In defense of Susan Rice

As Kevin Drum notes, Susan Rice has become the target of a lot of abuse. In another post, he goes through the basic questions about the attack and its aftermath. Here is the current belief about the chain of events:

  • militants in Libya heard about the video from reports about demonstrations in Egypt
  • the militants attacked the consulate because of the video
  • the militants do not seem to have pre-planned the attack and do not seem to be linked to al-Qaeda
  • as of the taping of Susan Rice’s comments for the Sunday shows, the CIA thought there were demonstrations and that the militants got involved after that (they changed their mind later). In other words exactly what Rice said:

RICE (9/16/12): Well, Jake, first of all, it’s important to know that there’s an FBI investigation that has begun and will take some time to be completed. That will tell us with certainty what transpired.

But our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as was a spontaneous, not a premeditated, response to what happened transpired in Cairo. In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated.

We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people, came to the embassy to—or to the consulate rather—to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo. And then, as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons, weapons that, as you know, in the wake of the revolution in Libya, are quite common and accessible. And it then evolved from there.

We’ll wait to see exactly what the investigation finally confirms, but that’s the best information we have at present.

  • the requests for additional security, which were denied, came from Tripoli, which means it probably did not affect what happened (the extra security in Tripoli would have had no impact in Benghazi)

Despite the fact that Susan Rice basically got it right and was suitably noncommittal, the general consensus seems to be that she deliberately misled the public. This issue is unlikely to die before the election because Republicans are pushing this to get at Obama and the media can’t seem to report it accurately (this is one of those times that you should be reading Bob Somerby).

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