Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Anyone Still Interested in Benghazi?

I just saw the new movie “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.”

It gets mediocre reviews, but I found it pretty gripping and entertaining, reminiscent of “Black Hawk Down.” 

However, the main reason for seeing this movie is not its entertainment value, but because “Benghazi” remains a thorn in Hillary Clinton’s side, one which the Republicans will continue to abuse.

Ask ten Americans what country Benghazi is in, and nine of them don’t know. Ask them what Hillary Clinton did wrong in Benghazi, and nine of them don’t know. Those among them who are naturally predisposed to hate everything about Hillary Clinton are satisfied to just believe that “she probably lied about Benghazi - whatever that is,” or that “she probably didn’t care about Americans dying - whatever happened.” After all, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh said so, and that’s all you need to know.

Republican congressmen are still “investigating” and hoping that there is somehow a “Benghazi scandal” somewhere which will help defeat Hillary Clinton.

As I have been saying for over three (!) years (see The Benghazi Pseudo-Issue), this is hogwash. Let me help the readers: (A) Benghazi is a city in Libya. (B) In 2012, terrorists there killed our ambassador and three other Americans. Hillary Clinton has been accused of two things: (1) attributing the violence to a spontaneous riot rather than organized terrorism and (2) not coming to the rescue when the Americans were under attack. That’s it. Nothing else.

Both accusations are stupid: (1) As Clinton herself said, what the heck does it matter whether the Americans were murdered by spontaneous rioters or organized terrorists? (2) In the “fog of war” (again, Clinton’s apt words), mistakes happen. The CIA, the Pentagon and the State Department are complex and not always efficient bureaucracies.

Americans are being killed around the world ongoingly. In 1983, nearly 250 US soldiers were killed in a bombing attack in Beirut. This was under President Reagan’s watch. In 1993, 18 US servicemen died in the Battle of Mogadishu; in 2000, the USS Cole was bombed, killing 17 US sailors and injuring dozens more; in 2003, terrorists downed Pan Am flight 103 in Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people, including a large number of Americans; and of course, there is the mother of all terrorist attacks: 9-11. And the list goes on. None of these far bloodier events led to YEARS of congressional hearings and second-guessing. While all terrorist attacks are tragic, “Benghazi” resulted in just four American deaths, and yet Republicans hang on to that event like a bunch of rabid dogs.

But I don’t mean to rehash old stuff. I merely mean to point out that Monday morning quarterbacking is cheap and easy. Our government can only do its best.

I bring up this topic again because of this new film. It is relatively benign and not blatantly politicized: It does emphasize the failure to come to the rescue of the Americans when they were under attack. That is the film’s key motif. This is legitimate. Unfortunately, it is apt to be abused by the Republicans.

There is some controversy as to whether the local CIA chief (“Bob”) did or did not order the private security contractors to “stand down” when the terrorist attack got under way. The movie claims that these men - typically hired to protect CIA and US diplomats in hot spots around the world - were not allowed to do their job. Furthermore, requests for US air support were also denied, or delayed.

So yes, we get it: Americans died, and American military help was not forthcoming. But that’s all. The situation was complex and confused. There is zero evidence that Hillary Clinton was in any way remiss.

And one more thing: Whenever I see such movies or the news about our brutal foreign entanglements, my mind can’t ignore the fundamental fact that WE are THERE, dying and reducing various places in the world to rubble and mass graves. Without being a simpleton and subsuming everything we do overseas under the facile and incorrect label of “US imperialism,” the inescapable reality is that, as I said, WE ARE THERE. So the question remains: Why are we there? Should we be there? Is it helpful that we be there? I can’t answer the first of these questions meaningfully in a one-page blog, but I can give you a hint as to my answer to the last two questions: Probably NOT.

© Tom Kando 2015

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