Where’s the Patriotic Wrath Over Benghazi?

Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, a Research Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, and a Professor of Classics and Humanities at the California State University. He is the author of nine books and numerous essays on classical culture and its influence on Western Civilization. His most recent book, Democracy's Dangers and Discontents (Hoover Institution Press), is now available for purchase.


ben55Remember Benghazi? When al-Qaeda affiliated jihadists murdered a U.S. ambassador on the anniversary of the al-Qaeda jihadist murder of 3000 Americans? When the jihadists killed two ex-Navy Seals, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, when like the Spartans at Thermopylae they valiantly fought against an attack on the CIA annex? Remember how the Obama administration serially lied about the perpetrators of the attack, blaming it on an obscure Internet video, in order to save the president’s triumphalist foreign policy campaign-narrative that al Qaeda had been “rocked back on its heels”?

Apparently many Americans have forgotten, or simply don’t care. A recent poll showed only 24% think that Benghazi is the most important controversy afflicting the Obama administration, while 45% pick the IRS scandal, a particularly egregious example of bad behavior, to be sure, but one common ever since the IRS was created. Perhaps that 45% is concerned on principle over the attempt to use government to limit political expression, but even still, it’s troubling that a political offense is considered more important than the administration’s getting our fellow Americans murdered and then lying in order to cover it up.

Something has happened to this country when we are indifferent to the deaths of brave Americans who have been murdered by our sworn enemies, and blasé about our president and his flunkeys’ lying about that tragedy for political gain. Something is off when we leave unchallenged the lame excuse that the most powerful military in the history of the world armed with the most advanced weapons could not help their comrades because it was decided that a relief force couldn’t “get there in time,” even though no one knew how much time those soldiers had, which in the event was several hours. And we have suffered a colossal failure of patriotic nerve when we are not enraged that whether there was time or not, out forces weren’t ordered to descend on those fanatics and exact a fearsome price in blood for killing Americans. Bill Clinton ran away from Mogadishu in 1993, but at least our soldiers before they left made the enemy pay about 2000 dead for killing 18 Americans.

But we have long gotten used to seeing our enemies kill Americans without cost. Iran and its jihadist proxies like Hezbollah have been killing Americans for 30 years, including 241 in the 1983 Marine barracks attack in Beirut. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iranians have continued to kill Americans and have provided armor-penetrating explosives to the jihadist insurgents. But Iran has faced no punishment other than diplomatic bluster and ineffective sanctions. We need to learn the wisdom of the old Arab saying that cats act like lions when lions act like cats.

Yes, after 9/11 there appeared to be a return of righteous wrath over the murder of our fellow citizens. That momentum was enough to rout the Taliban from Afghanistan and dismantle the psychopathic regime of Saddam Hussein. But in less than a year the flags were gone and the impatience with the normal mistakes, unforeseen consequences, and brutal costs of war had sapped that outrage from a critical mass of Americans. The anti-war Democrats gained traction, and George Bush barely was reelected, mostly because John Kerry was a long-time political hack utterly lacking in personality and brains. But in 2006 Democrats took over Congress, and in 2008 a political tyro running on an anti-war platform captured the presidency. By then 9/11 was ancient history, even though the same enemy was continuing to kill Americans.

Worse yet, that same president has squandered the deaths of our soldiers fighting in Iraq by pulling out our troops despite the ongoing threat of sectarian violence that everyday pushes Iraq closer to Iran and gives a new generation of jihadists valuable battle-field training. He is on track to make the same mistake in Afghanistan in 2014, again wasting over a decades’ worth of American blood and creating the opportunity for a Taliban resurgence. Meanwhile his foreign policy of Islamophilic appeasement and wishful thinking have lead to America’s retreat from the region, with the promise of even more dead Americans as al-Qaeda and its affiliates metastasize in North Africa and the Middle East. Yet despite this geopolitical malfeasance that has lead to the deaths of Americans and that will lead to even more dead in the future, the president gets a pass from amnesiac voters.

Just compare our current patriotic malaise to the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese made a preemptive attack on a military target against another nation it considered a threat to its interests––nothing so exceptional in world history. Yet the outrage among Americans was intense enough to send hundreds of thousands to recruiting stations in order to avenge the deaths of our people, and to carry them through 4 years of brutal, vicious combat. In 1941 and early 1942, even the leftwing The Nation magazine sounded like fire-eating hawks. Jonathan Daniels, a novelist and editor who in the Forties wrote a weekly column for The Nation, thundered, “When could there be a better time to be an American than in an hour when an American has the privilege to stand up to the full meaning of that word?” No doubt in Daniels’s mind about what an American is. In tones that today’s The Nation would condemn not just as reactionary but as hurtful and sexist to boot, Daniels went on, “It is an hour for elation. Here is the time when a man can be what an American means, can fight for what America has always meant––an audacious, adventurous society for a decent earth.” Daniels concluded, “We are alive––rudely awakened. That is not basis for fear but sign that our destiny survives. We are men again in America.”

Yes, the left wanted America in the war because Hitler had attacked their communist patron the Soviet Union. But even if writers like Daniels had darker motives, the fact that they felt compelled to be aggressively patriotic in public speaks much about the America of 1941. Consider the contrast with The Nation writer Jonathan Schell after 9/11. According to Schell, we must understand “the sources of the hatred that the United States has incurred in a decade of neglect and, worse, neglect of international affairs,” as well as “the failure of our own leadership and the role our government has chosen to play in the world.” He also worried about “an enraged blind superpower” and what it might do in response, adding that “it will take months to know what happened, far longer to feel so much grief, longer still to understand its meaning.” Later he frets over the “grief-stricken, nervous, uncertain interval” between the attacks and the U.S. response, and notes a “profound, unmistakable unease” in the land. In short, a stew of therapeutic banalities and cringing self-hatred, without any notion of patriotic solidarity with fellow Americans unjustly murdered, and any particle of righteous anger to punish those who commit such acts.

The indifference to the Benghazi attacks reflects the erosion of patriotic fellow feeling over the last several decades, and of the conviction that our country embodies virtues, ideals, and beliefs that are good and just and better than the alternatives. These ideals, moreover, bind us one to the other, so that an attack on any one of us is an attack on all, for we share an identity based on those ideals. We have lost the sense that we are a national family, one created not by blood but by those goods like freedom, equality, and individual rights.

Instead, a corrosive mélange of “vague internationalism, a squalid materialism, and the promise of impossible Utopias,” as Churchill put it in 1933, the idea that patriotism and nationalism are evils to be exorcised in order to achieve the progressive utopia, have spread beyond the elite of intellectuals into the larger culture, including the curriculum of the schools. Now many of us no longer know what it means to be an American, which is the foundation for that love of country––which includes necessarily our affection for and loyalty to our fellow citizens––without which no country, but especially a great power, can long survive. Instead of believing we are American lions, we now are content to be internationalist cats.

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  • pneville

    Add to mess the poll which finds that a plurality of Americans feel that wealth in the US is “unfairly distributed”. God help us.

    • pupsncats

      What poll? The only people who feel wealth in the U.S. is unfairly distributed are those who aren’t getting the freebies and benefits they think they deserve.

  • WW4

    Interesting that we are now reduced to a series of “Where’s the outrage over Benghazi” articles, rather than actual news, actual investigation, actual revelations. It’s certainly had it’s time in front of Congress, on TV and talk radio. Yet it appears to be petering out.

    Maybe this scandal has run it’s course?

    • pupsncats

      And what happens when there is no outrage about terrorists murdering Americans and no outrage when the federal government lies about everything? Could it also be true that actual news, actual investigations and actual revelations are NEVER going to expose the truth of what happened? Is that OK with you? If a scandal is exposed but no one is ever held accountable does that make unimportant, that it has “run it’s course”?

      • WW4

        Is it OK with you that over 6000 Americans have died since 9/11/2001 in many different, very possibly preventable ways, including diplomatic facility attacks? And I’m supposed to take a botched CIA operation that resulted in the deaths of 4 people all of whom took dangerous jobs knowing the risks as somehow more grave and important than those other 6000? Is it because we can name those 4 individuals, whereas the 6000 is a statistic?

        The botched CIA operation in Benghazi is one of many, many instances where Americans died because something went wrong in an operation. If you are only outraged over these 4 deaths that to me is cynical and phony.

        • NAHALKIDES

          It wasn’t a “botched CIA operation”, it was a terrorist attack on our diplomatic facilities, and a clear act of war, by al-qaeda affiliates empowered by Obama’s reckless and irresponsible foreign policy. As four the Americans who died, there are two separate scandals there: the refusal of senior State Dept. personnel, and possibly Hillary Clinton herself, to provide adequate security when Stevens requested it because of political considerations; and the failure of Barack Obama to send a rescue force. Somebody gave that “stand down” order and we need to know who.

          I have no idea what “6000″ people you’re talking about, but if you’re adding up casualties over a period of years, they have important differences with Benghazi, namely the two items I mentioned above: the failure to provide adequate security and the failure to rescue besieged Americans. George Bush never did anything like this – sorry to burst your bubble, but your guy Obama is a contemptible failure at best, and probably much worse once we get the final proof that he failed to give an order to relieve Benghazi.

        • pupsncats

          Name your sources for “over 6000 Americans have died since 9/11/2001″.

          Please indicate where I stated I was only outraged over the Benghazi deaths. I am outraged about all of the deaths of Americans by Islamic terrorists which our government believes can appease by allowing them positions of influence within the government and cow-towing to their every demand to claim Islam is a religion of peace when it is a religion/political/social ideology of terror, hatred, and violence.

  • Roaring Gnat

    Delay, deny, distort, disparage, diminish, dismiss. The elite in their Marxist-hewn estate need only wait. Most citizens do not care about the issues and many others that do, will grow weary as day-to-day needs take precedence. New tragedies and catastrophes will make the headlines and the scandals of today will be relegated farther into the past. The few that still pursue the scandals will find them covered in the dust of deception and disconnected from those that were it’s cause. Hundreds of wires going nowhere, dangling beneath the corrupted vessel, seemingly dead, but dead merely by loss of interest.

    And there high on the hill, behind tinted windows in opaque castle, evil faces grin…and wait.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Geoffrey-Britain/100003802091841 Geoffrey Britain

      I would add to your “Delay, deny, distort, disparage, diminish, dismiss” the three step process the left follows: Lie, preferably through omission. Revise history to support the Lie. Demonize any opposition. Then adjust as needed and repeat the process as much as necessary until the issue reaches its ‘date of expiration’.

      • Roaring Gnat

        Well put, Geoffrey.

  • USARetired

    Without national media coverage, many people are un aware it is still going on. More O’Bozo agenda, hide it, deny it, lie about it, and they think it will fade into oblivion. NO IT WILL NOT! Especially us veterans will not let that happen, not in this century!

    • EarlyBird

      What’s still going on? We’re still under attack in Benghazi?!!

  • alihusaini

    For someone who claims to be a professor, he gets some of his facts wrong.One, he leaves out the fact that the US embassy was also bombed in Beirut. Two, Hezbollah did not bomb the Marines barracks as Hezbollah was not formed until after those bombings happened. And he conveniently let out that Reagan tuck-tailed and ran after those bombings in Beirut. So Clinton is not the only coward.

    • Drakken

      As someone who was there in Beirut, hezzbollah with full Iranian support, was formed at that time, and I distinctly remember the USS New Jersey one fine morning a few days after the bombing, steaming in and firing those wonderful awesome 16 inch guns at hezzbo, Syrian and PLO positions. So we got a hell of lot more of the savages than they got of us, so nice try at revisionist history.

  • Gee

    The sheer number of scandals makes it hard to keep any single one in focus. This is the most scandal ridden regime in American history. US Grant and RM Nixon were extremely clean in comparison

    • LoJoFo

      Cloward-Piven Strategy. Overwhelm the system to make it collapse.

  • http://shugartpoliticalaction.shugartmedia.com/uncommonsense/ Chris Shugart

    Tyranny is a little bit like organized crime. It’s always welcomed by those who believe they’ll be getting in on the action.

  • BLJ

    No big surprise since the MSM and entertainment industry runs interferance for the Left. Combine this with an ever growing ignorant populace who are more concened with reality TV and video games and there you have it.
    There are also far too many people in this country who are just ingrates. They care only for themselves and always look for the easy way out. They make me sick.

  • GSR

    I’ve been telling my friends this for several years now. We’re not really a country anymore. It’s a fiction and this is what the political elites have wanted. They’ve wanted to flood the US with 3rd world immigrants to “dilute” native born white Americans, who tend to be right of cetner and thus bring about a Big Governmetn socialist utopia. And it has now been achieved.

  • pupsncats

    Haven’t you heard? Benghazi happened so long ago. And according to HITLERy, what’s the difference? Besides, control of us through denying us our Constitutional right to own guns and giving amnesty and handouts to millions of illegal alien criminals are more important than the terrorist murders of any American.

  • Jsjk

    There is also the unresolved (if not suspicious circumstances) surrounding the Seal Team 6 helicopter crash in Afghanistan. I have zero trust given The Thing currently occupying the WH. Yet another occurrence in which American patriots should be demanding answers…

  • Smote

    I think the biggest tragedy of all is that America will fall without ever using its nuclear weapons. President Osama (sorry, Obama) couldn’t give a bugger about anything other than laying the foundation for the Illuminati take-over of the Earth. Unfortunately, for him, the new world order will not be the one he seeks. Like Hitler, he will be consumed by his own ego and hatred and be swept aside. The scary thought is who (what) will replace him.

    RIP, Ambassador Stevens.

  • TeamInfidel

    After KILLING our ambassador, MUSLIMS raised a black flag stating “No god but
    allah, mohammad is the messenger of allah” that was written on it.

    BTW…The black color is because their self-proclaimed terrorist/pedophile prophet’s flag was black as well, as he too used the Muslim testimony of faith on his own flag when he FOUGHT and KILLED for this whacked ideology called ISLAM.

    Just another religiously motivated KILLING all for the glory of freakin’ ISLAM!

    Sure Obama…nothing to see here. Just move it along. Nothing to see here. We arrested the guy that posted the You Tube video. This matter is nothing but a side show.

    What difference does it make? Right Hillary?? Yeah right!

  • netclimber

    Our mighty government cannot protect a simple diplomatic mission? Yet we expect them to protect us and our country? Why has this story gone silent? And why have we yet to send a “real message” to everyone that this type of behavior against the United States is unacceptable, from ANYONE? Because our ‘mighty’ government has let everything slide, from Beirut (1983) to the present time. OUR message seems clear enough. So does THEIRS.

  • EarlyBird

    Where’s the “patriotic wrath over Benghazi”? Well, there IS no genuine outrage, because people realize it was about standard government incompetence, not malice.
    Even the right wing fanatics and propagandists know this in their heart, and just like to hear themselves screech and moan and look for reasons to maul their current enemy, Obama (the next Dem will be just as hated).
    Sadly, we’ve seen these debacles for decades, and this could have happened on any president’s watch. Ask any American and they’ll tell you:
    1.) The US didn’t want to look like we had just built an American fortress in Benghazi after having helped overthrow Gadaffi, so it didn’t provide it nearly enough security.
    2.) The warnings and demands for extra security got lost in the torrent of communications, and also ran up against that desire not to look like a fortress.
    3.) The Islamopsycopaths committed their atrocity and it was horrible.
    4.) The Obama admin didn’t have good intelligence on the ground, in the confusion first misreported the reason for it, and then finally realized and admitted it was the act of an organized terror cell and not just a mob.
    Welcome to modern American bureaucracy, folks. Nothing new here. To suggest that Obama wanted this to happen is deranged. Big, unweildy government bureacracies miss signals, miscommunicate and make mistakes all the time.
    When the “patriots” start venting their wrath about how Bush allowed 9/11 to happen, I might start taking them a bit more seriously.