Every media person knows to ensure maximum coverage for a story you put it out at the beginning of the week. That gives pundits five days on the job to comment and amplify it. Conversely, if you are compelled to release information that you’d like to not get that kind of play, dumping it on a Sunday is as good as anything else.
So when you’re the president and you’ve just made another of those tough calls (bin Laden raid!) that risked American lives, in this case, to bring “one of our own” home from a foreign battlefield, it’s kind of odd that the news comes out as it did recently about the “rescue” of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl from years of Taliban captivity. Where are the tense you-are-there photos of Obama in the Situation Room like with bin Laden? The info-graphics of the high-tech gear our brave Special Forces used in the op? The leaked stories about how agonizing it all was for the president?
It was almost as if Obama was ashamed of what he did. Likely, he is. And it’s all because of Guantanamo.
Bowe Bergdahl and the Taliban
It remains very unclear how Bowe Bergdahl ended up with the Taliban. There are clear suggestions that he willfully left his own unit. Without surprise, Fox News has the inside story from “senior Pentagon officials” laying out that case. Some soldiers in his former unit straight-out called him a deserter who aided the enemy and put American lives in danger. Maybe yes, maybe no, but definitely not the issue.
One way or another, the United States owes its service members the ride home. They may face military court, or simply return to their lives, but leaving anyone behind is not right. But questions over Bergdahl’s motivations and actions are not what embarrases Obama.
Back to Guantanamo
The process that led to Bowe Bergdahl’s heading home is where we need to focus, and it points right back at the scab of Guantanamo.
Since Day One of his presidency, and often repeated over the last six years, Obama said he wants to close Guantanamo. He should. Gitmo is an ugly stain, an off-shore penal colony where America daily commits violations of international standards once done only by its scummiest enemies. Gitmo’s existence is a powerful recruiting tool for bad guys everywhere, living proof that what they say about America is true. One only need look at the limited pictures available, or read the dribs and drabs of information that come out. Guantanamo proves we are our own worst enemy, and theirs.
So close it already. Wait– Obama says he’d love to, but for a couple of problems. The two primary ones, the president has often said, are that some/many/a few of the people held there are hardened terrorists. They can’t be released without some assurance they will not return to the battlefield, and that’s damned hard to find.
The second thing Obama just can’t get around is Congress, whom he keeps saying has tied his hands on this.
Bad Boys: What’re You Gonna Do?
The thing is that all those “reasons” were tossed aside pretty casually this weekend to get Bowe Bergdahl home. Five Taliban prisoners at Gitmo, among the worst of the worst (the U.S. government previously called one of them “one of the most significant former Taliban leaders detained”), suddenly got approved for a flight out. Those hard-to-find assurances that the baddies would not return to the fight were rubber-stamped by the Emir of Qatar. The ever-supportive Susan Rice piped up with the details: “…The Taliban prisoners [are] being monitored and kept in a secure way in Qatar.” The assurances include a one-year travel ban out of Qatar. Right. So that’s sorted.
Obama added “The Qatari government has given us assurances that it will put in place measures to protect our national security.” The assurances are apparently recorded in a memorandum of understanding between the U.S. and Qatar, a copy of which Obama declined to release.
There was not even much discussion over releasing the five. The process for getting there was rushed, according to U.S. intelligence officials. This time around there was no formal intelligence assessment for example of the risks posed by releasing the Taliban commanders. While some intelligence analysts looked at the issue, no community-wide intelligence assessment was produced.
And About That Congress Thing
As for Congress tying his hands, Obama was referring to statutory restrictions on the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay. The statutes say the Secretary of Defense must determine that a transfer is in the interest of national security, that steps have been taken to substantially mitigate a future threat by a released detainee, and require the secretary notify Congress 30 days before any transfer.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel stated unambiguously he did not notify Congress. At all. Just didn’t.
Administration officials explained when Obama signed the bill containing the latest version of the Gitmo transfer restrictions into law, he issued a signing statement claiming that he could lawfully override them under his executive powers. Signing statements were made popular during the Bush-Cheney years, and are essentially a fuzzy addendum that even though the president is signing a bill into law to avoid a veto fight, he just may not follow the actual law he just signed if he does not wish to.
Another “administration official” added the circumstances of a fast-moving exchange deal made it appropriate to act outside the statutory framework for transfers, even though that statutory framework for transfers does not provide for any such circumstances.
A funny thing is that just five days ago, Hagel was asked about the release of some other prisoners out of Guantanamo. Uruguay had agreed to accept them, but Hagel was not sure:
Hagel said he was taking his time in reaching a decision about six detainees Obama had discussed with Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, as well as other detainees, in order to be sure that releasing them was the responsible thing to do. “I’ll be making some decisions on those specific individuals here fairly soon,” he told reporters.
Hagel said the U.S. Congress had assigned him the responsibility of notifying it of a decision to release detainees.
“My name goes on that document. That’s a big responsibility,” he said. “I have a system that I have developed, put in place, to look at every element, first of all complying with the law, risks, mitigation of risk. Does it hit the thresholds of the legalities required? Can I ensure compliance with all those requirements? There is a risk in everything… I suspect I will never get a 100-percent deal.”
What a difference a few days can make, right Chuck Hagel?
It is time. The Bowe Bergdahl episode proved that Obama can close Guantanamo, and he can do it quickly. Assurances of America’s safety, even from nasty Taliban leaders, require just a stroke of a pen from characters like the Emir of Qatar. Hands tied by Congress? Obama just went ahead anyway and is sitting back watching Congress fume. That whole business about not negotiating with terrorists? Um, not anymore. The fact that Bergdahl was held in ally Pakistan for five years, just like they harbored bin Laden? Whatever. People the U.S. captures are not POWs under the Geneva Conventions but we still do prisoner swaps? It’s complicated. Swapping prisoners 5 for 1? No problem.
There is nothing stopping Obama from closing Guantanamo now except Obama.
Mr. President, how about this? There are now some 143 human beings still being held in Guantanamo. Next prisoner swap that comes up, why not trade 143 for 1 and kill two birds with one stone?
BONUS: Susan Rice told CNN, when asked whether this meant that the United States could no longer claim that it does not negotiate with terrorists, that she “wouldn’t put it that way.”
Rice also opined that Bergdahl “served with distinction,” despite significant evidence to the contrary.
“We didn’t negotiate with terrorists,” Hagel said in an interview on NBC. Since the negotiations were handled mostly by Qatar, the United States did not negotiate directly with the Taliban. The administration’s announcement of Bergdahl’s release said only that negotiations began several weeks ago through the government of Qatar, and there was no indication of any direct contact between the United States and the Taliban.
BONUS BONUS: Chuck Hagel, I’ve met you, and we all know your personal story. When you were a Senator, you and your staff went out of the way to do the right thing. I saw it. You had balls. So how do you live with yourself nowadays?
Readers may recall D. Inder Comar, a San Francisco lawyer who is seeking to do what the Obama Administration refuses to do, hold the Bush Administration accountable for the unnecessary invasion of Iraq and its ongoing, horrific, aftermath.
On March 13, 2013, Comar filed two lawsuits in California against George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz on behalf of an Iraqi client and himself. He alleges the defendants planned and waged a “war of aggression” in violation of laws set down at the Nuremberg Trials in 1946 and seeks to hold the defendants personally liable for their actions.
Well, we can’t have that.
So, because every other problem in America has been resolved, Obama’s Department of Justice requested that the Bush Gang be granted procedural immunity. DOJ claims that in planning and waging the Iraq War, the Bushies acted within the legitimate scope of their employment and are thus immune from suit. This is the “Westfall Act Certification,” defense, submitted pursuant to the Westfall Act of 1988. The Act permits the Attorney General, at his or her discretion, to substitute the United States as the defendant and essentially grant absolute immunity to individual government employees for actions taken within the scope of their employment.
To save you non-lawyers the expense of a Google: In 1988, Congress amended the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) to reinforce federal employees’ immunity from tort actions. These amendments — commonly known as the Westfall Act because they were a response to Westfall v. Erwin, 484 U.S. 292, 300 (1988) — provide that an action against the United States is the only remedy for injuries caused by federal employees acting within the scope of their employment. 28 U.S.C. SS 2679(d)(1). There some limited exceptions to when Westfall can be used, such as an action “which is brought for a violation of the Constitution of the United States.” Hmm.
Now to be fair, this is actually a fairly standard defense by the government. The idea in theory is that if a government official follows the rules and say, denies you a passport lawfully because you did not present the required documentation, you can’t sue the guy. I can say in my own State Department career assisting American Citizens abroad, most of whom had been arrested for something (top three reasons for arrest: drugs, drugs and drugs), more than one wanted to sue me personally because of something well out of my control, such as a foreign judge thought they were scum sucking freaks. I was just doing my job, and followed the rules, and thus the government protected my actions.
Still, while understanding the Department of Justice wants to just dismiss cases like Comar’s as routinely as possible, it leaves a sour taste to learn that the current administration wants to immunize the Bushies over a terrible war that nearly bankrupted America and resulted in so many needless deaths.
Comar does raise a good point: since much of the planning for the Iraq War was done long before guys like Rumsfeld, Rice and Wolfowitz actually took office, they should not be protected by Westfall. In addition, there is that “violation of the Constitution of the United States” clause that must figure into this all somehow.
The ongoing case against Bush is Saleh v. Bush (N.D. Cal. Mar. 13, 2013, No. C 13 1124 JST).
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa announced three witnesses will appear at a full committee hearing, “Benghazi: Exposing Failure and Recognizing Courage,” on Wednesday, May 8, 2013.
The witnesses are Mark Thompson, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Counterterrorism, Gregory Hicks, former Deputy Chief of Mission/Chargé d’Affairs in Libya and Eric Nordstrom, Diplomatic Security Officer and former Regional Security Officer in Libya. Only Nordstrom has testified publically before, basically pointing out tactical security failures.
“I applaud these individuals for answering our call to testify in front of the Committee. They have critical information about what occurred before, during, and after the Benghazi terrorist attacks that differs on key points from what Administration officials – including those on the Accountability Review Board – have portrayed,” said Issa.
Gotta Be Said
OK, let’s get this initial stuff out of the way. Yes, yes, there are lots of important things about America Congress should address, but yes, this hearing is happening, And yes, of course it is aimed at Hillary 2016.
But to play fair, Hillary 2016 is a big deal. If the election were held today, she’d be the next president. So maybe, albeit with some political mud slung alongside, we should pay attention to how she acted, how she failed to act, and whether she enjoyed some sort of coverup/soft-sell over what really happened in Benghazi. To paraphrase Mrs. Clinton’s own political rhetoric, we need to know how she’ll act when that tragic 3am phone call comes through. While past performance is no guarantee of future success or failure, it is how the smart money should bet.
So let’s preview what might happen in the upcoming hearing.
1) Easy Stuff: Lots of shout-outs to fallen colleagues, grieving relatives, brave troops, yeah, yeah.
2) The Basics: Lots of in-the-weeds failures to be detailed. Interesting to see if much of this will be blamed on the Libyans, who should have intervened, or soft-pedaled along the lines of “mistakes were made.” Also, budgets cut, requests ignored. At great cost. To fallen colleagues.
Someone else has already neatly discredited the story that some sort of special ops mission could have saved lives in Benghazi, including the possible use of Avis rental cars from their Benghazi outlet. Expect a fair amount of inconclusive, uninformed speculation about what the military should or could have done, but it is likely to hover above disagreement over tactics and below some sort of conspiracy-level move.
Not to be discussed: How Obama’s intervention created a power vacuum in eastern Libya, which eventually led not just to this attack but the sacking of Mali, which was prevented only by the French military with U.S. help, essentially a new war to fix the mistakes of the previous war.
3) The Coverup: Expect Susan Rice to be re-thrown under the bus, then thrown again one more time for good measure. Rice, you’ll recall, pretty much got on national tee vee the Sunday after the Consulate attacks and told fibs, blaming it all on some dumb anti-Muslim movie and trying to avoid any mention of terrorism. She is widely held to have tried to soft-pedal the attack in the run-up to Obama’s re-election in November 2012. Obama was bleating about defeating al Qaeda and crushing bin Laden with his bare hands at the time, so no one wanted a “successful” terror attack on the news. Rice was the designated messenger, with Hillary’s excellent sense of avoiding trouble guiding her into not making substantive statements about her own Consulate and her own Ambassador being murdered.
There will also be a string of sleazy emails, featuring then-State Spokesdrone Victoria Nuland trying to rewrite the talking points to protect Hillary and, if possible, Obama. Absent some real surprise, these are unfortunately business as usual in Washington now. Don’t expect any discussion on how every administration seeks to buffalo the public and the media to its own advantage. Also, drones like Nuland are trained to never mention their boss’ name– Hillary Clinton– per se in any communication. They just say things like “our leadership” or “higher authorities.” This is a clever trick to ensure no name-retrievable documents are ever created, and allows deniability over to whom she was actually referring. It’s inside Washington stuff they don’t teach you at Georgetown kids!
After weeks of delays in late 2012, to include a self-inflicted concussion, as expected, Hillary Clinton’s perfunctory testimony on the deaths of four Americans in Libya a) took “responsibility” for Benghazi in words alone, shucking blame and (in)action onto others, b) wrapped herself in the flag to shout down her questioners and c) revealed nothing new. Always eyes on the 2016 prize, that one.
The re-death of Rice has been clearly signaled by the former Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya, Gregory Hicks, in his leaked statements slathered all over CNN. The Republicans will go red meat crazy over all this, but they won’t find any smoking gun at the White House or from Hillary Land. Both are too clever, even if they were involved, and Rice was too gullible and too disposable. Poor Susan Rice, she even now on Twitter is just a shell of her old self. Whereas pre-Benghazi she’d often be calling for the blood and stones of some dictator, her Tweets now are just sad little acknowledgments of some International Women’s Day or the like. She’ll hang around the UN where she does not matter and is outside Washington, or drift into some make-work academic slot. Bye.
Proof that Rice is finished? Biden just confirmed the President’s “confidence” in her, even though no one asked.
4) The Big Money Shot: How high did State Department malfeasance for the Benghazi attack go?
Here’s where the action is. State’s own internal review, the so-called After Action Review Board, pinged only some relative worker bees, sending them into administrative leave purgatory. The highest ranking person spanked just changed job titles. The Board, hand-selected by Hillary, never even bothered to interview Hillary. Will the hearing find a way to stick some blame on her? Expect no discussion about the After Action process itself, or why Obama has not appointed an Inspector General for the State Department, a job empty since 2008.
Or maybe not. Hicks’ leaked statement aims a bit higher, but only it seems as high as Under Secretary for Management slug Pat Kennedy. Inside State, this is a big deal, as Kennedy effectively runs the bureaucratic, administrative and personnel sides of the State Department and is thus a very powerful man in there (Diplomatic Security reports to him.) However, outside of State (i.e., on Fox News) he is a nobody. Still, if Kennedy were encouraged to retire after this, an awful lot of garbage would go out the door at State with him, to the betterment of the organization.
If Kennedy is as high as it goes, it goes nowhere really. Kennedy is well-known for throwing himself on his sword to save his Boss, and the likelihood of him implicating Hillary is precisely zero.
Zero with extreme prejudice.
And in the End?
Prediction: Much smoke, nothing more, at least a default win for Hillary 2016, even more for her if Issa makes an idiot of himself.
There is a school of physics, or maybe science fiction, it doesn’t matter, that posits if matter and anti-matter collide it will be the end of the universe. Collapse of the time-space continuum, regression of the speed of light, that sort of thing. We can say now that such theories are wrong, having witnessed a great collision of reality and anti-reality at the Bush Library opening and lived to tell the tale.
Last week found us wallowing in the opening of the Bush Library in Texas, a monument to George W. and his eight year reign of terror in America. The library opening also signified the opening shots of Bush revisionism, the signal that all loyal or ignorant (perhaps loyal and ignorant?) pundits should start trying to make up a new version of reality to replace the evil, horrible crap that really happened between 2000-2008.
Leading the pack was Charles Krauthammer (the name is somehow not a punchline of its own), who reminded us of how wonderful the Iraq War really was. Krauthammer fapped:
Finally, the surge, a courageous Bush decision taken against near-universal opposition, that produced the greatest U.S. military turnaround since the Inchon landing. And inflicted the single most significant defeat for al-Qaeda (save Afghanistan) — a humiliating rout at the hands of Iraqi Sunnis fighting side-by-side with the American infidel.
As with Lincoln, it took Bush years of agonizing bloody stalemate before he finally found his general and his strategy. Yet, for all the terrible cost, Bush bequeathed to Obama a strategically won war.
Wow. That’s enough to make an old man proud. Out of breath here, gimme a minute, OK…
Meanwhile, in the real Iraq, last week saw the deaths of some 200 people, mostly those perky Sunnis Krauthammer writes about, in combat against the dominate Shia regime (Krauthammer at least got it right that it was a civil war.) The fighting escalated to the point where Sunni fighters briefly took over a town and had to be killed by the Iraqi army to restore Shia order.
Also among the Sunni dead last week were two Sahwa (“Sons of Iraq”) leaders, gunned down with silenced pistols in a classic assasination. The Sahwa of course were America’s creation, the Sunnis willing to fight on our side for money.
The killings noted above were preceded by a series of pre-election bomb blasts across Iraq that killed at least 42 people and wounded more than 257 others. Suck on that Boston!
The whimpering U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was roused from its absinthe-fueled haze to issue a bland statement that “raised concerns” about the Sunni-Shia clashes, without of course assigning blame. It again called for an “urgent and transparent investigation.” And get this line, delivered without irony: “The United States stands firmly with the Iraqi people who seek to live in peace after so many decades of war.” Hah hah, it’s funny because it was the U.S. that created those decades of war! It’s like SNL, the good years!
But the most significant sign of Iraq’s state of democracy was that Iraqi authorities announced Sunday they revoked the operating licenses of pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera and nine other satellite TV channels, alleging that they are promoting a “sectarian agenda.” That agenda seems to include reporting on more than the wonderfulness of the Shia Maliki government, hence the censorship.
Now if you want to be sad, read this bit of revisionism, as one American soldier continues to imagine his time in Iraq “made a difference.” You understand the politicians and the pundits say their stupid things for gain or money, but this soldier is just plain sad trying to make his sacrifice seem worthwhile. My heart goes out to him in his ignorance of how he was used.
So, that all clearly justifies 4,462 American and 122,000 Iraqi dead under Bush’s war. Moving on…
Bonus: Condi Rice explains why Bush-era torture was OK (Turns out it was all nice and legal)
Extra Bonus: Handy guide, “How to Debunk George W. Bush’s Attempts at Revisionism,” neatly destroys the “but he kept us safe” myth.
Today, the writer is D. Inder Comar, a San Francisco lawyer who is seeking to do what the Obama Administration refuses to do, hold the Bush Administration accountable for the unnecessary invasion of Iraq and its ongoing, horrific, aftermath. Here’s what Comar has to say:
On March 13, 2013, I filed two lawsuits in the Northern District of California against George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz on behalf of an Iraqi client and on behalf of myself as a United States citizen.
My Iraqi client, Ms. Sundus Saleh, alleges that these defendants planned and waged a “war of aggression” in violation of laws set down at the Nuremberg Trials in 1946. She has exercised the jurisdiction of the court through the Alien Tort Statute, a law passed by the first Congress in 1789. She seeks to hold these defendants personally liable for their actions.
My case seeks to set new precedent regarding the obligations of government leaders. I am asking the court to acknowledge that I have a common law and/or constitutional right (premised in the First Amendment) to receive honest and candid information from government officials with respect to war and peace. I have also alleged that the defendants violated California’s false advertising law in planning and waging the Iraq War.
I am handling these cases completely pro bono. I have litigated numerous cases in the federal courts, both as an associate for a major law firm and now on my own. I want to win these cases, both for my client and for myself.
But these lawsuits won’t go anywhere without the help of people like you.
First, the more people who care, the more likely the courts will care. Take the Prop 8 litigation: that legal case has acted as a spearhead for a larger movement that is recognizing that the Constitution cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation. These lawsuits need similar support for the idea that leaders cannot deceive and mislead the public, particularly in matters of war and peace, and remain unaccountable. With the Supreme Court tightening access to the courts (even with the Alien Tort Statute in the very recent Kiobel decision), the courts need to know that people want to hold leaders accountable under law.
Second, my firm is a small San Francisco boutique that is primarily involved in corporate counseling and court appointed trial and appellate work. I will shamelessly admit that I cannot handle these cases alone! I need the support of passionate, intelligent and thoughtful people to secure the court orders that I want for myself and for my client.
As Americans, we are fortunate to have a functioning judiciary. Today, there are millions of people living in other countries who would be killed if they dared to question their leaders. In America, we are heirs to an 800 year tradition extending back to Magna Carta that says no one is above the law – not even the king. And George W. Bush was no king.
Please join me to make this trial a reality. You can help by supporting our fundraising campaign at indiegogo, by spreading the word about the lawsuits, and by reaching out to me (inder at comarlaw dot com) if you want to get involved.
Please help me hold our leaders accountable to prevent another Iraq War.
Lamb to the Slaughter
One of the high level employees who was reassigned/resigned/was terminated because of Benghazi was Charlene Lamb.
Ms. Lamb’s initial appointment to her position in Diplomatic Security was opposed by a number of career Department of State employees, we are told. Her biography has been disappeared from the State Department web site but is still alive in the Cloud.
Sources inside State say objections to Lamb’s hiring were at the time overridden by Cheryl Mills, the Number 4 at State. Ms. Mills is a Clinton political appointee (see below).
As a result, Lamb was terminated in order to prevent the inquiry from reaching higher, into the Secretary of State’s offices, where one could point the finger at Clinton for insisting on Lamb. Lamb in kind took the fall for Clinton, in what one commentator called a “bureaucratic firewall.”
As we now know, the Benghazi facilities were CIA, and not State Department, offices. There were no permanent State Department employees assigned to either building in that city. State merely provided the cover story on the ground, over the air via Susan Rice’s lies about that stupid anti-Islam video, and now in person as Congress looks for someone to blame so this can all just go away.
Where was Hillary?
Lamb being disappeared also closes off a line of inquiry into exactly what Clinton was doing the night of the attack on Benghazi.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Charlene Lamb testified that on September 11, after the “full-scale assault” in Libya — “unprecedented in its size and intensity” — began about 9:40 p.m. Libyan time (4:40 p.m. Washington time), she was “in our Diplomatic Security Command Center [in Washington] monitoring multiple open lines with our agents [in Libya] for much of the attack.”
A few days later a CNN reporter asked Hillary Clinton what she was doing as the attack occurred, and Clinton responded with a 400-word answer that avoided the question. Here is part:
QUESTION: … could you tell us a little bit about what you were doing when that attack actually happened? I know Charlene Lamb, who as the State Department official, was mentioning that she back here in Washington was monitoring electronically from that post what was happening in real time. Could you tell us what you were doing? Were you watching? Were you talking with the President? Any details about that, please.
SECRETARY CLINTON: … I think that it is very important to recognize that we have an investigation going on… So that’s what an investigative process is designed to do: to try to sort through all of the information, some of it contradictory and conflicting… So I’m going to be, as I have been from the very beginning, cooperating fully with the investigations that are ongoing, because nobody wants to know more about what happened and why than I do. And I think I’ll leave it at that.
QUESTION: Mrs. Secretary, if you could, the question was –
SECRETARY CLINTON: I know, but I’m going to leave it at that.
Later that same day, the State Department spokesperson was asked why Clinton hadn’t answered, and provided this response:
As you know, she’s not that interested in focusing on herself. But obviously, she was here very late that night. She was getting regular updates from both the DS Command Center and the senior NEA leadership in the building, she was making phone calls to senior people, and so she was obviously very much involved. But I think she was not interested in sort of giving a personal tick-tock. It’s not the way she operates.
Who is Cheryl Mills?
Cheryl Mills is an interesting person to have her name pop up in connection with covering Clinton’s role in Benghazi. As deputy counsel, Mills sat at the epicenter of the scandals in the Clinton White House for seven years, eventually delivering an impassioned defense of the president during his 1999 impeachment trial. Mills left the White House soon after, but her performance earned her a place in the hearts of the former president and his wife. When Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pursued the presidency almost a decade later, she tapped Mills to be her senior adviser and counsel on the campaign. As her campaign imploded, Mills acted as a de-facto crisis manager.
The Washington Post describes Mills as “close with many of the women in “Hillaryland,” including Ambassador-at-Large for Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer; senior adviser to Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Health Reform Neera Tanden and Judith McHale, undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs.”
David Petraeus, head of the CIA when its offices were overrun in Benghazi, is gone, victim of an FBI email love-trap sting that still makes little sense except as a political assassination. We won’t be hearing from him. Susan Rice, who was voted to try and pass off some lies about an anti-Islam movie to cover this all up, was thrown under the bus and we won’t be hearing from her again. Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State at the epicenter, has been incommunicado for over a month with a series of excuses and will be resigning soon.
Why is it so hard to learn answers to some very basic questions about the decision-making behind Benghazi?
(no link to source, fact or why anyone would say this unless tripping on bad mushrooms)
Source material: US denied access to terror suspect tied to Libya attacks
BONUS! Spelunking down into the Susan Rice Twitter stream, one notices that a) all of her Tweets regarding how the Benghazi Consulate attack was related to that anti-Islam video have been deleted and b) Rice follows the Obama for President political campaign Tweets but not the Romney political campaign Tweets, which seems to say something about whether she thinks she represents “America” at the UN or the Obama Campaign. This also seems at variance with the Hatch Act.
Hah hah, fooled you. Susan Rice only cares about representing Susan Rice’s political future and could give a flying f*ck for American or the Obama Campaign.
Well, luckily we are free of such restraints in modern Washington. Indeed, over a month after the predictable and possibly preventable deaths of four Americans at the US Consulate in Benghazi, Hillary Clinton said “I take responsibility.”
What does that mean?
Hillary did not take responsibility on September 11 when the attacks took place. She instead made self-serving statements about bravery (of others) and sacrifice (of others).
Between October 3 and October 12 Hillary made no public statements at all about the Libya disaster, allowing others to bleat in her place.
Hillary did not take responsibility at recent Congressional hearings. She did not even show up. She sent others to testify. Not a one of them said Hillary was responsible, or even involved, in the deadly mistakes State made. None of them mentioned her by name.
Hillary did not take responsibility during the Vice Presidential Debates.
BlameResponsibility was assigned to the anonymous “intelligence agencies” by the Vice President and Hillary sat quiet.
If Hillary is now indeed responsible, let’s see her resignation. Better yet, she can start to act responsibly. Let’s hear her publicly and unambiguously tell us what her role in the decision-making was. Let’s see her demand the State Department’s own Accountability Review Board, now five weeks after the attack, issue a report sometime this decade (or at least before the election.) Let’s hear her exonerate the loyal troops sent to have their heads taken off by Congress last week. Let’s have Hillary state publicly that the witch hunting and scapegoating inside Foggy Bottom will cease because she alone will take the hits, ’cause inside the building the buck isn’t stopping.
Anything less just rubs our noses further into this craven, desperate electioneering crap.
BONUS: State’s other Spartacus-wanna be, Pat Kennedy, told the House last week in defense of Susan Rice that “If any administration official, including any career official, were on television on Sunday, September 16th, they would have said what Ambassador Rice said,” i.e., that the attack in Benghazi was not a pre-planned terror attack but instead merely a reaction to that anti-Islamic video.
Only Pat lied.
On September 12 in an unclassified, half-hour conference call with staff aides to House and Senate lawmakers from relevant committees, and leadership offices, Pat said that he was convinced the assault was planned due to its extensive nature and the proliferation of weapons.
What is Important
Isn’t there a single reporter who will ask Hillary why only now has she determined that she is the responsible one, and challenge her that her “claim” is nothing but party politics?
Will no one ask Obama (or Hillary) to comment on Obama’s July 2012 statement “As president of the United States, it’s pretty clear to me that I’m responsible for folks who are working in the federal government and you know, Harry Truman said the buck stops with you… one of the things you learn is, you are ultimately responsible for the conduct of your operations.”
As for Pat Kennedy, don’t you have any shame at all? Trick question.
Also, anybody else expecting Obama to drone kill some poor random Libyan and claim justice has been done, right before the election, in a weak attempt at an October Surprise?
Anyway, I take responsibility for it all, what the hell, why not.
The evidence that State knew of the security issues in Benghazi, and ignored them, continues to accumulate.
Word is that inside Foggy Bottom everyone is rushing around getting their ducks in line so that someone else takes the symbolic fall for the screw-ups. They’ve got time– the Accountability Review Board will certainly not release anything before the election. Look for a news dump maybe the Friday after Thanksgiving? 2015? The truth will be happily buried, but in reality should be something like this: heavy security cost too much, plus it would make the Clinton narrative that limited-scale intervention in Libya worked look really bad right when her boss is struggling in the campaign. Admitting failure in Libya would also limit options in Syria. So, try and blame it on some video, then on al Qaeda (damn, that always used to work, too) and then find some mid-level person at State to hang.
It Was the Other Guy
One person not allowing himself to be the sacrificial lamb is the former State security officer for Libya, Eric Nordstrom, who is running around Washington telling pretty much everyone who will listen that it was State Department official Charlene Lamb who wanted to keep the number of U.S. security personnel in Benghazi “artificially low,” according to a memo summarizing his comments to a congressional committee that was obtained by Reuters. Nordstrom has also implicated State Department management robot Pat Kennedy in the bloody decision-making. Such plain speaking will otherwise end Nordstrom’s State Department career, and so we welcome him here into liberated We Meant Well territory. Call us for recommendations for lawyers Eric.
Kudos no doubt inside State for Susan Rice being willing to take a bullet in the early days to try and save her boss. Bot now even State is doing a little pointless damage control saying there never was a video-related protest in Benghazi. So Susan, what’s being thrown under the bus feel like?
Whither Diplomatic Security?
Bureau of Diplomatic Security saw its budget expand about tenfold in the decade after the deadly 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Contributing to that growth were the U.S.-launched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq after the September 11 attacks.
So where’d all that money go to if not into protecting places like Benghazi? Former FSO Bill answers:
Don’t be fooled into thinking that the increased budget went to increased personnel and better security. Most of the increased funding is dedicated to Special Agent pensions under Public Law 105-382, which establishes age 57 as the mandatory retirement age for Special Agents, and computes their annuity at 2.5% of high 3 average salary times number of years. This is far more generous, and far more expensive than pension benefits for other State employees. In the late 90s, both State and ICE scrambled to get their officers designated as Special Agents, a designation previously limited to fewer agencies. While it was a prestige and morale issue for both agencies, it has had a major impact on budget expenditures. Those who complain that military pensions are too generous should note that DS uses the same formula as the military, but DS average salaries are much higher than military salaries. Once they retire with a really good pension, they can come right back as contractors, who don’t have any requirement to retire at age 57. That’s where the money goes.
On Wednesday, the House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing “The Security Failures of Benghazi,” featuring Pat “Blood on his Hands” Kennedy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Programs Charlene “It Wasn’t Me” Lamb, Eric Nordstrom and Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, who lead the security team in Libya until August. Be sure to set your bullshit detectors to stun.
Expect Kennedy to say something like “who could have anticipated this?” Well, Pat old chum, in a country where you are paying staff 30% additional danger pay, it seems real to expect things.
But where is Hillary? Turns out her last public statement on the Libya fiasco was October 3, a week ago, another empty promise that “the men and women who serve this country as diplomats deserve no less than a full, accurate accounting.”
Despite her usual lofty rhetoric, Hillary has had nothing more to say and won’t testify before the House. As soon as the real scrutiny begins, Hillary dummies up.
Looking ahead to the Hillary Clinton presidential run in 2016, opposition researchers, please bookmark this page.
State needs to make a decision. If State wishes to populate diplomatic establishments in active war zones, it must a) wait to create a permanent secure facility; b) pay for what is needed to create an appropriate temporary facility; or c) simply accept that diplomats will die for these political decisions.
State instead wants to fulfill the short-term political suck up goal of staffing hot spots without paying the cost of proper security. As such, it is just a matter of time and chance that more places are not overrun.
State is trying to treat Benghazi as some grand exception/accident when in fact it is just the first of many possibles. Post 9/11 very little has changed in the internal architecture of Diplomatic Security. They are still using the pre-9/11 model of relatively low-key civilian security, host country support and on-the-cheap local guard hires.
Instead, the nasty truth is that the new model is Baghdad– an armed camp inside hostile territory wholly independent of host government assistance, ’cause there ain’t gonna be none.
Of course the other idea would be to abandon the wet dream that State needs to staff active war zones. What’s the point anyway? Prior to the Iraq war porn fantasy, diplomats were withdrawn until a country stabilized.
Remember when the State Department, and the United Nations, had something to do with diplomacy and treaties and peaceful resolution of conflicts?
Susan Rice doesn’t.
On Der Twitter:
Rice has a Facebook page, so feel free to leave a bloody hand print or a comment there. She is a bubbly sort. Perky. Why here, on August 8, she Facebooked:
Tonight, less than a year after the end of Qadhafi’s brutal reign, Libya seats its newly elected Congress. Another step forward.
Luckily I was able to link her social media ejaculation to her own State Department’s travel advice on Libya:
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all but essential travel to Libya.
Libya’s General National Congress replaced the Transitional National Council in August 2012 and will lead the country until elections are held on the basis of a new constitution. Despite this progress, violent crime continues to be a problem in Tripoli, Benghazi, and other parts of the country. In particular, armed carjacking and robbery are on the rise. In addition, political violence, including car bombings in Tripoli and assassinations of military officers and alleged former regime officials in Benghazi, has increased.
If only the people who ordered torture as a policy of the once magnificent United States had the stones to actually get their own hands dirty, maybe– maybe– things would be different? Good God, what have we become?
(The image above floated to me from the internet. Anyone with Photoshop skills who wants to redo this with Obama and his torturous henchmen, because the use of torture by the Government of the United States continues, and because Obama has refused to investigate the horrific actions of his predecessor, is welcome to do so and send it to me to run in this space. I do not in any way let Obama off the hook. There is plenty of blood on the hands of those now in power.)
Susan Rice, our ambassador to the UN and someone on the short list to replace Hillary as SecState in 2013, continues to set new personal bests in terms of ignorant statements. Describing (in her acid riddled mind) what makes Obama’s foreign policy distinct from that of its predecessors, Rice mooed:
We just don’t have that Vietnam hangover. It is not the framework for every decision — or any decision, for that matter. I’m sick and tired of reprising all of the traumas and the battles and the psychoses of the 1960s.
I could just throw out the old “Those that don’t study history are doomed to repeat it” line here and hit the bar early, but Rice’s remark is so idiotic that I’ll skip happy hour for now (the sacrifices we make for country).
Tom Ricks starts us off:
Just because you weren’t alive during the Vietnam War doesn’t mean you won’t go down that road. I generally am a fan of the Obama administration, on both domestic and foreign policy. But the one thing that gives me the creeps is their awkward relationship with senior military officials. Mistrusting the Joint Chiefs, suspecting their motives, treating them as adversaries or outsiders, not examining differences — that was LBJ’s recipe. It didn’t work. He looked upon the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a political entity to be manipulated or, failing that, sidelined. That’s a recipe for disaster, especially for an administration conspicuously lacking interest in the views of former military officers or even former civilian Pentagon officials.
Anytime anyone tells me that the lessons of Vietnam are irrelevant, that’s when I begin looking for a hole to hide in.
Rice again now:
What frustrated me about the 2004 (John Kerry) campaign was, there we were, relitigating ‘Where were you in nineteen sixty-whatever?’ as the big freaking issue between Bush and Kerry — you know, ‘Did you serve, did you not serve, what did your swift boat brothers think?’ And I’m thinking, ‘What does that have to do with me and the world we’re living in today?’
Ok Susan, you ignorant bonehead, here it is:
Vietnam echoes through everything we do because we are repeating mistakes. We should not invade countries that do not pose a threat to the US. We should not be in wars without a coherent objective. We should not create governments unsupported by their people and then kill Americans trying to prop them up. We should not spend our money and lives abroad when we have problems at home that need those resources. We should not borrow money to fund wars in ways that wreck our economy. We should not piss off the rest of the world unnecessarily with wars of choice. We should not see America’s power solely as the rampant use of military force. We should express a little more humility toward the world and be seen as a little less of a bully. We should stop inventing straw men (communists, terrorists) that feed the military-industrial complex and distract us from the real issues facing America. We should not ignore the lessons of history because they seem politically awkward in an election year.
Bonus: We should not employ as ambassadors to the UN people so ignorant of history and so ready to throw away lessons for political positioning. You are, to paraphrase Robert Reich speaking of the Clintons, “the arrogance of power combined with the inexperience of youth.”
Susan, this blog has spent a lot of time drawing lessons from Vietnam, so have a look before you ejaculate dumbness again.
So SecState Clinton was at the Virginia Military Academy to defame the reputation of a great Secretary of State, George C. Marshall. Unlike Clinton and her running dog predecessor Condi, Marshall actually did stuff instead of saying he did stuff often enough that most people just give up and nod OK to get some peace and quiet. For example, Marshall reconstructed Germany and Japan out of the ruins of war at a fraction of the cost spent in the Wars of Terror, while Clinton and Rice slept through their own agency’s efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan and accomplished pretty much squat.
But we’re not here to chew over old mistakes, we are here to focus on current mistakes. To wit, here is a tremendous example of public diplomacy that dribbled down the Twitter:
Deconstructing that, we begin with the oddly arrogant statement by the Secretary, the meaning of which is a bit unclear. Does she mean the US is part of every problem? Or that fuck yens’ don’t be trying no shit without the US having a piece of the action, or is it something like the US alone will determine what world problems will be solved? George Marshall would definitely have been clearer. He said things like this:
We have walked blindly, ignoring the lessons of the past, with, in our century, the tragic consequences of two world wars and the Korean struggle as a result. In my country my military associates frequently tell me that we Americans have learned our lesson. I completely disagree with this contention and point to the rapid disintegration between 1945 and 1950 of our once vast power for maintaining the peace.
But no matter, because Marshall is dead and we’re back at wars and public diplomacy is the kewl thing now because you see it is interactive. The Secretary can Telepromter off a speech in Virginia and almost instantly people can react to it. Have a look at the interactivity on the Twitter:
-the first guy nails it, asking in Spanish for some kind of form to fill out;
-the second guy, well he’s just happy to be part of the conversation;
-the next comments do not seem to have fully embraced the Secretary’s vision, but hey, dissent is kewl too.
There is a risk of anti-American feelings and protests in coming days.
I am willing to offer a bet with anyone willing to take it that no US Government official will characterize this cold blooded murder as “terrorism.” I am willing also to bet that had an Afghan killed American children and women, US Government officials would immediately characterize that cold blooded murder as “terrorism.”
I am willing to offer a bet with anyone willing to take it that US Government officials will apologize, as if that apology ends the issue (see Koran burning, peeing on Afghan dead, etc.). I am willing also to bet that had an Afghan killed American children and women US Government officials would not consider an apology the end of the issue. We’d bomb the shit out of someone in an act of vengeance.
I am willing to offer a bet with anyone willing to take it that had these Afghan children and women been killed “accidentally” by a 500 pound bomb dropped from a US warplane thousands of feet above them we would not hear much of an apology at all.
I am willing to offer a bet with anyone willing to take it that US Government officials will announce an investigation into the soldier who did the shooting, and that his ultimate punishment, if any (see Haditha) will be less than the punishment Bradley Manning will receive for his alleged Wikileaks disclosures.
Any takers on these bets, hit me up in the Comments section below.
It is always sad when friends depart. Qaddafi was hated, then loved, the hated once again by the West. But, for that brief shining moment, we have our… memories.
Rice made the claim while accusing Gaddafi of numerous human rights abuses. The Viagra claim surfaced in an al-Jazeera report last month from Libya-based doctors who said they had found Viagra in the pockets of pro-Gaddafi soldiers.
The Guardian reported that a UN diplomat at the closed session on Thursday said: “I was in the room when she mentioned Viagra. The remark did not cause a stir at the time. It was during a discussion about whether there is moral equivalence between the Gaddafi forces and the rebels. She listed human rights abuses by Gaddafi’s forces, including snipers shooting children in the street and the Viagra story.”
Susan, Susan, I know it must be lonely as hell at the top, but darling, Viagra is only a helper. The will and the desire still needs to be there first– don’t you watch those TV commercials with the happy older couples in the bath tubs? I know you must get a lot of spam emails, but really, Viagra is not for everyone.
Plus, rape is a crime of violence and aggression, of hatred toward women. It is not a crime of desire and for the record, women don’t ask for it by their dress or actions. Rape is violence and you don’t need Viagra for that you freaking idiot.
I hope somehow this report is wrong. If not, we have clearly lost our minds.
W-a-y back in the dark ages of the 1980’s, President Ron “Prune Face” Reagan called Gaddafi the “mad dog of the Middle East,” bombed his compound, “accidentally” killing Gaddafi’s daughter. Gaddafi had blown up a number of Americans in a disco.
Hijinks ensued. One of my first jobs at State was working on the Lockerbie bombing from the Washington end in 1988. I worked on Lockerbie again while assigned to our Embassy in London in 1991. America was very, very angry with Gaddafi.
We fast forward to 2003…
“There is no justifying the recruitment of child soldiers. There is no tolerable number of child soldiers.”
“I am deeply dismayed by reports that children are being recruited to kill in #Libya.”
Well then Ambassador, how about speaking out for clemency for the Canadian citizen child soldier held by the US at Guantanamo for the last nine freaking years? He was just 15 years old when sold to the US by one of our tribal allies.
Or do we only oppose these things when bad guys like (now) Libya do it?
I received some interesting feedback on this post. Here are some samples:
If he is the same guy I met, he killed a green beret medic with a hand grenade. He was not sold to us, he was captured by our commandos. He was and is an unlawful combatant and now, very much an adult. He was radicalized by his parents. I “met” him 2002. He was then a very hard case, recuperating from injuries. If he committed a similar crime here, he would have been tried as an adult.
Another commenter said:
I admire your conviction, but on this one I’ll have to disagree with you for several reasons: First, in no way can an al Qaeda fighter (as he was characterized in the article linked to your comment) be considered a “soldier.” Second, capturing and detaining a teenager who acted as a hostile combatant in an armed conflict is hardly an endorsement of “child soldiers” on the part of the U.S. And finally, the age of criminal responsibility in Canada (his country of citizenship) is 12.
You both raise excellent points, points that illustrate the complexity of the issues surrounding child soldiers. What I am seeking to point out is that Amb Rice saw no such complexities in talking about Libya (I assume she would agree with you and raise similar points connected to the Guantanamo prisoner). For America to have credibility in the world, we need to speak consistently. The days where similar actions can be good when we do it and bad when our enemies do it are over. This leaves aside the stickier questions of imprisoning this person without trial for nine years before ultimately convicting him before a military tribunal.
The “war” is one of hearts and minds as much if not more than one of territory captured, and our actions do not seem to help us.