Benghazi and the closed conservative information feedback loop

June 17

The United States has captured one of the men allegedly responsible for the 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi. The capture happened over the weekend, but the Washington Post agreed to withhold the news until now because of security concerns. Here’s the report that was just posted:

U.S. Special Operations forces captured one of the suspected ringleaders of the terrorist attacks in Benghazi in a secret raid in Libya over the weekend, the first time one of the accused perpetrators of the 2012 assault has been apprehended, according to U.S. officials.

The officials said Ahmed Abu Khattala was captured near Benghazi by American troops, working alongside the FBI, following months of planning, and was now in U.S. custody “in a secure location outside Libya.” The officials said there were no casualties in the operation, and that all U.S. personnel involved have safely left Libya.

Since the attack is now back in the news, the conservatives who have been so obsessed with it face a choice: will they celebrate this capture as something significant and welcome, or will they pretend it makes little or no difference?

My guess is it will be the latter. That isn’t to say that many Republicans won’t congratulate the administration on the effort, but there will be a significant number for whom Benghazi will always be more than a single event. It’s a symbol of everything they hate about Barack Obama, a symbol that has nothing to do with facts or reasoned arguments. There can be no resolution and no final accounting. Their Benghazi obsession is like a train running forever on a circular track, never slowing, never going anywhere. It’s perhaps the leading obsession in the “closed conservative information feedback loop.”

I just turned on Fox News and heard one commentator say “We all have questions about the timing” of the arrest, and another chimed in to say, “You have the former Secretary of State who is in the middle of a high-profile book tour, and I think this is convenient for her to shift the talking points from some of the things she’s been discussing.”

If you aren’t a regular Fox viewer, you’d react to that by saying, “Are these people insane?” But if you are a Fox viewer, it makes perfect sense. Because you’ve been hearing for almost two years that Benghazi isn’t a story about an attack on an American consulate, it’s a story about the Obama administration’s cover-ups and lies and betrayal.

 

There are still things we need to understand about what happened in Benghazi, and how to prevent it from ever happening again. What kind of preparations should American outposts take in violent situations? Do we need to be quicker to evacuate them when there is trouble brewing? Did the administration have a good enough understanding of the local situation to see a threat like that coming?

But such legitimate questions about what we should learn from, and understand about, what happened, end up being subsumed to lines of inquiry designed to show administration malfeasance.

Indeed, when their special committee holds its hearings and fails to uncover any blockbuster administration crimes, they’ll say that the problem isn’t that there was no administration conspiracy, but only that we didn’t look hard enough.

 

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Greg Sargent | June 17