Webster G. Tarpley, Ph.D.
May 16, 2013
Zealously seeking issues to use against the Obama White House, the reactionary Republicans of the US House of Representatives last week once again dredged up the Benghazi incident of September 11, 2012 in the form of a full-blown media circus centering on hearings by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Congressman Darrell Issa.
Long deprived of foreign policy issues to exploit for political gain, and fearing the political backlash from their usual expedient of trying to start a new war, the Republican reactionaries are doing everything possible to create popular hysteria reminiscent of the final phases of the Watergate scandal four decades ago.
GOP Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, desperately seeking to stave off a political challenge by Tea Party fanatics, says that a new Watergate is in the air. The troglodyte Senator Imhofe of Oklahoma is busily invoking the specter of Obama’s impeachment, a project in which he is joined by failed Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. House Speaker John Boehner wants to open a fishing expedition among the e-mails of the White House. The pseudo-libertarian Rand Paul has already announced that the Benghazi incident shows that Hillary Clinton, still the most likely Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, should never hold high public office again. Few indeed are the Republican congressmen who have not found a way to pop off about Benghazi.
These farnetications by themselves would be of limited interest, were it not for a recent change in the attitude of the controlled corporate media, reflecting in turn a shift in the attitude of the US ruling class towards the Obama regime. Up until now, harping on the Benghazi incident has tended to be limited to Fox News, controlled by the British Empire’s right-wing billionaire Rupert Murdoch, and a gaggle of extremist radio talk show hosts. But now, other propaganda channels have joined in: Cheryl Atkisson of CBS news is now working on the story full-time, and Jonathan Karl at ABC news is attempting to catch up. National Public Radio, the Washington Post, and the Associated Press have developed new interest in a story they have long dismissed. For virtually the first time, Jay Carney’s daily White House press briefing is turning into a hostile confrontation, rather than a liturgy of adoration for Obama.
As predicted here several months ago, Obama is falling prey to the familiar destructive pattern of the second term: once an administration has been in power for four years, a backlog of abuse, scandals, corruption, and malfeasance builds up. The ruling financier oligarchy, always interested in weakening the office of the presidency, and anxious to keep the president on a short leash at a time when he otherwise might feel free to attempt new initiatives, has instructed its journalistic minions to increase the hostility to Obama. Obama himself has also helped to bring this moment about – by refusing to come forward with a job creation and economic recovery program for his second term, despite continued mass unemployment, by proposing to shift the cost of the Depression to the middle class and working families through his savage proposal to gouge the Social Security benefit by instituting the so-called Chained CPI, and also by an additional $400 billion in Medicare cuts. These are the third rail of American politics, and Obama has embraced them with reckless abandon.
For the average person, an understanding of Benghazi is made almost impossible by the accumulated lies and fictions of a dozen years of the fraudulent Global War on Terror. Dispense with the myths, and the underlying reality is brutally simple.
An October surprise that came early
The Benghazi incident of September 11, 2012 was an October surprise which arrived a few weeks early. Its goal was to help defeat Obama, and to install the Romney in the White House. (Interestingly, the name of Romney was never mentioned during the entire five-hour length of the Issa committee hearings.) There are tell-tale signs that the Benghazi incident was deliberately orchestrated by a cabal of generals and admirals favorable to Romney. Many of these flag officers have been removed from their posts over the past several months, but their ouster has generally been attributed to financial or sexual misdeeds. Even though Obama was primarily the target of the Benghazi incident, partisan Republicans are attempting anyway to blame him for, betting and Obama is too cowardly to go public with charges of what amounts to an attempted military coup in 2012. This is folly, since Obama’s inaction leaves much of the rogue military network intact and capable of striking again.
The so-called US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya was in fact a CIA station with more than 50 personnel on hand to maintain liaison with the Al Qaeda death squads deployed by NATO intelligence in 2010 and 2011 for the purpose of overthrowing the Libyan government of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi. Hillary Clinton was interested in building up the US presence in Benghazi in order to handle the growing workload generated by the airlift and sealift involved in this operation. By September, 2012 NATO was in the process of transferring large numbers of these terrorist fighters, along with weaponry plundered from the arms depots of Colonel Qaddafi, into Syria — with the goal of stoking a civil war against Assad government. This transfer was being accomplished by way of southern Turkey, which explains why Ambassador Stevens’ last official meeting was with a Turkish diplomat.
The Obama administration showed reckless disregard for probable political retribution when it embarked on a policy of systematically using Al Qaeda terrorists in the form of secret armies to destabilize and overthrow several regimes in the Arab world. Awareness of this colossal vulnerability may also explain why the Obama White House has been so reticent to provide basic information about the Benghazi incident.
Benghazi mission was moving terrorists from Libya to Syria
Security was lax at the Benghazi facility because Ambassador Stevens and his State Department and CIA colleagues had been working closely with the Libyan jihadis for many months on redeploying these fanatical fighters to the Syrian front. As I reported in 2011, the Benghazi-Derna-Tobruk corridor had been identified by the United States Army some years earlier as the world’s most productive breeding ground for suicide bombers destined for the conflict in Iraq. The US intelligence community had decided to mobilize those fighters for the overthrow first of Qaddafi, and then of Assad.
By all accounts, Ambassador Stevens was assassinated by the organization known as Ansar al Islam, controlled by the infamous Sufian bin Qumu. Qumu, previously a member of the Al Qaeda affiliate calling itself Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, had been held up by the United States in the Guant?namo Bay concentration camp for several years until his release in 2007. Qumu had returned to Libya and set up al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a key part of the effort to overthrow Qaddafi. Qumu’s career points up the widely misunderstood role of Guant?namo, which is not just a prison, but is also a training center for terrorists destined to be recycled back into the field in the service of the CIA. Another example of the same pattern is the late Said Ali ah-Shihri, who was held in Guant?namo for six years and then sent to Yemen to help found Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQIP). Shihri had then been zealously carrying out his assignment of destabilizing Yemen. As a rule, the only way to get out of Guant?namo alive is to become a double agent in the service of the CIA. When reactionary Republicans are confronted with this phenomenon, they whine that the terrorists have duped the CIA to obtain their freedom. In reality, the CIA is deliberately sending the Guant?namo alumni into the field for terror operations against targets the US wants to hit.
Thus, the headline for the murder of Ambassador Stevens might well read: ”Top CIA Asset Kills US Ambassador.” The main question thus becomes why Qumu surprised the entire US mission by killing a man who might well have been his case officer and controller until the day before.
Forces at the CIA Annex were told to stand down
Another important issue is the lack of sufficient security for the Benghazi post. The CIA annex-near the consulate where Ambassador Stevens was meeting his Turkish contact was staffed by between six and twelve highly trained special forces paramilitary veterans. By most accounts, these CIA commandos received a peremptory order not to intervene to save Stevens and his State Department colleagues when they were under attack. One or two of the CIA paramilitaries are said to have disobeyed this order and attempted to help Stevens. Obviously enough, orders going to these CIA commandos are the responsibility of General David Petraeus, at that time the Director of Central Intelligence, or in other words the boss of the CIA. The imbecility of the Issa hearings is suggested by the fact that this evident chain of command was totally ignored last week. Neither party, it seems, is interested in tracing the paralysis of the CIA commandos at the annex back to their commanding officer.
Another layer of security for the Benghazi consulate was supposedly being provided by the February 17 Martyrs’ Brigade. Instead, when Ambassador Stevens came under attack, the February 17 Martyrs’ Brigade fled the scene. There is every reason to regard this organization as a CIA asset. In the middle of 2011, there had been a rivalry for control of the Libyan armed forces. One of the contenders for overall military command was General Younis, who had defected from the Qaddafi military establishment a short time earlier. His rival was the reputed CIA asset General Hifter, who had been living in Northern Virginia, not far from the CIA headquarters at Langley, until he was flown back into Libya in the spring of 2011. Many indications suggested that Hifter was much preferred by Washington. This rivalry was resolved when General Younis was assassinated by a members of the February 17 Martyrs’ Brigade. Our headline has now become “US ambassador murdered by CIA assets as CIA paramilitaries are ordered to stand down and local CIA assets flee.”
Ask General David Petraeus and General Carter Ham
At any point in the Benghazi story where malfeasance or nonfeasance by CIA personnel or local assets occurs, the scrutiny of investigators must be directed towards General David Petraeus, who was allegedly attending a screening of the pro-war movie Argo at the time of the Benghazi attacks. This obvious connection was totally ignored in the Issa hearings, including by the Democratic Party minority.
Another possible source of assistance for Ambassador Stevens and his beleaguered associates would have been a small but capable team of US special forces stationed in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, some 400 miles to the west of Benghazi. According to testimony at the Issa hearings, this Tripoli team was under the command of a certain Lt. Col. Gibson. According to the sworn testimony, Lt. Col. Gibson and his team were about to board a Libyan Hercules C-130 transport aircraft for the flight to Benghazi when he received an order to stand down, do nothing, and remain in Tripoli. The hearings featured a melodramatic invocation of how bitterly disappointed Lt. Col. Gibson was when he received this order.
One of the partisan pro-Republican witnesses at the Issa hearing was State Department official Gregory Hicks, who had served as deputy chief of mission under Ambassador Stevens. Hicks tried to argue that the order moving Lt. Col. Gibson and his team from Tripoli to Benghazi needed to come from the Deputies’ Committee contained in the National Security Council structure at the White House. But, since Lt. Col. Gibson and his team were already in the country, it is clear that they had full autonomy to proceed to Benghazi. By all indications, Lt. Col. Gibson and his team were under the command of US General Carter Ham, the boss of the United States African Command (US AFRICOM), located in Stuttgart, Germany. General Ham, who had directed US military operations against Libya in 2011, was removed from this command in the aftermath of Benghazi on October 18, 2012, when Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Obama’s intention of replacing him with General David Rodriguez. General Ham, like General Petraeus, would therefore have to be thoroughly interrogated on his role in the Benghazi incident, and also in the context of the Seven Days in May scenario which hangs over the run-up to the November 2012 presidential election.
There was also the question of the ability of the United States military to deploy air assets over Benghazi in useful time. Pentagon officials have generally stated that US attack aircraft were too far away from Benghazi to make a difference, and that the two waves of the Benghazi attack would have been over long before these planes could have arrived. They also claimed that there were no tankers available for the necessary in-flight refueling. The acceptance of these fictitious arguments by Issa’s self-styled truth seekers testifies to the extremely primitive and ill-informed level of the Issa hearings.
The closest US airbase to Benghazi is not Aviano, but Sigonella
A layman listening to the Issa hearings would have come away convinced that the closest US military airbase to Benghazi was Aviano in northeast Italy, not far from the border with Slovenia. This is absurd. The closest US military airfield was that at Sigonella on the east coast of Sicily, in the shadow of Mount Etna, about 875 miles south of Aviano. The bombing of Libya in 2011 was largely conducted from Sigonella.
The distance from Sigonella to Benghazi is about 420 miles, which a modern fighter jet can cover in one to two hours. Tankers are unquestionably available at Sigonella. Could air assets from Sigonella have arrived in time to strafe Qumu’s forces, or intimidate them into a retreat? Here is a real question which the Issa committee was too poorly informed to even pose.
And who was in command of the US Naval Air Station at Sigonella on September 11, 2012? The answer seems to be General Carter Ham once again. Sigonella was also the home of Special-Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 12.2, with 120 Marines ready to provide support to Marine Forces Africa and US Africa Command missions. Congressman Issa needs to question General Carter Ham about why forces from Tripoli and from Sigonella never intervened in Benghazi. Otherwise, the credibility of this investigation will be zero.
Naval assets in the Mediterranean might also have been brought to bear by either General Carter Ham or Admiral James Stavridis, the Supreme Commander of NATO and also of the US European command. Stavridis had been considered a candidate to become the top officer of the United States Navy, but his hopes were frustrated by accusations of relatively minor financial irregularities. Stavridis was then ousted from his NATO command in early 2013. Just before retiring, Stavridis told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he was eager for the United States to increase its meddling in Syria. He demanded the arming of the terrorist death squads with modern weapons, noting that this would be “helpful in breaking the deadlock and bringing down the Assad regime.” (AP, March 19, 2013) Many disgruntled generals and admirals regard Obama as insufficiently aggressive.
Part of the Republican mantra has been to ridicule the suggestion that a scurrilous anti-Islamic film made in Southern California had any role in preparing the Benghazi incident. One of the film’s major backers, the Egyptian Copt Joseph Nasrallah, was part of the so-called Islamophobia Network of pro-Israeli publicists, academics, retired military, and former government officials. The dominant personality and most famous participant in this Islamophobia Network (which had tried in 2011 to block the construction of a mosque in lower Manhattan) was none other than neocon former State Department official John Bolton, in September 2012 a close adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who might have been considering him as a future secretary of state. Whatever the connection of this anti-Islamic film to events in Libya, there is no doubt that it played an important role in more than two dozen protests and riots around the world, including one that was going on that same day in Cairo, Egypt. In that instance, rioters had broken through the security perimeter and breached the wall of the US Embassy. It is understandable that the Republicans wish to minimize attention to this film, since it was to all intents and purposes produced by a branch of the Romney presidential campaign, quite plausibly with the goal of creating incidents that could be used to embarrass Obama.
However, even before the now legendary appearances of US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice on a series of Sunday morning political programs, it was none other than CIA boss Petraeus who told a secret session of the House Intelligence committee that the Benghazi incidents had been triggered by the anti-Islamic film.
State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nualand, aka Mrs. PNAC
Jonathan Karl of ABC News, eager to participate in the anti-Obama turn by key sectors of the media, has trumpeted his finding that the original CIA talking points were changed or revised no fewer than a dozen times. According to Karl, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was responsible for most of these revisions. The implication is obviously that Victoria Nuland the feminist diplomat was engaged in activities to help the career of her boss, then Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton. But a few minutes of investigation show that Mrs. Nuland is just as likely to have been a submarine for the Romney campaign and the associated coup faction.
Victoria Nuland is the wife of Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution, a cofounder of the neocon warmonger pressure group that called itself The Project for a New American Century. In 2012, neocon heavyweight Robert Kagan was identified by Ezra Klein of the Washington Post as the most important foreign policy adviser of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Four years earlier, Robert Kagan had played the same role for Republican nominee John McCain. Victoria Nuland’s father-in-law is Donald Kagan, Yale professor and another signer of the infamous Project for a New American Century.
Victorian Nuland’s brother-in-law is neocon star Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute, yet another activist for the Project for a New American Century. Frederick Kagan had designed the sending of US reinforcements to Afghanistan, widely called the surge, on the part of the Bush administration in 2007. In December 2012, the Washington Post revealed that Frederick Kagan and his wife Kimberly “Kim” Kagan had been meddling in US military policy in Afghanistan for several years, having been originally invited there by General Stanley McChrystal, who was ousted as US commander after his anti-Obama outbursts were revealed by a journalist. Frederick and Kim Kagan had then been illegally incorporated into the US military chain of command in Afghanistan by none other than the General David Petraeus, evidently an inspirer of the anti-Obama military cabal that was active in the second half of 2012, and in any case the main focus of tendencies toward military dictatorship in the United States.
Victoria Nuland’s connection with Hillary Clinton, whatever it might be, will necessarily prove temporary. Her connection to the Kagan dynasty of neocon warmongers is, by contrast, likely to be far more permanent. The actions of this charming lady must therefore be scrutinized in the light of the hypothesis that she may have been serving as a neocon submarine on Hillary Clinton’s State Department team. Mrs. Nuland would have known that it was highly unrealistic to attempt to hide the fact that Qumu’s al Qaeda terrorist organization had killed Ambassador Stevens. The crude falsification of this fact in the so-called talking points was therefore sure to be discovered, thus damaging the credibility of the Obama regime. So there is every reason to assume that Nuland was acting against Obama, rather than to defend him.
As we have seen, the Obama administration made sure that a large number of generals and admirals were ousted from their commands in the second half of 2012. Among these may well have been participants in the Seven Days in May scenario which included Benghazi as a campaign surprise designed to help Romney seize the White House.
The feckless Obama administration is clearly deeply frightened of telling the American people about the failed military coup lurking behind the November 2012 presidential election. To understand the forces at work here, we need to take a quick look back to the Watergate scandal, which began to explode with the impaneling of Senator Sam Ervin’s investigating committee precisely 40 years ago this week.
The Watergate mirror
The Watergate scandal was primarily a complex of intelligence community operations designed, not just to oust President Nixon from the White House, but mainly to permanently weaken the office of the presidency and to promote an oligarchical transformation of US politics and society. The carefully doctored Pentagon Papers of 1971 – released by Daniel Ellsberg, the Julian Assange limited hangout operative of his day – had driven Nixon into a paroxysm of paranoia. Wall Street asset Henry Kissinger helpfully suggested the creation of the plumbers, allegedly to seal off leaks of information to the press. These Plumbers included FBI agent Gordon Liddy, and top CIA agents Howard Hunt and James McCord, both in the orbit of the CIA Office of Security. The Watergate revelations reportedly came from top FBI official Mark Felt, the legendary “Deep Throat.” The main journalistic exposé was supervised by Bob Woodward, who had been a top naval intelligence officer.
Today, the average person – especially among leftists – would tend to attribute the Watergate scandal to the limitless evil of the Nixon administration. But in retrospect, it was a destabilization which succeeded. It succeeded mainly because Nixon insisted on launching a cover-up of the Plumbers, foolishly acting as if the latter had been loyal White House officials operating under his orders, and not infiltrators and provocateurs boring from within.
Obama would do well to contemplate the fate of Nixon, and reserve a half-hour of air time with the main television networks for some time in the next month. He could use this time to regretfully detail the extent of an attempted military coup coordinated with the November 2012 elections, and seeking to install Romney in the White House in defiance of the popular will. He could point out that the Benghazi incident was simply a key moment in the unfolding of this coup. They could then detail the large number of government officials, generals, admirals, members of Congress, pollsters, defense industry executives, and others who have been ousted or otherwise neutralized over the past several months, generally on grounds of sexual or financial malfeasance. Once the influence of this cabal is permanently liquidated, it will prove much easier for Obama to put a definitive end to the Afghanistan war, and to avoid a catastrophic US involvement in Syria. Otherwise common the current administration will face a series of catastrophic defeats culminating in impeachment.