From Waiting for the Investigation on Benghazi to Finish to Planning on Capturing or Killing Someone for It, Officials Not Interested in Asking How We Got There

Military plans to "capture or kill" suspected Benghazi attackers being reported


no one listened
Tiago Petinga/EPA

Yesterday, President Obama began his press conference with Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan with a comment about the 9/11 attack on Benghazi, framing the issue as one of funding and extra security to "prevent another tragedy like this from happening." But officials from his own administration have acknowledged funding was not an issue with security in Benghazi.

Meanwhile, while testifying on the attack earlier this year, then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton said it was more important to bring the perpetrators to justice then to focus on the competing narratives in the immediate aftermath (" maybe we'll figure out what was going on in the meantime").

Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler noted earlier this week that the claim that the president called the Benghazi assault a terrorist attack (as opposed to a generic "act of terror") is not true, pointing to the president's comments that referred to the ongoing investigation that would reveal what exactly happened.

An end to that investigation has not been announced, yet pressure over Benghazi has apparently led the military to update its plans on capturing or killing somebody over the Benghazi attack. These plans have been developing since the immediate aftermath of Benghazi, with CNN reporting that the military "has a list of several targets" including "specific individuals named who are believed associated with the Benghazi attack as well other militants the United States wants to get." It's a far cry from the investigation the Obama Administration told the country to wait for before jumping to conclusions.

The transition from "wait for the investigation to finish" to "the military will mete out retribution" skips any step involving any kind of introspection or reflection about the role of U.S. foreign policy in getting to a situation like Benghazi. As I wrote back in November:

[T]he investigation has stalled, and Libyan officials are worried about what the eventual American response might be. "They had surveillance drones monitoring that night. They will have identified some people and traced where they are now," [the Daily Beast's Jamie] Dettmer quotes an advisor to Libya's Congress. "They worry," Dettmer reports, "about a drone strike on targets in eastern Libya—that would be a gift to jihadists, they say."  

… the response to the murder of an American ambassador and three others may well be the sort of action that will "be a gift to jihadists." What won't be questioned is the sort of intervention—unilaterally decided by the president and then passively accepted by a pliant Congress—that dropped American diplomats into an unstable situation that no one had a handle on.

Finding out whether (or when) Obama and his spokespeople started dissembling about the Benghazi attack is important, but it's ultimately less important than confronting the mind-set that will lead to more half-baked interventions that then lead to more death and destruction of American lives.

Instead, Obama and Democrats would like to talk about the non-issue of security funding while some Republicans would like to imagine there was a military resolution to the Benghazi assault that the Obama Administration failed to pursue. As for the role of interventionism, both sides would prefer to talk about how interventionism might work in Syria, as opposed to what it might have wrought upon the U.S. in Libya.