Former CIA Director David Petraeus told lawmakers at a closed-door briefing Friday the agency believed the assault on the US Consulate in Libya was a terrorist attack from the beginning.
The media's focus on this, naturally, is all about Petraeus contradicting the Obama administration's early line (that the attack spontaneously emerged from a raucous demonstration against an anti-Islam video).
The focus should be on the fact that the statement is obviously really dumb, and/or a complete falsehood, and/or else an indication that Petraeus lives in a fantasy world.
Terrorism is "the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or ideological or religious in nature; this is done through coercion or intimidation or instilling fear."
The Benghazi attacks were attacks on US government facilities (the consulate and a "CIA annex"), not civilian facilities.
The casualties were US government personnel, including two CIA paramilitaries, not civilians.
Both of these facts were well-known and undisputed from the beginning. It was clearly not "a terrorist attack."
There are three possibilities here:
- Petraeus managed to climb to the top of the US military and intelligence pyramids without ever bothering to master basic military and intelligence concepts; or
- Petraeus is -- like so many other members of the political class -- comfortable just lying about stuff because "terrorism" is much more effective as jingoist political propaganda than "we messed up; we were some place we should have known better than to have been, and we got our asses handed to us;" or
- Petraeus is completely delusional.
My bet is on a combination of (2) and (3).