Wednesday, September 26, 2012

focus on a "mocking" film has served its purpose...,

medialens | On September 11, four Americans, including the US ambassador, were killed in an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The following day, the BBC's Lunchtime News reported that the killings were part of 'disturbances' which were 'linked to an anti-Islamic video' (BBC News, September 12, 2012). The BBC's News at Six explained that the US ambassador was killed 'in a protest'. This was mild language indeed given that the consulate had been attacked with assault rifles, hand grenades, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. (According to the New York Times, two US security guards were killed by mortar fire).

We can easily imagine the BBC reaction if the killings had happened under Gaddafi, Chavez or some other official enemy. The favoured adjective, 'terrorist', would surely have made an early appearance.

How to explain the BBC's response? The key, of course, is that the current Libyan government owes its existence to Western military intervention. It achieved power because the West exploited UN resolution 1973, which authorised a 'no-fly zone', as an excuse to bomb Gaddafi's forces to defeat. The 'no-fly zone' in fact became a 'no-drive zone' for one side of the conflict. As so often, the BBC was taking its cue from Washington and Downing Street. Obama expressed 'appreciation for the cooperation we have received from the Libyan government and people in responding to this outrageous attack... This attack will not break the bonds between the United States and Libya'.

Like most other media, the BBC instantly concluded that the 'protest' and killings were expressions of religious rather than political anger. As late as September 22, the BBC reported: 'The attack on the US consulate was triggered by an amateur video made in the US which mocks Islam.'

In similar vein, Julian Borger wrote an article in the Guardian under the title: 'How anti-Islamic movie sparked lethal assault on US consulate in Libya.' Kim Sengupta commented in the Independent:

'The US ambassador to Libya and three members of his staff were killed in an attack by an armed mob which stormed the country's consulate in Benghazi in a furious protest over an American film mocking the Prophet Mohammed.'
How, the world asked, could any sane human being kill over a second-rate film, over the idea that a religion had been insulted? Reasonable questions. On the other hand, one might ask how anyone could kill or die for a flag, or an idea like 'the Homeland/Fatherland/Motherland', or for non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Subsequent reporting suggested that the initial media consensus blaming a provocative film was false. The Telegraph noted:

'A security guard wounded in the attack... has insisted it was a planned assault by Islamist fighters, and not a protest that got out of hand.
'The guard, who works for a British firm, said there was no demonstration over a controversial anti-Islamic film before extremists stormed the compound in the eastern city of Benghazi.'
Matthew Olsen, director of the US National Counterterrorism Center, told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: 'I would say [the four Americans] were killed in the course of a terrorist attack.'

Olsen added:

'A number of different elements appear to have been involved in the attack, including individuals connected to militant groups that are prevalent in eastern Libya, particularly in the Benghazi area. We are looking as well at indications that individuals involved in the attack may have had connections to al Qaida or al Qaida's affiliates, including al Qaida in the Maghreb.'
US Senator Joe Lieberman also questioned the US regime's assertion that the attack was spontaneous:

'I will tell you based on the briefings I have had, I have come to the opposite conclusion and agree with the president of Libya that this was a premeditated, planned attack that was associated with the... anniversary of 9/11. I just don't think people come to protest equipped with RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) and other heavy weapons.'
Between June and August in Benghazi, there had been bomb, grenade and RPG attacks on the US consulate, the UK ambassador's motorcade, the Tunisian consulate, and the local headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross, with leafleted warnings of more to come. CNN reported that Chris Stevens was 'worried about what he called the never-ending security threats' and 'mentioned his name was on an al Qaeda hit list'.

The attack also gave an insight into the US role in the country it helped 'liberate'. The New York Times observed:

'Among the more than two dozen American personnel evacuated from the city after the assault on the American mission and a nearby annex were about a dozen C.I.A. operatives and contractors, who played a crucial role in conducting surveillance and collecting information on an array of armed militant groups in and around the city.'
Their role in a Libya that we are told is 'free' and 'independent':

'American intelligence operatives also assisted State Department contractors and Libyan officials in tracking shoulder-fired missiles taken from the former arsenals of Colonel Qaddafi's forces; they aided in efforts to secure Libya's chemical weapons stockpiles; and they helped train Libya's new intelligence service, officials said.'
As Glenn Greenwald pointed out, evidence that the attack was a carefully planned, politically-motivated attack, rather than a spontaneous eruption of religious ire, is the wrong kind of news for the many supporters of Nato's intervention in Libya:

'Critics of the war in Libya warned that the US was siding with (and arming and empowering) violent extremists, including al-Qaida elements, that would eventually cause the US to claim it had to return to Libya to fight against them – just as its funding and arming of Saddam in Iraq and the mujahideen in Afghanistan subsequently justified new wars against those one-time allies.'
The truth of the attack 'underscores how unstable, lawless and dangerous Libya has become'. Indeed, as we noted in July, the media did an excellent job of burying an Amnesty International report which described 'the mounting toll of victims of an increasingly lawless Libya, where the transitional authorities have been unable or unwilling to rein in the hundreds of militias formed during and after the 2011 conflict'.

This post-intervention mayhem is something supporters of Western intervention are naturally keen to hide – focus on a 'mocking' film has served the purpose.