Foreign Policy

Report on DOD Response to Benghazi Released by House subcommittee

After reviewing thousands of pages of a series of Benghazi-related documents, including classified emails and situation reports, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations released a summary of its members’ particular reviews regarding what is known of the circumstances surrounding the Benghazi attack and the Department of Defense’s response.

According to Think Progress, the Subcommittee concluded that “there was no way for the U.S. military to have responded in time to the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya to save the four Americans killed that night,” but according to the report, “given the uncertainty about the prospective length and scope of the attack, military commanders did not take all possible steps to prepare for a more extended operation.”

In other words, what the Subcommittee concluded appears to sound nothing close to what Think Progress reported.

The White House, the Subcommittee found, failed to address a growing concern related to the deteriorating security situation in Libya, which created a particularly vulnerable situation for U.S. personnel stationed in Benghazi. The Subcommittee also found that the response of our military was “severely degraded because of the location and readiness posture of U.S. forces, and because of lack of clarity about how the terrorist action was unfolding.”

“60 Minutes” on Benghazi: al-Qaeda announced plot online prior to attack

The media has spun much of what we now know to be true about the attack in Benghazi that claimed the life of Chris Stevens over the past year.

A witness to the attack, and what happened afterwards, was recently interviewed for a segment of 60 Minutes on Benghazi. The security officer talked about the frustrating and terrifying experience. He was sent to Benghazi to train the Libyan militia securing the Benghazi mission. He calls himself Morgan Jones.

During the night after the September 11th attack in Benghazi, the former British soldier was able to sneak into the hospital that had been under control of al Qaeda to search for Ambassador Stevens, who had been reportedly taken there after the attacks. The security officer was able to find him but it was already too late, the Ambassador had already been killed.

According to the report, the official statements issued by the White House had absolutely nothing to do with the facts. The attack against the Benghazi mission had been planned. Al Qaeda had posted plans regarding the attacks against the U.S. and the U.K. online before the assaults.

Months before the attacks were carried out, Ambassador Stevens authorized a series of detailed cables to Washington making specific claims of possible threats. He specifically detailed that al Qaeda flags had been spotted flying over government buildings, which could be interpreted as a sign that their presence in the region had been challenged.

Rand Paul delivers response to Obama’s Syria speech

Rand Paul

In an effort to win over the antiwar liberals standing in his way and scare conservatives into taking his side, President Barack Obama delivered a speech regarding Syria that might have left millions of Americans wondering whether their President was just trying to play tough to intimidate critics.

The calls for action as the President described the horrors Syrians have been exposed to during the attack with chemical weapons were powerful, but somehow misleading in light of recent reports regarding the source of the gas used in the attack. According to The Guardian, high-level German intelligence agencies investigated the sources of the chemical attack near Damascus and found no conclusive evidence connecting the strike to Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

His speech was also notable for some of his remarks regarding our role in the international community. After concluding that the United States should act as a global security force and make sure international agreements are being observed, President Obama also claimed he did not wish to see America as the world’s police force. While some skeptics might have felt compelled to back Obama and support U.S. interference with Syria after the speech, some lawmakers remained unconvinced.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was one of them.

Rand Paul made a video response to the President’s speech to remind the nation of this administration’s failure to identify a real solution to the conflict in Syria. According to the Senator, attacking Assad could lead to dreadful consequences, pushing the regime to “resort to chemical weapons in an expanded fashion.”

European countries offer asylum to Syrians, Obama pushes for strike

President Obama’s quest for support in what would be an air strike against Syria has taken much of our attention during the past several weeks.

Since the number of Syrians fleeing the troubled country is increasing, countries like Italy and Sweden have found peaceful, meaningful ways of offering aid without being directly involved in conflicts. Sweden has recently announced that the country is admitting all Syrian refugees who apply, which is a solution to thousands of Syrians whose lives are at a greater risk now that rebel forces are gaining support of radical Islamist groups. On Friday, Italian coast guard rescued hundreds of Syrian and Egyptian refugees off the coast of Sicily. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also announced that 5,000 Syrian refugees would be welcomed next month. The EU member that has offered over 340 million euros in humanitarian aid to Syrian victims is now granting refugee status to fleeing Syrians.

Conservatives unlikely to side with Obama on Syria

It isn’t always quite easy to predict where some conservatives will stand on some issues simply because they have been somewhat inconsistent when faced with matters of great importance to their base, but the unpredictability seems to be withering. Especially when it comes to foreign policy.

In a statement issued Saturday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) claimed he believed that the “United States has significant national interests at stake in the conflict in Syria,” but while Congress doesn’t engage in a full debate into the matter, he sees “no good options” and firmly believes that the President still has quite some work to do to convince them an air strike is the best way to go about this problem.

While Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) congratulated President Obama on reaching out to Congress for authorization before a strike, she didn’t seem to come to terms with the rationale the President is using to justify the attack. According to the congresswoman, “President Obama has not demonstrated a vital American national security interest in the conflict in Syria or a clear strategy outlining what the use of force would accomplish. The American people do not support a military intervention and I cannot vote for one.”

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) also issued a statement after Obama’s announcement. According to Ryan, the President has some work to do to recover from his grave missteps in Syria. He needs to clearly demonstrate that the use of military force would strengthen America’s security. I want to hear his case to Congress and to the American people.”

Pew Poll: A Plurality of GOPers Oppose Intervention in Syria

Pew poll on Syria

According to new survey data from Pew, a plurality of self-identified Republicans oppose bombing Syria to help we-don’t-really-know-who. Across partisan divides, respondents overwhelmingly believe that a U.S. military intervention would elicit significant blowback, and would likely lead to an actual war (as opposed to a strategic, surgical bombing campaign to even the score for the rebels fighting Assad’s regime):

Three-quarters (74%) believe that U.S. airstrikes in Syria are likely to create a backlash against the United States and its allies in the region and 61% think it would be likely to lead to a long-term U.S. military commitment there. Meanwhile, just 33% believe airstrikes are likely to be effective in discouraging the use of chemical weapons; roughly half (51%) think they are not likely to achieve this goal.

Read the full report here (PDF).

Secretary Kerry’s Senate testimony basically undermined the entire Syria narrative

John Kerry testifies on Syria

Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to justify the Obama administration’s proposed strike on Syria. Hagel was typically unclear and confused, Dempsey provided a few strategic details, but to nearly everyone watching, Kerry contradicted himself, tripped over his own feet, and significantly undermined most of the arguments for a strike.

One of the primary motivations Kerry gave was that a strike on Syria’s chemical weapons would help keep them out the hands of terrorists. Then when asked whether Hezbollah already had chemical weapons, he said he would answer in a classified briefing scheduled the next day. As with an invocation of the Fifth Amendment, this doesn’t necessarily confirm that Hezbollah already has chemical weapons, but if they don’t it begs the question why he couldn’t have just said so. He mentioned several other sensitive details about the situation on the ground in Syria, including composition of the rebellion and our tactical assistance to them, so I don’t see how the fact that terrorists don’t have chemical weapons would be classified. That is…unless they do. And if they do, then the primary situation the strike is supposed to prevent is already the status quo.

What Is Going On In Egypt?

Over the past week, swelling protests in Egypt against the ruling regime boiled over, finally giving way to violence. Clashes erupted between secularists (who are aligned with the military) and Islamists (who are aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood); eventually Mohamed Morsi was ousted from the Presidency, exactly one year after he was democratically elected to the office. Egypt now stands on the brink of descending into full-blown chaos, and while Egyptians attempt to move the nation “back to democracy,” they risk losing their whole nation to civil war. This past week has left some wondering what Egyptian democracy even means anymore.

The Bigger Problem with Susan Rice

Much ado has been made over President Obama’s selection of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to serve as the next National Secrutiy Advisor because of her role in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya. But Benghazi is only a symptom of a larger problem with Susan Rice: she’s a hardcore interventionist.

Rice

Since her involvement in the Clinton Administration’s response to the Rwanda Genocide - during which she served on the National Security Council - Rice has never objected to an American intervention.

Now seen as a “voice for intervention,” Rice was quoted in the aftermath of Rwanda::

“I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required.”

Eh, excuse me: Going down in flames?

What’s also concerning is that Susan Rice has viewed foreign policy as an extension of politics; in 1994, she is quoted as saying, “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional] election?”

Holder’s Drone Memo: More Questions Than Answers

In advance of the President’s counterterrorism speech today at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. – where it’s anticipated he will lay out new restrictions for America’s drone programs - Attorney General Eric Holder released a 5-page memo disclosing that, since 2009, America has assassinated four of its own citizens in “counterterrorism operations” - more specifically, via drone strike.

Unfortunately, the memo’s admissions create more questions than answers.

1) The memo asserts that targeting and killing of citizens can only happen outside the U.S., tacitly readdressing the concerns Senator Rand Paul addressed in his 13 hour filibuster. But the right to due process is not contingent on geography; like it or not, these rights extend to citizens overseas. The fundamental assertion in the memo is, as Spencer Ackerman points out, that “Holder defended killing Americans the administration believes to be members of al-Qaeda without due process, a constitutionally questionable proposition.”


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