(Slate) -- Before the tragic deaths of four American and five Nigerien soldiers on Oct. 4, few Americans realized that U.S. troops were deployed to the West African country. While much of the media coverage since then has focused on how long it took President Trump to call the families of the four Americans who were killed, and what he said to them once he did, questions are also now being rightly asked about the incident itself. How could well-equipped American special forces have been ambushed and overwhelmed? Why did it take so long to recover the body of one of the fallen? What was the role of military contractors in this situation? And just what are American troops doing in Niger to begin with?
Those are reasonable and important questions, and the families of the nine soldiers deserve answers. But some normally responsible commentators are delving into speculation about the cause of this crisis that crosses the line from reasonable speculation to irresponsible conspiracymongering.
Case in point: MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. On her Thursday night show, in her trademark “I’m just asking questions” style, Maddow suggested that the Trump administration’s recently implemented travel ban against Chadian citizens might have something to do with the deaths of these soldiers. On Sept. 24, Chad was added to the list of countries in the latest edition of the administration’s ban. This puzzled many observers, as Chad is a major partner of the U.S. in counterterrorism missions. (A CBS report this week suggested that the Chadian government’s failure to provide new passports for analysis was to blame.)
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