Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Benghazi: Imperialist Outpost


I am not naïve.  Embassies have been centers of intrigue, propaganda disseminators, bases for political intervention in a nation’s internal affairs, intermediaries for the promotion of markets and investments, etc., practices not confined to those representing the US, and hardly confined to recent times.  That said, Benghazi (technically, a consulate), signifies, as so much else under the Obama Administration, a qualitative departure from the customary.  Lines are becoming blurred in the table of organization—the State Department, CIA, Pentagon, White House—all, with some rubbing of elbows, have been pressed in the service of imperialism, less cohesive than POTUS would like, but sufficiently unified as to make US embassies active weapons, stalking horses, outposts (whichever you prefer) in establishing, solidifying, and focusing the power of America’s presence in a global geopolitical strategy of military-economic-ideological dominance, loathe, on Obama’s watch, to be relinquished as the world structure itself is in process of decentralizing.  The US is engaged in a Sisyphean struggle as it slides from the post-World War II state of unilateral hegemonic, into a multipolar context of China’s ascendence, Third World emerging industrialization, and  postcolonial mass aspirations.

So much the need for Benghazis everywhere (along with the vast network of military bases) if America is to remain top dog, or at least think of itself that way—until its fantasies are overtaken by reality, at which time even the militarization of diplomacy can be expected to give way to naked displays of power as such.  We’re almost there.  There is something psychopathological about the current political debate on Benghazi, in which both major parties are squaring off against each other, as meanwhile neither one questions the desirability, profitability, and wisdom of imperialism, that which embassies are intended to serve.  And designed to serve: the more unwanted the American presence in a country, the greater the concrete (as though giant bunkers), the greater the military protection, the hulk announcing and embodying US influence, right down to exempting private contractors (think Blackwater under its new corporate name)  for crimes committed against the laws of the penetrated—in some cases, occupied—country.  In the last three days, an article in the Washington Post (May 21) by Scott Wilson and Karen DeYoung and the New York Times editorial (May 23) make clear that Benghazi is but a pawn not only in US domestic politics, but also in spreading America’s  emphasis on paramilitary operations worldwide, beyond what other presidents contemplated, and at one with the program of armed drones for targeted assassination.  Embassies are beachheads for more forward maneuvers, both political and military.

Benghazi was primarily a CIA installation, its “annex” given the cloak of diplomatic immunity.  The Post article details the way David Petraeus, then DCIA, did everything possible to protect the Agency, such as drafting the so-called talking points used by Susan Rice (the present tempest-in-a-teapot fueling inter-party rage) while obfuscating its interventionist mission, while the Times editorial rightly pointed to CIA’s primacy within the consulate, in both cases, although the larger question is not addressed, nailing down that these facilities are often fronts for a range of covert activities.  Politely put—given the role of operatives and mercenaries running loose, itself reason enough for the anger expressed by the crowds, which then turned to violence.  That larger question, still an untouchable (just as drone assassination is untouchable), involves, not cost-benefit analysis, or what others may think of us, or even, the danger of setting precedents which might come home to haunt us, but the intrinsic morality of domination, in its manifold forms, military, economic, political, cultural, ideological, all of which are aided by the Benghazis numbering in the tens if not hundreds.

My Comment on the New York Times editorial, which deserves commendation for its implicit criticisms of the CIA, its presence there, its role in managing the news, follows:

“Reforms are under way,” states the editorial, except the one reform which merits frank discussion: Why these embassies in the first place, because, far from representing traditional diplomatic functions and concerns, they have proven to be the forward edge of US hegemonic intent, such as the massive hulk in Baghdad, or in this case, a CIA outpost? The locals know the score and deeply resent the armed fortresses spread globally, the claims of diplomatic immunity when personnel or the protectors (often private contractors, aka, mercenaries) violate the laws of the country when committing crimes, such as the clearing of intersections when passing through.

Embassies have become instruments of war and/or social control, and, not surprisingly, elicit hostile feelings and attacks. Renounce imperialistic policies, demonstrate good will, keep CIA and related forces out, and I doubt there would be attacks. Nothing is any longer normal, given the total politicization of the American presence  in foreign lands.

Norman Pollack is the author of “The Populist Response to Industrial America” (Harvard) and “The Just Polity” (Illinois), Guggenheim Fellow, and professor of history emeritus, Michigan State University.



Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 27, 2016
Paul Street
An Identity-Politicized Election and World Series Lakefront Liberals Can Love
Matthew Stevenson
Sex and the Presidential City
Jim Kavanagh
Tom Hayden’s Haunting
CJ Hopkins
The Pathologization of Dissent
Mike Merryman-Lotze
The Inherent Violence of Israel’s Gaza Blockade
Robert Fisk
Is Yemen Too Much for the World to Take?
Shamus Cooke
Stopping Hillary’s Coming War on Syria
Jan Oberg
Security Politics and the Closing of the Open Society
Ramzy Baroud
The War on UNESCO: Al-Aqsa Mosque is Palestinian and East Jerusalem is Illegally Occupied
Colin Todhunter
Lower Yields and Agropoisons: What is the Point of GM Mustard in India?
Norman Pollack
The Election: Does It Matter Who Wins?
Nyla Ali Khan
The Political and Cultural Richness of Kashmiriyat
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“It’s Only a Car!”
October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases