Friday, October 12, 2012

Maybe save it for the post-White House career


smack talking wuss





Yesterday the House Oversight Committee gathered for a hearing.  What was the hearing about?
Committee Chair Darrell Issa:  On September 11, 2012, four brave Americans serving their country were murdered by terrorists in Benghazi, Libya.  Tyrone Woods spent two decades as a Navy Seal serving multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Since 2010, he protected the American diplomatic personnel.  Tyrone leaves behind a widow and three children.   Glen Doherty, also a former Seal and an experienced paramedic, had served his country in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  His family and colleagues grieve today for his death.  Sean Smith, a communications specialist, joined the State Dept after six years in the United States Air Force.  Sean leaves behind a widow and two young children.  Ambassador Chris Stevens, a man I had known personally during his tours, US Ambassador to Libya, ventured into a volatile and dangerous situation as Libyans revolted against the long time Gaddafi regime.  He did so because he believed the people of Libya wanted and deserved the same things we have: freedom from tyranny. 
Issa also noted that some Americans were injured in the attack. Appearing before the Committee were the State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs Charlene R. Lamb, the State Dept's always less than truthful Patrick Kennedy (Under Secretary for Management), Regional Security Officer Eric Nordstrom, and the US military's Lt Col Andrew Wood.   In yesterday's snapshot, we covered a portion of the hearing.  In addition, last night Kat reported on the hearing with "What we learned at today's hearing," Ava reported on it with "2 disgrace in the Committee hearing" and Wally reported on it with "The White House's Jimmy Carter moment."  What does this have to do with Iraq?
A great deal.  No other foreign country has such a large group of people with the US State Dept in it.  Two weeks after the Consulate in Libya was attacked, rockets were launched at the US Consulate in Basra   The White House falsely blamed the attack in Libya on an "angry mob" that got out of control while protesting a video on YouTube.  There was no protest in Libya -- and as Issa noted in yesterday's hearing, the State Dept stated they did not believe there was and did not advance the notion that there was.  But there was a protest at the US Embassy in Baghdad.  Some may scratch their heads over that.  That embassy is in the Green Zone, a heavily guarded section of Baghdad that most Iraqis cannot even enter.  The protest at the US Embassy was one lone person, an MP with Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc.  Whether it has to do with the lies the White House repeatedly told or with the realities of what went down, the events in Libya could have taken place at the Basra Consulate or at any other location across the globe. As Issa noted in the hearing yesterday,  "[. . .]  there are hundreds and hundreds of facilities similar to this around the world, there are thousands of personnel serving this country who -- at any time, in any country -- could be a target." A point made even clearer today with Jeffrey Fleishman and Zaid al-Alayaa (Los Angeles Times) reporting, "A Yemeni security investigator at the U.S. Embassy here was shot and killed Thursday by masked men on a motorcycle in the latest assassination by militants of political and security targets in cities across the country." (Cedric and Wally covered the Yemen violence this morning.)  
I had no interest in the Democratic Committee members yesterday.  As Ruth pointed out in her post last night, PBS' The NewsHour missed the news from the hearing because they instead focused on turning the hearing into a horse race.  There were not equal sides in the hearing.
You had one side focused on finding out what happened and how.  You had another side focused on creating drama -- drama is what PBS focused on leaving their audience highly uninformed.  I was being kind and just emphasizing what mattered in the hearing -- no Democratic contribution to the hearing mattered.  But if you're not getting how bad it is -- from Wally, Ava and Kat's reporting -- then let's note that nonsense began the minute a Committee Democrat spoke.
Ranking Member Elijah Cummings:  Thank you, very much, Mr. Chairman.  And let me be very clear, you said that your side of the aisle grieves the loss of our fellow countrymen.  It's not just your side of the aisle, Mr. Chairman, it's this side of the aisle and our entire country.
Cummings came in spoiling for a fight.  Issa didn't say "my side of the aisle."  He didn't even say "aisle."  Does Cummings need a hearing aid or is "dais" an unfamiliar term?  The Committee members face the witnesses table.  The Committee members are on a raised platform -- a "dais," Cummings -- and at higher level than the witness -- for psychological intimidation, to be honest.  So Chair Darrell Issa stated, "We join here today expressing, from this side of the dais, our deepest sympathies for the families," and the term was "dais."  This side.  That means all the Committee members (and staff) seated and facing the witness table.  Is that clear now?
So which is it, Cummings?   Do we need to buy you a hearing aid or a dictionary?  Let us know and maybe don't use your time to lecture others that "we should listen carefully" unless you're trying to pay homage to Gilda Radner's Emily Latella.
DC Rep Eleanor Holmes Norton is a joke and makes DC a joke.  Don't give us all a lecture about how the right questions need to be asked when you never ask a question and yield your time.  Don't think an hour into the hearing when you want to speak again that you're bringing up Mitt Romney -- no one else had -- is seen as anything but what it was, partisan whoring.  If you're supposed to represent DC, starting acting a hell of a lot more mature, start being a lot more professional.  We've already had Eleanor offer junk science and get smacked down by the FBI during Barack's term.  She seems bound and determined to top that.  You'd think she'd be interested in trying to appear professional.  Instead, she makes herself -- and DC statehood by proxy -- a joke.  Over 20 years in office, over 75 years old, maybe it's time for her to consider retirement?
Only one Democrat did not self-disgrace, US House Rep Dennis Kucinich.
US House Rep Dennis Kucinich:  Mr. Kennedy has testified today that US interests and values are at stake in Libya and that the US is better off because we went to Benghazi.  Really?  You think that after ten years in Iraq and eleven years in Afghanistan that our country, the US would have learned the consequences and limits of interventionism.  You would think that after trillions have been wasted on failed attempts at democracy building abroad while our infrastructure crumbles at home, Congress and the administration would re-examine priorities.  Today we're engaging in a discussion about the security failures of Benghazi.  There was a security failure.  Four Americans including our ambassador, Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed.  Their deaths are a national tragedy.  My sympathy is with the families of those who were killed.  There has to be accountability.  I haven't heard that yet.  We have an obligation to protect those who protect us.  That's why this Congress needs to ask questions. The security situation did not happen overnight because of a decision made by someone at the State Dept.  We could talk about hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts for funding for embassy security over the last two years as a result of a blind pursuit of fiscal austerity.  We could talk about whether it's prudent to rely so heavily on security contractors rather than our own military or State Dept personnel.  We could do a he-said-she-said about whether the State Dept should have beefed up security at the embassy in Benghazi.  But we owe it to the diplomatic corps who serves our nation to start at the beginning and that's what I shall do.  The 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. And, you know, no one defends Gaddafi.  Libya was not in a meltdown before the war.  In 2003, Gaddafi reconciled with the community of nations by giving up his pursuit of nuclear weapons. At the time, President Bush said Gaddafi's actions made our country and our world safer. Now during the Arab Spring, uprisings across the Middle East occurred and Gaddafi made ludicrous threats against Benghazi.  Based on his verbal threats, we intervented.  Absent constitutional authority, I might add. We bombed Libya, we destroyed their army, we obliterated their police stations.  Lacking any civil authority, armed brigades control security.  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. Many of us, Democrats and Republicans alike, made that argument to try to stop the war.  It's not surprising given the inflated threat and the grandiose expectations inherent in our nation building in Libya that the State Dept was not able to adequately protect our diplomats from this predicatable threat.  It's not surprising.  And it's also not acceptable. It's easy to blame someone else -- like a civil servant at the State Dept. We all know the game. It's harder to acknowledge that decades of American foreign policy have directly contributed to regional instability and the rise of armed militias around the world.  It's even harder to acknowledge Congress' role in the failure to stop the war in Libya, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, the war in Pakistan, the war in Yemen, the war in Somolia and who knows where else?  It's harder to recognize Congress' role in the failure to stop the drone attacks that are still killing innocent civilians and strengthening radical elements abroad.  We want to stop the 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.  Now, Mr. Kennedy, I would like to ask you, is al Qaeda more or less established in Libya since our involvement?
Patrick Kennedy: Mr. Kucinich, I will have to take that question for the record. I am not an intelligence expert.
US House Rep Dennis Kucinich: Oh.  You don't have the intelligence, you're saying?  Well I'm going to go on to the next question --
Committee Chair Darrell Issa: Mr. Kucinich, I think the other two may have an opinion.
US House Rep Dennis Kucinich:  Well I wanted to ask Mr. Kennedy.  Next question, Ambassador Kennedy, how many shoulder-to-air missiles that are capable of shooting down civilian passenger airlines are still missing in Libya?   And this happened since our intervention.  Can you answer that question?
Patrick Kennedy: No, sir. I'll be glad to provide it for the record.
US House Rep Dennis Kucinich: You're saying you do not know?
Patrick Kennedy: I do not know, sir. It's not within my normal purview of operations with the State Dept.
US House Rep Dennis Kucinich:  Does anyone else here know how many shoulder-to-air missiles that can shoot down civilian airliners are still loose in Libya?  Anyone know?
Eric Nordstrom:  The figures that we were provided are fluid but the rough approximation is between ten and twenty thousand.
Committee Chair Darrell Issa:   The gentleman's time has expired.  Did you want them to answer anything about al Qaeda growth?
US House Rep Dennis Kucinich:  If anyone there knows.
Committee Chair Darrell Issa:  If anyone has an answer on that one, they can answer and then we'll go on.
US House Rep Dennis Kucinich:   Yeah, is al Qaeda more or less established in Libya since our involvement?
Lt Col Andrew Wood:  Yes, sir.  There presence grows everday. They are certainly more established than we are.
Only Dennis Kucinich conducted himself in a consistent manner.  Regardless of was in the White House, Dennis would have made the same remarks to the same events. 
The rest of the Democrats came in eager to attack the Republicans on the Committee and eager to discredit the hearing.  It was not pretty and did not speak to the better qualities of the United States of America.  It did not speak to 'obstructionist Republicans.'  It did demonstrate that members of the Committee on the Democratic side were more interested in covering for the White House than they were in demanding answers as to how four Americans ended up dead.  It was not a glorious moment for DC.  Since we're spending a second day on the hearing and since we've already done one day's worth of work on this issue, we can take a moment to note that the Democrats were disruptive and distractive.  And that's about all that's worth noting about their embarrassing behavior.
Let's do two excerpts from the hearing for when the State Dept's Lamb was being questioned. 
Chair Darrell Issa: Ms. Lamb, yesterday you told us in testimony that you received from Mr. Nordstrom a recommendation but not a request for more security and you admitted that in fact you had previously said that if he submitted a request, you would not support it.  Is that correct?
Charlene Lamb: Sir, after our meeting last night, I went back and re -- At the time --
Chair Darrell Issa: First, answer the question.  Then I'll let you expand.  Did you say that yesterday?  That you would not support it if he -- if he gave you the request?
Charlene Lamb:  Under the current conditions, yes.
Chair Darrell Issa:  Okay.  And then last night, you discovered what?
Charlene Lamb:  I went back and reviewed the July 9 cable from which I was referring and that was not in that cable.  I've been reviewing lots of documents.
Chair Darrell Issa: Well we have a July 9th cable.  It's one of them that I put in the record --
Charlene Lamb: Yes.
Chair Darrell Issa: -- that in fact has the word "request."  It doesn't meet your standards of perhaps what you call a formal request, you described that, but it does request more assets.  If you looked at the July 9th cable -- and this less than 60 days, roughly 60 days beforehand -- it says summary and action request, "Embassy Tripoli requests continued TDY security support for an additional 60-days."  Now yesterday you told us, under penalty of perjury essentially, that it wasn't a request, it was a recommendation.  Does the word request mean request?  And are you prepared to say today that they requested these assets above and beyond what they had on September 11th rather than that they simply recommended?
Charlene Lamb: Sir, we discussed that there was no justification that normally comes with a request.  That cable was a very detailed and complex cable outlining --
Chair Darrell Issa:  Right. Well we've now read that cable.  And you're right, it is detailed and in several more places expresses concerns.  The September 11th cable from the now deceased Ambassador expresses current concerns on that day.  Repeatedly in the cables that were denied to us, what we see is people telling you that al Qaeda type organizations are coming together.  Now the problem I have is that the State Dept is basically saying that, "Mr. Nordstrom didn't do his job, he didn't make a formal request with justification. The Ambassador didn't do his job.  He didn't make a good enough case."  And that's what you're standing behind here today?  In addition to saying, "Well there were five people there therefore --"?  A embassy -- a compound owned by us and serving like a consulate was in fact breached less than 60 days before -- aproximately 60 days before -- the murder of the ambassador in that facility.  Isn't that true?  
Charlene Lamb: Sir, we had the correct number of assets in Benghazi at the time of nine-eleven for what had been agreed upon.
Chair Darrell Issa: Okay, my time has expired.  To start off by saying that you had the correct number and our ambassador and three other individuals are dead, people are in the hospital recovering because it only took moments to breach that facility somehow doesn't ring true to the American people. 
We'll jump ahead to right after Patrick Kennedy confirmed that privately he was terming the attack a terrorist attack. 
US House Rep Dan Burton: [. . .] because today, as I listen to people, and you, Ms. Lamb, have described these attackers in a number of ways but you don't mention terrorist at all?  Why is that?  I mean the compound had been attacked once before and breached.  And these people had all these weapons -- projectiles, grenades.  All kinds of weapons.  Why would you call this anything but a terrorist attack?  And why do you call them attackers?
Charlene Lamb:  Sir, I have just presented the fact as they've come across. I am not making any judgments on my own and I am leaving that --
US House Rep Dan Burton: Okay.  Well let me ask a couple of other questions. There were 16 troops that were there at that compound and they requested them to be kept there.  And they sent a suggestion to you that they be kept there.  And then you responded saying that if that was presented to you, you would not accept that.  Was that your sole decision? 
Charlene Lamb: Sir, they were not in Benghazi.  They were in Tripoli.  I just want to make sure that we're --
US House Rep Dan Burton: I understand.
Charlene Lamb: Okay.  And when the cable came in where RSO Nordstrom laid out all of his staffing requirements and needs, I asked our desk officer to go back and sit down with him or through e-mails and telephone conversations to work out all the details and line up exactly how many security personnel, armed security personnel did he need --
US House Rep Dan Burton:  Okay, okay.  But you did not agree with that assessment that they needed those there.
Charlene Lamb:  No, sir.  We had been training people --
US House Rep Dan Burton:  I just --
Charlene Lamb:  -- people, Libyans to replace them.
US House Rep Dan Burton:  No.  Did you not say that if that was presented to you, you would not accept it?
Charlene Lamb:  He was posing --
US House Rep Dan Burton:  Did you or did you not say that?
Charlene Lamb:  Yes, sir, I said that personally I would not support it.  He could request it --
US House Rep Dan Burton:  Why is that? Why is that?
Charlene Lamb:  Because --
US House Rep Dan Burton:  You know about all these other attacks which had taken place.  There had been twelve or fourteen.
Charlene Lamb:  We had been training the local Libyans and arming them --
US House Rep Dan Burton:  Well now --
Charlene Lamb:  -- for almost a year.
US House Rep Dan Burton:  -- let me interrupt to say that the local Libyan militia that was there, many of them that were there were supposedly told by friends and relatives that there was going to be an imminent attack on that compound.  And so many of them left.  They didn't want to be involved in the attack --
Charlene Lamb:  Sir, with due respect -- Wait-wait-wait.
US House Rep Dan Buton:  -- so I don't understand why you say out of hand that there was no need for those 16 troops to be there.
Let's move to the man the Democrats on the Committee thought they were serving -- when, in fact, they're supposed to serve the people and they take an oath to uphold the Constitution.  Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor have an important new book entitled The Endgame.  It's a major book that should be inspiring discussions and agreements and disagreements, the op-ed pages and public affairs programs should be focused on this book.  Instead it's largely greeted by silence because the authors commit a mortal sin: They dare to criticize Barack.
But you can't tell the story of Iraq without taking on Barack and his craven nature.
Maybe it would just be considered a venial sin if it weren't an election year?  But here are Gordon and Trainor telling the story of how Barack lied to people and what a big fake he is.  For example, you may remember then-Senator Hillary Clinton came out against the Status Of Forces Agreement in theory (it had been written at that time).  She stated, rightly, that treaties go through the Senate per the Constitution.  She said it and Barack, who never had an independent or original thought of his own had to play myna bird, began repeating it.  Others were in agreement as well.  Senators Joe Biden, Russ Feingold, the entire Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  That's because the Bush administration was going to by-pass the Senate.  And Congress -- House and Senate -- didn't approve of that.
And then Barack got the nomination and created a little page at the website where he and Joe were going to continue to oppose this.  The Constitution, he insisted, must be honored.
Until, of course, that pesky Constitution might cause a problem for Barack.  From the book:
Another important step to facilitate an agreement [with Iraq] was quietly taken by the Obama team.  Throughout the campaign, Obama and his aides had publicly insisted that the SOFA needed to be subjected to Congressional review.  But that raised the possibility that the Iraqis might make politically painful concessions only to see the Americans balk.  Colin Kahl, a political science professor who had been advising the Obama campaign, had been invited by Odierno to Baghdad to participate in a strategy review in October  And he soon concluded that it was in the campaign's interest to support the negotiating efforts in Baghdad.  The SOFA the Bush administration was working on was consistent with Obama's approach and if it failed now the new president would need to spend the first few months of his administration trying to resurrect the agreement -- or dealing with the chaos in Iraq that might result from a hasty American pullout.  Kahl sent the Obama campaign an email urging that it avoid criticism of the agreement.  "If we win the election we don't want to have our Iraq policy consumed by renegotiating the agreement in the early portion of 2009," he wrote.
Suddenly, the Constitution no longer mattered.  But thought this became campaign strategy in October, please note, Barack (and Joe) would wait until after the election to strike the promise from the campaign site. 
What is easiest for Barack is the road to take.  Protecting the Constitution was the road not taken.  Treaties go through Congress and Barack was a constitutional professor (he was no such thing, but the press did love to lie).  Barack was going to restore the Constitution!  Yet before he even won the election, he'd already decided to screw over the Constitution because heaven forbid that his administration might have to do some heavy lifting and negotiate a treaty if the Bush one fell apart in the Senate.

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