Sunday, December 29, 2013

In Benghazi, No Good Deed Unpunished

In the lethally labyrinthine politics of the Middle East, the murder of four Americans in Libya on September 11, 2012 continues to roil American opinion with partisan accusations of blame that resist the reality that Americans are simply beyond their depth in such ancient internecine murderous hatreds.

Now we have a new attempt to untangle the morass:

“Months of investigation by The New York Times, centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault. The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.

“A fuller accounting of the attacks suggests lessons for the United States that go well beyond Libya. It shows the risks of expecting American aid in a time of desperation to buy durable loyalty, and the difficulty of discerning friends from allies of convenience in a culture shaped by decades of anti-Western sentiment.”

Republicans who have made a crusade of blaming Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton for it all are quick to counterattack. Fox News dredges up a month-old interview with the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee to insist that the Benghazi attack was an "Al Qaeda-led event."

Anyone with the patience and strong stomach to read the full Times account can glimpse its complexity against the “fair and balanced” Fox rebuttal, with such fascinating figures as a 42-year-old “leader” who has spent most of his adult life in a Tripoli prison for Islamist extremism and now insists “God would have helped us. We know the United States was working with both sides” and considered “splitting up the country.”

When will we learn that in such situations no good deed goes unpunished, that ignorant hatreds will propel “leaders” who can gain power by railing against American intervention, no matter what we do or how we do it?

And when will Republicans at home stop trying to make political capital out of the blood and sacrifice of Americans we send to represent us in this moral swamp?

How many Benghazis will it take, in Syria and elsewhere, to find some balance between use of American power for good in the Middle East and being thanked for it with murder of our own people?

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