As TheBlaze attempts to piece together the details of the Benghazi attack that left four American civil servants, including a U.S. ambassador dead, the mainstream media has been reticent. While the details appear confusing at first blush, the story as it is unfolding is relatively straight-forward.
On the eleventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks, a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi -- an extremely volatile town in Libya -- was breached by al Qaeda and pro-al Qaeda militants. These rebels stormed the consulate, ultimately killing four. The Obama administration's hair-trigger response was to blame a low-budget YouTube video critical of Islam as the catalyst for the terror attacks, however, emails have surfaced proving that the administration was informed no more than two hours following the attack that a pro-al Qaeda group -- Ansar al-Sharia -- was claiming credit for the carnage.
What's more, it is now believed that via a predator drone hovering over the outpost in Benghazi, along with cameras on the ground, were providing a live feed of the events as they unfolded directly into the White House Situation Room. Add to this speculation that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did in fact heed requests by the Benghazi-based envoy to provide additional security amid mounting tensions in the region, but that her motion went unanswered by the administration.
At the end of the day, President Obama along with Sec. of State Clinton, General David Petreaus, National Intelligence Director James Clapper and others did not provide our diplomatic outpost with additional security and, for as difficult as this is to absorb, may have watched as a raging mob of Qaeda militants brought four Americans to their demise.
TheBlaze took time to speak with Middle East experts about the attacks to piece together what they believe may actually be going on. Interviewed was former CIA officer Clare Lopez, decorated intelligence officer Stephen Coughlin, Andrew McCarthy who served as chief prosecutor of the Blind Sheik and scholar Daniel Pipes, founder of the Middle East Forum.
The al-Qaeda rebels allegedly sought to oust Gadhafi because ironically, he had been cooperating with the U.S. to snuff out their presence in Libya. However, the Muslim Brotherhood, which had been coordinating with the U.S., offered its assistance in dealing with other insurgents in the region in exchange for help in crushing the Gadhafi -- and likely Mubarak -- regime.
Now some, like Lopez, believe Ambassador Stevens may have been a "pointman," or "official liaison" in this weapons-running scheme and that he worked directly with Abdulhakim Belhadj, who serves as "emir" or commander of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). Through Belhadj, it is also believed that Stevens helped supply weapons for rebels (al Qaeda) in Libya and later to Syria via Turkey.
It remains a mystery as to why Ambassador Stevens and three other U.S. civil servants were killed by the very rebels they appear to have been helping, but theories abound, including that the U.S. has outlived its usefulness in Libya or that al Qaeda simply wanted revenge for America having recently killed its number-two in command in a recent drone attack.
Lopez said she has never seen a situation where a U.S. facility is under attack and no administration officials send help. As to why this would have happened, Lopez remains unsure, but it is possible officials including Petreaus, Clapper, and Clinton, not to mention the president, did not believe what they were seeing unfold before their very eyes.
"Maybe they did not know people were actually dying," Lopez told TheBlaze.
Coughlin, meanwhile understands how deep certain ideologies can run and noted how even
members of the State Department likely clung to the belief that the attacks were indeed catalyzed by the YouTube video. Still, he affirmed that the administration did know with whom it was dealing despite wanting to portray them as democracy-seekers.
"The rebels we were helping were known al Qaeda operatives," Coughlin told TheBlaze in an exclusive interview. "Of course we were training them. I think it's possible that the ambassador was working with al Qaeda and didn't even know he was." Coughlin added that his thoughts were "purely speculative."
"Within weeks of Gadhafi going we had al Qaeda flag flying in Benghazi." He also pointed out that LIFG -- Belhadj's guerilla group -- along with al Qaeda were the "largest group of fighters we engaged in Iraq."
"They are laughing [at us]...They had no intention of being our friends. We were used and are still being used."
Recall that the Muslim Brotherhood objective is to take down their enemies by our own (America's) hands.
Coughlin also stressed the importance and role of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), a 56-member Islamic-state body, as key to understand the Muslim Brotherhood and its objective. TheBlaze will soon be profiling the OIC and its significance across the Maghreb.
Daniel Pipes, scholar and founder of the Middle East Forum agrees that we should treat and view all Islamists an equal threat, but that an unofficial U.S. policy adopted in 1992 attempts to differentiate violent from "non-violent" Islamists, the latter of whom America would aid. Of course, the term "non-violent Islamist" is an oxymoron given the fact that they believe in jihad.
If in fact the U.S. was arming al Qaeda militants in Libya, Pipes said it would be "a shocking piece of news if true" and noted that it would also be a "major breach" of U.S. policy that has, until now, been embraced by both Democrats and Republicans.
Pipes also explained the widely held reasoning among elected officials that it is better to have "elected Islamists than dictators" in power. While the Mideast scholar and author is not fully convinced that the U.S. was arming violent militants in Libya, he did cede that the mere thought of America helping al Qaeda is "clearly wrongheaded" and would be shocking.
If Stevens was the point person, Pipes, like so many of us, question why the militants he was aiding would do him harm. After all, it has been well established that Stevens had great sympathy for the Libyan people. "So much is murky here."
"There is an argument against this whole interpretation [gun-running]," Pipes said. "Stevens was their main ally." As we delved into the potential reasons for consulate attack and the administrations response, Pipes ceded that the White House may not have expected al Qaeda would attack if we were in fact helping the militant group in Libya.
But sometimes the simplest answer is the correct one, and "incompetence must not be ruled out as a cause."
Andrew McCarthy, chief prosecutor of the Blind Sheik (yes, that Blind Sheik) sees the problem in Libya as having been caused by foreign policy decision makers and "gurus" on both sides of the political aisle. With regard to Syria, especially, "no one wants is to get U.S. troops involved" so it is possible that gun-running may have been the way to go about it covertly.
"Congress will have to dig into this but it's possible that that was going on," McCarthy ceded in an interview with TheBlaze. He also noted that the U.S. has been aiding and abetting the Muslim Brotherhood.
Touching on what Pipes said regarding the unofficial U.S. policy on aiding non-violent Islamists, McCarthy, author of the book, "Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad," believes the idea of non-violence among jihadists is misguided and that such a policy "could never work in the first place."
He also affirmed that America is indeed arming al Qaeda affiliates
"Think about it a different way," McCarthy began. "They are not turning on us -- they hate us to begin with... They are capable of waging a war against the U.S. while also doing so against Assad, Mubarak and now in Libya."
"They've [Muslim Brotherhood] been doing it for upwards of a quarter century. They wouldn't be in power if it wasn't for Obamas unlawful war against Gadhafi. We've already armed them. No reason for them to think that if they attack an American installation we'd stop working with them in Syria." And given the history, McCarthy is likely correct. He cites a "mental disconnect" among lawmakers who believe that cooperating with Turkey is not akin to cooperating with the "bad guys." The forthright author called this mindset "moronic" given that Turkey has aided and abetted a number of terrorists.
At the end of the day McCarthy stresses how important it is for Americans to truly familiarize
themselves with the region and players involved across the Middle East and North Africa. "It's part of why I wrote my book," he explained.
"If there wasn't some ideological empathy [in the region] for al Qaeda, you couldnt fill the void [in Libya] in first place. Gadhafi kept al Qaeda in check." McCarthy then castigated the president for his hypocrisy in calling Gadahfi a ruthless dictator with American blood on his hands after the administration gave him diplomatic cover and worked with with the Libyan dictator because he gave up his nuclear program.
"Obama said he [Gadhafi] was a key counterterrorism ally -- there was truth to that."
McCarthy, who was featured on TheBlaze documentary "Rumors of War III," suggested that we aided al Qaeda militants against Gadhafi because the State Department believed that people in Eastern Libya who fled to Iraq to fight against the U.S. saw America as a force merely propping up the Gadhafi regime. If America showed that it wasn't, they would, goes the logic, stop working against us in Iraq. "They would love us to death," quipped McCarthy.
During the interview, McCarthy and I also discussed the parallels between the U.S. aiding the Mujaheddin and a young Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan under then-President Jimmy Carter and the apparent gun-running scheme in Libya today. In both cases, America sought to arm what it then considered the lesser of two evils. History revealed, however, that it came at a very hight price. And frighteningly, it appears to be repeating itself.