoxed now, too?

John Monahan is a freelance writer living in Connecticut.
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