BENGHAZI, Congress, Hilary, Helen Thomas, Kucinich, wars & law

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    Source URL: Libya: Policy Bankrupt, Diplomats Dead | Common Dreams

    Published on Monday, October 15, 2012 by Common Dreams
    by Ray McGovern

    If you prefer charade to reality, inquisition to investigation, trees over forest – the House Government Oversight Committee hearing last Tuesday on “Security Failures of Benghazi” was the thing for you.


    Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, *** stated his “personal belief” that “with more assets, more resources, just meeting the minimum standards,” the lives of the Americans could have been saved.

    Unfortunately for Chaffetz and Issa, their star witness, State Department Regional Security Officer Eric Nordstrom, shot a wide hole, so to speak, into Chaffetz’s professed personal belief.

    While joining with others in bemoaning State’s repeated refusal to honor pleas from the field for additional security in Libya, Nordstrom admitted that, even with additional security forces, the attack would not have been prevented. Nordstrom, a 14-year veteran of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, was quite specific:

    “Having an extra foot of wall, or an extra half-dozen guards or agents would not have enabled us to respond to that kind of assault,” Nordstrom said. “The ferocity and intensity of the attack was nothing that we had seen in Libya, or that I had seen in my time in the Diplomatic Security Service.”

    There is also the reality that diplomatic service in hostile parts of the world is never safe, especially after U.S. policy has stirred up or infuriated many of “the locals.” ***

    To recall just a few such incidents: Iranian resentment at longtime U.S. support for the Shah led to the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran under President Jimmy Carter; anger at U.S. involvement in Lebanon led to bombings of the U.S. Embassy and a U.S. Marine barracks killing more than 300 under President Ronald Reagan; U.S. embassies in Africa were bombed under President Bill Clinton; and the violence was brought to the U.S. mainland on 9/11 and also against numerous U.S. facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq under George W. Bush.


    However, in this political season, the Republicans want to gain some political advantage by stirring up doubts about President Barack Obama’s toughness on terrorism – and the Obama administration is looking for ways to blunt those rhetorical attacks by launching retaliatory strikes in Libya or elsewhere.

    Thus, it was small comfort to learn that Teflon-coated John Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, had flown to Tripoli,***

    But Brennan is not about investigation. Retribution is his bag. ***

    So, look for “surgical” drone strike or Abbottabad-style special forces attack – possibly before the Nov. 6 election – on whomever is labeled a “suspect.” Sound wild? It is. *** (This is the same Brennan, after all, who compiles for Obama lists of nominees for assassination by drone.)


    Mindless vengeance has been a popular political sell since 9/11. And so have drones. Both dovetail neatly with Brennan’s simplistic approach to terrorism; namely, just kill the “bad guys” – the comic-book moniker so often used for “suspected” militants, terrorists, insurgents and still other folks with an enduring hatred for America.

    Where is Helen Thomas when we need her! She was the only journalist not to genuflect before Brennan’s inanities, and had the temerity to ask him directly to explain what motivates terrorists.

    At an awkward press conference on Jan. 7, 2010, two weeks after Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab (the so-called “underwear bomber”) slipped through Brennan’s counter-terrorism net and nearly brought down an airliner over Detroit, Helen Thomas tried to move the discussion beyond preventive gimmicks like improved body-imaging scanners and “behavior detection officers” at airports. She asked Brennan about motivation; why did Abdulmuttalab do what he did.

    Thomas: “And what is the motivation? We never hear what you find out on why.”

    Brennan: “Al Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and wanton slaughter of innocents. … They attract individuals like Mr. Abdulmutallab and use them for these types of attacks. He was motivated by a sense of religious sort of drive. Unfortunately, al-Qaeda has perverted Islam, and has corrupted the concept of Islam, so that he’s (sic) able to attract these individuals. But al Qaeda has the agenda of destruction and death.”

    Thomas: “And you’re saying it’s because of religion?”

    Brennan: “I’m saying it’s because of an al-Qaeda organization that used the banner of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way.”

    Thomas: “Why?”

    Brennan: “I think this is a – long issue, but al-Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.”

    Thomas: “But you haven’t explained why.”

    It was no surprise, then, that almost completely absent from the discussion at last Tuesday’s hearing was any attempt to figure out why a well-armed, well-organized group of terrorists wanted to inflict maximum damage on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and kill the diplomats there.

    Were it not for Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, impressionable listeners would have been left with the idea that the attack had nothing to do with Washington’s hare-brained, bomb-heavy policies, from which al-Qaeda and similar terrorist groups are more beneficiary than victim, as in Libya.

    Not for the first time, Kucinich rose to the occasion at Tuesday’s hearing:

    “You’d think that after ten years in Iraq and after eleven years in Afghanistan that the U.S. would have learned the consequences and the limits of interventionism. … Today we’re engaging in a discussion about the security failures of Benghazi. The security situation did not happen overnight because of a decision made by someone at the State Department. …

    “We owe it to the diplomatic corps, who serves our nation, to start at the beginning and that’s what I shall do. Security threats in Libya, including the unchecked extremist groups who are armed to the teeth, exist because our nation spurred on a civil war destroying the security and stability of Libya. … We bombed Libya. We destroyed their army. We obliterated their police stations … Al Qaeda expanded its presence.

    “Weapons are everywhere. Thousands of shoulder-to-air missiles are on the loose. Our military intervention led to greater instability in Libya. … It’s not surprising that the State Department was not able to adequately protect our diplomats from this predictable threat. It’s not surprising and it’s also not acceptable.


    “We want to stop attacks on our embassies? Let’s stop trying to overthrow governments. This should not be a partisan issue. Let’s avoid the hype. Let’s look at the real situation here. Interventions do not make us safer. They do not protect our nation. They are themselves a threat to America.”

    Congressman Kucinich went on to ask the witnesses if they knew how many shoulder-to-air missiles were on the loose in Libya. Nordstrom: “Ten to twenty thousand.”

    And were the witnesses aware of al-Qaeda’s growing presence in Libya, Kucinich asked. One of the witnesses, Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, an Army Green Beret who led a 16-member Special Forces security team to protect Americans in Libya from February to August, replied that al-Qaeda’s “presence grows every day. They are certainly more established than we are.”

    Bottom line: Americans are not safer; virtually no one is safer because of what the United States did to Libya to remove the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. Q.E.D.


    But some things are confounding only to those suppressing their own responsibility for untold death and misery abroad. Secretary Clinton continues to preen about the U.S. role in the attack on Libya. And, of Gaddafi’s gory death, she exclaimed on camera with a joyous cackle, “We came; we saw; he died.”


    The Secretary of State may, arguably, be brighter than some of her immediate predecessors, but her public remarks since the tragedy at Benghazi show her to be at least as equally bereft of conscience as Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and yes-we-think-the-price-of-a-half-million-Iraqi-children-dead-because-of-our-sanctions-is-worth-it Madeleine Albright.

    Like Albright, Clinton appears to suffer from Compassion Deficit Disorder (CDD), especially when it comes to people who do not look like most Americans. (She does make occasional exceptions for annoying people like me who also merit her disdain).

    Given that she is plagued with CDD, it would have been too much to expect, I suppose, for Clinton to have taken some responsibility for the murder of four of her employees – much less the killing, maiming and destruction caused by the illegal attack on Libya. But if she really wants to get “clear-eyed,” holding herself accountable would be a good start.

    Was it dereliction of duty for Clinton to have failed to ensure that people working for her would honor urgent requests for security reinforcement in places like Benghazi? I believe it was. The buck, after all, has to stop somewhere.

    If we persist on the aggressive path we are on, Americans will in no way be safer. As for our diplomats, in my view it is just a matter of time before our next embassy, consulate or residence is attacked.

    Role of Congress

    It is a lot easier, of course, to attack a defenseless Muslim country, like Libya, when a supine House of Representatives forfeits the prerogative reserved to Congress by the Constitution to authorize and fund wars – or to refuse to authorize and fund them.

    At Tuesday’s hearing, Kucinich noted that in Libya “we intervened, absent constitutional authority.” Most of his colleagues reacted with the equivalent of a deep yawn, as though Kucinich had said something “quaint” and “obsolete.” Like most of their colleagues in the House, most Oversight Committee members continue to duck this key issue, which directly involves one of the most important powers/duties given the Congress in Article I of the Constitution.


    From the start, it was highly uncertain who would fill the power vacuums in the east and in Tripoli.

    In short, Oversight Committee members were among those in Congress who thought war on Libya was a great idea, with many criticizing Obama for not doing more, sooner, for “leading from behind” rather than “leading from the front.” Now, they’re making cheap political points from the consequences of a war for which they strongly pushed.


    You see, our friends in Europe covet that pure Libyan oil and Gaddafi had been a problem to the West for a long time. So, it was assumed that there would be enough anti-Gaddafi Libyans that a new “democratic” government could be created and talented diplomats, like Ambassador Christopher Stevens, could explain to “the locals” how missiles and bombs were in the long-term interest of Libyans.


    Small wonder chaos reigns in Benghazi and other parts of the country. Can it be that privileged politicians like Clinton and Panetta and the many “one-percenters” in Congress and elsewhere really do not understand that, when the U.S. does what it did to Libya, there will be folks who don’t like it; that they will be armed; that there will be blowback; that U.S. diplomats, given an impossible task, will die?

    Libya: Precedent for Syria

    Constitutionally, the craven Congress is a huge part of the problem. Only a few members of the House and Senate seem to care very much when presidents act like kings and send off troops drawn largely by a poverty draft to wars not authorized (or simply rubber-stamped) by Congress.

    Last Tuesday, Kucinich’s voice was alone crying in the wilderness, so to speak. (And, because of redistricting and his loss in a primary that pitted two incumbent Democrats against each other, he will not be a member of the new Congress in January.)

    This matters – and matters very much. At a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 7, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, pursued this key issue with Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey.

    Chafing ex post facto at the unauthorized nature of the war in Libya, Sessions asked repeatedly what “legal basis” would the Obama administration rely on to do in Syria what it did in Libya.

    *** Panetta made it explicitly clear that the administration does not believe it needs to seek congressional approval for wars like Libya. At times he seemed to be quoting verses from the Book of Cheney.

    Panetta: “Let me just for the record be clear again, Senator, so there is no misunderstanding. When it comes to national defense, the President has the authority under the Constitution to act to defend this country, and we will, Sir.”


    *** If they see ambiguity in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, they should explain the reasoning behind their flexible interpretation.

    *** Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. During his career as a CIA analyst, he prepared and briefed the President's Daily Brief and chaired National Intelligence Estimates. He is a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).



    Sadly, what has been said does not create a presidential issue, for, as to MENA issues, and as tonight's debate will show, there is little difference between the foreign affairs positions of the two candidates; and such small differences as do exist, do so primarilybecause Obama is backed by JStreet and
    because Romney is backed by AIPAC.

    Since the publication of McGovern's article,
    Hilary has come forward -----
    and for what it is worth, if anything, Hilary has admitted the obvious----
    that State bears the responsibility for the protection of its people.

    Now if Helen Thomas were still active,
    all we now would need is an admission by the Commandat of the Marines
    that among the traditional duties of the Corps is that of defending our embassies,
    and, after all that had been said,
    for us to hear the irrepressible Helen Thomas ask:
    "Why then wasn't the embassy protected?"


    Anyway, somewhere, sometime, someone other than me,
    may yet be heard to say
    that the Libya we destroyed was not a dystopia---
    for among all the MENA nations,
    Libya, as ruled by Gaddafi,
    was closer to a democracy and a Utopia
    than was any other MENA nation.


    Last edited: Oct 16, 2012

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