Tag: Al-Qaeda

Benghazi Eternal

Like an illegal alien, I have decided to “step out of the shadows” and lay down a quick post. The reason why is that I’ve noticed quite a bit of crowing today about the House Intelligence Benghazi report from some of my friends. As much as I know how the fascination some people have over the whole thing perplexes them, I read the report and will explain why the conspiracy theories are not going to stop.

There are two important aspects of Benghazi. The first is the one I’m personally more interested in: what the nature of the CIA’s activities there were and why Ambassador Stevens was there when the security situation was deteriorating and he had even noted this himself.

The only thing the report really says is that the CIA totally wasn’t there to collect weapons and send them to Syria (which, as we know now, would have provided them to ISIS). Instead, they were just gathering intelligence about foreign entities who were doing it.

So the questions I have are:

1. Why did this operation require the presence of an ambassador?
2. Who was moving these weapons to Syria?
3. Was the CIA enabling or facilitating these foreign entities?

Keep in mind that the report doesn’t say that the CIA was actually trying to stop the flow of weapons to Syria and it’s obvious to us now that they weren’t going to call in any airstrikes against those “entities” who were doing it, right?

This report makes the claim that there were no “specific” threats about the attack on the compound and even says right in the beginning that the “CIA ensured adequate security” for the facilities at the Annex. Obviously not, or Stevens would hardly be dead. If anything, the locals the CIA itself had hired to guard the facility appear to have aided the attack. Once the rescue operation was underway, their team couldn’t even get to the hospital to recover Stevens’s body. Their intelligence about whether the militia guarding the hospital were friendly was even wrong.

The headline that the media is going with today is that there was “no intelligence failure” but that isn’t true. There WAS an intelligence failure because the CIA couldn’t even see an attack coming right under its own nose in a jihadist-controlled area and still doesn’t entirely know who did it or why. Their job is to get that kind of information. That they don’t have it is an intelligence failure.

So what you have with that first aspect is:

1. We still don’t know what the CIA’s operation in Benghazi was intended to accomplish or why Stevens was involved.
2. The CIA and the State Department practiced the worst sort of incompetence before, during, and after the incident. It’s really clear when you read the report that this is true.
3. Absolutely nobody has ever been held accountable for the failures.

The lack of accountability is pretty typical of these types of reports, I might add. The political-bureaucratic class always protects itself. And that goes to the second important aspect of Benghazi: the failure of policy and resulting political ass-covering. The report is pretty gentle on the Obama Administration for sending Susan Rice out to blame the whole attack on a stupid YouTube video.

The truth is that the White House had enormous inventive to avoid the impression that this was a “failure of policy.” In fact, its entire Libyan policy (which never even had the blessing of Congress) has since turned into a disaster with our embassy in Tripoli abandoned and ISIS now setting up shop in Libya to take over and expand their war even further. Benghazi was just the first evidence that the policy was a failure.

In 2012, Obama and his Administration were telling us that bin Laden was dead and al-Qaeda was heading for strategic defeat. He was ending the wars and that was pretty important for his re-election.

As we know now, al-Qaeda was not on the run and one of its affiliates or some of its sympathizers helped kill our Ambassador. At the same time, the Administration was totally ignoring what was going on in Iraq. Proving that he learned absolutely nothing from what happened in Benghazi, Obama dismissed ISIS’s strength and got to be surprised by one of his policy failures all over again not less than 2 years later when they suddenly overran Mosul.

Again: zero accountability for it.

I don’t know whether or not the House Intelligence Committee knows what the CIA’s true role in Benghazi was or if they’ve just decided that it’s better not to share that information. Either way, to believe this report, you have to suspend your disbelief about the credibility of the CIA. Nothing I read in this report gives me any reason whatsoever to do so and there’s plenty that leads me to doubt it.

We’re being asked to trust people who have consistently proven that they don’t deserve it; by their lack of cooperation, poor transparency, and appalling incompetence. And that is why the Benghazi conspiracy theories aren’t going away.

60 Minutes Discovers Benghazi

Sixty minutes is about a year late and a billion dollars short on this, but you should watch this video that basically destroys the White House’s long-debunked contention that the Benghazi attack could not have been foreseen. Several witnesses have now gone public with what they saw in the months and weeks leading up to the attack that night. Al-Qaeda has stated their intention to launch three attacks and carried out two of them. Al-Qaeda had been openly flying black flags in Benghazi for months. And yet the security in Benghazi remained heavily dependent on local militia who basically fled when the attack occurred.

What happened that night almost becomes secondary. By the time the attack had started, the die was cast. It was only because of the courage of the scant military forces there that it wasn’t even worse.

We recently had the thirtieth anniversary of the Beirut barracks bombing, an incident that bears more than a passing resemblance to this one. Warnings were ignored, the approach was not barricaded and the guards were under restrictive ROE. The details that have emerged from Benghazi show that we learned nothing from that. Our State Department and our befuddled President still fail to realize that, in regions of the world where terrorists walk free, any American installation is seen as a big fat target.

Every day in this country, our phone calls are tracked and some are listened to. Every day, people are groped and harassed in airports despite classified admissions that airplanes are not a particularly high-priority target right now. And yet, when the State Department was warned that Al-Qaeda operatives were openly licking their chops in Benghazi, when they asked twice for more security, the State Department decided that a few locals were security enough.

The political aspects of this will be hashed out in the years ahead. This should permanently end Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions, but that was also true six months ago. What I’m more interested in is whether anyone at State is going to learn the damned lesson and protect the assets that we necessarily place on the frontier between civilization and barbarism.

Kenya Under Attack

Holy crap:

Sixty-eight dead. At least 175 injured. About 30 hostages still inside, as well as perhaps a dozen gunmen.

Those are the grim numbers, more than a day after Islamist attackers stormed an upscale Nairobi mall on Saturday, spraying bullets and holding shoppers captive.

The tense standoff continued into Sunday night, with sporadic gunfire heard through the day and at least one explosion.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta told reporters Sunday afternoon the Kenyan people had showed resiliency as a nation and would triumph against the attackers.

The tragedy was also personal for Kenyatta; one of his nephews and his fiancee were among the dead.

I’ve been following the story since last night but haven’t found anything to say. This is the work of Al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda offshoot, and, according to reports, they sent all Muslims out before beginning the killing. So far, no Americans are among the dead but some were among the wounded.

Update: At least one American, the wife of a diplomat, is dead.

The Ongoing Threat

Thought I’d throw this out there. As you know, we are under a terror alert:

What started as an unprecedented move to close almost two dozen diplomatic posts for a day has broadened to week-long closures for most of them as the United States mulls the threat of a possible attack.

A trio of factors prompted officials to extend most of its embassy and consulate closures until Saturday: an intercepted message among senior al Qaeda operatives, the end of Ramadan, and concerns over several major prison breaks in the region.

Originally, officials decided to close 22 embassies and consulates this past Sunday — a day when they would normally be open for business.

But Sunday afternoon, the State Department extended embassy and consulate closures in 15 of the locations through Saturday, and added four other posts — all in Africa — to the list. This brings the total to 19.

There are two interpretations here. First is that the threat is genuine, or least the perception of a threat is genuine. After the disaster of Benghazi and the recent prison breaks that have released hundred of potential AQ operatives, it would be wise to take real threats seriously.

The second is that this is politics — an attempt to deflect criticism of the NSA scandal and Obama’s War on Terror polices in general. This is the interpretation that most Obama critics are taking.

Me? I think it’s likely that there’s some real information here. The significance and danger of it may be exaggerated, but I am dubious that this would be conjured up out of nothing. That having been said, I don’t like the closing of embassies for more than a week. An enhanced military presence could accomplish the same improvement in security without giving into fear.

Let’s hold breath and hope that nothing happens.

Drone Groaning

Young Master Poosh asked me yesterday to check out a new study on the wisdom and effectiveness of the US’s use of drone strikes in Pakistan and other places.  I had my doubts because it sounded like something a Soros-affiliated group would come up with, but I’m always up for a good read.  Or even a bad one (send me shit!  I need ideas!).

Anyhow, I was right.  It’s a left-wing academia thing assisted by Reprieve, known to me as a progressive grievance group.   But that got me more interested in reading it, not less.  After all, the Left has been pretty quiet about US tactics in the Global War on Terror (whatever that is) since, uh, well, I’m not entirely sure when they lost their curiosity about the appropriateness of our methods.   Weird.  At any rate, these fine liberals decided to start asking some questions that Congressional Democrats and their news media aren’t.

You can read all about it in this PDF called Living Under Drones.  It’s lengthy, but the major points are:

1. Drone strikes are killing civilians

2. They are terrorizing the civilians who don’t get killed

3. They don’t really work that well

4. They’re probably illegal

I think their research is actually quite good, assuming that their anonymous sources aren’t lying or fabricated.  I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt though.  At any rate, I am pleased to see that Obama and the press aren’t getting a pass from the same people who used to scream about Bush doing things like this.  On that basis alone, I take it on good faith.

If I have one problem with the report, it’s that it offers no alternatives to using drones to hunt militants in Pakistan.  The entire report criticizes their use, but spends no time saying what (if anything) might work better.   What they ironically failed to note is that the same reasons why drones are the only option for knocking off militants in Pakistan are the exact same problems that hindered their own research for the report.

Primary research in FATA is difficult for many reasons.

First, it is very difficult for foreigners physically to access FATA, partly due to the Pakistani government’s efforts to block access through heavily guarded checkpoints, and partly due to serious security risks.

Second, it is very difficult for residents of Waziristan to travel out of the region. Those we interviewed had to travel hundreds of kilometers by road to reach Islamabad or Peshawar, in journeys that could take anywhere from eight hours to several days, and which required passing through dozens of military and police checkpoint stops, as well as, in some cases, traveling through active fighting between armed non-state groups and Pakistani forces.

Third, mistrust, often justifiable, from many in FATA toward outsiders (particularly Westerners) inhibits ready access to individuals and communities.

Hmm.  It’s almost as if an area where the host government is uncooperative, road travel is insanely difficult, and the populace loathes outsiders might be ideal for covert, unmanned air operations.

What the authors really want is more transparency on this program, so they say.   How are targets being selected?  Who are we really killing?  How did the Administration come to the conclusion that this was allowed by international law?  Good questions, but there’s no way that either the Obama Administration or Pakistan’s government can answer those questions and still have the program work effectively since we’re officially not really doing it to begin with.

The drone program is one of those few things that the Obama Administration has done that I like.  When you blow the bad guys up, you get no messy problems that go with capturing them like indefinite detention, interrogation, and trials.  The same people who complained about those activities were either unaware of or willing to accept the fact that killing suspected terrorists on sight was the only thing that could be done if we were to keep the GWoT going.

Unfortunately, this method may be too perfect for the US government, you know?   Total secrecy, no risk of losing any pilots and having to explain why one is on Pakistan television with a gun to his head, no explanations of who was killed or why; just an assurance that “he was a militant and we totally didn’t kill any innocent people.”   Note that this has even been done to an American citizen (and total dirtbag, but still).  I don’t think we should give the Administration a complete license to kill on the soil of countries we’re not at war with (yet) with so little accountability or oversight.

Above all, I’ll say that the report has me convinced that the drone strikes probably have killed plenty of innocent people and are both legally and ethically questionable.  However, I don’t think we’re anywhere close to being able to stop doing them.  Americans approve of drone strikes–and the rest of Obama’s counter-terrorism strategy–in principle, like it when al Qaeda and Taliban guys get zilched out, and see no risk in doing any of it.   But at least somebody’s asking questions.  Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate what we’re hoping to accomplish over there and how we’re doing it.  When you ask me to believe that this Administration should be trusted on terrorism matters, remember that Benghazi has shown us that it simply cannot.

Let’s get the story right, please.

You know I am the first to bust on Obama, and man does this guy provide a target rich environment, but I am going to have to tell people that are focusing on the lack of response in Benghazi that they are wrong to bitch about that. Yes, they had a drone over the area, unarmed from what I hear, and yes, it took 6 hours for the whole debacle to play out, but neither is the problem. People that believe the problem here is that Team Obama failed to act once the shit hit the fan don’t get it. There simply is no rapid reaction force that can be stood up and moved in under 24 hours unless it was pre-positioned and on 24 hour alert.

I have been on several blogs where people have flogged Team Obama for not responding to the attack, and I think this is a serious mistake. Too many people influenced by shows like 24 and CSI, where people figure out stuff that in the real world takes months during a commercial break, or worse, take actions like driving across DC, in seconds, when the actual time due to traffic is several hours. I think this is why so many erroneously think there should have been a response in Benghazi, and that that was the failure by team blue. Even an air strike – by fixed wing aircraft, because rotary aircraft did do not have the range, and the Navy had nothing pre-positioned near Libya – would have take hours to put together. And I think an airstrike would have been the equivalent of using a hammer where a scalpel was needed. I even heard some complain that they could have staged SEALs from Rota, Spain, but that presupposes that these SEALs where on alert and ready to go.

The failure in Benghazi was one of lack of action, well lack of action at the time of the crisis, but one of lack of logistical action. The failure here was to not have pre-positioned forces – they were told this was going to happen long before it did – so you actually could make them do something once you became aware of the threat. If we are going to accuse team Obama of screwing the pooch, let’s do it for the right reason. Once the shit hit the fan in Benghazi they were left with no options because they had failed to heed the warnings and take the anniversary of 9-11 seriously, because they were too busy pushing the political narrative that al Qaeda was dead, at Obama’s hands of all reasons, and that the GWOT was done and over with.

It was a cold and calculated decision by State, pushed by the WH, to not reinforce or secure the compound in Benghazi. The donkeys could not be seen to dance on Osama’s and al Qaeda’s graves during their convention to then have to eat crow and prep for an al Qaeda attack just the week after. That’s what killed Stevens and 3 others. Not the fact that they didn’t respond to the attack. They couldn’t respond even if they wanted to. Not that I am saying they wanted to either. Leftists love France for a reason: they like to surrender to the enemy quickly, just like team Obama does.

Let’s keep that story straight. Especially with Obama coming into his third debate desperate to “reset” the story on Benghazi-gate. Fuck, Nixon got butt raped for far less. Nobody died from that hotel break in like happened in Benghazi.

An Act of War?

Isn’t that what this is?

The US ambassador to Libya is among four Americans killed in an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, President Barack Obama has confirmed.

Unidentified armed men stormed the grounds overnight amid uproar among Muslims over a US-produced film said to insult the Prophet Muhammad.

They shot at buildings and threw handmade bombs into the compound.

It is still unclear how the ambassador, J Christopher Stevens, and the others actually died.

CBS is reporting that the staff were moved after the initial attacks but their location was betrayed by Libyan guards.

Right now, the situation is very fluid. Ansar Al-Sharia, an offshoot of Al-Qaeda, is claiming credit for the attacks. But it’s not clear exactly what went on. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is calling for peaceful protests. We’ll see how that goes.

All over some obscure privately-funded movie.

What is clear is that American soil has been attacked and an American official killed. The exact response can be debated. For example, if we really believe that the Libyan government had nothing to do with this, we can work with them to kill the fuckers.

But a response will be coming. There is simply no alternative.

Update: It’s probably been taken down now, but a video trailer of the offending film is floating around on youtube. I watched a few minutes. If this is what has provoked the riots, it’s ridiculous. As my brother said, it’s just an excuse. The “film” wouldn’t pass muster as a high school play. Honestly, Maons was more professionally made.

Obama the Decider

You know, if our politics were in any way sane, this piece, about how the Obama Administration decides on drone strikes, would be a big fucking deal. It came out two weeks ago and I’ve been tossing it around in my head while I waited for the liberal explosion of rage that would accompany an article indicating Mitt Romney was even planning something like it. I’m still waiting.

Mr. Obama is the liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture, and then insisted on approving every new name on an expanding “kill list,” poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre “baseball cards” of an unconventional war. When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises — but his family is with him — it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.

“He is determined that he will make these decisions about how far and wide these operations will go,” said Thomas E. Donilon, his national security adviser. “His view is that he’s responsible for the position of the United States in the world.” He added, “He’s determined to keep the tether pretty short.”

Nothing else in Mr. Obama’s first term has baffled liberal supporters and confounded conservative critics alike as his aggressive counterterrorism record. His actions have often remained inscrutable, obscured by awkward secrecy rules, polarized political commentary and the president’s own deep reserve.

You really really should read the whole thing. It’s not just about the drone strikes, although that is the heart of the article. It shows how Obama addresses almost every aspect of the War on Terror. It talks about how he left loopholes in his “bold” closing off of Bush policies, how they keep civilian casualties down in drone strikes*, and how they have navigated the legal waters. It is an absolute must-read if you are going to debate the War on Terror.

(*They, no kidding, conclude that any male of military age near a terrorist target is also a terrorist. By that standard, if Ted Kaczynski has decided to revisit his old haunts at Berkeley, any professors killed in a drone strike … well, we won’t go there. But I’m reminded of cops questioning and arresting people in the wee hours because they must be up to something if they’re out at that hour.)

On the one hand, I’m encouraged that the President knows what’s going on and is making decisions based on pragmatics, not on ideology. It’s nice to know that there is a process to this and the President ultimately is taking responsibility. On the other hand, this “pragmatic” approach has led us to a point where the President of the United State and a Noble Prize Winner now has an enemies list from which he designates people for assassination. It has expanded the executive power of the President even further into regions that, according to an excellent piece by Andrew Napolitano, are unconstitutional and dangerous.

It’s important to remember, in this discussion, that evil is not usually done by people rubbing their hands together and cackling insanely. It is done by people who think their actions are justified and for the best. And for all the Obamaites who read this and are impressed by the process … imagine that process in the hands of someone else. Imagine Sarah Palin making these decisions.

This is not about Obama. It’s never about Obama. It’s about the process. People like me focus on process — sometimes obsessively — because we believe that a good process will, in the long run, produce better results. When a President assumes this kind of power, you never know what will happen five, ten, twenty years down the road.

There’s one other thing that bothered me about the article and it took me a week to put my finger on it. It’s the overwhelmingly positive spin. We get sentences like this:

Aides say Mr. Obama has several reasons for becoming so immersed in lethal counterterrorism operations. A student of writings on war by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, he believes that he should take moral responsibility for such actions. And he knows that bad strikes can tarnish America’s image and derail diplomacy.

Student of Augustine and Aquinas. Nicely done. This frankly reads like a piece written by Obama’s staff. There is little, if any, criticism. And much of the information comes from classified, unnamed sources — the kind of sources Obama would come down on like a ton of bricks if they were leaking something he didn’t want coming out. So in the end, this is not a hard-bitten piece of investigative journalism. It’s a puff piece aimed at re-election.

Look, taking out terrorists is a nasty business. They hide in crowds and among innocents. They claim the mantle of God and declare holy wars. Their biggest leaders don’t strap on bombs themselves but inspire younger dumber people to do so while they surround themselves with women and children. No on ever said this was going to be pretty.

But I’m not convinced it has to be quite this ugly.

Update: All you need to know about the Left wing response to this: Democratic Hub’s list of Obama accomplishments? Half of it consists of people he killed.

Detention Hall

I’ve been warning for some time that the regime of indefinite detention of terror suspects — started by Bush and continued by Obama — would not stay confined to foreign terrorist (it never really was, as Jose Padilla could tell you). Well, here we go:

Either Monday or Tuesday the Senate will vote on a bill that allows the US military to imprison civilians with no formal charges and hold them with no trial.

The ACLU reports even US citizens wouldn’t be immune as the legislation aims to declare national territory part of the “battlefield” in the War on Terror.

The bill gives the President unilateral power to detain anyone, mandates detention of civilians outside of military control and transfers control of detention to the Department of defense.

Mark Udall and Rand Paul are trying to strip this provision from the defense bill and Obama is threatening a veto. The ACLU has more here.

McCain and Levin — the authors of this provision — respond here. Almost all of their points address concerns that we’re not giving the President enough power to declare anyone to be a terror suspect and turn him over to DoD indefinitely. The closest they come to addressing civil liberties concerns is a claim that they are simply codifying what the President is already doing:

No provision in the legislation expands the authority under which detainees can be held in military custody. On the contrary, it codifies detention authority that has been adopted by two administrations and upheld in the courts. The bill states clearly that it does not expand or limit the president’s authorities under the original 2001 authorization of the use of force against al-Qaeda.

Even if this were true — and the ACLU thinks it isn’t — the detention power the Presidents have assumed since 9/11 already goes too far, is too arbitrary and has no review or oversight. To call it “Star Chamber justice” is to insult star chambers. It grants our president the power no president should ever have: the ability to declare someone an enemy and throw them into a prison for as a long as he wants. This includes American citizens caught on American soil.

Notice something else about the McCain-Levin op-ed. It includes a plethora of phrases that Terror Warriors use to try to frighten us into surrender:

the unprecedented kind of war that came to our shores on Sept. 11, 2001 … the threat posed by al-Qaeda … al-Qaeda terrorists who participate in planning or conducting attacks against us …

Whenever I see these asides in an article, post or speech, I know what follows is likely bullshit. They are the War on Terror’s answer to liberal asides like “corporate power” and “wealth disparity”. They are the grease for the multi-pronged dildo that is to follow.

Al-Qaeda is waning as a threat. This President has taken out their nominal leader and most of their upper echelons. And the response is … to increase our government’s anti-terror powers? What McCain and Levin are unwittingly revealing is what civil libertarians have been claiming all along: that this was never about terrorism; this was about increasing government’s power.

al-Awlaki Dead

Anwar al-Awlaki just became the latest in what is becoming a pretty impressive tally for this Administration:

A missile fired from an American drone aircraft in Yemen on Friday killed Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical American-born cleric who was a leading figure in Al Qaeda’s affiliate there, according to an official in Washington.

Many of the details of the strike were unclear, but the official said that the drone fired a Hellfire missile and killed Mr. Awlaki, whom the United States had been hunting in Yemen for more than two years.

Yemen’s Defense Ministry confirmed Mr. Awlaki’s death, and both Yemeni and American officials hailed the strike as a significant success in the campaign to weaken Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a group American officials believe to be the most dangerous Qaeda affiliate.

You can read the NYT for the details of al-Awlaki’s hideous career. And you can read the debate over whether the President had the authority to kill him in the usual quarters.