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The weekly Daley: A case of bad language

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From page A6 | November 30, 2012 | 19 Comments

Playing the “what did they know, and when did they know it?” game over the attack in Benghazi continues to fuel the fires of conspiracy theorists and self-promoting politicians alike.

National Security expert Peter Bergen says the Republican effort to find something dark and insidious behind the events “doesn’t make sense.” It was an attack in a “chaotic” place that was unrelated to anything else and nearly impossible to predict with any accuracy or to prevent. Bergen also describes the facility as more a CIA “listening station than a consulate.” The deaths of four Americans was a “tragedy” but not the genesis of a Machiavellian “cover-up,” he suggests.

I’ve been skeptical about the issue since well before the Benghazi tragedy. My skepticism is based on the concept of “terrorism.” What is, and what is not terrorism? Different definitions are used by different agencies and entities but they all have elements in common: Violence, fear and intimidation in pursuit of political, religious or social goals. Most of the definitions refer to an “audience” as separate from the “victims.” The audience is the government, society or religious power whose policies are opposed by those who commit the violent act and in whom they wish to engender fear and an ongoing sense of intimidation.

If the “consulate” had simply been attacked and partially destroyed, but nobody was hurt, would we demand that the administration publicly call it an act of terror carried out by terrorists? Who has been terrorized by the attack in Benghazi?

The goal of terrorism is to terrorize. The attacks on 9/11 had that effect for lots of people for some period of time. But America did not continue to be terrorized or intimidated after the first few days. We realized we were vulnerable and took immediate steps to protect ourselves more comprehensively than we had ever thought necessary. We’ve been disrupted for sure, but we didn’t collapse, and another such outrage won’t bring us down either.

The subway bombings in London and train bombings in Madrid should rightly be called acts of terror. Their goal was to kill as many people as possible in very public places and in as violent a manner as could be imagined. It disrupted those cities for some time, but it ultimately didn’t shut them down or put them out of business or scare away significant numbers of visitors. It influenced Spain’s eventual troop withdrawal from Iraq, so in a sense it was successful from the terrorists’ perspective, I suppose.

By comparison, the Benghazi incident shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath. It was part of a  larger story, one battle in a much broader war. The target was (to the perpetrators) a foreign government’s installation that was fairly isolated and poorly protected. Whoever the attackers were, and it’s still unclear, they are believed to represent a small constituency of very conservative Islamists who want Libya to become a state governed by Sharia law.

They only formed after the revolution began in Libya and they have no known international connection from what I can find out. If they had blown up hundreds of their own people in the town square and immediately crowed about it from the rooftops, they could legitimately be called terrorists — pursuing their agenda of bringing down those who currently control their country.

If their goal was to scare Americans away from Libya, it probably wasn’t really necessary. Who in their right mind would want to go to Libya these days?

The Benghazi issue had some political urgency before the election and was used by Republicans to discredit the administration’s claims that al-Qaeda (and by extension a terrorism threat of worldwide proportions) had nearly been eradicated. And the even juicier accusation of a major Obama cover-up had pretty short legs leading up to election day. A majority of Americans didn’t buy that canard then and still don’t.

I would like to see the term “terrorism” and all its linguistic manifestations re-calibrated and downsized to match its specific and traditional concept.

Chris Daley is a staff writer and columnist for the Mountain Democrat. His column appears each Friday. 

 

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 19 comments

  • Phil VeerkampNovember 29, 2012 - 12:46 pm

    Mr. Daley let's stipulate that, "The deaths of four Americans was a ‘tragedy’ but not the genesis of a Machiavellian ‘cover-up’”, is essentially all we need to know about Benghazi. Thus stipulated, how then does one explain the administration's Gordian Knot of contradictions, misrepresentations, feigned ignorance, misdirection and . . . . lies? Where is Hillary? She accepted blame. Then rather gallantly the President invited us to come after him and leave gurlz alone. And is it not curious how it is now discovered that the other woman, Susan Rice, appears to be fatally conflicted with Canadian oil investments. Poor Susan! Obama will have to toss her overboard now that she cannot possibly pass environmental purity test (Canadian tar sands, pipe lines etc.) She would have such a nice Secretary of State. But she’s a Kapitalist! Welcome John Kerry. If Benghazi is so simple how in the world did the administration manage to make such a hash of it?

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  • Phil VeerkampNovember 29, 2012 - 12:49 pm

    She would have been such a nice Secretary of State.

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  • Phil VeerkampNovember 29, 2012 - 3:41 pm

    LINK - Rice’s Holdings in Oil Sands Pipeline May Pose Conflict

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  • James E.November 29, 2012 - 3:50 pm

    Phil, I told you -- even if she is pure on her stocks, it's the straw that breaks the back, as it gives opponents more ammo. I think she would be a great SecState, but its enough to do her in.

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  • James E.November 29, 2012 - 3:52 pm

    *** it's

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  • Phil VeerkampNovember 29, 2012 - 4:01 pm

    I think you're right. Are you not in the least bit curious over this "outing" by the hands of Obama camp enviros?

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  • James E.November 29, 2012 - 4:05 pm

    Phil, who specifically outer her?

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  • James E.November 29, 2012 - 4:09 pm

    *** outed. I really should proofread my stuff.

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  • Phil VeerkampNovember 29, 2012 - 4:53 pm

    working backwards - you (sorta liberal eco dude) "outed" her to me. I researched and found Canadian lib/eco publucations - tonight FOX barely mentions the oil stuff CNBC major coverage - MSNBC, CNN - all substantial coverage - FOX? not so much - go figure - I say she has served her purpose and now she's under the bus - BY LIB operatives!!!

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  • Phil VeerkampNovember 29, 2012 - 4:55 pm

    PS - the administration ought to "sleep lightly" Susan is a toughie. . . . a woman scorned . . . sleep lightly Obama, Hillary et al

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  • James E.November 29, 2012 - 4:59 pm

    Phil, as I've said before, it's a fast track and one stumble and you are out -- bye bye Ms. Rice.

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  • James E.November 29, 2012 - 5:05 pm

    Phil, it will be interesting to see how this all plays out over the next months. She could still be nominated or given a recess appointment. Doesn't seem likely, but who knows.

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  • Jack MartinNovember 30, 2012 - 1:19 pm

    Setting aside Daley's disgusting excuses and hair splitting for the Obama administration, the very simple, verifiable fact is that the White House knew, in almost "real time" that a US AMBASSADOR and three other Americans were under attack. We had military forces close enough to assist. The DECISION was made NOT to. This administration made a conscious decision NOT to assist and then spent the next several weeks spinning every possible theory to cover it up. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/24/us-usa-benghazi-emails-idUSBRE89N02C20121024

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  • cookie65November 30, 2012 - 5:45 pm

    There is nothing like the left attempting to defend the indefensible. It matters not what you do as long as you promote leftism. Interns in the oval office. FBI files on everyone in government hidden in the Whitehouse. Bravely swimming to shore and leaving a young woman to drown. Mayors dealing crack out of their office. Selling a senate seat. Hiding national secuity secrets in your underwear. Fundraising from foreign countries. Fund raising from the Whitehouse. Misuse of public funds. Cronyism, nepotism. Bribery. Real estate deals. Mortagage deals. Fanny and Freddie corruption. Client number nine. Paying mistresses to keep quiet. Using campaign funds to support illegitimate children. Rape. Parking your yacht out of state to avoid the taxes. Lying for a living. Accusing a private citizen of being a felon and not paying taxes on the senate floor. Insider land deals for their own enrichment. Watching our embassy attacked in real time with the deaths of four Americans. Just keep promoting the redistribution of wealth and all will be forgotten. Look how many Americans actually believe those people are there to look out for them.

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  • James E.November 30, 2012 - 6:46 pm

    Cookie, you are such a spoilsport. I've never hidden classified documents in my underwear, so don't knock all liberals.

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  • prime timeDecember 01, 2012 - 3:11 am

    A Second Wave of Genocide Looms in Congo, with Susan Rice on Point

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  • prime timeDecember 01, 2012 - 3:32 am

    Susan Rice: Benghazi May Be Least of Her Problems

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  • Ken BeersDecember 01, 2012 - 6:48 am

    Cookie's laundry list is valid, and it is interesting that he had to go back 40 years to get a pragraph's worth. Of course, the list of republican misbehaviors and criminal acts is 10x as long.

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  • Phil VeerkampDecember 01, 2012 - 10:17 am

    prime time RE Congo - here is a useful "listen" providing context on "M23" Ruandan militia in Congo - LINK - Mark Schroeder, Stratfor - Rwanda-Congo - 9min30sec in

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