Honestly assessing the Benghazi disaster would not have been pleasant for the pre-election Obama team. Anyone could sense that there might be no firewalls — as the media could jump to a resurgent al-Qaeda that had been declared moribund after the hit on bin Laden; or the shattered dreams of the Arab Spring; or the politicization of our embassy security that led to deliberate neglect of proper defenses; or a Libyan intervention gone bad. Almost all those narratives have subsequently emerged in post-election inquiries or from the State Department’s official internal investigation.
Yet the Obama administration offered an exegesis — a sole Egyptian-American filmmaker, a Coptic Christian, who had offended Muslims with a two-month-old Internet video to the point that they rioted abroad and stormed our consulate — that was completely irrelevant to the murder of Ambassador Stevens, but might circumvent all of the above difficulties, while giving the president a natural occasion to blast an illiberal, bigoted filmmaker whose intolerance had cost good men their lives. The video narrative was as incidental to the killings as it was apparently attractive to the Obama team — and so Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a footnote to the tragedy, continues to sit in jail long after we know that an al-Qaeda affiliate had targeted our consulate and CIA annex in Benghazi.