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Belmont Club

All The Difference in the World

January 23rd, 2013 - 9:28 am

The New York Times quoted Algerian sources as saying that several of the Egyptian al-Qaeda captured in the hostage incident at a desert gas plant were also present in the attack on the US consulate at Benghazi.  “The Egyptians involved in both attacks were killed by Algerian forces during the four-day ordeal that ended in the deaths of at least 38 hostages and 29 kidnappers, the official said. But three of the militants were captured alive, and one of them described the Egyptians’ role in both assaults under interrogation by the Algerian security services, the official said.”

This news broke as Hillary Clinton was testifying about Benghazi before legislators. She did not directly deny the possibility during her testimony .  According to the Washington Post “asked about reports about a link between the Benghazi attacks and an assault last week on a natural gas complex in Algeria near the border with Libya, Clinton said, ‘We don’t have any way to confirm it as yet.’”

Pressed if she still believed the attack was the result of a video produced in LA she shouted “what difference does it make?”  According to Washington Post the she then matter-of-factly unburdened herself:

the Arab Spring revolts that swept the Middle East and North Africa were not predicted. “This is a great opportunity, as well as a serious threat to our country,” she said of the upheaval that persists across the region. “I hope we seize the opportunity.” She said it would not be easy because the countries have no experience of democracy.

“We now face a spreading jihadist threat,” Clinton said. Many al-Qaeda operatives have been driven out of Afghanistan and Pakistan, she said. But she added: “We have to recognize this is a global movement.” U.S. forces can kill its leaders, but until democracy grows in the region, “we’re going to be faced with this level of instability,” she said.

It was quite a day. No, the administration didn’t anticipate the Arab Spring. Nor did they understand who was attacking the US consulate in Benghazi, though they understood it enough to send Susan Rice out to denounce a video made in California.  They have no way to know if al-Qaeda Egyptians were present at both Benghazi and Algeria. And no, most emphatically no, it is not the case that al-Qaeda is dead, though General Motors might be alive.

This last despite the fact that the Obama administration is about to declare the war on al-Qaeda over. Con Coughlin of the Telegraph writes “Barack Obama has given up on the fight against al-Qaeda”.

Just before Christmas a senior Obama official claimed the America could wind up its campaign against al-Qaeda because it no longer posed a threat. That remarkable claim was made by US defence department general counsel, Jeh Johnson. At about the same time another Obama adviser told me that Washington didn’t really mind if the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan once Nato troops had withdrawn in 2014, as the Taliban was no longer interested in working with al-Qaeda. Unbelievable!

Someone surrendered, but it doesn’t look as if it was al-Qaeda.

As for the FBI’s investigation into the Benghazi attack, aimed at bringing the perpetrators “to justice”, the FBI director has recently flown to Libya to arrange for cooperation which the agency has not in the past obtained. “FBI agents went to Benghazi in October to analyze the crime scene but have since remained in Tripoli because of security concerns. In an effort to generate leads, the FBI has put out a poster asking for information.”

A poster? And what does it say? Wanted: dead or alive. Momo le Nain, AKA Mohammed the Midget, AKA Shorty, height 3’6″ last seen wielding an axe and a knife?

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) told Clinton that had he been the President, “I would have relieved you of your post.” He then asked her point-blank if the Benghazi consulate was moving weapons to armed groups in the region, a reference to the possibility that these may have wound up in enemy hands in a kind of international “operation fast and furious”. Clinton said to ask the CIA.

Later, Paul demanded Clinton respond to reports that, in the weeks before the attack in Benghazi, the U.S. was facilitating the movement of heavy weapons from Libya to Turkey for the purpose of arming the Syrian opposition. That story, first reported here by Business Insider, has become a key sticking point in conservative conspiracy theories about a Benghazi cover-up.

Clinton claimed that she had no idea what Paul was talking about, and suggested that he ask “the agency responsible for the annex” in Benghazi, a thinly-veiled allusion to the CIA.

Clinton’s testimony raised more questions than it answered, one of the most fundamental of which was the character of the Arab Spring. Who was driving the process of “bringing democracy” to Egypt, Libya and Syria? Was it Saudi Arabia? Was it Qatar? Both countries are financial and media powerhouses whose primary mode of national defense is bribery. If the Obama administration was leading the Arab Spring “from behind” who was leading from the front?

And was it “democracy” they were bringing to the region or an ideology so near and dear to the Saudi heart?

Some answers to those questions will soon be advanced, a few doubtless as disinformation. The Algerians, with their connections Russia and via Moscow possibly to Syria, are now in a position to create a counter-narrative of the Arab Spring, for it’s dollars to donuts they can make the Egyptian captive say anything at all. He may squawk a narrative to rival those put forward by the KSA and Qatar.

What is distinctly missing is the sense that Washington has an independent American view; or whether they are just a collection of shills for special interest groups. Almost reduced to insignificance with their “I don’t knows” are the seedy figures of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the one proclaiming “I won” and the other yelling “what difference does it make?”

The real question to ask them is “who sent you?”

Rand Paul, by directly accusing Hillary of incompetence at the minimum, has raised an even higher level question: is there integrity at the highest levels of the administration? This is a political question whose most recent answer was provided by the 2012 elections. But the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974, only two years after he won a landslide against George McGovern shows that political winds can change rapidly.

The press worked against Nixon in 1974. It cannot be expected to work against Obama in 2013. But the issues involved in the handling of the Arab Spring are several orders of magnitude more serious than those of Watergate. The charge against Nixon was covering up a low-rent act of political burglary. The potential accusation facing Obama will ultimately be one of endangering the national security of the United States. And unlike Watergate, which needed a Deep Throat to keep the suspense coming, the pot will keep boiling from a continuing torrent of bad news from abroad. Their foreign policy blunders have manifestly set in train catastrophes far too great for their tame journalists to contain. Events in Mali and Algeria have reminded us that Benghazi was simply the beginning; the lighting of the fuse; the sparking of the powder. The main charge has yet to detonate.

And when the magazine blows the issue will be whether the political system will have more or fewer “Rand Pauls” to ask the questions. To churn the machinery of the Constitution. For the largest scale risk raised by the Clinton testimony is whether the United States still possesses the requisite ability to politically resolve the crisis that she has let glimpse through the door.


The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99

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