Grief and politics don't mix. When raw, aching grief and the dirtiest kind of politics meet, a hot volcano of pain and outrage erupts that is unstoppable. But it is necessary. It is the only way things might ever be clean again.
I am thinking of recent casket transfer ceremonies that have taken place at Dover Air Force Base, where senior administration officials have used the solemn occasions -- Benghazi, the shoot-down of Extortion 17 -- less to comfort grieving families than to lay blame; to establish a narrative; to lie.
Think of Sean Smith's mother. Think of Tyrone Woods' father. After the Obama administration's hugs came the Obama administration's stonewalling. They still don't have answers about what happened in Benghazi on the night of Sept. 11, 2012.
We don't either.
We still don't know who in the U.S. government gave the order not to rescue Americans under fire for eight and a half hours, and how and why such an unconscionable order was given. We still don't know who convinced senior White House officials to tell grieving parents meeting their children's caskets that a video-maker, not jihad against the West, was to blame for the assault that took four American lives -- or what the political motivation was.
This is a national disgrace.
But before Benghazi, there was Extortion 17, the call sign of a special operations mission in Afghanistan on Aug. 6, 2011. Three months after the strike on Osama bin Laden, 30 Americans -- including 15 from the bin Laden strike-team unit, Navy SEAL Team 6, and two other SEALs -- were killed in the costliest single-day loss for the U.S. military in the Afghanistan war, and the largest SEAL loss ever. A "lucky shot" in the dark brought down the old CH-47 Chinook helicopter attempting to land them in the middle of an ongoing battle in Wardak Province. Or so the U.S. military claims. The families are not so sure.
Then again, they're not sure about anything. The runaround, the lies, the callous disregard they have received at the hands of the government and military is similar to Benghazi, maybe worse.
"We go to Dover to see bodies, and we're all in the hangar down there," Charles Strange, father of slain SEAL Michael Strange, recalled last week before a rapt audience at the National Press Club, where several Extortion 17 families gathered to call on Congress to investigate. "And President Obama comes up to me and he says, 'Mr. Strange' -- and he grabs me by the shoulders -- 'Michael changed the way America lives.' I grabbed Mr. President by the shoulders and I said: 'I don't need to know about my son, I need to know what happened, Mr. President.'