15 November 2013

Lindsey Graham and the Unreliable Contractor

This fall Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon & Schuster with an explicit politically conservative mandate, released The Embassy House: The Explosive Eyewitness Account of the Libyan Embassy Siege by the Soldier Who Was There, credited to “Sgt. Morgan Jones” and a writer named Damien Lewis.

As The Week reported:
Davies talked about scaling the 12-foot walls of the Embassy during the attack, hitting an al Qaeda member in the head with the butt of his rifle, and seeing J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, dead in the hospital.
Sounds like a good adventure novel, doesn’t it?

That quote refers to “Davies” because it turns out there was no “Morgan Jones”—that was the pseudonym of a British contractor named Dylan Davies. There was also no “Libyan Embassy Siege”—militants in Benghazi, Libya, attacked a US consulate and a larger CIA compound it was providing cover for, not an embassy. And Davies/Jones wasn’t “There,” despite offering an “Explosive Eyewitness Account” that supported stories that the people on the American right have been telling each other for years.

On 27 October, Sixty Minutes aired a segment interviewing Davies as Jones. The television show neglected to note that its network and Simon & Schuster are part of the same corporation—i.e., that the segment was part of the book’s publicity push. The McClatchy news service has since found other significant omissions and exaggerations in the televised piece. But the bulk of the story was the interview with Davies.

The next day, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.) threatened to hold up all of President Barack Obama’s appointments, even for judgeships and the chairman of the Federal Reserve, unless there were new hearings about the events in Libya. He went on CNN, and the transcript shows that in making his case he referred twice to “the 60 Minutes piece” and “the 60 Minutes Story.”

Within days, however, Dylan Davies’s credibility was in tatters. He had given one story to his employer and the FBI shortly after the attacks. He then sold another story to the CBS corporation. (In between he apparently asked FOX for money for an interview.) When it became clear that Davies had changed his tale, the TV show apologized for its story. The publisher canceled the book.

How did that affect Lindsey Graham’s position? Not at all. “I never asked for the British contractor [as a hearing witness],” he claimed. “I didn't know he existed.” He made that claim despite having referred at least twice to the television story built around that man’s lies.

Media Matters noted other members of Congress who had touted the Sixty Minutes story: Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R–N.H.), Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R–Utah), and Rep. Frank Wolf (R–Va.). They too remain unbowed by not having the facts they thought they had. Wolf announced, “Our position on Benghazi hasn't changed.”

Significantly new facts should change how people think—but not when that thinking wasn’t based on facts to begin with. All along the American right wing’s fixation on Benghazi has been a symptom of OIP Derangement Syndrome. It’s politicized and interfered with a necessary look at American foreign policy and diplomatic security. Dylan Davies sensed an opportunity, and editors and politicians seized his bait.

If Sen. Graham must have hearings, they should cover questions like these:
  • What did he, Sen. John McCain (R–Ariz.), and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I–Conn.) tell Muammar Qaddafi and his son when they met with him in 2009? The official diplomatic cable about that meeting, released through Wikileaks, contradicts McCain’s account, and Graham’s is somewhere in the middle. It would be good to clear up that discrepancy.
  • What’s the full story behind Dylan Davies’s fiction? When did he change his story to conform to right-wing talking points, and did his coauthor or editors encounter any reasons for doubt? How did Threshold Editions get time on Sixty Minutes, and how did politicians like Ayotte and Chafetz learn about the piece beforehand in order to promote it?
  • How do Graham, McCain, and their Republican colleagues justify blackballing UN Ambassador Susan Rice from the post of Secretary of State because she’d delivered mistaken talking-points about Benghazi despite supporting UN Ambassador Condoleezza Rice for the same post after she’d made false statements about Iraq?
  • In June 2011 Graham was saying, “The War Powers Act is unconstitutional, not worth the paper it’s written on. It’s an infringement on the power of the commander in chief.” He took a similar stance during the discussion of Syria. With opponents in his upcoming primary, will he propose to repeal that law?

1 comment:

Glenn Ingersoll said...

I'm of the mind that racism is anti-factual, that is, unlike simple prejudice, where you make presumptions based on little to no information, racism makes presumptions based on little to no information but clings fiercely to these presumptions in the face of contradictory evidence, with, perhaps, the opposition to facts & evidence growing ever stronger the more these facts impeach the predetermined judgments.

Oddly, since facts & evidence are really all we have to argue with (other than shouting and jumping up & down), the racist marshals a range of facts and evidence to defend his case; that they are disproven facts and trumped up evidence does not negate their power, a state of affairs I find weird.