Obama’s Benghazi Propagandist
By Matthew Vadum
A young White House speechwriter may be responsible for concocting the official lies about last September’s deadly terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
The Obama administration’s rapidly unravelling narrative about what happened at the U.S. consulate in Libya’s second-largest city may have been cooked up by creative writer Ben Rhodes, the president’s 30-something Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting.
The origin of the administration’s desperate election-season fabrications may come up today as a congressional committee hears from three government whistleblowers who are expected to contradict the administration’s version of the events of Sept. 11, 2012.
There is little doubt now that the Obama White House twisted the facts for partisan political advantage.
Stephen F. Hayes of the Weekly Standard reports that the CIA’s talking points about what happened in Benghazi were manipulated by senior Obama administration officials as they “knowingly misled the country” in the days following the attacks.
That fog of misinformation was apparently calculated to deflect blame away from the Obama administration last September and October long enough to get an embattled president with an embarrassing national security record reelected.
Hayes published a timeline produced by the office of Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper that showed significant alterations were made to the talking points a month and a half before last year’s presidential election.
Even while the consulate in Benghazi was still under assault, intelligence officials knew that al-Qaeda-linked terrorists were involved, but senior Obama administration officials “sought to obscure the emerging picture and downplay the significance of attacks that killed a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans,” Hayes writes.
The strategy, barely questioned by the mainstream media which was working feverishly to reelect Obama, succeeded. The Obama administration sent word out that the organized, military-style assault on the Benghazi mission had nothing to do with al-Qaeda or Islamic terrorism.
Officials told anyone willing to listen that a spontaneous demonstration sparked by Muslim anger over an obscure anti-Islam video had magically materialized in a city blanketed by al-Qaeda flags and that within hours this supposedly organic melee had claimed the lives of four Americans.
According to Hayes, the “frantic process” of editing and re-editing the changes to the official line took place over a 24-hour period a day before Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, hit all major Sunday TV talk shows on the same day. “The discussions involved senior officials from the State Department, the National Security Council, the CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the White House,” he writes.
Hayes mentions Ben Rhodes by name, describing him as a “top adviser to President Obama on national security and foreign policy.” He explains that Rhodes advised those involved in the process that “the issues would be resolved in a meeting of top administration officials the following morning at the White House.”
Rhodes doesn’t have an obviously radical left-wing background but he is extraordinarily well-connected. His brother, David Rhodes, used to work for Fox News but is now president of CBS News.
His wife, Ann Norris, is senior foreign policy and defense advisor to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)
Prior to joining the 2008 Obama presidential campaign as senior speechwriter, Rhodes worked as special assistant to former Democratic congressman Lee Hamilton, whom he assisted in writing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. He co-wrote the book, Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission. Rhodes also worked as a speechwriter for Mark Warner (D), now a U.S. senator, when he was governor of Virginia.
A native New Yorker, Rhodes earned a B.A. from Rice University and an M.F.A. from New York University. While earning his master’s degree, he taught writing at NYU and John Jay College.
Rhodes has President Obama’s ear. He urged Obama to reverse three decades of U.S. support for now-deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and to lead an intervention in Libya ostensibly designed to prevent then-dictator Muammar Qaddafi from committing atrocities against civilians. He coined the phrase, “kinetic military action,” the administration’s hideous euphemism for war.
“He became, first in the speechwriting process, and later, in the heat of the Arab Spring, a central figure,” U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael A. McFaul, who worked with Rhodes at Obama’s National Security Council, told the New York Times.
Israel-hater Samantha Power, who also worked with Rhodes at the National Security Council, adores him. “He has a very high batting average in terms of prognostication. I don’t understand where Ben gets his ‘old man’ wisdom.”
Rhodes has a powerful imagination.
He is credited with writing Obama’s June 2009 Cairo speech, a piece of public relations outreach intended to flatter Muslims. In it, Obama declared that government ought to “reflect the will of the people,” a phrase that foreshadowed the administration’s later treatment of Mubarak and Qaddafi.
This breathtaking work of fiction whitewashes the blood-drenched, irredentist history of Islam and falsely attributes accomplishments such as printing, navigation, and medicine to the Islamic world.
Incredibly, as Mary Grabar noted in her analysis of the address, “A New Beginning,” Or A Revised Past, the oration even gave Islam credit for the Enlightenment and religious tolerance. Islam “carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for European Renaissance and Enlightenment,” and “has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality,” Obama said in the speech.
Grabar counters that in fact “the intellectual Renaissance began when Byzantine scholars, mostly Greek, fled the advancing Turks in the 14th century and settled in Italy. The Enlightenment was openly anti-theistic and would have been anathema to most practicing Muslims.”
Moreover, she adds, “Muslims wiped out Zoroastrianism, they battled Hinduism and Buddhism for centuries, and they levied a special tax on Christians and Jews in their domains.”
Today at a high-profile congressional hearing, lawmakers will deal with the falsehoods about Benghazi that Rhodes may have invented.
Three State Department officials who describe themselves as Benghazi “whistle-blowers” will testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Fox News reports. They are: Gregory N. Hicks, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Libya during the attacks; former Marine Mark I. Thompson, deputy coordinator for operations in the Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau; and Eric Nordstrom, senior security official in Libya before the attacks.
U.S. officials who were on the ground in Benghazi last Sept. 11, the 11th anniversary of the original 9/11 attacks, deny that there was an angry protest outside the consulate that day.
Hicks, a 22-year career diplomat, reportedly told congressional investigators, “I think everybody in the mission thought it was a terrorist attack from the beginning.”
But from the beginning the Obama administration denied Islamic militants were to blame. The Obama administration formalized its cover-up of the affair when it named former Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering, an Islamist-friendly dupe with ties to Iran, to head a State Department “Accountability Review Board.”
The review board was tasked with examining the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, information management officer Sean Smith, and security personnel Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods at the U.S. mission in Benghazi.
Those who have been following the scandal haven’t forgotten the grotesque spectacle of Stevens’s
dead body being dragged around Benghazi by Islamist savages. Stevens may have been tortured and sodomized by his assassins in a ritual of humiliation popular among Islamic terrorists. We won’t know for sure unless the Obama administration comes clean about happened last September.
Not surprisingly, the findings of Pickering’s panel were less than definitive.
The review board blamed only “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels” without pointing fingers at specific officials. Its report has come under heavy fire because it turns out that eyewitnesses such as Hicks, Thompson, and Nordstrom were willing to testify about what they saw in Benghazi during the attack but weren’t even interviewed.
Democratic lawmakers will be using the opportunity Wednesday to defend Hillary Clinton at all costs. Clinton was secretary of state on Sept. 11, 2012, when the terrorist assault took place and is already the early frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. Despite her disastrous tenure at Foggy Bottom which saw Islamist movements gain ground in the Middle East, she left the nation’s top diplomatic post earlier this year with a 69 percent approval rating among the public, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.
Aware of the political damage that Benghazi could do to President Obama and Clinton, the Left is already downplaying the significance of the whistleblowers’ yet-to-be-delivered testimony.
For example, Salon reporter Alex Seitz-Wald is preemptively blaming Obama’s critics for somehow sabotaging the congressional inquiry before it even begins.
“The charges seem potentially damaging and the accusers credible, but those trying to fan flames of scandal have so embarrassed and discredited themselves by pushing bogus story lines on Benghazi that it may be hard for the media and American people to take any new allegations seriously.”
Of course, none of these alleged “bogus story lines” to which Seitz-Wald refers have gained public traction, so it’s unlikely Americans will accuse Obama’s detractors of crying wolf and tune out.
But cheered on by White House staffers like Ben Rhodes, Seitz-Wald and other members of the journalistic Left will continue going all-out to defend Obama no matter how damning the evidence that surfaces this week may be.