Ever since my military service back in the 1970s, I’ve been a student of military strategy and tactics. Most fascinating to me, are the emotional and spiritual aspects of conflict. I even wrote a book on that in 2007.
There’s a reason experts talk about what’s called the “fog of war.” Military analyst Thomas Ricks reminds us, “A firefight is incredibly disorienting.” Confusion rules, with conflicting reports coming from different places.
There’s also a reason people say, “In a war, truth is always the first casualty.” Political posturing over the recent attack on our outpost in Benghazi, Libya, is a perfect example.
Diplomacy in the Middle East has always been dangerous. The place is full of armed people who don’t like us.
Attacks on our embassies and consulates have been going on for years. Between 2002 and 2008, dozens of American foreign service people died in fatal attacks in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere. Each time, it has taken months, even years, to sort out just what happened.
Now right-wing politicians tell you Benghazi is somehow different? That’s nothing but politics..
The day of the Benghazi attacks, deadly riots had broken out all across the Middle East. Libya’s government thought the Benghazi attacks were connected to demonstrations.
No wonder our Foreign Service sent confusing messages. No wonder intelligence staff back home, protecting what they thought was sensitive information, edited those dispatches. That’s standard procedure. The CIA approved those edits.
With such attacks, it always takes time to sort out the details. It’s sad that this time around, there has to be political game playing. That only makes it harder to find out what really happened.
The political circus around Benghazi isn’t really even about Benghazi. For example, Nov. 13, Sen. John McCain (of whom I have said favorable things in the past), held a special news conference to condemn lack of information about Benghazi. He demanded a special Senate investigation. Odd thing — at that very moment, he was skipping an in-depth Senate briefing on Benghazi. In other words, he skipped a briefing to complain about lack of information.
Political writer Ryan Grim explains what’s really going on here. McCain is about to step down as ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, due to term limits. He wants to move to another prestigious post. Chairmanship of the “Select Committee” he’s calling for would be perfect.
This is just politics as usual. It has nothing to do with Benghazi and everything to do with the Washington food chain.
Meanwhile, political pundits also accuse people of lying, covering up, even aiding and
abetting the murders in Benghazi.
The real military expert, Thomas Ricks, says this is nonsense. He says, you’d have to be on drugs to believe right-wing pundits’ nonsense about Benghazi. (I cleaned up his language.)
Here’s what I think is going on. If I’d done as terrible a job of predicting and reporting recent national elections as those same “news” pundits did, I’d want to change the subject, too. Benghazi is just a red herring: a “weapon of mass distraction.”
Every attack on our people is tragic. Let us not dishonor such tragedy by turning it into a political football. Gentlemen — please stop.
Let the investigation run its course. If there was negligence, we can deal with it when we know the facts. Then make changes to protect our people. A year from now, the truth will turn out more boring than political hacks would have you believe.
The Rev. Dennis McCarty is a Unitarian Universalist minister in Columbus. His opinions are his own, and this newspaper and members of his church may or may not agree with them. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org