Tag Archives: Benghazi

Are You SURE You Want Those Emails?

When I read about this the first time, I was sure it was a story from the Onion.

It wasn’t.

As everyone not living on Mars is aware, the Republicans’ six hundredth Benghazi Investigative Committee (okay, so maybe I exaggerate a bit) forced disclosure of emails from Hillary Clinton’s private server. It turned out that some of those emails were from the prior administration, and one of them– from then Secretary of State Colin Powell to President George Bush–confirmed Tony Blair’s promise to sign on to the Iraq conflict a year before the invasion began… a time when Blair and Bush were assuring their respective countrymen that they were taking great care to confirm the presence of weapons of mass destruction and that no definitive decision to invade had been made.

The British press has made much more of this revelation than the American media, but even here, it has been fairly widely reported. If the members of the Benghazi Inquisition were capable of embarrassment, you’d think they’d rethink their approach. But of course, they aren’t.

Then, this week, we had Clinton’s much-anticipated 11 hour testimony, and a whole series of further embarrassments centered on the committee’s obsession with her emails. (For a detailed “take down” of the day’s effort by a Clinton partisan, you can read this diatribe from Kurt Eichenwald, who noted–among many, many other things–the absence of similar expressions of concern over the twenty-two million Bush Administration emails that mysteriously disappeared.)

The continuing revelations about his brother should keep Jeb! quiet, but he weighed in with a tweet to the effect that the security failures at Benghazi were evidence of Clinton’s “incompetent” foreign policy; that prompted a post at Daily Kos “reminding” Jeb! that his brother’s administration had overseen not just 9/11, but deadly attacks on at least thirteen overseas American embassies and consulates as well as numerous other successful attacks against American diplomatic personnel and their staff.

It’s fair to assume that this week’s hearings did little to sway partisans on either side. But I was struck by a Facebook post by a friend who is a well-respected foreign policy expert at another university–someone I know to be a Republican, someone who has previously shared lukewarm-at-best feelings about Clinton, and who reported watching the whole thing.

If there is one truth that has come out of this ridiculous committee hearing for me, it’s that the search for wrongdoing in Benghazi is a tempest in a tea pot. The death of four Americans in a terrorist attack is a tragedy. But I wish the Republicans controlling Congress would have spent 1/10 of the time and energy (and the $4.7 million) investigating the decision to go to war in Iraq and all the decisions made after that that destroyed Iraq, killed over 4,000 American servicemen and over 100,000 Iraqi civilians. Why isn’t that worthy of at least one investigation (let alone eight)?

I think Kevin McCarthy accidentally answered that question.


Picking and Choosing– Benghazi Edition

Every so often, I’m reminded of an experience I had right after publication of my first  book, What’s a Nice Republican Girl Like Me Doing at the ACLU?  (Republicans were very different back then.) I was on a radio call-in show in South Carolina, and a caller challenged my defense of the Establishment Clause by “quoting” James Madison to the effect that “God gave the Bill of Rights to people who live in accordance with the Ten Commandments.”

When I (very politely) informed him that this quote had been debunked many times, that it was not only bogus but inconsistent with everything Madison did say, he yelled “Well, think it’s true!” and hung up.

Increasingly, it seems, we live in that man’s world.

A few weeks ago, I was at a dinner party; one of the guests was a local judge whom I have always admired. The wine flowed, and as it did, she shared her contempt for the President and the “liberal media” which– unlike “real news” sources like the Drudge Report (!)– had failed to tell citizens the truth about…wait for it…Benghazi!

Last Friday, what I believe to be the eighth Congressional investigation of the Benghazi tragedy–an investigation controlled and conducted by Republicans–once again found no cover-up, no administrative bad faith or lying. As CBS reported

WASHINGTON — The CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, a Republican-controlled House committee has found. Its report asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration officials.

Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the two-year investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.

It is highly unlikely that this will change the minds of those–like my dinner companion–who prefer to believe in conspiracies. Slate recently reported recent research on the psychology of conspiracy theorists; as the story noted, millions of Americans believed that George W. Bush had engineered 9/11, despite the fact that:

To believe that the U.S. government planned or deliberately allowed the 9/11 attacks, you’d have to posit that President Bush intentionally sacrificed 3,000 Americans. To believe that explosives, not planes, brought down the buildings, you’d have to imagine an operation large enough to plant the devices without anyone getting caught. To insist that the truth remains hidden, you’d have to assume that everyone who has reviewed the attacks and the events leading up to them—the CIA, the Justice Department, the Federal Aviation Administration, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, scientific organizations, peer-reviewed journals, news organizations, the airlines, and local law enforcement agencies in three states—was incompetent, deceived, or part of the cover-up.

If believing in a conspiracy requires one to accept a long list of highly improbable/practically impossible things, why do so many Americans believe them?

Clearly, susceptibility to conspiracy theories isn’t a matter of objectively evaluating evidence. It’s more about alienation. People who fall for such theories don’t trust the government or the media. They aim their scrutiny at the official narrative, not at the alternative explanations. In this respect, they’re not so different from the rest of us. Psychologists and political scientists have repeatedly demonstrated that “when processing pro and con information on an issue, people actively denigrate the information with which they disagree while accepting compatible information almost at face value.” Scholars call this pervasive tendency “motivated skepticism.”

Conspiracy believers are the ultimate motivated skeptics. Their curse is that they apply this selective scrutiny not to the left or right, but to the mainstream. They tell themselves that they’re the ones who see the lies, and the rest of us are sheep. But believing that everybody’s lying is just another kind of gullibility.

I guess that explains my James Madison caller. But it doesn’t make me feel much better about either my dinner companion or the U.S. Representatives (like Indiana’s Susan Brooks) who clearly know better but are willing to play to the paranoia.

If Dick Cheney Were Capable of Shame….

Darth Cheney has emerged again from whatever hole he occupies, to proclaim the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Bengazi “the worst disaster” he can recall, and to assert that it is evidence of the incompetence of the Obama Administration.

Leaving aside the fact that the Republicans in Congress engineered significant cuts to the budget for embassy security, despite warnings that the cuts would endanger American lives, it is hard to believe the chutzpah of a Bush Administration VP (“vice” in every sense of the word). This was the administration that ignored “Bin Laden Determined to Attack in U.S.” and saw the destruction of the Twin Towers.

This was also the administration in power when we sustained fifty plus attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities abroad, thirteen of which were lethal. (And that’s excluding those in Baghdad). Those attacks in which American diplomats lost their lives occurred during Cheney’s “rein,” and before Barack Obama ever stepped into the Oval Office: Jan. 22, 2002, Calcutta, India; June 14, 2002, Karachi, Pakistan; Oct. 12, 2002, Denpasar, Bali; Feb. 28, 2003, Islamabad, Pakistan; May 12, 2003, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,July 30, 2004, Tashkent, Uzbekistan; Dec. 6, 2004, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; March 2, 2006, Karachi, Pakistan; Sept. 12, 2006, Damascus, Syria; Jan. 12, 2007, Athens, Greece; March 18, 2008, Sana’a, Yemen; July 9, 2008, Istanbul, Turkey; Sept. 17, 2008, Sana’a, Yemen.

I don’t recall Democrats conducting endless investigations and calling for impeachments as a result of those attacks.

If there was ever any doubt that Dick Cheney is a small, twisted, evil man, his willingness to use baldfaced lies in the service of partisan politics, and his eagerness to use the deaths of American diplomats to score cheap points would erase it.

But really, was there any doubt?