Obsession: 1) The compulsive preoccupation with a fixed idea. 2) a persistent fixation that continually forces its way into consciousness, an irrational motive for performing trivial of repetitive actions, often associated with anxiety and mental illness. 3) the act of obsessing or the state of being obsessed. 4) an unhealthy and compulsive preoccupation with something or someone.
That’s what they call it when people just won’t let go.
We’ve all seen it.
Some people can’t help it. Their obsession is driven by a mental coding error, an endless loop caused by genes or disease or trauma that forces their wetware into a snarl of obsessive compulsive behavior. That kind of obsession is an unfortunate illness and the afflicted often spend much of their lives trying to overcome it.
That’s not what I’m talking about here.
No, I’m talking about the other kind of obsession.
The deliberate kind.
The voluntary kind.
You all know what I mean.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been trapped in a meeting with that guy. The one who just can’t move on, the one who just keeps circling back to the same subject over and over, who keeps asking the same damned question no matter how many times it’s been addressed, over and over and over, because he just doesn’t like the answer. It’s the same hobbyhorse in every conversation with that guy. He’s the one who thinks he’s playing the Devil’s Advocate, but in reality, he’s just an irritating asshole and everybody at the table wishes he’d shut up so they can get on with the business at hand.
You know him, he’s a legend in his own mind.
Now look, a certain amount of obsession isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. Obsession can make people excel, to strive for top grades in school or become an Olympian caliber athlete, or lead to world changing discoveries by fixated scientists who spend long nights in a lab consumed with a desire to find answers to questions only they know enough to ask.
A small amount of obsession can lead to the love of your life.
But obsession carried too far becomes a sickness, a fixation that drives people to irrational and even dangerous behavior. Cultural obsession with grades and ranking can lead to a culture of depression and suicide as it has among some of Japan’s youth. Obsession with winning at all costs often leads to cheating, just ask Lance Armstrong or Tonya Harding. Obsession can lead otherwise rational scientists down blind alleys from which they never return.
Obsession of another kind can become stalking, or worse.
Runaway obsession is what makes conspiracy theorists.
There is no answer that you can give a Birther that will convince her the president was born a citizen of the United States. None. There is no evidence that you can present to a Truther that will change their mind about the events of September 11th, 2001. There is no effective treatment for Moon Landing Hoaxers or Holocaust Deniers or Young Earth Creationists or those people who are absolutely convinced beyond all reason that the world will indeed end this time for certain – and when the world doesn’t end, they’ll still believe because they want to believe.
These people choose their obsession. Deliberately.
These people choose their obsession because the real answers just aren’t dramatic enough for them, because reality just doesn’t conform to their political, philosophical, or religious beliefs no matter how much they want it to. No matter how many times they ask the same question.
These people choose their obsession because it makes them important, at least in some regard, it makes them the star of their own show and forces others to pay attention to them even when they turn out to be spectacularly wrong – say like Karl Rove on election night.
For these people, everything has meaning – because everything must.
Because that’s the nature of obsession.
And sometimes events do mean something, but more often they don’t.
Because, see, that’s the thing, sometimes, it doesn’t mean anything.
Sometimes, in reality, well, shit just happens.
Which brings us to Benghazi.
Benghazi has become an obsession for a certain portion of the population.
You all know what I mean.
That guy and his friends.
For them, Benghazi has to mean something. It just has to. It has to mean something, because they want it to mean something.
If it wasn’t an election year, if it wasn’t for their insane obsessive hatred for Barack Obama, if their guy hadn’t lost the election, well then the entire affair would have been forgotten in a week.
No, really. How many Americans died in Afghanistan that same week as the attack on the Benghazi consulate? How many? Hell, how many died this week? Don’t know? Can’t remember?
If it wasn’t an election year, four more dead in Libya – including a liberal ambassador appointed by a liberal president in a country that most Americans don’t give a shit about and couldn’t find on a map – wouldn’t mean a goddamned thing to Republicans.
Instead, well, obsession.
The conspiracy theory goes like this: There was an attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, the attack killed Ambassador Stevens and three State Department personnel. The Obama Administration initially said the attack was a result of a spontaneous riot, a riot supposedly inspired by an anti-Muslim video on YouTube. In the days immediately after the attack, the White House repeated this theory multiple times. Of course, the official story was wrong. Turns out the attack was an act of terrorism. Conservatives, of course, knew this for certain immediately – apparently via some magical means that the rest of us aren’t privy to. And why would President Obama attempt to cover up terrorist involvement in the Benghazi attack? Well, the conspiracy theory reasons that President Obama couldn’t look weak on terrorism at such a critical point in the election cycle and therefore the administration concocted the riot whitewash and sent UN Ambassador Susan Rice in to sell the idea to Americans.
Obama got reelected, so obviously the scheme must have worked. Right?
Now before we go any further, let’s be clear here: Americans have every right to know what happened in Benghazi. They have a right and an obligation to know how and why Ambassador Chris Stevens died. And they have every right to expect the Administration, any administration, to tell them the truth. And, just to be completely honest here, they have every right to expect cover-ups and lies from the White House, any White House, because they’ve been lied to far, far too often – from Watergate to Yellowcake, from the Bay of Pigs to the Gulf of Tonkin, and a thousand other lies big and small in between.
But there’s a difference between deliberate lies and honest confusion.
Sometimes shit just happens.
And there’s not a hell of a lot you can do about it.
And nobody likes that answer, but sometimes that’s just how it is.
And you should be smart enough to know that and move the hell on.
Benghazi as a conspiracy theory makes no sense whatsoever.
First, you’d have to believe that anybody in the administration thought that lying about Benghazi was a winning strategy. Especially a month before the election. Obama’s campaign team was filled with some very, very smart people, and frankly I just don’t buy it. I don’t think they considered lying about Benghazi in any fashion for even a single second.
It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous politically.
Here’s why: If Obama knew, for sure, that the attack was indeed terrorism, he would be far better served to call it that right up front, then pledge to bring the attackers to justice, and then pull out his record of hunting down and terminating terrorists (of all origins) to back his promise (of course, then conservatives would have attacked him for exploiting his record on killing terrorists, sometimes you just can’t win).
But, saying the Ambassador was killed by a riot? A riot? Well, shit, that’s just bad planning, bad security, bad leadership. Why the hell would the Obama campaign adopt that as a strategy if they didn’t think that’s what actually happened? Seriously. That’s idiotic.
Well, hell, they’re terrorists. They plan this stuff, they’re trying to kill us, they’re armed and equipped and full of murderous intent. Even the best security can’t stop them all. Americans understand that, after Beirut and USS Cole and the Berlin Disco Bombing and the Shoe Bomber and Timothy McVeigh and a hundred other acts of terrorism or attempted terrorism, Americans damned well understand that. Enough of them do anyway.
Hell, the country suffered the worst terrorist attack in our history during George W. Bush’s watch, three thousand Americans died and we got to watch the towers fall over and over again on national TV, then Bush took us into two ill conceived wars, and what happened? He got reelected.
If Obama knew it was terrorism from the first, why bother to lie about it? Politically it makes zero sense whatsoever. None. Nada. Zippo.
The whole conspiracy theory is idiotic.
It doesn’t make sense for the president to lie about it. However, it does make sense, good sense, for somebody else to lie about it. Not for politics, but for a very good and valid reason. One that Captain John Fucking McCain USN(ret) knows very, very well indeed. Better than anybody else in Congress.
We’ll come back to that.
Second, a whole bunch of people, from the President to the Secretary of State to the UN to the media to the generals in the field would all have had to take orders from President Obama’s reelection campaign. And you’d have to believe that the folks running the president’s reelection were so powerful in fact, that they could give those orders – to generals, to the media, to professional bureaucrats - and have them obeyed.
You may, if you like, color me a nice shade of skeptical at this point.
Next, you have to believe that all of the hundreds of people involved thought they could get away with it for long enough to win an election. Which, obviously, they couldn’t. Even if they thought it was a valid strategy. Which, obviously, they didn’t.
The terrorist link was out of the bag within a couple of days, well before the election.
And Obama still won handily – Benghazi had little impact, if any, either way.
And you know why? Because sometimes shit just happens.
And a recent CNN poll backs that up, most Americans don’t hold President Obama responsible for Benghazi – then again, you know how Republicans feel about polls by CNN. But I digress.
Benghazi was, and is, a dangerous place. Ambassador Stevens knew that, so did the State Department and the Department of Defense, so did the CIA, so did the President.
Libya had just gone through a revolution, the government is provisional, there are armed gangs roving the street and a dozen different militias. And – and – this is Libya, the country that has specialized in training and exporting terror since the 1970’s. Ambassador Stevens knew what he was getting into, probably far better than anybody else in America. So did those ex-Navy SEALs, trust me, they knew, oh yes they did – and not because they had been SEALs. And they went anyway.
They knew it was a risk, going to Benghazi, that’s why it’s called a risk.
Sometimes things go pear shaped, sometimes shit happens.
After the attack, it took three weeks for the FBI and US investigators to get into the city in order to figure out what had really happened – because it was so damned dangerous.
It is also worth noting that the US Consulate in Benghazi wasn’t really a consulate, but more like an intelligence post and that those former US navy SEALs weren’t, in fact, State Department employees after all but rather CIA contractors – again, believe me, those guys knew exactly what they were getting into. Exactly. That’s why they, of all people, were there.
It is also noteworthy that there were actual angry mobs incensed over the US made anti-Muslim video. People seem to forget that at the same time as the Benghazi attack, anti-American protesters were rallying in the streets of Egypt. Should the two events have been connected? In hindsight, no. But that’s how intelligence work is, everything is clear as a bell in hindsight. Obvious to everybody. Of course.
And finally it is also worth noting that when former CIA director David Petraeus spoke behind closed doors to the congressional intelligence committee last week, he testified that the intelligence community had specifically removed all references to terrorists from the press briefings given to Susan Rice – so that the terrorists wouldn’t know what we knew about them.
Remember what I said about lying on purpose and for good reason?
When police are trying to catch a serial killer, they deliberately don’t tell the public everything until the killer is caught. It’s called operational security and sometimes there is a very, very good reason for not telling the public everything. Especially when you’re dealing with sensitive intelligence. And most especially when you’re dealing with Congress, who tend to put matters of politics and political agendas above national security and their oath of office.
I used to do this for a living, I’m a retired intelligence officer, I know more than a little about congress and those people who aren’t authorized to talk to the press, but do anyway.
Benghazi was a terrible thing, but sometimes – especially in a warzone – that kind of shit happens. This wasn’t the first time and it surely won’t be the last. The only surprising part about Benghazi is that only four Americans died.
Benghazi was a terrible thing, but it wasn’t nearly as terrible as some people would like it to be.
Benghazi was a terrible thing, but it isn’t any kind of cover up.
What it is, is an obsession.
That’s exactly what the current congressional circus led by Senator John McCain is, an obsession.
The conservative senators grilling Susan Rice are obsessed with their conspiracy theory. They’re not interested in what really happened, they know what really happened. But reality just doesn’t suit their agenda, their obsessive compulsive hatred of all things Obama.
John McCain lost in 2008, and his party lost again this year, and he just can’t get past it.
Because he doesn’t want to.
Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte went on CNN’s Anderson Cooper immediately following an interview with Susan Rice and said that while she was positive Rice “certainly” misled the country on Benghazi, she was unsure of Rice’s motive for doing so.
Ayotte isn’t unsure of anything, she just doesn’t like the actual answer because it doesn’t support her obsessive conviction that the president must be involved in some nefarious plot to secretly kill off our ambassadors in order to get reelected so that he can turn white babies into Muslim trail mix and further his plan to neutralize Earth’s defenses prior to the arrival of the reptile armada from Zeta Reticuli (Wait, I might be mixing things up, was it Obama or the other guy who believed they were destined to become king of an alien planet? Er, you know, never mind).
And while we’re at it, ask yourself this – Obama sent in Rice to bullshit America (kind of like Bush sent Colin Powell to lie to the UN), then he threw her to the wolves, but then he wants her to be Secretary of State because why again?
I’ll be interested in John McCain’s theory behind that. No really, I need a laugh. I hope it involves alien reptiles from outer space.
Supposedly the purpose of this congressional dog and pony show is to determine what happened in Benghazi so that we can be better prepared for future attacks. There’s a column on CNN today written by Florida Republican, Senator Marco Rubio. Rubio says:
Because the uppermost purpose of any inquiry is to prevent such a tragedy from happening again, we need to know what measures Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has taken to ensure that decisions about security and requirements of U.S. diplomatic missions are given the highest priority.
Then why aren’t McCain and Ayotte asking those questions? Instead of trying to determine Susan Rice’s motivations?
Why? Well because, of course, that’s not what this is really about at all.
If this was about preventing future acts of terrorism then you would see a bipartisan focus on what measures were in place, what went wrong, and what we might do about it in the future (if anything). What Susan Rice said, or didn’t say, what she knew or didn’t know, has no bearing on the stated goals of the commission as defined by Rubio. None. They might as well be interviewing Obama’s dog Bo.
What you have is a Republican witch hunt led by the likes of John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Kelly Ayotte, among others. They’re obsessed with finding a smoking gun, and by God they’re going to do it even if they eventually have to hire Kenneth Starr.
Preemptively vetoing Susan Rice’s nomination for Secretary of State will in no way whatsoever prevent or even better prepare us for future acts of terrorism, nor will John McCain’s sour remarks and press conferences. And the Republican led inquiry isn’t even bothering to pretend otherwise.
The real purpose of the inquiry is to get even with Barack Obama for being reelected.
The real purpose is to send a message, a two word message that begins with an “F” and ends with a “You” – maybe they should have had Clint Eastwood deliver it.
This isn’t about Susan Rice, but if they do manage to force the President to nominate John Kerry instead of Rice, so that republicans can then grab for Kerry’s Senate seat, so much the better (no, I don’t have any proof that’s what the silly obsessed bastards are up to, but then again, to use their own reasoning, I don’t have any proof that they’re not either).
You know, it’s ironic. John McCain and his band of pitchfork wielding conspiracy nuts are accusing the President of playing Benghazi for political purposes – while they themselves play Benghazi for political purposes.
Ironic and disgusting.
More than anything, what these people are pissed about isn’t the death of an American ambassador, they’re mad that they can’t turn the death of an American ambassador into Obama’s Waterloo.
It’s also ironic that the folks most upset about the deaths of four Americans in Libya, the kind of deaths they (or anybody) are unlikely to prevent in the future, are the very same folks who adamantly refuse to do anything in any way whatsoever about the myriad deaths of Americans gunned down in movie theaters and in front of shopping malls and in their schools right here at home.
As I said, ironic … and disgusting.
John McCain should be ashamed of himself, but he lost that capability a long, long time ago, right around the same time he forgot the meaning of the word honor.
In the final measure, we don’t honestly know if Susan Rice is the best choice for Secretary of State or not. We don’t really know if there are better candidates. We haven’t had a full accounting of her experience and qualifications – only her actions during this one very limited event.
Hell, we don’t even know if President Obama actually intends to nominate Rice for the position.
Should Susan Rice be Secretary of State?
I don’t know.
But I do know this, it’s not up to three obsessed Senators to decide alone.
It’s not even just up to Republicans.
That’s what Congressional confirmation hearings are for.
This isn’t about Susan Rice.
This isn’t even about Benghazi.
It’s about an obsession.