Benghazi and the Banality of Evil

(Originally published in August 2013)

Is it just me, or is the string of distractions that seem to pop up right on cue every time new light is about to be shed on the Benghazi story getting a little old? Months late, CNN has gotten around to “breaking” a story that might help to complete the disturbing puzzle for the mainstream public, namely the allegation that Benghazi was the hub of a CIA weapons-running operation. Within hours, this was washed from the headlines by the “chatter” indicating an imminent terror plot that required the United States to close numerous diplomatic facilities. (Hurray, NSA!) And then, within days, the mainstream media was “breaking” the news that the first charges had been laid in connection with the Benghazi attack. (How convenient.)

True to pattern, a mainstream media outlet will get its “honest journalism” points, lifting the lid on the facts just long enough to release a little pressure before the pot explodes, but guaranteeing that by Sunday morning Benghazi will once again have been buried by supposedly more urgent issues.

As many of us have been observing since the fall of 2012, the Benghazi outrage — an attack that, due to the Obama administration’s aggressive passivity, became a massacre — is the “scandal” that will never go away. And yet the story never achieves the fever pitch of many past, far lesser abuses of power, because the administration, in cahoots with its propaganda wing in the American news media, always finds a way to tamp down the big questions at the very moment those questions threaten to break loose in the American consciousness.

After their initial issuance of official lies regarding a non-existent spontaneous protest over a video no one in Libya cared about, the two leads in this drama treated the world to a remarkable performance of “The Pair That Wasn’t There.” First, we had Hillary Clinton, the incredible disappearing woman, whose opening trick was to concede her first big scene, the sweep of Sunday political shows in the first days of the story, to her understudy, Susan Rice. Rice’s scripted litany of lies was subsequently defended by the president on the grounds that poor Ms. Rice didn’t know what she was talking about. (So why was she chosen to deliver the administration’s first official sit-down interview accounts of the attack?) Clinton followed this auspicious opening by turning down a cordial invite to Congress in favor of an urgent State Department trip to… Australia. And then, to top it all off, she went to bed and bumped her head and couldn’t get up for several weeks, or at least not up to Capitol Hill.

When at last she testified before Congress, four months after the attack, and two months after she was asked to testify, her only memorable line was “What difference — at this point — does it make?” thus punctuating her disappearing act with a classic “They’ll never catch me!” flourish for the audience. As I have previously contended, the key words in Clinton’s famous argument for ignorance were “at this point.” That was her big “oops” moment, when her words and exasperated intonation revealed far more than was prudent. What she revealed was that her own, and the entire administration’s, manner of addressing Benghazi was built on a strategy of delay: say anything, leave the country, maneuver around all direct questions, claim to be conducting one’s own internal investigation, all in the hope that the fog of time will obscure the most horrendous details of this affair, or at least prevent those details from gathering into a complete and coherent picture in the public’s mind. Her indignant qualification — “at this point” — suggested a woman flustered at being pressed on matters she could not answer directly without destroying her own career, and perhaps bringing down an entire corrupt administration, but who genuinely believed that she had stalled long enough to dull such pointed interrogation.

And then there is her partner in “scandal,” President Obama, who makes plain old Clintonesque hiding and lying look like a cheap stunt. He has taken obfuscation and dissembling to a whole new, delightfully unforeseen, level: he can even hide the truth from himself. For weeks, in a variety of formats, from nationally televised presidential debates to TV interviews, he recited an absurdist script that evoked a man whose essence had become so detached from his existence that we were left to wonder whether he even knew he was the one telling the lies. Obama has become a perfect microcosm of the Western democratic political establishment in its hundred-year leftward trajectory: a one-man kabuki performance which presents its falseness so consistently and committedly that it begins to displace reality in the minds of the enthralled/enslaved public.

On Benghazi, Obama’s carefully memorized recitation, from which he never strayed, and which he never dared to embellish, was this:

As soon as we found out the Benghazi consulate was being overrun, I was on the phone with my national security team, and I gave them three instructions: Number one, beef up our security and procedures, not just in Libya, but in every embassy and consulate in the region. Number two, investigate exactly what happened, regardless of where the facts lead us. … And number three, we are going to find out who did this and we are going to hunt them down.

We now know that Obama was informed of the attack almost immediately, and that he discussed it at a previously scheduled meeting with Leon Panetta during the early moments, after which he never made a single follow-up phone call to inquire about the status of the violence. And yet his public self-defense was that while American government representatives were under deadly attack, he gave three completely generic instructions, all of them focused on long-term bureaucratic action, and none of them intended to address the murderous assault currently underway. It must never be forgotten that this list of absurdly inappropriate responses was meticulously scripted after the fact by handlers who presumably calculated that it was the best light in which Obama’s inaction could be framed.

And now another dark facet of Benghazi, long discussed in the non-American media, as well as in the American alternative media, has made its way into the U.S. mainstream. In citing reports that the CIA has been using intimidation tactics to scare agents out of telling all they know, CNN notes that the many CIA agents in Benghazi on September 11 may have been part of a weapons-running operation intended to deliver arms to Muslim rebels in Syria. (The news here, of course, is not the weapons-running operation, which has been discussed in detail for ten months, but the fact that a U.S. government propaganda tool mentioned it.) The full import of this possibility must not be overlooked, or allowed to remain in a separate compartment of our minds, detached from the Obama-Clinton cover-up efforts. Putting the two parts of this story together may clarify even further the level of immorality that has been, and continues to be, perpetrated by the central players in this atrocious drama.

We know there were requests for extra security in Libya in the months prior to the attack, and that these requests were turned down. We know Clinton and Obama spoke once while the Benghazi massacre was ongoing, but not until several hours after it began. We know that long before speaking with Obama, Clinton contacted then-CIA director David Petraeus, “to confer and coordinate,” as she told the Senate hearing, “given the presence of his facility, which of course was not well-known but was something that we knew and wanted to make sure we were closely latched up together.” “Coordinate” and “latch up” in what sense? Getting their stories straight before being questioned? (Remember, this coordinating and latching up was taking place while their employees were under deadly assault.) We also know that none of these top-level decision-makers took any steps to activate U.S. resources in an attempt to rescue the besieged Americans during the seven and half hour attack. Quite the contrary.

It is here that we must drag the facts out of their separate compartments, and bring them together into a coherent picture of the decision-making process that led to the deaths of several Americans, the injury of others, and an elaborate cover-up operation.

On July 30, 1945 the USS Indianapolis delivered uranium to be used in the Hiroshima atomic bomb, and was then torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, sinking in minutes. Most of the 1,196 crewmen survived the sinking of the ship, but several hundred died in the ocean over the next few days, many by shark attack. (This disaster was famously memorialized through actor Robert Shaw’s fictional reminiscence in Steven Spielberg’s Jaws.) Upon being hit, the Indianapolis sent distress signals, which were ignored. For a long time, however, the U.S. government claimed that the men were not rescued because no distress signal was ever sent, on account of the secrecy of the mission. The purpose of this false official story was perhaps to hide the gross failure in the chain of command which led to the single greatest loss of life in U.S. Navy history.

Benghazi represents the evil sister of the Indianapolis story. In this case, we know for a fact that numerous “distress signals” were sent. We also know that those urgent messages were not trapped in the lower reaches of the chain of command due to drunken intermediaries or skeptical officers. The truth of this disaster made it to the top of the hierarchy very quickly, while there was still time to act. And yet Obama, and the administration official most closely associated with the situation, Clinton, did not act. They walked away. They stopped talking. They lied, hid, and spit bullets at anyone who dared to doubt their veracity. (Remember Obama’s threatening glare at Romney during the second presidential debate as he warned his rival not to question his concern for his underlings? It worked: Romney effectively ceased to question Obama on Benghazi from that moment on.)

What can be said with certainty is that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton demonstrated the moral frigidity of tyrants during and after the Benghazi attack. This is true regardless of how the attack occurred, particularly in light of the fact that there was never any evidence whatsoever for the one and only story to which the administration tried to cling until contradictory evidence forced them to abandon their hopes of having any official story at all.

The remaining question for an honest and rational observer is whether the whole truth could be even uglier than the partial picture we have been sickened by since last fall. If the gun-running scenario is verified, the answer to that question will be yes. For then we will have a president and secretary of state of the most powerful nation on Earth finding out that their covert effort to smuggle arms to Muslim rebels has been hijacked by Muslim terrorists, and deciding that protecting themselves from exposure to a major scandal is a more urgent priority than defending the lives of their countrymen. Those who still have a conscience have been asking how Obama and Clinton could have responded so soullessly, so inhumanely. This alleged CIA operation may provide the missing piece that solves the puzzle, and in so doing demonstrates the logic of the self-obsessed progressive power monger to a degree that is as clear as it is revolting.

The timing of the attack, and the fact that the attackers had to have known the ambassador would be in Benghazi that day, would — especially if one knew Benghazi was the center of a U.S.-led weapons-running operation — make a carefully planned assault, rather than random mob violence, the obvious default assumption, even “before all the facts were in.” Their twisted stratagems in the Middle East apparently having been torpedoed by terrorists, Obama and Clinton froze in their tracks — because they were suddenly faced with the inescapable reality that those tracks could no longer be covered — and determined that in the name of preserving their own power, the drowning men ought to be left to the sharks. They chose to allow the lives of their representatives to go to waste, if necessary, rather than draw the spotlight onto themselves by “getting involved.” Time was spent cobbling together a semi-plausible cover story in those hours before Clinton and Obama made their first public statements — time that might have been spent planning and ordering a rescue effort.

The decision was not logical; it was the confused calculation of people whose only urgent concern was to avoid getting caught in bright lights that would expose their dirty hands. They buried their heads under the pillows and tried to wish their exposure away. They behaved like poorly raised children, prepared to sacrifice anyone or anything to save themselves from punishment. (Such behavior falls within a consistent pattern for both Clinton and Obama.) They behaved, in other words, like leading progressives. And in the aftermath of a disaster they helped to enable, and did not try to mitigate, they have done everything in their power to avoid having the unvarnished facts revealed in a timely fashion, thus spitting on the graves of the men whose deaths might have been avoided in the first place, if only the most powerful man and woman in the world had been in possession of even a fragment of the moral substance with which we have to assume they were born.

(Simple thought experiment: Imagine yourself in their respective positions, in the late afternoon of September 11, 2012, hearing early reports of an ongoing attack on your diplomats and agents in Libya. How would you feel? How often would you demand updates? Would you order your civilian and military experts to come up with response options immediately? Or would you go home and effectively take the phone off the hook, or call your fellow bigwigs to “coordinate” and “latch up” the public statements you’ll have to give in the morning?)

The decision-making process I have described above is admittedly a speculation based on available evidence. In defense of this speculation, however, it seems to me to be the most generous light in which we can frame the actions of Obama and Clinton regarding Benghazi. The truth regarding their motives and responses cannot be any better than this; it may, however, turn out to be worse.

The question is, will mainstream America ever start to care enough to do something about it? In this regard, Benghazi is a symbol of the current predicament of Western civilization. The fact that Obama was re-elected President of the United States while this story was still fresh, and that Clinton is casually presumed to be the presidential frontrunner for 2016, elevates Hannah Arendt’s famous concept, the banality of evil, almost to the point of being definitive of this final stage of modernity’s decay. Millions of ordinary people close their eyes and walk “forward” on demand, without evil intent, perhaps, but without the reason and judgment that men must possess if they are to discern and avoid evil outcomes.

In such an era, evil outcomes are guaranteed.

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