Saturday, November 9, 2013

From Benghazi to Bosnia: a tale of two liars

There's a lot of egg on the faces of people at CBS News, Lara Logan in particular, because of a late October segment on 60 Minutes wherein Logan interviewed one Morgan Jones, a security officer who claimed to be at the Benghazi compound during the September 11th, 2012 attack, the attack that resulted in the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens. Morgan Jones is actually the nom de plume (pen name) of Dylan Davies, an employee of Blue Mountain Group (a UK-based security contractor), who parlayed his presence in Benghazi into a book deal. That book--The Embassy House--has since been suspended by the publisher because it turns out that the Davies' eyewitness account of the attack, the one he gave Logan on 60 Minutes--is nothing but a pack of lies.

CBS News has pulled the interview clips from its website, Logan and executives there have publicly apologized for airing the story, and have promised to do better in vetting their sources for these kinds of things in the future.

Davies' deception came to light last week when it was revealed that he gave very different accounts of the events to the FBI and to his employer in an incident report. In both cases, Davies made it clear that neither he nor anyone else was able to get anywhere near the compound during the attack, much less enter it and engage enemy combatants there. Here's a quote from the book that makes the deception apparent:
It was a night upon which I would fight my way into the besieged Benghazi Mission three times over, largely against orders, in an effort to find my American brothers-in-arms and to stand with them against the terrorist horde. It was a night on which I should have died many times over.
At first, Davies claimed he had lied in the incident report to his company because he was told not to go to the compound by superiors, but did not want them to know he disobeyed these orders. He claimed--then--that he told the FBI the same story that is in the book, the same story that he told Logan. But that claim has since been refuted, as the story he told the FBI was not consistent with the one in his book or the one told to Logan at all:
The information he provided in an F.B.I. interview was described Thursday by two senior government officials as completely consistent with an incident report by the Blue Mountain security business, which had been hired to protect United States interests in Benghazi. The officials who spoke said they had been briefed on the government investigation.
It seems quite obvious that Davies dreamed up the story in his book in order to sell the book proposal to a publisher, that he thought he could get away with the charade, become famous, and make some money as well. But Davies' fifteen minutes of fame has bought him very little. The book was no bestseller, is now no longer available, and Davies himself is persona non grata pretty much everywhere.

The larger repercussions of Davies' lies? Well, there really aren't any. The only people suffering from these revelations are Davies and the folks at CBS News. But despite comparisons to the 2004 Rather-gate scandal, this "black eye" for CBS News doesn't rise to the same level, since the story wasn't really about taking down a President or any other powerful figure.

All that said, I found Michael Tomasky's piece on these events to be quite interesting, specifically because of one particular line (my boldface):
But what is the larger political relevance of all this? Well, Google “Dylan Davies Hillary Clinton” and you’ll see soon enough. Wingland is desperate to find something here to pin on HRC. But even if every word Davies speaks is true, I don’t see how it changes much of anything about the Benghazi narrative. Correct me if I’m wrong about this, but it seems to me that if he’s telling the truth, all he provides is one eyewitness account that confirms stuff we knew already—that the consulate wasn’t as well protected as it should have been, and we weren’t as prepared for the attack as we should have been. Not exactly news.
You know, I googled "Dylan Davies Hillary Clinton" and I didn't see much of anything, let alone "enough." The rest of the paragraph is most certainly fair and likely true, but I'm still hung up by the mention of Hillary Clinton. Why? Well, I'll tell you.

As I've detailed above, Davies fabricated a story to make his experiences in Benghazi seem more harrowing, to spice things up so he could play the hero and maybe sell some books. But when it became clear that he was a liar, things went south in a hurry for him. His name is mud; I'd be willing to bet we never hear another word from him, that he quickly fades into anonymity.

Contrast this with Hillary Clinton. She wrote a book, too. Well, several actually, but the one I'm thinking of is Living History, published in 2004 just in time for the beginning of her Senate reelection campaign. And in this book, Hillary Clinton relates her own harrowing little tale, when she describes landing in Tuzla, Bosnia in 1996, amid reports of snipers lurking in the hills surrounding the airbase. She and her daughter were required to don flak jackets and stay in the armored cockpit of the plane (it was a military flight) because of these supposed threats.

Really, that's not all that harrowing. But never fear, there's always an opportunity to add some peppers to the gumbo! For in March of 2008, with then-Senator Clinton campaigning for the Presidential nomination, the story became truly harrowing. What Clinton said then:
I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.
It was no longer just reports of snipers, it was actual sniper fire, reigning down on Hillary, Chelsea, and the other passengers as they ran for safety!

One of the chief critics of her account was a fellow passenger--Sinbad the comedian--who said none of this ever happened and even suggested the story in the book was somewhat embellished. Clinton's staff pushed back hard, insisting that the former First Lady was far more trustworthy than a simple comedian (especially one supporting Barack Obama). Unfortunately for Clinton, however, CBS News (of all people) kept some video of this harrowing ordeal:


Scary, huh?

Hillary Clinton at the Tuzla airport in Bosnia, 1996
Clinton ultimately ceded the point, claiming that she misspoke or mis-remembered, but only after her aides and supporters had made asses of themselves defending her. In the moment, the story Clinton told was supposed to be evidence of why she was better equipped to deal with critical foreign policy events than was her opponent, Barack Obama. And the later's staffers used this incident to really hammer Clinton throughout the remainder of the primary campaigns. People forget now, but Clinton's "Bosnia Adventure" was a real factor in her loss of the nomination.

But did this story spell the end of Hillary Clinton? Far from it. Not only did she survive it and still remain competitive in the primaries, she eventually became Secretary of State under Obama. And now, many consider her to be the odds-on favorite to be the next President of the United States.

To sum up, Davies embellished his experiences in Benghazi to gain a little fame and make a little dough. Now that his lies have been exposed, he's nothing but a joke, someone with no future in the public eye. Clinton embellished her experiences in Bosnia to help her win the nomination for President. After her lies were exposed...well, they did some damage in the moment, no doubt about that. But overall? She remained a powerful figure and went on to assume yet another powerful office, may even yet become President.

Ask all of those pundits and journalists crapping all over Davies now, having a field day with the mistakes of CBS News, what did they think when Hillary Clinton played the same game for much larger stakes? Double standard? Nah...

Cheers, all.

2 comments:

  1. Misremembering? Being somehow unable to recall whether or not people were shooting at you? It boggles.

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  2. By 2016, I suspect she'll be telling the story of how she single-handedly killed five or six snipers with her bare hands before they could squeeze off a single shot... ;)

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