The reaction of the Fox News right to the capture of the ringleader of the attack on the Benghazi consulate/CIA base tells you a huge amount. If their concern at the attack on the compound were genuine, they would have taken a moment to celebrate. Here, after all, is the fanatic they’ve wanted to get for two years now. He could help answer more questions than dozens of Congressional hearings. The truth of what occurred could be fleshed out much more definitively, as long as we use civilized methods of interrogation; and justice can be better served by trying him in a civilian courts rather than military commissions, since the courts have an exponentially better record at prosecuting terrorists.
But no. The FNC right is not interested in the actual facts of the case or the pursuit of justice. It is merely a weapon with which to bludgeon their partisan opponents. So good news like yesterday’s will have to be instantly dismissed in order to maintain the crusade against the president. And when I say instantly, I mean instantly. Here’s Paul Waldman:
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.
Morrissey scrambles for something disparaging to say:
So yes, this is a win for the US, but it’s still going to raise questions about how much effort the US put into capturing Khattala until now. At the time of Calderone’s piece, the White House insisted that they couldn’t act without destabilizing the government in Tripoli. What’s changed since then? Last week, incoming PM Ahmad Maiteeq offered his resignation after a court ruled his election was unconstitutional and current PM Abdullah Al Thani refused to recognize his legitimacy. This hardly seems like a propitious time for a Special Forces raid if the previous delays were taken to promote stability.
The big fish still remains to be found. Abu Safian bin Qumu has long been suspected of commanding the attack, despite an inexplicable New York Times claim to the contrary. The US had bin Qumu in custody, too — until the Bush administration released him from Gitmo in 2007. This good news will serve as a reminder of the dangers of releasing terrorists back into the war, a reminder that the White House probably would prefer to avoid at the moment.
explain why the Khatallah operation was a year in the making:
The Obama administration has come under withering criticism because the whereabouts of abu Khatallah have been generally known. Journalists in Libya were able to interview him, critics asked, so why couldn’t American special operators track him down, too?
But other U.S. officials, who spoke to The Daily Beast anonymously because they were not authorized to talk to the press, said the mission to grab abu Khatallah had been planned for more than a year. Indeed, the Benghazi ringleader had been in the sights of Delta Force operators at the end of August, according to these sources, but no order was given at the time. A senior administration official told The Daily Beast that the delay in apprehending the suspect was due in part to requests from the Justice Department to gather appropriate evidence to prosecute him in criminal court.
[F]or a long stretch, maybe a year or more, the Obama administration had been trying to figure out how best to grab Abu Khattala, who was identified as a possible Benghazi ringleader soon after the September 11, 2012, assault. Yet for much of that time, Republican critics of the president have repeatedly criticized Obama for not capturing the Benghazi perps. Even though it took a decade to nab Osama bin Laden, GOPers have depicted Obama as feckless on the Benghazi front, with some even saying that he was not truly interested in bringing the Benghazi killers to justice.
… It can take a while—even years—to capture a suspected terrorist overseas. (Ruqai, the embassy bombings suspect, was apprehended 15 years after the attacks.) Yet that didn’t stop these Republicans and other conservatives from slamming the president and suggesting publicly—in a real underhanded dig—that Obama was not seeking the murderers of Benghazi. Now what will they say? That his heart wasn’t really in it?
And the last resort of the partisans is to insist that the captive be sent to the torture and detention camp at Gitmo, where no one is successfully convicted of any crime and where they can become instant martyrs in the eyes of their followers – if they don’t go on hunger strike. Sargent asks a good question: will Rand Paul stand up to the pro-Gitmo crowd?
We are frequently told there are genuine tensions within the GOP over foreign policy and national security, with libertarian and isolationist Republicans like Rand Paul sparring with mainstream conservatives or neocons on a range of issues. Benghazi has kind of papered over such divisions by giving Republicans a common target (Obama) and a ripe scandal narrative to focus on. But the question of where to detain the first apprehended Benghazi suspect will provide a good test of just how deep these civil liberties differences among Republicans really run.
My bet is that partisanship will defeat principle every time in this GOP. But let’s see if Paul can come through. It’s an interesting test.