Apparently the last Sunday in December is a great time to bust the myths that have festered for the rest of the year. Like the crazy notion that your NFL football team is worthy of making this playoffs (Note: I'm directing this at the people of Texas, for now). Or the idea that a handful of right-wing congressmen had their fingers on the pulse of what really happened halfway around the world in a city called Benghazi, a swirling mass of militias and political allegiances, a place that most of those hurling the most lurid accusations could not have found on a map two years ago.
Enter the New York Times, arguably the last major U.S. news organization with the resources to actually cover news in a remote, war-ravaged corner of North Africa. And when I say "cover," I mean go the places where things happened and talk to the people who were actually there, and take all the time you need to get it right. Indeed, the Times was criticized by some conservatives earlier this year for ignoring the Benghazi story, when the reality was they were hard at work...getting all the fact first.
Today, the Times published its comprehensive report on Benghazi, and the simple summary is that everything that you think you might know about the Sept. 11, 2012 attack that killed four Americans at our diplomatic compound — at least if you're a habitual view of the Fox News Channel — is wrong. There was no link to al-Qaeda in the deadly attack. The major perpetrators were local militias, some of whom the Americans in Benghazi had wrongly trusted. And some of the activity at the compound — and possibly even the precipitator of the entire incident — was caused by the anti-Muslim YouTube.com video that had already caused uproarious protests at other U.S. embassies and consulates.
Added the Times: "A fuller accounting of the attacks suggests lessons for the United States that go well beyond Libya. It shows the risks of expecting American aid in a time of desperation to buy durable loyalty, and the difficulty of discerning friends from allies of convenience in a culture shaped by decades of anti-Western sentiment. Both are challenges now hanging over the American involvement in Syria's civil conflict."
It should be noted that this completely jibes with reports from the Times and from Reuters in the fall of 2012 — also based on on-the-ground, shoe-leather reporting — that the YouTube video had something to do with the attack.
Yet it's a pretty safe bet that this won't be the lessons learned for House Republicans — who will continue to look for the impeachable needle in the Libya haystack and pretend this story was never written — or for millions of dittoheads of the car radio and the Fox-News-fixated who convinced that Benghazi was a bigger cover-up than Watergate, even when their holiday-dinner-table rants rarely moved onto the second sentence of what that cover-up supposedly was. And yes, Virginia — and Texas — as long as there's a Barack Obama in the White House and a Hillary Clinton waiting in the wings, a thousand thoroughly reported news articles like the one today will never silence the cries of "Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi!"