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Q: When Is Murder Not Murder?

A:  When there is believed to be political advantage in denying that it's murder.

I bring this up only because of the surreal claim from airhead commentator Eleanor Clift that Ambassador Chris Stevens was not murdered in Benghazi and "instead" died of smoke inhalation. 

Hey Eleanor, Your Brilliance, how did it come to pass that he died of smoke inhalation?

a)  Some ten year-olds decided to roast marshmallows outside the embassy gate and a big wind came up;
b)  An unreported volcano exploded, and it sent a sudden gust of smoke through Mr. Stevens' window;
c)  A bunch of armed Jihadists torched the embassy and had the Ambassador pinned in the safe room until it became so filled with smoke that it asphyxiated him.

Actually, of course, there is no political advantage in denying the obvious, but when it's Ideology Uber Alles, as it is with Ms. Clift, this is what happens.


Come on, Bill. A & B are no less plausible than saying a movie review went wrong.

Oops, forget it.

There is a pretty good narrative and timeline on Wikipedia. All four men were killed in the attack. No one disputes that. There are qualitative differences in how they died that are worth noting.

Doherty and Woods were killed in action whilst defending the compound. It is well documented that the ambassador was taken alive and removed to a Libyan hospital by other Libyans not involved in the attack. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. Sean Smith was found dead in the compound from smoke inhalation. Yes, both compounds were attacked by terrorists and the Ambassador and Smith were casualties the same as Doherty and Woods. Now what?

jardinero --

"All four men were killed in the attack. No one disputes that."

Killed in an attack? Then it was murder.

"There are qualitative differences in how they died that are worth noting."

They might be worth noting, but they don't show that it was anything other than murder.

"...the ambassador was taken alive and removed to a Libyan hospital by other Libyans not involved in the attack. He was pronounced dead at the hospital."

If in the course of a kidnapping the victim is gagged and can't get enough oxygen to avoid organ failure, but doesn't die until an hour or two after she's rescued and taken to the hospital, let me tell you, the kidnapper is going to jail for murder, as he should. Do you disagree?

"Now what?"

Now Eleanor Clift is an airhead, as noted; and the famous "We will bring the killers to justice" promised by Obama was so much baloney. He could care less about bringing them to justice, as long as his program of mass clemency for heroin pushers is rolling right along.

Hello again Mr. Otis,

I come to comment here recently because I presume you want to foster an intelligent discussion of crime and consequences.

Couple of hypos, if Doherty and Woods, who were killed in action, were mercenaries and not legitimate state actors, is it murder when they kill someone? If they are actually agents of the state and not just mercenaries, then when they kill someone, is that murder or warfare or something else? It they are agents of the state and are killed defending state interests, are they murdered or casualties of war?

Benghazi is a non-story, that 90% Americans (of which couldn't find Libya on a map) don't care about it. So all the political posturing is really just for the benefit of the true believers in either political party.

The Ukraine "crisis" is the same. It doesn't have any affect on us and there was nothing we could do about it anyway.

If Eleanor Clift had said, "Americans don't care about Benghazi, so all the political posturing is really just for the benefit of the true believers in either political party," I would not have said anything about it on this blog.

But when she makes the preposterous claim that it's not murder to be asphyxiated in an arson started by gun-toting killers as they're hunting you down, she's making herself an irresistible target for a blog that concerns itself with murder.

I am sufficiently well-disposed toward the United States to be of the view that when an American citizen on American soil (under international law, a country's embassy is considered that country's soil) is shot dead by a Jihadist who is on that soil while undertaking a pre-planned terrorist attack, the shooting is murder.

As to your questions: I don't know that Doherty and Woods killed anyone on embassy grounds that night, but if they did, it was in the face of an objectively reasonable fear (to say the very least) of imminent grave bodily harm or death, and thus self-defense. Self-defense is not murder. This is true whether they were or were not state actors.

Surely you aren't saying the terrorists were justified and that Doherty and Woods deserved what they got -- are you?

Most of the people in Benghazi attached to the state department mission did not even work for the State Department. The vast majority were with the CIA or CIA contractors, i.e. mercenaries. I think part of the reason for all the stonewalling on the part of the state department is that the state department is running cover for the CIA, attempting to disguise the extent to which the US diplomatic mission in Libya was a mostly a cover opp for the CIA. If the actual extent is exposed then genuine US diplomatic missions around the world become suspect to their host nations.


I'll assume (strictly) arguendo that Doherty and Woods were CIA contract people, and also assume that other countries don't like having American CIA people stationed at American embassies (although such countries routinely station their own intelligence officers at their embassies; indeed, it's a worldwide practice).

Given those assumptions, it is still the case that:

1. A country's being angry about the stationing of CIA people at the American embassy is not even a ghost of a justification for that country to invade the embassy, which is a gross violation of international law.

2. Nor was it the host country that invaded the embassy. It was a terrorist group not (so far as is known) affiliated with the host country.

3. Even if either the host country or the terrorist group had any legal right whatever to be on the grounds of the embassy (say, to deport the Americans from Libya), they had no right to employ force, much less deadly force, to do so.

The way these things are handled is that the host country gives the embassy a persona-non-grata letter naming the people who must leave, and gives them 48 hours to depart. You don't just go in and kill them. Any other rule would make international diplomacy impossible.

4. When foreign actors illegally on American soil (the embassy grounds) start shooting at you, and kill you, that is murder.

5. None of this, of course, goes to original question here, to wit, whether, contrary to Eleanor Clift's fruitcake claim, the AMBASSADOR, who no one thinks was CIA operative, was murdered or, instead, mysteriously just wound up dead of smoke inhalation from some unknown source.

6. With all respect, jardinero, I get the impression you think the terrorists were justified in killing the Americans at the embassy. Is that what you believe?

You assume too much when I merely point out am error in something you said. I might agree with you about just about everything you wrote, otherwise. Clift's statement has to taken in context. An autopsy did determine that smoke inhalation was the cause of death. Whether something is murder or manslaughter or self defense depends upon the jurisdiction, the circumstances and the motives of perpetrator and victim.

“ Most of the people in Benghazi attached to the state department mission
did not even work for the State Department. The vast majority were with the CIA
or CIA contractors, i.e. mercenaries.”
--Oh wow. Sad.

Sir: When I served in Baghdad, ’04-’05, Intel, I worked with security and building contractors, analysts, USAID, DIA, Iraqis, Iraqi Survey Group bureaucrats;
diplomats were there as well. I was not attached to a unit but was an augmentee. Was I a “mercenary” by your cynical definition?

When I served in Aghanland, I worked right alongside the FBI & CIA. They were not foreign mercenaries simply because they did not don a uniform!
Even if Doherty and Woods were clandestinely comported as they saved the lives
of besieged innocents, these HEROES assumed no offensive posture,
no violent or aggressive mission or intent in Libya.

The killings were cowardly, murderous attacks against a non-military outpost, including an assassination of the Ambassador, who was known by the terrorists
to be there, due to surveillance of their target. An what about Sean Smith, “U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer,” a mercenary, amadan?

Sick, sad, disgusting murders, and in their county and yours, punishable by death!


jardinero --

I believe your error, and Eleanor Clift's, lies in a false dichotomy: EITHER it was murder OR it was death by smoke inhalation.

What it actually was was that the Jihadists murdered the Ambassador by asphyxiation, said asphyxiation having been caused by smoke from the fires they set in the embassy while they had the ambassador trapped in the safe room.

Mr Otis, context is everything. Clift said he died from smoke inhalation, which is factually true. You claim murder, which depends upon the jurisdiction, the circumstances, and the motives of the perpetrator and victim.

The State Department is stonewalling many facts. I agree with you they should come clean. I think they don't come clean because it would reveal the extent to which the diplomatic mission in Libya was a smokescreen for covert DOD and CIA work. Revealing the smokescreen would draw increased scrutiny upon and imperil bona fide US diplomatic missions around the world. Conversely, this would also imperil DOD and CIA work around the world. By demanding answers you and I actually imperil both.

Adamakis, US civil servants and DOD personnel attached to US diplomatic missions are authentic state actors. Security contractor and security consultant are polite euphemisms for a mercenary. I made no reference to any other kind of contractor. Mercenaries have their uses but they enjoy a different legal status than legitimate state actors. Sorry, if that offends you.

Adamakis --

Thank you for your service to our country under extremely dangerous conditions.

jardinero --

I agree that context can tell us something, but context is not "everything."

No matter what the context, the normal and accepted definition of murder is the intentional and malicious killing of another human being, undertaken by an adult of sound mind. Under that accepted definition, all four Americans in the embassy and on its grounds were murdered.

Again, this is true even assuming (which I don't) that any of the Americans were "mercenaries." It is undisputed that they were American citizens on American soil (the embassy grounds) who were under a sudden armed attack in a country with which we are not at war.

As to the "context" of Ms. Clift's remarks, there is indeed something we can learn from it. Clift is a die-hard Democrat who wants to see Hillary get elected in 2016. Since Hillary was Secretary of State during this episode in which an American ambassador was killed, it is in her interest to portray the killing as something other than what it was, i.e., a pre-planned terrorist attack for which embassy security was too weak and unprepared, in part because she had denied earlier requests to beef it up.

Accordingly, Hillary's interests lay in creating a "context" that would muddle the ugly picture of what happened.

The first effort to muddle it was to push the thoroughly false story that it was an unpredictable and spontaneous mob that just spiraled out of control, sparked by rage about the Nakoula Nakoula Internet video.

There was no truth to this and never was; the CIA and State Departments knew almost immediately that it was a planned, al Qaeda-related attack.

Knowing from the getgo that the story was shaky, it was best that it be peddled, not by Hillary herself (since it could come back to haunt her in the coming campaign) but by a subordinate (but still high) officer of the Administration, to wit, the quite good-looking, clever and earnest, but mendacious, Susan Rice.

When that part of the relatively exculpatory "context," as you put it, fell apart months ago, something else had to be ginned up. Enter Eleanor Clift.

The new "context" is going to be that the Ambassador wasn't "murdered" at all, but "merely" died of smoke inhalation. How it is, exactly, that so much smoke got up his nose is left unsaid by Ms. Clift, and advisedly so.

The reason it's left unsaid is that, in the ten seconds or so it takes to explain how the smoke got there, the whole silly, shake-and-jive, politically-concocted charade falls apart.

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