What happened at Benghazi on the night of September 11th, 2012, was a tragedy, one borne of the impossible gravitational pull the Middle East has on US politics, an inability not to intervene. There were errors and mistakes, confusion in the fog of a new kind of war, one in which soldiers and civilians dance across a blurred line, and one that the US has not yet learned to fight. Four men, who were dedicated to making the world a better place– to making a land that was not their home a freer and more just place, after the grotesque misrule of Qadaffi– died that terrible night.
What it was not was a political scandal. I’ve been following politics since, at the age of 5, I tried to convince my parents that Mondale was a better choice than Reagan (and I was right, goddammit). Even counting the impeachement trial, and even counting Reagan’s lack of impeachment for Iran/Contra, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an exercise in politics so cynical, so craven, and so full of errant hypocritical nonsense. The proof?
Ending one of the longest, costliest and most bitterly partisan congressional investigations in history, the House Select Committee on Benghazi issued itsfinal report on Tuesday, finding no new evidence of culpability or wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton in the 2012 attacks in Libya that left four Americans dead.
It’s hard to imagine anything more outrageous than some of the top cheerleaders for the war in Iraq suddenly being brought to tearful anger over the pointless loss of American lives in the Middle East. These men and women gave high-flung flag-drowned speeches about the bravery of Chris Stevens and the other three, and how Obama, (and then Hillary, once it became clear she was running) betrayed that bravery. Suddenly, US lives, slaughtered in a distant land, meant something. Many of these were the same people who objected vociferously, with insinuations of fifth-column perfidy, at showing soldiers’ coffins arriving at Andrews. But these corpses had to be dragged to the roof, rattled by hoarse screaming and soaked in crocodile tears.
Not for nothing, but I think the Venn diagram of “thinks it was tragic what happened in Libya” and “angry at Obama for not invading Syria” has a lot of overlap.
What do these people think will happen? What do they think is the price of intervening around the world?
The answer is they really don’t think about it at all. In a way, I don’t even think this was purposefully cynical, for some of them. They are so hardwired to believe whatever is the most talk-radiofied nonsense possible that they probably honestly think being misleading on a Sunday show after the fact is a capital crime. I know anecdotal Facebook posts are the worst kind of analysis, but I saw people who were asking if this was the “biggest scandal in American history. After all, no one died at Watergate.” The representatives, who have the same sources of misinformation, are little different. Some are cynics. Many are just slickly-packaged balls of hippie-punching anger and cognitive dissonance.
That doesn’t make it better, nor does it excuse the horrible outcome of their actions. Because while it seems that this craven exercise in nonsense is just pointless, it is much worse. Not because it hurt Hillary vis a vis Trump, although it might have. But the cynicism and anger matters.
As the Times said, this investigation took longer and cost more than Congressional investigations in 9/11, into Katrina, into Pearl Harbor, into the freaking assassination of JFK, and certainly than into the colossal lies and idiocy that led us not just into Iraq, but that led to such a bloody disaster.
That matters. It’s an attempt to erase history, to put up such a wall of bullshit over the single greatest US foreign policy disaster of my lifetime, and possibly in US history, given the enveloping chaos that spread over the region in the wake of the invasion (the impact of which can be felt as far away as the Brexit). It’s all part of what Pierce calls “the great mulligan”, the idea that US history restarted on Jan 20th, 2009, and everything that happened afterwards is the fault of Obama.
It’s how craven warhounds like John McCain can say that, in Iraq, Obama “snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.” Because having a country that is so unstable that the only way to prevent its collapse is to keep and indefinite number of troops there an indefinite length of time is, certainly, to be considered a victory. But the facts don’t matter. All that matters is to throw up a smokescreen, pinning all the blame on Obama, the one politician who learned (belatedly, and even then only partially) to resist the Middle East.
That the investigation took so long and turned up so, so little wasn’t a bug. It was a feature. It was the goddamn point. The point was to throw up an impenetrable barrage of lies so thick that we couldn’t see back beyond 2009, couldn’t peer into the wreckage of the early millennium. It’s part of the collective amnesia that the right has been trying, with much success, to inflict on us for almost eight years. They’ve been beating us over the head until we’re too numb to fight back. They know that Benghazi, for impossible and insane reasons, has more political resonance than Iraq. We’re to Never Forget what happened in Libya, and never speak of 2003.