Libya

Benghaziiiiiiiiiiii! Report!!

The New York Times headline says it all:

benghazclint

But you wouldn’t know that reading the right wing blogs.

Sure the report condemns many things, but not Hillary Clinton.  Of course, wingnuts will try to blur the lines.

Here’s what the New York Times says:

Ending one of the longest, costliest and most bitterly partisan congressional investigations in history, the House Select Committee on Benghazi issued its final report on Tuesday, finding no new evidence of culpability or wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton in the 2012 attacks in Libya that left four Americans dead.

The 800-page report, however, included some new details about the night of the attacks, and the context in which it occurred, and it delivered a broad rebuke of government agencies like the Defense Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department — and the officials who led them — for failing to grasp the acute security risks in Benghazi, and especially for maintaining outposts in there that they could not protect.

And that seems to be an accurate assessment.  Watch how the right wing plays it though.

For example, the report says “Despite President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s clear orders to deploy military assets, nothing was sent to Benghazi, and nothing was en route to Libya at the time the last two Americans were killed almost 8 hours after the attacks began. [pg. 141]”  [http://benghazi.house.gov/NewInfo]

How is that spun on right wing sites like Hot Air?  “Americans died because the Obama/Clinton team failed to deploy military assets” 

Suddenly, Hillary Clinton was in charge of deploying military assets as Secretary of State.  Did you know that?  And let’s ignore the fact that Obama actually ordered military assets to be deployed.

But let’s pin it on Obama and Clinton anyway.

In truth, the House Benghazi report — while condemning the security in Benghazi, including the State Department’s own investigation — says essentially nothing new that hasn’t been found by prior investigations and congressional hearings.  They fleshed out a detail or two.  And that cost taxpayers $7 million dollars.

Cue sad trombone and sad elephant.

Meanwhile, Trump has not tweeted anything (nor has he tweeted anything about yesterday’s pro-choice Supreme Court decision)

Russian Plane Crash In Egypt

A Russian charter plane crashed over the weekend on the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.  All 224 aboard the Airbus jetliner were killed, with company executives ruling out technical or human error only to be upbraided by aviation officials who called such assertions premature.

The Metrojet flight full of mostly Russian vacationers, bound for St. Petersburg from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheikh, plummeted after reaching cruising altitude, scattering in chunks and bits across Sinai. The lack of information has combined with unsubstantiated claims by the Islamic State that its militants destroyed the aircraft to avenge Russia’s immersion into the Syria war.   The plane had been in the air about twenty minutes when it suddenly plummeted from around 33,000 feet above the Peninsula.

I’ve reviewed the data and in my opinion, this was foul play.  I say this for two reasons:

(1)  Scattered debris.  The parts of the jetliner were scattered over an area of five square miles, meaning that it broke apart high in the air.

(2)  The flight data.

_86423083_russian_airliner_crash_chart_624

As the chart above notes, the aircraft rose in altitude and then drops off.  My guess is that event occurred around 4:12 and the aircraft continued to fly, or at least the section containing the flight data black box continued to fly, upward.  This happened with the Lockerbie explosion as well.

This is inconsistent with ordinary mechanical error or pilot error.

The only question I have, in my non-expert analysis, is whether the plane was impacted from something one the outside, or exploded from the inside.  Piecing together the jetliner will be relatively easy and it will be easy to detect residue, if any, of chemicals or explosive powder.  Sadly, one way to figure out what happened is to examine the bodies for shrapnel from the plane.  If a person has something lodged in him/her from, say, the right side of the plane, and that person was sitting on the left, that would indicate that the fuselage exploded in — i.e., a missile.

Or maybe I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.  But I read about this stuff.

Anyway, with Russia taking an active role in the Middle East now, it clearly has skin in the game.  Maybe the United States would be smart to let Middle East turmoil become Russia’s problem.

The Problem With Trump-Bush-9/11 And Clinton-Benghazi-9/11

I know I’m not the first to bring it up, but there is a huge disconnect going on right now when you tie together to seemingly separate stories.

Trump is saying that since 9/11 happened during Bush 43’s watch, Bush 43 bears some culpability.  This makes Jeb Bush act all defensive, because (he seems to argue) the President cannot micromanage every aspect of national security so he cannot be held responsible for the actions of terrorists.

Fair enough, I suppose, although it begs the question: if that rationale is true, doesn’t it apply to Obama and Hillary Clinton with respect to the attacks on the embassy in Benghazi on the night of 9/11 (2012)?

This point was driven home when Jake Tapper brought up Benghazi in this context:

TAPPER: Obviously Al Qaeda was responsible for the terrorist attack of 9/11, but how do you respond to critics who ask, if your brother and his administration bear no responsibility at all, how do you then make the jump that President Obama and Secretary Clinton are responsible for what happened at Benghazi?

JEB BUSH: Well I — the question on Benghazi which, is hopefully we’ll now finally get the truth to, is was the place secure? They had a responsibility, the Department of State, to have proper security. There were calls for security, it looks like they didn’t get it. And how was the response in the aftermath of the attack, was there a chance that these four American lives could have been saved? That’s what the investigation is about, it’s not a political issue. It’s not about the broad policy issue, is were we doing the job of protecting our embassies and our consulates and during the period, those hours after the attack started, could they have been saved?

TAPPER: Well that’s, that’s kind of proving the point of the critics I was just asking about, because you don’t want to have your brother bear responsibility for 9/11 and I understand that argument and Al Qaeda’s responsible, but why are the terrorists not the ones who are responsible for these attacks in Libya?

BUSH: They are, of course they are but — of course they are, but if the ambassador was asking for additional security and didn’t get it, that’s a proper point and if it’s proven that the security was adequate compared to other embassies, fine, we’ll move on.

Now, had the conversation continued, I suppose Tapper could have reminded Jeb that there was a call to beef up security prior to the 9/11 attacks as well.  We all remember this, yes — which went to then Secretary of State Rice as well as Bush 43?

bin-laden-doc

So how is this different from a communication or email to Clinton saying that embassy security in Benghazi needs improvement?

Jeb went on to defend his brother by saying “it’s what you do after that matters”.  I suppose.  But that highlights another difference: both Clinton and Obama have acknowledged that what happened in Benghazi was indeed a failure on their part (albeit not a direct one).  Bush, Cheney and Rice have yet to do the same re: 9/11.  Just sayin’.

Tripoli, No Benghazi

Keep this in mind when it is brought up in the debate tonight.  According to State Department officials involved, the security requests were for the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Tripoli, not Benghazi, the New York Times reported last week:

In a stream of diplomatic cables, embassy security officers warned their superiors at the State Department of a worsening threat from Islamic extremists, and requested that the teams of military personnel and State Department security guards who were already on duty be kept in service.

The requests were denied, but they were largely focused on extending the tours of security guards at the American Embassy in Tripoli — not at the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, 400 miles away. And State Department officials testified this week during a hearing by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that extending the tour of additional guards — a 16-member military security team — through mid-September would not have changed the bloody outcome because they were based in Tripoli, not Benghazi.

Cartoon Nails It

Boy, if this Oliphant political cartoon doesn't accurately describe Romney's desparation over the past few days, nothing does:

Romney-beclowned

These past few days, Romney has been playing to the crowd that was so outraged by a mosque bgeing built at Ground Zero (by the way, I've been there — you can't see any mosque — it's blocks away).  And he thinks this will help.  Well, sure — if you think you can win by catering to the far right.

How To Overthrow A Dictator

So with the (unconfirmed) news that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has been killed, sounding the end of his 35 year brutal regime in Libya, now would be a good time to pull some lessons on how to actually do dictator-toppling.

Unilateral or coalition?

Iraq, under Bush:  The organized international community was against the War in Iraq, so Bush created what he called "the coalition of the willing".  It was hardly a coalition.  Most countries did not supply troops; in fact, most countries only joined the coalition in return for foreign aid (hence, "coalition of the billing").  It was 90% Anglo-American (mostly American), the U.S. ran the entire operation and made all military decisions, and by the end of the Iraq War, the U.S. was virtually the only nation involved.

Libya, under Obama:  A true coalition.  NATO forces, NATO-led.  In fact, the U.S. involvement was so under-the-radar that most Americans these past few months have been unaware that we were warring with Libya.  

Sidenote: When Obama announced our participation, he was in Brazil.  Conservative skewered him for being in another country when we were facing war in Libya, but they didn't understand that Obama's efforts to minimize our involvement were deliberate.  We were part of a team, not actiing unilaterally.

Time it took to depose leader

Iraq, under Bush: About nine months to depose Saddam (in December 2003)

Libya, under Obama:  About seven months to depose Gadhafi (today)

Time it took after leader was desposed for the U.S. military to be out of country

Iraq, under Bush:  Eight years and counting….

Libya, under Obama:  A few days from now at most

Reputation of United States as world leader as a result

Iraq, under Bush:  Tarnished, particularly among our closet allies

Libya, under Obama:  Not tarnished at all

Cost of engagement in terms of US tax money spent:

Iraq, under Bush:  $900 billion so far

Libya, under Obama:  $1 billion (the amount spent on Iraq every three days)

Cost of engagement in terms of US soldiers lives:

Iraq, under Bush: 4,500 dead; over 32,000 wounded (not including PTSD), and counting…

Libya, under Obama:  Zero dead, zero wounded.  None. Nada. Nyet. 

***********

To be fair, no two theaters of war are the same, and each one requires different tactics.  But that point was lost on the Bushies as they clamorred to invade Iraq.  They lied to the American people and told us it was be a quick cheap war (like the one Obama provided).  Some of us knew better.

The Fall of Ghadaffi

It's amusing to watch the GOP deal with the inevitable fall of Ghadaffi.  They spend the past few months criticizing Obama for going into Libya and supporting the rebels in the first place.  Now that the rebels are on the brink of victory, the GOP cannot find the words to credit Obama's Libya policy.

Think Progress picks up the story:

Republican presidential hopefuls have been offering giving their reactions to the fall of Qaddafi’s regime, giving praise for many involved save for — perhaps predictably — President Obama, who many of them attacked for endorsing the NATO intervention earlier this year.

Rick Santorum: “Ridding the world of the likes of Gadhafi is a good thing, but this indecisive President had little to do with this triumph.”

It’s hard to see how that statement bears any resemblance to reality, considering that many in Santorum’s own party attacked Obama for doing too much in Libya. In fact, Santorum himself accused Obama of “dithering” and”do[ing] nothing” in Libya in April, saying Obama “really missed an opportunity.”

Mitt Romney: “The world is about to be rid of Muammar el-Qaddafi, the brutal tyrant who terrorized the Libyan people. It is my hope that Libya will now move toward a representative form of government that supports freedom, human rights, and the rule of law. As a first step, I call on this new government to arrest and extradite the mastermind behind the bombing of Pan Am 103, Abdelbaset Mohmed Ali al-Megrahi, so justice can finally be done.”

In March, Romney accused Obama of being “weak” with the Libya intervention, suggesting Obama’s foreign policy “can’t prevail.” “He calls for the removal of Moammar Qaddafi but then conditions our action on the directions we get from the Arab League and United Nations,” Romney added. In a blog post for National Review in April, Romney warned of “mission creep” and approvingly quoted former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, who Romney said “rightly notes that Obama has set himself up for ‘massive strategic failure’ by demanding Qaddafi’s ouster.” Of course, Obama’s approach did “prevail.”

Hee-hee.

Dumbest Quote About Libya

I'm not crazy about our intervention in Libya, and I'm among those who think the action is unconstitutional (not that anyone cares anymore about the War Powers Clause — that was dead letter law decades ago).

But this criticism of Obama is just plain stupid.  It comes from Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX):

But then when you find out we're being sent to Libya to use our treasure and American lives there, maybe there's intention to so deplete the military that we're going to need that presidential reserve officer commissioned corps and non-commissioned corps that the president can call up on a moment's notice involuntarily, according to the Obamacare bill.

Video?  You betcha:

 

I guess what he's saying is…. that President Obama joined a coalition to intervene in Libya so he could deliberately undermine the military, creating the need for a separate, secret presidential army, which President Obama can call up thanks to language contained in the health reform law.

The private presidential army thing is a favorite of right-wing chain mails.  It's totally untrue, tinfoil hat, stuff.  Yet here is a Republican representative, spouting it as true.  Bizarre.

RELATED:  At the White House Press Correspondent's Dinner, Rand Paul (of all people) gets in a nice dig at Fox News:

 

"There's a big debate over there," he said. "Fox News can't decide, what do they love more, bombing the Middle East or bashing the president? It's like I was over there and there was an anchor going, they were pleading, can't we do both? Can't we bomb the Middle East and bash the president at the same time? How are we going to make this work?"