A little more than a year ago, I wrote an article for The Daily Banter titled “13 Benghazis That Occurred On Bush’s Watch Without a Peep From Fox News.” In it I listed 13 terrorist attacks on U.S. consulates and embassies that happened during the years when President Bush was evidently “keeping us safe.” Throughout the past year, the article has sporadically gone viral among one internet clique or another, and at least one graphical meme has been based upon the list.
Late last week, I began to receive a new onslaught of tweets from readers of a website called IJReview about an article written by Managing Editor Kyle Becker, titled, “’13 Benghazis That Happened Under Bush’ Viral Meme Taken Apart & Destroyed Before Your Very Eyes.” Clearly it was intended to debunk my article — hocus-pocus alakazam! — before our very eyes.
Before I continue, I should note for those of you who are unaware: this isn’t another case in which I get all wrapped into responding to a Twitter troll with zero followers and an egg avatar. IJReview has 52,000 Twitter followers, 4.8 million Facebook Likes, and Becker claims the publication is the “#2 conservative site in U.S. traffic.” IJReview is indeed quite popular, ranking 407th in the U.S. overall, according to Alexa.com. Well done.
So anyway, Becker went through the 13 items in my list and tried desperately to find a reason, no matter how thin, why each attack wasn’t precisely like Benghazi. And, look, obviously none of the attacks were exactly like Benghazi — for that, they’d each have to take place in Benghazi, for one. Needless to say, the concepts of similarity, contrast and correlation seem to have escaped literalist Becker and his many readers.
Indeed, all of the attacks during the Bush era were against U.S. consulates and embassies, just like the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. What makes these attacks different from Benghazi is that not all of the fatalities were American — and yet there were still 13 terrorist attacks against our embassies, as opposed to one under the current administration. And while not every attack involved American fatalities, the 13 Bush-era attacks did, in fact, result in a total of 11 American deaths, or seven more U.S. deaths than in the Benghazi attack.
Yet the centerpiece of Becker’s feckless debunkery involved merely stating that, where appropriate: “NONE [of the casualties] WERE AMERICAN.” Unfortunately, he could only say this about 10 of the 13 attacks, each of which, by the way, inflicted dozens of other casualties. That leaves three terrorist attacks against our embassies in which 11 Americans died. Three times the attacks and nearly three times the fatalities as Benghazi.
I’m still waiting for my post to be magically “taken apart” and “destroyed.”
Predictably, Becker never once noted that one of the attacks with an American fatality occurred at an embassy that had been attacked once before. On March 2, 2006 in Karachi, Pakistan, terrorists specifically targeted for assassination a U.S. diplomat named David Foy, so a terrorist suicide bomber hit the embassy, killing Foy and three others. In spite of the fact that the same embassy had been attacked two years earlier — also by a suicide bomber who killed 12 people and injured 51 more — there was no additional security ordered to the compound. Now imagine the unhinged outrage that would’ve been generated if there had been not one but two similar attacks on the Benghazi consulate, the second of which resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. And yet when a very similar pair of attacks under Bush occurred, there weren’t 30 investigations or a House Select Committee convened. No emails were made public, no inquests against the administration were suggested and no conspiracy theories were circulated. Nothing. (Republican presidential frontrunner, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, has honored the death of Ambassador Stevens by accusing him of running Libyan guns via Turkey to Syrian rebels with ties to al-Qaeda. Classy.)
But that’s not the only instance of dual attacks resulting in an American casualty on Bush’s watch. The same thing happened at our embassy at Sana’a, Yemen on September 17, 2008, where an American student, along with her newlywed Yemeni husband, were killed while they waited in the embassy for information about how to bring the husband back to the states. 14 other people were killed, but since none of the others were American, I suppose they don’t count as real deaths. However, what should count and which strangely doesn’t count is that the exact same U.S. embassy had been attacked just six months prior, when a terrorist fired a mortar at the compound, killing two students at a neighboring school. Are we catching a pattern of incompetence here? Fool me once, shame on — shame on you… Fool me — can’t get fooled again!
Curiously, Becker linked to a CNN article verifying that Susan Elbenah was absolutely a New York-born American student, and then also suggested that she wasn’t actually an American at all! To verify this, he quoted an article from The Washington Post that claims, “No Americans were killed.” The Post article, published on the same day as the attack, was clearly incorrect, for in addition to the CNN article, which Becker linked, there are many others contradicting the Post‘s undeniable error. For example, here’s both Fox News Channel and The Los Angeles Times verifying Elbenah’s U.S. citizenship.
Becker concluded: “So of all the Americans killed, only one was a diplomat, and he was killed almost instantly. Nine others were defense contractors.”
No, no, it’s one diplomat, nine contractors and one student — a total of 11 including Elbenah.
Wow, Becker really did make one of the deaths vanish before our very eyes.
Of course, the other counter-arguments we generally hear when the issue of these 13 attacks is brought up is that there wasn’t a so-called cover-up or that Obama never referred to the Benghazi attack as “terror,” which he absolutely did the very next day. Becker also invoked the debunked “stand down” order and the YouTube video, the latter of which, as we all know, was drawn from an early assessment by the CIA.
What about that other Bush-era attack — the one that killed nearly 3,000 people on September 11, 2001? Where were the cries for a House Select Committee from Becker and all the rest? What about the Reagan-era attack on the Marine barracks in Lebanon? The nearly unified reaction to those attacks was to immediately hunt down the perpetrators, not the administration under which those attacks occurred. As for the previous administration, not only did it not capture the mastermind of the attacks, Osama Bin Laden, but it literally called off the search in lieu of invading Iraq based on, yes, intelligence failures and misleading promises to the American people.
It gets worse. Politifact actually took a hard look at my “13 Benghazis” numbers and determined the claim to be “Mostly True.” Earlier this month Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) quoted my numbers on MSNBC’s The Ed Schultz Show and the popular fact-checking site reported that the numbers weren’t entirely accurate — they were actually “a bit low.”
It turns out, I failed to include numerous attacks in Baghdad and a series of other diplomatic locations in my list. Politifact concluded that during the Bush presidency there were “39 attacks or attempted attacks on U.S. embassies and embassy personnel. Of these 39 attacks, 20 resulted in at least one fatality.” There were a total of 80 deaths, including 24 U.S. embassy officials, some American, some foreign. (Politifact is unclear on the total number of Americans killed.)
Now to be fair, Politifact quotes Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, who notes that none of the U.S. casualties included an ambassador. This is absolutely true. But given the sheer number of deaths, it very well could have. The diplomatic rank of one man, when compared with at least 11 American deaths in 13 attacks on our consulates/embassies — our soil — seems like a trivial distinction. Chris Stevens was a capable public servant, and his death, like so many others, should be mourned and avenged. But is an ambassador’s life worth more righteous indignation, outrage and investigative action than 11 other citizens, including David Foy? What about 3,000 citizens? Or 241 Marines? Should the rank of ambassador be the hinge upon which the distinction between outrage and apathy swings?
Again, were each of these attacks exactly like Benghazi, down to every last detail? Of course not. But taken as a whole, the Bush record on protecting our embassies along with our fellow Americans assigned to those posts is far more egregious than a single attack. The Bush administration framed itself as the safety and security administration and yet it allowed at least 13 attacks, with many more aimed at U.S. diplomatic officials, to occur (and don’t forget that big one on 9/11/01). And, no, there wasn’t a peep from Fox News, Kyle Becker, Hannity, Limbaugh, Boehner, Gowdy, Graham, McCain or any of the others who have barely mentioned bringing to justice the Benghazi attackers as often or with as much tenacity as they’ve demanded bringing to justice Obama, Clinton, Rice, Mueller and even Kerry (for some reason).
Unlike many on the left, I’ve made it clear on many occasions that conducting investigations of Bush-era mistakes or the officials who made them is a very bad idea (an article for another day). But any rational evaluation of the current administration versus the previous administration on these counts shows not only a higher rate of attacks and U.S. fatalities, but also a ridiculously lopsided reaction by the press and public. Why? Because it’s been determined by the Republican leadership that the attack in Benghazi and the deaths of four Americans makes for great politics, not only against the current president but against his possible successor, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The Benghazi drumbeat frames an administration that’s notorious for its use of UAVs (drones) against a so-called “kill list” of terrorists, as well as its hunting and killing of Osama Bin Laden, as being somehow weak on terrorism. The GOP is successfully stripping “Benghazi” of all meaning, adding sinister connotations and transforming it into a bumper-sticker, careening very close to “birth certificate” and “Teleprompter” territory. The strategy is undoubtedly to repeat it often and loudly enough; to make people forget the administration’s counter-terrorism record just in time for the midterms and the impending Hillary campaign. Convenient.