A Minor Victory Among the Major Defeats

The Obama administration has been in desperate need of some good news lately, and seems to have at last made some with the capture of one of the terrorists involved in the deadly attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012. Even the administration’s harshest critics will be pleased that somebody might held to account for the tragedy, while the administration’s most fawning admirers at The Washington Post are calling it a “major victory,” but it raises questions that are likely to mitigate the good feelings.
Surely the administration would have preferred to tout some accomplishment that didn’t require a reference to Benghazi, which remains an undeniable deadly screw-up that was followed by blatant lies that made a mockery of the First Amendment by the terrorists who seek to deter any criticism of their deranged religious beliefs. The “leading from behind” toppling of the Libyan government that preceded the tragedy, and that country’s descent into murderous anarchy since, are also necessary background information that the administration would just as soon go unmentioned. These issues never provoked the widespread public outrage we thought they deserved, but they’re still proving troublesome for past Secretary of State and presumptive next president Hillary Clinton on her recent book tour and campaign launch, and the capture of just one middle-management terrorist involved in the fiasco is not likely to quell the controversy.
A casual news reader might also wonder why it has taken so long to bring any of the terrorists to justice, especially one who has been available to numerous western journalists for interviews in which he boasted of his high profile. Those interviews have also had the captured terrorists echoing the administration’s laughable line that the terrorist attack was a spontaneous reaction to an obscure YouTube video and not a coordinated attack, so the more cynical sorts will naturally wonder if that might be why he’s the only involved in the attack that has been captured.
The terrorist will be given an opportunity to tell that improbable story under oath in an American courtroom, as the administration is planning on trying him in the American justice system as an ordinary criminal rather than in a military tribunal as an enemy combatant. That raises questions, too, about the administration’s broader approach to what it still refuses to call a war against Islamist terrorism. With harsh interrogations ruled out the terrorist won’t provide any useful intelligence, he’ll be housed in an American prison next to some nervous community rather than in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp that that the administration is so eager to empty that it recently released five of its most dangerous inmates in exchange for a soldier who seems have to deserted, and a shrewd defense attorney will demand more evidence about the investigation and capture than the national security agencies will want to divulge, and as the story plays out over the coming months or years it will lead to debates the administration should lose.
It’s a good news story for now, though, and the administration is probably willing to swap future embarrassments for a bit of positive press now. The Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of the president’s political foes is becoming harder to ignore now that some potentially damning e-mails have suspiciously gone missing, the recent release of those five terrorists for the alleged deserter still leaves the terrorist ranks ahead by four, America’s foes are making land-grabs from Ukraine to the China Sea, the brave soldiers who fought against America’s foes are still stuck on waiting lists at Veterans Administration hospitals, the economy is still weak and lately showing worrisome signs of inflation, so the capture of one terrorist can be touted as a “major victory” and provide a brief distraction.

— Bud Norman

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