Rachel Maddow opened her MSNBC show this evening with a fascinating piece about a small city just east of Benghazi called Derna, which was reported several years ago by the late Chris Stevens, then a junior U.S. diplomat in Libya to be a hotbed of Islamic radicals and Al Qaeda wannabes. According to a 2008 memo by Stevens that was published last year by Wikileaks, Al Qaeda identified Derna some years ago as a major source of terrorist recruits in Iraq and deliberately built it into a new hub of terrorist recruitment and training. She also shows several films taken by Derna-based radicals of earlier attacks they had launched against Western targets in Benghazi.
What she shows is how the attack on the consulate and the murder of Stevens and the others was not a protest that got out of hand but the latest in a series of increasingly elaborate, highly planned operations by Al Qaeda from the hub they have built over the years in Derna, one of a growing network of bases across Africa.
She draws some tantalizing though incomplete connections to the Iraq war, which apparently was a boon to Al Qaeda’s recruitment and expansion strategies, and to the imprisonment in North Carolina of the blind sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman. Must see TV:
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).