What Happened in Benghazi?

foreign policy-themed presidential debate
, apparently focusing

almost exclusively
on terrorism and the Middle East/North
Africa, will certainly hit upon the attack on the U.S. consulate in
Benghazi. The topic was brought up in last week’s town hall debate,
with President Obama and Mitt Romney vigorously arguing over

whether the president characterized the Benghazi incident as a
terrorist attack
the next day. Even the moderator, Candy
Crowley, joined in, though her bungled and unsure interjection had
the effect of taking the conversation off track rather than
providing any clarity to the facts.

 Afterwards, Crowley admitted
she was wrong , that Romney was “right in the main” about President
Obama and his administration’s evolving narrative on Benghazi but
that Romney “picked the wrong word”—Obama said he called the
Benghazi attack an “act of terror” at the Rose Garden on September
12 and Romney seized on that. Obama did, however, say in those

that “[n]o acts of terror will ever shake the resolve
of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of
the values that we stand for.”

However, this 9/12 characterization came within the context, the
Administration insisted, of anti-American demonstrations (including
a purported one at the Benghazi consulate) spurred by an
anti-Islamic film whose trailer could be found on YouTube. Whether
or not Obama considered the Benghazi assault a “terrorist attack”
is immaterial, he and his administration also
pushed the narrative that the violence in Benghazi,
and in Cairo, and in Yemen, and, in fact, all the anti-American
demonstrations occurring the week of 9/11, were ignited
by the YouTube clip.

blame it on bad intel? sounds familiarAnd, most importantly, Susan Rice, the U.S.
ambassador to the United Nations, went on the major Sunday
political talk shows to push just that narrative: that the 9/11
attack “began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had
transpired some hours earlier in Cairo,” where violent
demonstrations had taken place. The brother of Al-Qaeda leader
Ayman al-Zawahiri, in fact, claimed
 for coordinating the assault in Cairo. The next day
the embassy in Yemen was also

The 9/11 attack on the Benghazi consulate, now believed to have
been coordinated by the militant group Ansar al-Shariah, was
preceded by
at least two others
in the previous three months. The attack,
of course, took the life of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three
other Americans. It began at the consulate and ended at another
building, which
may have been a CIA base
, and over which drones may have been
flying at the time. A report in the Independent
just three days later
portrayed a complex attack that included
theft of specific documents. Nevertheless, the CIA talking points
given Ambassador Rice before her appearance on the Sunday talk
shows referred to a spontaneous attack that did not appear
organized or planned. The Washington Post
an unnamed senior official characterizing the 9/11
attackers as a “flash mob with weapons,” and claiming the only part
of the talking points he’d revise is changing spontaneous to
“opportunistic.” The best intelligence money buys.

How much of this will be drawn out at tonight’s debate remains
to be seen, but the chances are bleak that any of the underlying
premises of American intervention in Libya, beginning with American
and NATO involvement in last year’s civil war, without
Congressional approval of any sort no less,  will be
You can have an Irish car bomb if they are