Glenn Greenwald’s Spin on the Benghazi attack

This is a guest post by James Conohan

In an awful article the latest addition to the CIF rogues gallery claims that presenting the attack as motivated by “anger over an anti-Muhammad video completely absolves the US government of any responsibility or even role in provoking the anti-American rage driving it.” He is referring to ultra extremist salafis who had previously attacked non-salafi Libyans and sufi shrines, clearly Glenn is projecting his own opinions onto murderers. As evidenced by how the attack was planned on 911, it’s clear they were motivated by Al-Qaeda ideology and to suggest that the US “provoked” them and has “responsibility” is nothing more than apologia for fascism. Adults are responsible for their actions, someone unsympathetic to Al-Qaeda ideology or the ambassador’s murderers has no need to argue that brown people have no agency. Its even worse since he began by condemning the shooting of Bin Laden. True GG wanted him to be tried, which isn’t the same as sympathy for Osama; but he portrays the shooters as bad guys who did something illegal, not men who were provoked.

He claims that people don’t want to “It’s much more fun and self-affirming to scoff: can you believe those Muslims are so primitive that they killed our ambassador over a film?” than it is to acknowledge: “our country and its allies have continually bombed, killed, invaded, and occupied their countries and supported their tyrants.” Countries? So now these guys are world citizens?  Glenn’s own variant of magical thinking is so far advanced that he believes that theocratic fascists who long for a second Holocaust, support slavery and believe that Shias have no right to live possess sympathetic motives identical to his views. Its a hilarious lie, so contrary to fact that it doesn’t merit a response. His hyperbole would make a good alternate history novel, since his tale of a world where the US occupied Libya for decades and propped up Gadaffi has no resemblance to reality.

Glenn dismissed claims that the IRI was behind the Burgas bombing because he wrote there was no evidence, yet his narrative also lacks evidence. He argued that if Iran was responsible, Israel must have provoked them, going so far on twitter to name Israel the causation of the atrocity if Iran was indeed responsible. When he thought Islamists were responsible for the Norway attacks he wrote that Norway’s tiny contribution to NATO ‘provoked’ and ‘prompted’ the attacks – which he dismissed as nothing compared to NATO actions. Once it became clear that Breivik was responsible he changed his tune: originally he portrayed it as evil and used it attack “media double standards.” In keeping with his pattern of blaming anyone but murderers for murders, he is trying to justify the murder of a fellow citizen and US ambassador by ascribing sympathetic motives to killers which he wants to see as payback for actions that anger him. Why else would he claim that the US “provoked” and has “responsibility” for it?

Yet even if theocratic fascists, who attack civilians and Sufi shrines turn out to be motivated by views identical to an upper class Jewish American leftist, that changes nothing: murder is murder. Glenn seems to think that the right motives make a murder different or the fault of someone else which goes against basic ethics and logic: there is no difference between killing a Chinese person out of racist hatred or killing him out of anger at China’s treatment of Tibetans. He conflates al-Qaeda ideologues with “Muslims” – one of the worst Islamophobic tactics; which Glenn uses to enshrine actions that were reviled in Libya as voices of popular opinion who just so happen to share Greenwald’s exact opinions. Its about as cringe-inducing as arguing that los zetas are in fact a popular resistance movement provoked by police brutality and American anti-Hispanic sentiment.

He claims that the attack “vindicates” nameless critics who “warned that the US was siding with (and arming and empowering) violent extremists, including al-Qaida elements” – election results prove that tired tactic false. Besides he just wrote that adherents of al-Qaeda ideology are helpless victims sans agency, now they’re bad men? He claims that critics predicted that extremists would “cause the US to claim it had to return to Libya to fight against them”. It’s true that a small number of Marines went to the embassy, but arrests have already been made by the Libyan government.

Next we move from precognition to mythology by claiming that “just as its funding and arming of Saddam in Iraq and the mujahideen in Afghanistan subsequently justified new wars against those one-time allies.” Saddam was backed largely by France, Russia and other states. US support for Iraq consisted of satellite intelligence. The idea that the US armed Saddam is a conspiracist myth right up there with thermite bombs on 911. The mujahideen became the northern alliance and fought the taliban and al-Qaeda, our enemies in Afghanistan were formed in the 90s by Pakistan.

These supposedly prescient “war critics also argued that the intervention would bring massive instability and suffering to the people of Libya”, as if the industrialized slaughter by Gadaffi prior to intervention was all sunshine and roses, was spoiled by evil NATO. Wow! His time at RT really made an impact, he thinks that a dictator’s mass murders are benign compared to removing a dictator. Clearly Glenn’s opinion is deeply undemocratic. He wants to denigrate Libya’s revolution as much as possible and his views are not shared by the majority of people who actually live there.

These “intervention critics also warned that dropping bombs in a country and killing civilians, no matter how noble the intent supposedly is, would produce blowback in the form of those who would then want to attack the US.” That nonsensical claim only proves his own ignorance or dishonesty: if NATO bombed the Dickens out of Libya then why have the vast majority of Libyans praised the intervention? Why did Gadaffi fake civilian deaths? Why were downed pilots rescued by Libyans? The facts do not support Glenn’s article. This is the man who remained silent about Gadaffi’s massacres, but raised endless noise over attempts to stop them. The idea that he’s a humanitarian concerned for Libyans is unsupported by fact.

Was it blowback? The attackers do not represent Libyan opinion. They’ve been wildly condemned in that country and there’s no evidence that they were motivated by real or imagined NATO actions. To further banish blowback fantasies, they were not armed by the United States, they were in fact armed by Gulf states, and their status as proxies is one of the many reasons for their lack of support. However a hypothetical Libya where Gadaffi had won would have produced real blowback. Gadaffi funded decades of IRA terror, his operatives carried out terrorist attacks abroad and he funded the Bosnian genocide and that was he did for fun. Clearly a man like that would have launched revenge attacks against Western targets, so the intervention obviously saved Libyan lives, but it probably saved Western lives as well. That isn’t speculation, Gadaffi vowed in a speech to target Western leaders in response to the intervention.

Glenn claims that Libya is “unstable, lawless and dangerous”.  Again here is the guy who remained silent during Gadaffi’s worst rampages, now he cares? Please. Its true that Libya has problems, as does any post-revolution state, especially since the revolution did not establish a tyranny and ‘violence’ was largely vandalism. By contrast, the Algerian revolution resulted in ethnic cleansing of pied noirs, a dictatorship and a brutal civil war – and that’s a revolution beloved by the left. Its nice to know that Glenn cares so much about Libya’s broken windows, sadly his curious brand of compassion does not extend to its people whom he clearly views as a rabble unfit to govern themselves.

Glenn’s hypocrisy is made clear by his praise for the Eygptian Revolution, which established a government dominated by theocrats and militarists featuring some of the most heinous misogyny imaginable, cases of imprisoning people for web posts and violence. He also cited the US stance on Palestine in an attempt to prettify Stevens’ killers. Yet Palestine is governed by a dictatorship characterized by vicious violence far worse than the worse day in post-Gadaffi Libya. Its hard to read his posts without concluding that he hates his country so much that he will justify an ambassador’s murder and exploit that murder to score anti-Libyan points.

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