Now that a select committee has been appointed to look into Benghazi — and about time — I thought I would raise a point of personal privilege. This is something I want conservatives to quit saying, and I will explain why in a moment. I want everybody to stop saying “four Americans died.”
Because of all the stonewalling, we don’t know what will come out of the investigation, but the chances are decent it could easily be pretty ripe. What were our people doing in Benghazi in the first place? If they were brokering an arms deal with Al-Qaeda for use in Syria, just say, then the stonewalling just weeks before a presidential election makes some kind of sense. If when you start stonewalling, when you are all done, you have a stone wall, and a select committee can ask you questions at their leisure about how it got there.
But that’s not the point either.
Let me appear to change the subject for a moment, but not really. When I was in the Navy, when the captain of our submarine was arriving or departing, that fact would be announced over the loudspeaker. “Ray arriving.” His name wasn’t Ray, our ship was the U.S.S. Ray. This is a vestige of an older, covenantal understanding. Covenants have covenant heads, and when you speak, you speak to the head.
Our federal government used to function in covenantal terms. The Latin word foedus, from which we get federal, is the word for covenant. There is also a homograph in Latin which means foul or putrid, but that would take us down another line of reasoning altogether. The federal government is the entity, and the federal head is President Obama.
So when it comes to our dealings with other nations, an ambassador is the covenant representative of our nation. This is why we have such practices as diplomatic immunity — yet another vestige of an older, covenantal time. Killing the ambassador is tantamount to blowing up the White House. It is a declaration of war. That is what it means.
It really is unfortunate that four Americans died. The personal tragedy is not erased by the larger issues. But the larger issues remain the larger issues. Four Americans could have died in a mugging in Berlin, and it would not mean what this event meant.
The real irony is that those who perpetrated the attack knew precisely what it meant, and those on the American right, who have kept this issue alive, still don’t have a clue.