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Belmont Club

“Say, who was that Masked Man?”

December 6th, 2012 - 11:06 am

The New York Times describes how arms meant for Libyan rebels accidentally fell into the hands of Jihadis. This may have colored its subsequent attitude to arming rebels in Syria. What happened? “The Obama administration secretly gave its blessing to arms shipments to Libyan rebels from Qatar last year, but American officials later grew alarmed as evidence grew that Qatar was turning some of the weapons over to Islamic militants, according to United States officials and foreign diplomats.”

Right after the opening paragraph comes this disclaimer. “No evidence has emerged linking the weapons provided by the Qataris during the uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to the attack that killed four Americans at the United States diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in September.”  The main reason for the poor oversight was the administration’s desire to “keep its fingerprints off operations”.

The United States, which had only small numbers of C.I.A. officers in Libya during the tumult of the rebellion, provided little oversight of the arms shipments. Within weeks of endorsing Qatar’s plan to send weapons there in spring 2011, the White House began receiving reports that they were going to Islamic militant groups. …

As a result, the White House largely relied on Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, two small Persian Gulf states and frequent allies of the United States. Qatar, a tiny nation whose natural gas reserves have made it enormously wealthy, for years has tried to expand its influence in the Arab world. Since 2011, with dictatorships in the Middle East and North Africa coming under siege, Qatar has given arms and money to various opposition and militant groups, chiefly Sunni Islamists, in hopes of cementing alliances with the new governments. …

“Nobody knew exactly who they were” … “They just handed them out like candy”.

“Nobody knew exactly who they were”. Nor perhaps approximately,  nor even possibly remotely. “They just handed them out like candy”.

While “there is no evidence” American supplied weapons were used to attack the US consulate there is apparently no way to say they were not. “Leading from behind” was apparently another way of describing a policy of operating through cutouts such that the left hand never knew what the right hand was doing. This is not a defect in the scheme. It is the whole point of it.

The only law the administration apparently cannot flout is the Law of Unintended Consequences resulting in a “perverse effect contrary to what was originally intended .” That’s what they are belatedly worried about now in Syria. Is it too late? Perhaps even they don’t know. Given their penchant for media operations their fears may be revealed in the catchphrases they use. Greta van Susteren notices that the phrase Assad ‘facing justice’ is lately in evidence.

In preparing for tonight’s ON THE RECORD at 10pm, I have read many articles where leaders say that Syria’s President Assad will ‘face justice’ if he uses chemical weapons against his people. UN chief Ban Ki-moon is the latest to make the comment.

My thought? that is too late.

‘Facing justice’ — as in in the vow “the attackers of the US consulate will be ‘facing justice’” is really Obamaspeak for ‘there is nothing we can do about it now’. When uttered it usually means the horse has bolted and we’ll never see it again.

In one sense the Obama administration’s attitude towards events is remarkably the opposite of youthful Hope it espouses and more akin to middle-aged cynicism. In human history — at least their version of it — they seem to say, it is always too late.

Stay tuned for the next episode.

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