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Ferguson Officer Wilson Releases Statement on the Grand Jury’s Finding

Through his attorney, Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson has released a statement reacting to the grand jury’s decision not to indict him in the shooting of Michael Brown.

Today, a St. Louis County grand jury released its decision that no charges would be filed in the case involving Officer Darren Wilson. From the onset, we have maintained and the grand jury agreed that Officer Wilson’s actions on August 9 were in accordance with the laws and regulations that govern the procedures of an officer.

In a case of this magnitude, a team of prosecutors rightfully presented evidence to this St. Louis County grand jury. This group of citizens, drawn at random from the community, listened to witnesses and heard all the evidence in the case. Based on the evidence and witness testimony, the grand jury collectively determined there was no basis for criminal charges against Officer Wilson.

Law enforcement personnel must frequently make split-second and difficult decisions. Officer Wilson followed his training and followed the law. We recognize that many people will want to second-guess the grand jury’s decision. We would encourage anyone who wants to express an opinion do so in a respectful and peaceful manner.

On a side note, Officer Wilson would like to thank those who have stood by his side throughout the process. This continued support is greatly appreciated by Officer Wilson and his family. Moving forward, any commentary on this matter will be done in the appropriate venue and not through the media.

Small numbers of rioters are causing major trouble and violence in Ferguson. At least three stores have been burned and several police cars destroyed, despite the Brown family’s and President Obama’s call for peace.

Posted at 8:31 pm on November 24th, 2014 by

New York Daily News, You’re Part of the Problem

This biased front page speaks for itself. It is the NYDN’s irresponsible reaction to the grand jury’s decision in the Brown case.

Posted at 8:19 pm on November 24th, 2014 by

Obama on Ferguson: ‘Communities of Color Aren’t Just Making These Problems Up’

President Obama emerged in the White House briefing room soon after the announcement of a grand jury’s decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Obama noted that “either way” the verdict “was going to be subject to intense disagreement,” so he wanted to concentrate on dialogue that “won’t be done by smashing car windows.”

“First and foremost we are a nation built on the rule of law, so this decision was the grand jury’s to make,” he said.

He reminded all that the parents of the deceased 18-year-old had called upon Ferguson to protest peacefully regardless of the verdict. “Michael Brown’s parents have lost more than anyone,” Obama said. “We should be honoring their wishes.”

The president noted “our police officers put their lives on the line for us every day,” adding, “As they do their jobs in the coming days they need to work with the community — not against the community — to distinguish those who want their voices hear on legitimate issues” from rioters or vandals.

“In too many parts of this country deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color,” Obama said, adding this is “tragic” because poor communities need good policing the most. Law enforcement should be trained to ensure officers conduct themselves “in a way that is fair to everybody,” he said.

“…Communities of color aren’t just making these problems up… we do have work to do here, we shouldn’t just try to paper it over.”

The president was asked if he intends to visit Ferguson once things settle down.

“Let’s take a look and see how things are going,” he said, noting that Attorney General Eric Holder already made the trip. “We have to make sure that we need to focus at least as much attention on all those positive activities that are taking place” as on those committing violent acts, he added.

Missouri’s two senators also responded quickly to the grand jury’s decision.

“There will be many people who are disappointed in today’s decision, even though it is a result of a deliberate legal process that’s being independently checked by Attorney General Eric Holder and the U.S. Justice Department,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said.

“While we await the conclusion of that independent investigation — and continue working together for solutions to systemic issues highlighted by this tragedy — I’m praying that the good people of St. Louis and local law enforcement will remain peaceful and respectful of one another.”

As McCaskill released the statement protesters began clashing with police in the streets of Ferguson.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said he’s been “in close touch with clergy members and other local leaders” since Brown’s August death, “and I believe we all agree our first priority is peacefully healing and rebuilding the community after months of unrest.”

The Senate Republican Conference vice-chair stressed “we must balance the rights of Americans to exercise their free speech alongside the rights of people to live peacefully and safely in their communities.”

“My thoughts are with Michael Brown’s family today, as well as those in law enforcement who continue to protect the rights of all they serve, the National Guard members we ask to step forward during difficult times in our state, and all of their family members,” Blunt continued.

“Michael’s death was tragic, and the months since this tragedy have marked a challenging time in Ferguson and across Missouri. Together, I know we can move forward and heal as we work to find better job opportunities in and more investment for challenged communities.”

Posted at 7:29 pm on November 24th, 2014 by

Ferguson Grand Jury Declines to Indict Officer Wilson (Video Added)

After three months of deliberations, a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri voted not to indict police Officer Darren Wilson in the August 9 shooting death of Michael Brown.

Prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced the grand jury’s decision Monday evening. As he made the announcement, thousands were assembled in Ferguson’s streets and threats of a return to riots and violence hung in the air.

The announcement was scheduled for 8 PM Central time, but the prosecutor was about 15 minutes late. During the waiting time, rumors swirled on cable news and social media that Officer Wilson would not be indicted.

In his lengthy statement, McCulloch noted that the grand jury and the federal investigators examined “all of the available evidence,” including witnesses, physical evidence from the scene, evidence from autopsies of Michael Brown, and all other relevant evidence. He also criticized the media for excessive speculation and sensationalism, despite the fact that he schedule the announcement to be in prime time, when it would surely attract massive media coverage, and after thousands had gathered in the city’s streets.

McColluch stated that he delivered his lengthy statement to ensure everyone that the grand jurors and the federal investigators had “examined every witness and every piece of evidence.” He noted that the grand jury deliberated for two days before reaching its decision.

“No probable cause exists to indict Officer Wilson,” McCulloch said. The grand jury had voted not to indict the police officer.

McCulloch then described the events of August 9, in which Officer Wilson shot Michael Brown.

While McCulloch continued to lay out the evidence that Brown had in fact attacked Officer Wilson, Brown’s family released a statement:

Update: Watch video of Prosecutor McCulloch’s statement.

Posted at 6:29 pm on November 24th, 2014 by

An Alternative View of the Issues Surrounding the Ferguson Grand Jury

I don’t agree with this take on issues surrounding the Ferguson grand jury by Derrick Jackson of the Boston Globe. But it is a valid interpretation based on his worldview that police are gunning for black kids and that nothing is being done about it.

The national hysteria over the Ferguson grand jury is a fresh indictment of America. The core issue is a charge of police brutality by a white officer shooting an unarmed black 18-year-old man. Yet all around the country, the talk is about black violence.

Here in Boston, police are sending out robocalls to public school students and sending messages to college students to stay calm. In Oakland, California, businesses are putting steel plates on their doors. In Los Angeles, Police Chief Charlie Beck said he hopes to get advance notice from Missouri authorities about whether or not the grand jury indicts Ferguson officer Darren Wilson for Brown’s shooting. And in Ferguson, some schools are already closed in anticipation of the decision, gun sales have skyrocketed and a state of emergency was declared by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.

To be sure, Attorney General Eric Holder and many black clergy have also asked for police restraint for any protests after the grand jury decision is announced. But such balanced pleas have been drowned out by the drama of an FBI warning that the grand jury’s decision “will likely be exploited by some individuals to justify threats and attacks against law enforcement and critical infrastructure.” The memo said people “could be armed with bladed weapons or firearms, equipped with tactical gear/gas masks, or bulletproof vests to mitigate law enforcement measures.”

Meanwhile, police restraint is hard to come by.

Jackson points to the incredible shooting in Cleveland involving a 12-year-old boy with a pellet gun who was gunned down by officers. Another incident in New York City involved the shooting of a man in a dark stairwell  by a rookie cop.

Understandable confusion and an accident? Not according to Jackson:

Until the nation frets more about actual police killings than it does speculating on potential black violence, questions like Mallory’s will continue to be asked.In 1968, the literary critic Hoyt Fuller wrote, “Black people are being called ‘violent’ these days, as if violence is a new invention out of the ghetto. But violence against the black minority is in-built in the established American society.”

As if to prove that Fuller continues to be right, USA Today two weeks ago reported that the number of fatal police shootings around the country last year was nearly nine a week, the highest in two decades. Earlier this year, the newspaper reported that nearly two black people a week were killed by police in a seven-year span ending in 2012. While one in five black people killed by police are under 21, only one in 11 white people killed by police are so young.

And many criminologists say we hardly know the full truth as USA Today found that only 750 of 17,000 police departments around the nation file killings by police with the FBI.

Jackson concludes:

So far, the nation has settled for the worm’s eye view on police while maintaining an eagle watch for an explosion by black people. Although few want riots, the disparity between these views is so blatantly unequal that it guarantees that violence against the black minority will remain built into established American society.

Does all the talk about potential violence because of the Ferguson grand jury decision constitute a kind of intimidation in and of itself? I think it does. But it’s a tactic by authorities to keep the peace. The speculation about violence is meant to warn the radical elements that the police will be ready for anything. As for ordinary citizens, the warnings and preparations make it advisable for them to avoid the protests altogether.

I’m just wondering if all this speculation about violence breaking out isn’t actually contributing to an atmosphere where violence becomes inevitable. It certainly raises the tension to unbearable levels where a release of some kind becomes necessary. You would hope that release takes the form of peaceful protests — but there are a lot of wild cards in the mix and quite literally, anything can happen.

I don’t share Mr. Jackson’s perspective, but I understand it. His positions may be based on a skewed worldview, and faulty reasoning, but it’s very difficult to walk a mile in his shoes.

Trying to understand the frame of reference of someone who holds polar opposite views of your own is never a wasted exercise.

Posted at 4:41 pm on November 24th, 2014 by

VA Manager at the Center of Phoenix Scandal Gets Fired

It only took six months of taxpayer-funded leave…

Department of Veterans Affairs officials on Monday said they had “formally removed,” Sharon Helman, the director of the Phoenix VA Health Care System, where the largest nationwide scandal in the agency’s history first came to light this summer.

Helman has been on paid administrative leave for nearly six months, following findings that employees at her hospital lied about health-care wait times for former troops seeking treatment for everything from cancer to post-traumatic stress disorder.

The action comes amid complaints from a growing chorus of Republicanswho said the agency was not acting quickly enough to discipline officials responsible for the wrongdoing, despite legislation this summer to expedite the process for firing VA senior executives.

“This removal action underscores VA’s commitment to hold leaders accountable and ensure that Veterans have access to quality and timely care,” the agency said in a short e-mailed statement.

The Justice Department had signaled that Helman’s firing would be fine, on Nov. 6. The VA had claimed that it could not legally fire her, because the scandal was still under FBI investigation.

Weeks before that, in October, the VA had officially recommended firing four officials who were involved in the scandal — but Helman was not on that list.

Posted at 3:00 pm on November 24th, 2014 by

‘We Want to Terminate the Sanctions’: Kerry Says Iran Playing Fair, Critics Disagree

Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Vienna that, on the seven-month extension of nuclear talks, if Iran and the P5+1 haven’t reached an agreement on ”the major elements” by the four-month mark “and there is no clear path, we can revisit how we then want to choose to proceed.”

But lawmakers know exactly how they want to proceed — with sanctions legislation decried by the administration as a deal-killer.

“Now I want to underscore that even as the negotiations continue towards a comprehensive deal, the world is safer than it was just one year ago. It is safer than we were before we agreed on the Joint Plan of Action, which was the interim agreement,” Kerry said, proclaiming that Iran “is indeed living up to its JPOA commitments.”

“…A year ago, we had no idea whether or not real progress could be made through these talks. We only knew that we had a responsibility to try. Today, we are closer to a deal that would make the entire world, especially our allies and partners in Israel and in the Gulf, safer and more secure.”

Kerry claimed they are “not going to sit at the negotiating table forever, absent measurable progress.”

The next meeting will be in December, he said, “to drive this process as hard as we can.”

“A viable agreement would have to include a new level of transparency and verification beyond the expanded access that we’ve had under the JPOA. And as these conditions are met, a viable agreement would also include for Iran relief from the international nuclear-related sanctions that help to bring them to the table to negotiate in the first place,” he said.

“…We want to terminate the sanctions. Yes, we want to terminate the sanctions which were put in place to get us to these negotiations and ultimately to be able to bring about a deal. But the world – and I underscore this – not just the United States, not just the P5+1 – the world still has serious questions about Iran’s nuclear program.”

Kerry also threw some words at “my friends in Congress,” who on both sides of the aisle have grown increasingly critical of the administration’s strategy and reluctance to consult lawmakers.

“I believe in the institution and the critical role that the Senate has to play, and the House. We have stayed in close consultation throughout this process, and we will continue to do so. And we look for your support for this extension and for continued talks,” he said.

“And I would say to those who are skeptical, those who wonder whether we should rush ahead down a different course, I believe the United States and our partners have earned the benefit of the doubt at this point,” Kerry continued. “Many were quick to say that the Joint Plan of Action would be violated; it wouldn’t hold up, it would be shredded. Many said that Iran would not hold up its end of the bargain. Many said that the sanctions regime would collapse. But guess what? The interim agreement wasn’t violated. Iran has held up its end of the bargain, and the sanctions regime has remained intact.”

Even though the State Department is trying to keep all details around the talks and agreement close to the vest, there’s buzz around Washington on whether Iran has violated the deal.

Around the same time IAEA revelations leaked about Iran feeding uranium gas into a centrifuge, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted about “how can Israel be eliminated” and tweeted about why he supports the nuclear talks, including “repelling the evil of the Great Satan.”

AIPAC said in a statement that, contrary to Kerry’s claims, “there is evidence that Iran has not fully complied with the Joint Plan of Action with respect both to its research and development of advanced centrifuges.”

Kerry confirmed Iran will be receiving “pro-rated” sanctions relief during the extension from an “already agreed upon fund that is dispersed, and since we’re living under it, we’ll live up to that agreement. But we’re not doing anything additional beyond that that I know of.”

He added that he hopes Congress will “come to see the wisdom of leaving us the equilibrium for a few months to be able to proceed without sending messages that might be misinterpreted and cause miscalculation.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who took over the committee from Kerry, called it “disappointing and worrying that after a year of serious talks with Iran that we do not have a deal, while Iran simultaneously stonewalls international weapons inspectors seeking access to suspicious sites in Iran.”

“The cycle of negotiations, followed by an extension, coupled with sanctions relief for Iran has not succeeded.  I continue to believe that the two-track approach of diplomacy and economic pressure that brought Iran to the negotiating table is also the best path forward to achieve a breakthrough,” Menendez said. “I intend to work with my Senate colleagues in a bipartisan manner in the coming weeks to ensure that Iran comprehends that we will not ever permit it to become a threshold nuclear state.”

The powerful lobbying group AIPAC called it “particularly troubling that this new extension will yield Tehran even more economic relief without increased pressure on the Islamic Republic.”

“Iran has now received direct sanctions relief valued at approximately ten billion dollars since the negotiations began, and there is no sign those benefits have produced favorable results,” they added in a statement.

“Congress delayed enacting additional sanctions over the past year to give negotiations a chance,” AIPAC said. “It is now essential that Congress take up new bipartisan sanctions legislation to let Tehran know that it will face much more severe pressure if it does not clearly abandon its nuclear weapons program. We urge Congress to play its traditional and critical role to ensure that a final agreement truly eliminates any path for Iran to build a nuclear weapon.”

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), co-author with Menendez of the sanctions legislation feared by the White House, agreed that it’s time to charge forward.

“Today’s announcement means that the Administration will continue to block sanctions and allow the terror-sponsoring Iranian regime to make $700 million a month—roughly $23 million per day—even as Iran advances its nuclear bomb-making program and sparks an arms race in the Middle East,” Kirk said. “Now more than ever, it’s critical that Congress enacts sanctions that give Iran’s mullahs no choice but to dismantle their illicit nuclear program and allow the International Atomic Energy Agency full and unfettered access to assure the international community’s security.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset today that crisis was averted — for now — without a bad deal coming by today’s deadline.

“It is very important that this agreement has been prevented as of now but a struggle is yet before us and we intend to continue this struggle in order to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold state that would endanger us and others,” Netanyhau said. “Israel will always act on this matter and reserves its right to defend itself by itself.”

Posted at 2:02 pm on November 24th, 2014 by

New Caption Contest: ‘Here’s How You Know Chuck Hagel Didn’t Really Resign, in 1 Picture’

 

U.S. President Barack Obama (C) speaks as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) and Vice President Joe Biden look on during a press conference announcing Hagel's resignation in the State Dining Room of the White House November 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

U.S. President Barack Obama (C) speaks as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) and Vice President Joe Biden look on during a press conference announcing Hagel’s resignation in the State Dining Room of the White House November 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

 

Our latest contest photo and headline come to us from the Washington Post’s  Chris Cillizza, who wrote at “The Fix” blog:

But, all of the reporting on the departure suggests that it was not really Hagel’s decision at all. And, judging from the body language and facial expressions on display at the announcement this morning, the reporting is right. Big time.

And to that I say, “Who needs a secretary of Defense anyway when we have such a strong commander in chief — winner of the Nobel Peace Prize?”

Caption-contest fans will find my declaration very comforting because we know a “Peace Through Strength” sign hangs in the Oval Office. (Shhhhh, Obama does not want you to know that he crossed out “Through Strength” with his famous “red line” using a Sharpie.)

For more on why Hagel “resigned” be sure to read  Bridget Johnson’s report here at PJ Media.  Here is my favorite line:

“You’ve always given it to me straight and for that I’ll always be grateful,” said Obama.

Now for more “straight” talk, click to the next page to find  out the winners of our last contest, which posed the question:

“Is Our King Playing with a Full Deck?”

Credit: Drudge Report

Credit: Drudge Report

Posted at 1:54 pm on November 24th, 2014 by

CNN Throws Objectivity Through A Window Before Ferguson Grand Jury News Is Released

The headline:

Another lost son, another call for justice

The day after Michael Brown was killed by a police officer, Syreeta Myers drove from her South City home to the northwest suburb of Ferguson. She marched on the street demanding justice for Brown’s death. She wanted to stand by his parents.

Two months later, Brown’s father was calling her. This time, it was Myers who was receiving support.
Like the Browns, she had lost a son.
VonDerrit Myers Jr. was 18, just like Michael Brown. He was a young black man killed by a white police officer.

“My issue is with crooked cops who won’t hesitate to kill a black man,” Syreeta Myers tells me on this dreary Sunday afternoon.

That kind of nuance permeates this little op-ed trial of law enforcement.

The tone in the past several months has become decidedly anti-law enforcement. From libertarians wailing about the militarization of police to minority groups basically saying all cops are cold-blooded killers just looking for opportunities to shoot young black men.

While there are certainly bad cops out there, this media savaging of the entire profession is a slippery slope that we probably shouldn’t head down. The reality is that the good far outnumber the bad, and all of them run the risk of getting killed every day at work.

In the Ferguson situation, the media almost seems desperate for violence to break out and have been doing everything they can to ratchet up the tension. It’s irresponsible and potentially dangerous.

If a riot breaks out on your street, who are you going to call? The cops or Don Lemon?

Posted at 1:50 pm on November 24th, 2014 by

Kerry Tells Russians to ‘Just ignore Obama’s statements’

Watch what Barack Obama does, not what he says — that was reportedly Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent message to Russian leaders.

Though it went entirely unnoticed in the Western press, all major Russian news outlets – RIA Novosti, Sputnik, RT, and others – were only too happy to report on what US Secretary of State John Kerry said last week to the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in private: “Just ignore Obama’s statements.”

According to Mr. Lavrov, John Kerry advised him not to pay too much attention to the US President’s harsh rhetoric directed toward his state. As recently as September, during his speech to the 69th UN General Assembly in New York, Mr. Obama puzzled and shocked Mr. Lavrov by placing “Russian aggression in Europe” in second place among the world’s threats, behind only the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, resigning to third place the “brutality of terrorists in Syria and Iraq.” “Aggressive Russia” again was included in Mr. Obama’s world top-danger list during November’s G20 Summit in Australia.

According to a translation commissioned by the Observer, Mr. Kerry advised Mr. Lavrov to “just ignore Obama’s statements.” Google translator phrases the nuance slightly differently: “Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says US Secretary of State John Kerry called on him to ‘pay no mind’ to a statement by President Obama.” But the take-home message is clearly the same.

Indeed it is. President Obama makes public comments for consumption and reaction in the United States, but has no intention of following through on what he says. His statements on Russia automatically and immediately expire.

The truth is, after erasable red lines and all, the entire world is pretty much ignoring what Obama says these days.

Posted at 1:09 pm on November 24th, 2014 by

Sunni and Shiite Clerics Meet to Discuss Ways to Combat Extremists…in Iran

How about taking a look at your hosts…

QOM, Iran (AP) — Shiite and Sunni clerics from about 80 countries gathered in Iran’s holy city of Qom on Sunday to develop a strategy to combat extremists, including the Islamic State group that has captured large parts of Iraq and Syria.

Shiite-majority Iran has been helping Iraqi, Syrian and Kurdish forces battle the Sunni extremist group on the ground while the U.S.-led coalition has been bombing it from the air. The Islamic State group views Shiites as apostates deserving of death and has massacred hundreds of captured Syrian and Iraqi soldiers, as well as Sunni rivals.

Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi, the chief organizer of the conference, appealed for consensus among Islam’s two main branches, urging all Muslim clerics to work to discredit groups espousing extremism.

Such as, the regime that routinely calls the United States the “Great Satan,” Israel the “Little Satan,” and calls for the latter to be wiped off the face of the earth? No?

Some of the clerics there said helpful things about taking ISIS down. Others…not so much.

Others repeated widely-circulated conspiracy theories holding that the United States and Israel created the Islamic State group to sow discord in the Muslim world.

“IS is a pawn whose job is to deepen divisions among Muslims,” said Mahdi Alizadeh Mousavi, a lower-level Iranian Shiite cleric.

Yahoo news helpfully notes that Iran isn’t really the model state for combating terrorism.

Iran is a strong backer of the Lebanese Hezbollah — viewed as a terrorist group in the West — and supports Iraqi Shiite militias that rights groups say have abducted and killed scores of Sunni civilians in reprisal attacks.

Iran also kept the Iraqi insurgency going for years. So there’s that.

 

Posted at 12:16 pm on November 24th, 2014 by

Chairman: On Fourth Defense Secretary, Obama Needs to Ask, ‘Is It Me?’

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said President Obama needs to look in the mirror as yet another secretary of Defense leaves his administration.

“The Obama administration is now in the market for their 4th secretary of Defense,” Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said. “When the president goes through three secretaries, he should ask, ‘Is it them, or is it me?’”

McKeon said “with the cards stacked against him,” Hagel “led the department with efficiency and aplomb.”

“He was given a thankless task of an underfunded Defense Department, growing threats, and intrusive White House micromanagement,” the chairman added.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who will lead the Senate Armed Services Committee in the 114th Congress, said despite policy differences with Hagel over the years he views the secretary as “a friend, a patriot, and a dedicated public servant who has always put our country first and the needs of our men and women in uniform above his own.”

“His predecessors have spoken about the excessive micro-management they faced from the White House and how that made it more difficult to do their jobs successfully. Chuck’s situation was no different,” McCain said.

“I hope the president will nominate a secretary of defense with the strength of character, judgment, and independence that Bob Gates, Leon Panetta, and Chuck Hagel all exhibited at their best. But ultimately, the president needs to realize that the real source of his current failures on national security more often lie with his administration’s misguided policies and the role played by his White House in devising and implementing them. That is the real change we need right now.”

The outgoing Senate Armed Services chairman, retiring Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), simply thanked Hagel’s “dedication to the security of our nation and the welfare of our troops and their families has always been steadfast.”

“I have always enjoyed a great personal relationship with him, and I commend him on a lifetime of service to his nation in war and in peace,” Levin added.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said Obama needs to “move quickly” to nominate a new Defense secretary. “The threats we currently face, be it ISIS, Iran or others, involve some of the most dangerous actors in the world,” he said.

“The new secretary must be willing and able to develop a cohesive long-term strategy to combat these threats and keep our nation safe. This has not proven to be a strong point for this administration in the past, and that must change. America cannot continue to lead from behind on issues of national security at home and abroad.”

“Whether a resignation or a firing of Secretary Hagel, this decision reflects the uncertainty of this administration as it relates to foreign policy in general, and in particular the destruction of ISIS,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.). “Given the crisis with ISIS, along with situations of unrest in the Ukraine, Iran, and west Africa, this president and his administration need to send a clear message of strength and commitment.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said a recent memo from Hagel about the administration’s failing policy against ISIS “was welcome news to those of us who have harbored these thoughts for some time.”

“Whether it was leaving a residual force behind in Iraq or assisting the Free Syrian Army at a time when it would have been most beneficial, our failing strategies in Iraq and Syria are President Obama’s fault. On numerous occasions he has chosen to ignore sound military advice,” Graham said.

“I hope President Obama will now do the same soul-searching regarding our failing strategies in Syria and Iraq.  He too must be willing to make the necessary changes.”

Posted at 11:32 am on November 24th, 2014 by

Cartoon: Hagel Fiddled with Climate Change While the World Burned

Departing SecDef Chuck Hagel may have fired some shots at President Obama on his way out, but cartoonist Rob Lang reminds us that Hagel has done his boss’ bidding on political priorities, while serious national security threats emerged around the world. Click to enlarge.

Fiddling with climate change

Posted at 11:00 am on November 24th, 2014 by

‘New Car Smell’? MSNBC Pundit Says Hillary Clinton Is the Democrats’ ‘Only Hope’

In an ABC interview broadcast Sunday, President Obama said two things that are contradictory to each other.

When asked about his declining popularity and what Americans might be looking for in the 2016 presidential election, Obama said that voters will be looking for that “new car smell.” In other words, not someone like him, who has now been in the national eye for a decade and in the presidency for six years.

“I think the American people, you know, they’re going to want — you know, that new car smell. You know, their own — they want to drive something off the lot that doesn’t have as much mileage as me,” Obama told Democrat operative turned ABC host George Stephanopoulos.

But Obama also said that Hillary Clinton would be a “terrific” president. Clinton has been in national politics since her husband won the presidency in 1992. The former first lady, senator and secretary of state has spent decades on the national stage, yet has very few accomplishments — but major controversies like “sniper fire,” the Russian “reset” and Benghazi — to burnish her resume.

MSNBC pundit Mark Halperin sees a potential Hillary Clinton candidacy differently. Halperin told his colleagues on Morning Joe today that Hillary Clinton is the Democratic Party’s “only chance” to retain the presidency in 2016.

YouTube Preview Image

“They’ve got a bench,” host Mika Brzezinski said of the Republicans’ 2016 hopefuls, noting that Mitt Romney, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush and many others are considering running and have records to run on. “Unlike, I mean, do the Democrats have a bench?” she asked Halperin.

“Oh no they’ve got one big front-runner,” Halperin replied.

“But do they have a bench?” Brzezinski asked again.

“No, she’s their only hope,” Halperin replied, shaking his head and chuckling.

Hillary Clinton is currently 67 years old, and would be 70 by the time she takes office if she were to win the presidency in 2016. That would make her one of the oldest presidents in American history, something quite different from Barack Obama’s “new car smell.”

h/t DC Examiner

Posted at 10:06 am on November 24th, 2014 by

Flournoy Unchained: SecDef Shortlister Defended Obama’s Iraq Withdrawal

Former Pentagon official Michèle Flournoy is said to be on the short list to replace Chuck Hagel. Hagel is being forced out of the Obama administration, the first cabinet-rank change since voters roundly rejected Obama’s policies in the Nov. 4 elections.

Flournoy bears the distinction of having publicly defended Obama’s withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. During the 2012 election, Flournoy attacked Mitt Romney over the issue.

Romney, in comments that have turned out to be prescient in light of the rise of ISIS, ripped Obama’s troop withdrawal as “tragic.” That withdrawal left a vacuum of power into which the Islamic State has risen and seized territory the size of England.

“Governor Romney called the ending of the Iraq War and the bringing of our troops home ‘tragic,’ which is really hard to understand,” Flournoy said in an Obama campaign video. “He wanted to keep our troops there longer, tens of thousands of them.”

Such loyalty to Obama may be rewarded with an appointment to lead the Pentagon.

Posted at 9:33 am on November 24th, 2014 by

While We Were Distracted by the Hagel Press Conference, Iran Nuke Talks Were Punted to Next Summer

SQUIRREL!

Iranian and Western diplomats said nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers will be extended until July 1, 2015.

The diplomats spoke in Vienna on the final day of the group’s self-imposed, year-long period to agree on a comprehensive deal to ensure Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful.

They said they will work toward a framework agreement by March 1, outlining progress made and identifying points still be to be resolved. A final deal would be reached by July 1.

Talks are expected to resume before the end of this year, though it was not clear when or where they would be held. This would be the second extension, after an original, six-month deadline expired in July.

Well, now we know why Chuck Hagel absolutely, positively had to conclude that his service to the country was finished this morning. The Easter Island Head in charge of State has been floundering on the diplomatic front so badly that Republicans might soon miss Hillary Clinton. Nothing says, “We want to thwart your nuclear ambitions,” like giving more time to the potentially dangerous party.

There is no real evidence that Kerry and our allies will get what we want from these negotiations, so the administration better appoint another Republican that they can fire next summer.

Posted at 8:46 am on November 24th, 2014 by

Hagel Unchained: Departing Defense Secretary Fires Parting Shots in Interview Last Week

Departing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel may have sealed his exit in this interview with Charlie Rose last week. Rose conducted the interview at the Pentagon.

In the interview, Hagel made two key points that serve as accusations that President Barack Obama is mismanaging the United States military and the ISIS threat.

Rose asked Hagel to elaborate on comments that he made in a speech at the Reagan Library last weekend. In that speech, Hagel said that America’s military capability, while still the best in the world, is being threatened.

Hagel re-iterated that to Rose, but also left viewers to wonder about the direction that President Obama is taking the military.

“I am worried about it, I am concerned about it, Chairman Dempsey is, the chiefs are, every leader of this institution,” Hagel said, including Pentagon leadership but leaving both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s names out of his list of officials who are worried about the U.S. military’s declining capability. Hagel said that the Congress and the American people need to know what while the U.S. military remains the strongest, best trained and most motivated in the world, its lead is being threatened because of policies being implemented now.

Hagel went on to note that a good leader prepares their institution for future success, saying that “the main responsibility of any leader is to prepare your institution for the future. If you don’t do that, you’ve failed. I don’t care how good you are, how smart you are, any part of your job. If you don’t prepare your institution, you’ve failed.”

In the past couple of years, Hagel has warned that defense budget cuts implemented under President Obama were hurting readiness and capability. The “how smart you are” line may be a veiled shot at President Obama, who basks in a media image that he is a cerebral, professorial president.

In the same interview, Hagel also commented on the rise of ISIS and how it must be fought. Hagel charged that Obama’s handling of the ISIS threat is now indirectly assisting Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

While President Obama has downplayed the ISIS threat, even calling the group “jayvee” as it rose to power, Hagel warned last week that it is a threat unlike any other we have ever faced.

“We’ve never seen an organization like ISIL that is so well-organized, so well-trained, so well-funded, so strategic, so brutal, so completely ruthless,” Hagel said. “We have never seen anything quite like that in one institution.

“And then they blend in ideology — which will eventually lose, we get that — and social media. The sophistication of their social media program is something that we’ve never seen before. You blend all of that together, that is an incredibly powerful new threat.”

Related: 

Flournoy Unchained: SecDef Shortlister Defended Obama’s Iraq Withdrawal

 

Posted at 8:30 am on November 24th, 2014 by

Obama Says It’s ‘Appropriate Time’ for Hagel to Go; Lawmakers Say Defense Secretary Disagreed with White House

Saying he was “lucky” to have Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in his administration, President Obama said it’s now the “appropriate time for him to complete his service.”

Obama was flanked by Hagel and Vice President Joe Biden during the Monday morning announcement in the State Dining Room.

He credited Hagel with helping build a coalition to fight ISIS and combat Ebola in West Africa, and said the troops see themselves in the Vietnam veteran.

Obama said Hagel came on board when the Pentagon was “entering a significant period of transition” including the drawdown in Afghanistan and budgetary constraints.

The president called Hagel “an exemplary Defense secretary” and added he’s admired him since he was a “green-behind-the-ears freshman senator.”

“If there’s one thing I know about Chuck, he does not take this or any decision lightly,” Obama said.

Hagel will stay on until a successor is confirmed.

“You’ve always given it to me straight and for that I’ll always be grateful,” said Obama.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) noted to CNN that he saw growing policy rifts between Hagel and Obama, including over boots on the ground to battle ISIS.

“Secretary Hagel did not believe that the foreign policy is working or is going to work,” King said.

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told Fox that Hagel’s firing “makes very clear that this administration continues to be far more concerned about controlling the message than they are about controlling the threat that the United States faces.”

“What we understand that the real catalyst for this move was not so much what the secretary’s done or not but really that he’s given the White House advice that they don’t want to hear, and that’s what concerns me,” Forbes said.

“Because whether I agree with the secretary of Defense or not, we want him to be able to give his honest advice to the president of the United States. And we’ve had testimony where our leaders have been saying this president’s White House has been ignoring the military advice and advice coming out of the Department of Defense. That concerns us a great deal.”

Obama added that today the U.S. can “claim the strongest military the world has ever known.”

In his remarks, Hagel thanked the troops and lawmakers, and promised to work hard until his successor is confirmed. He called building a team effort “part of the fun of it.”

“It’s been the greatest privilege of my life,” he said.

Posted at 8:28 am on November 24th, 2014 by

Paul Unveils ‘Declaration of War’ Against Islamic State

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) today released a “declaration of war against the Islamic State” with the intention of introducing when Congress comes back into session after Thanksgiving.

The resolution would kill the 2002 Iraq Authorization for Use of Military Force and put a one-year expiration date on the 2001 Afghanistan AUMF. The administration has been leaning upon those war on terror statutes to conduct current operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

It notes that “the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State has declared war on the United States and its allies” and “presents a clear and present danger to United States diplomatic facilities in the region, including our embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.”

“The state of war between the United States and the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has been thrust upon the United States, is hereby formally declared pursuant to Article I, section 8, clause 11, of the United States Constitution,” the resolution states.

“The President is hereby authorized and directed to use the Armed Forces of the United States to protect the people and facilities of the United States in Iraq and Syria against the threats posed thereto by the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).”

It clarifies that it can’t be “construed as declaring war or authorizing force against any organization” except ISIS or direct affiliates.

It limit the use of ground forces except “as necessary for the protection or rescue of members of the United States Armed Forces or United States citizens from imminent danger posed by the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS); for limited operations against high value targets; or as necessary for advisory and intelligence gathering operations.”

Posted at 8:08 am on November 24th, 2014 by

The Senate Must Pass This Vital Bipartisan National Security Bill Before the Session Ends

The lame duck Senate, still under Democratic control, has at least one major national decision to make: confirming departing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s successor. That is, if President Obama nominates Hagel’s successor before the session ends.

The Senate could and should take up an important national security bill before the 113th Congress’ clock runs out. That bill is S.2329, the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act of 2014. The bill directs the president to designate Hezbollah,up to now viewed primarily as a terrorist group and national security threat, as a significant narcotics trafficker and a significant transnational criminal organization.

Hezbollah has American blood on its hands. The terrorist group bombed the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon on October 23, 1983, killing 241 American personnel. The group was founded in 1982 and has been an officially designated terrorist group for nearly 20 years. But it has flourished, thanks to its Iranian patronage and to its extensive criminal activities. In addition to launching numerous attacks against Israel, Hezbollah has killed civilians in attacks all over the world.

S.2329 was introduced by Sen. Jean Shaheen (D-NH) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) in May 2013. There has been no Senate action on it since.

The House version passed unanimously on July 22, 2014. It has 321 co-sponsors in the House, including conservatives like Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) and liberals like Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL).

In the Senate, in addition to Shaheen and Rubio, the bill has 55 co-sponsors from both parties. Those co-sponsors include conservative Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). It has support across the ideological divide, in both houses of Congress, and for good reason: It would enable the United States to bring new law enforcement firepower to bear against a major international terrorist group, in two key ways.

One, it would “prevent Hezbollah’s global logistics and financial network from operating in order to curtail funding of its domestic and international activities.” Two, it would “utilize diplomatic, legislative, and executive avenues to combat Hezbollah’s criminal activities in order to block that organization’s ability to fund its global terrorist activities.”

The bill would also go after Hezbollah’s broadcasting operations and its worldwide logistics network. By choking off its finances and its propaganda, the U.S. may eliminate Hezbollah as a threat both to our country and to our allies. Doing so would weaken Iran’s hand as the U.S. and our allies look to curb Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

The U.S. has had some important successes in choking off Hezbollah’s criminal funding streams over the past few years, by prosecuting banks and individuals found to be assisting Hezbollah’s financial operations. But more tools are needed to fight Hezbollah.

The bill is needed, in short, because it would add Hezbollah’s criminal activities to its its ideological-terrorism activities as crimes which the U.S. government and our allies would vigorously fight worldwide. The fact is, while Hezbollah receives funding from Iran to conduct its operations primarily against Israel, it is also a major worldwide drug trafficking network and money laundering operation. Hezbollah is both an Islamic terrorist group and a violent drug cartel. Its cartel activities fund its mass murder attacks. But its criminal activities mostly take a back seat to its ideological activities, in terms of national security priorities and its overall treatment by the United States.

S.2329 would change that, and bring significant law enforcement tools to bear against Hezbollah. These tools will help close off the terrorist group’s finance streams all over the world, and put countries that host Hezbollah on notice that they are harboring a group that the United States now considers a major global criminal network as well as an ideological foe.

All the Senates needs to do is pass the bipartisan bill. Then it would go to President Obama’s desk for his signature, and the United States would significantly ramp up the fight against Hezbollah terrorism, all over the world.

 

Posted at 7:54 am on November 24th, 2014 by

Christian Woman on Death Row in Pakistan: ‘Please Don’t Abandon Me’

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Nicholas Kristof devoted precious New York Times space to the pleadings of one Christian Pakistani family to save their wife and mother from a death sentence:

Note: Asia Bibi, a Christian Pakistani woman, was sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam in 2010. The year before, while picking fruit with Muslim women, she took a sip of water from the local well. She was immediately accused of making the water impure by ​the other workers, ​who told her that they could no longer use the well. A​ccording to her husband, Ashiq Masih, and others, men and women started beating her and accusing her of making derogatory remarks against the Islamic prophet Muhammad, a charge she denies. Asia is currently in prison waiting to be hanged after losing an appeal ​on ​Oct. 16. She has told her story in a memoir, Blasphemy: A Memoir: Sentenced to Death over a Cup of Water, written with French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet. 

Below is an open letter by Ashiq addressed to the world community. (Madam Mayor refers to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who has offered her support to Asia.)

Her husband writes, in part:

I live in hiding with my five children as near as possible to Asia. She needs us very much to help keep her alive, to bring her medicine and good food when she is sick.

After my wife had spent four long years in prison in terrible conditions, we were hoping that the High Court of Lahore would free my wife. She did not commit blasphemy, never. Since the court confirmed the death sentence on the 16th of October, we do not understand why our country, our beloved Pakistan, is so against us. Our family has always lived here in peace, and we never had any disturbance. We are Christians but we respect Islam. Our neighbors are Muslims and we have always lived well with them in our little village. But for some years now the situation in Pakistan has changed because of just a few people, and we are afraid. Today many of our Muslim friends cannot understand why the Pakistani justice system is making our family suffer so much.

We are now trying our best to present the final case to the Supreme Court before the 4th of December. But we are convinced that Asia will only be saved from being hanged if the venerable President Mammon Hussain grants her a pardon. No one should be killed for drinking a glass of water.

Posted at 7:44 am on November 24th, 2014 by

‘Under Pressure,’ Hagel Out as Secretary of Defense

President Obama is expected to announce at 11:10 a.m. EST that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down.

According to the New York Times, Hagel is doing so “under pressure” after two weeks of meetings with Obama.

More from the NYT:

The officials described Mr. Obama’s decision to remove Mr. Hagel, 68, as a recognition that the threat from the Islamic State would require a different kind of skills than those that Mr. Hagel was brought on to employ. A Republican with military experience who was skeptical about the Iraq war, Mr. Hagel came in to manage the Afghanistan combat withdrawal and the shrinking Pentagon budget in the era of budget sequestration.

But now “the next couple of years will demand a different kind of focus,” one administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. He insisted that Mr. Hagel was not fired, saying that he initiated discussions about his future two weeks ago with the president, and that the two men mutually agreed that it was time for him to leave.

But Mr. Hagel’s aides had maintained in recent weeks that he expected to serve the full four years as defense secretary. His removal appears to be an effort by the White House to show that it is sensitive to critics who have pointed to stumbles in the government’s early response to several national security issues, including the Ebola crisis and the threat posed by the Islamic State.

Earlier this month Hagel said there was critical need for overhaul of the country’s nuclear force — plans that the House Armed Services Committee chairman feared would clash with Obama’s “global zero” anti-nuke plans.

Hagel told reporters that both internal and external reviews found “a consistent lack of investment and support for our nuclear forces over far too many years has left us with too little margin to cope with mounting stresses.”

Hagel’s recommendations included “changes in organization, policies, and culture,” while “others require an increase in resources, allocated to the nuclear mission.”

“I hope the president will listen to his senior civilian and military national security leaders, take this as seriously as they do, and cast aside his Global Zero vision that is in reality unilateral disarmament,” Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said at the time. “We can work together to follow the blueprint established by Secretary Hagel and his review and show the leadership our men and women in uniform deserve.”

Obama passed over Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter for the job after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta resigned. Carter, a highly knowledgeable and powerful force inside the Pentagon, stepped down in October 2013. A week later, Press Secretary George Little resigned.

Panetta has since unleashed on the administration in a memoir, saying last month that the president drawing an unenforced red line on Syria was “damaging” to U.S. credibility.

Panetta’s book notes that Obama too often ”relies on the logic of a law professor rather than the passion of a leader” and sometimes he “avoids the battle, complains, and misses opportunities.”

Posted at 6:45 am on November 24th, 2014 by

SecDef Chuck Hagel Is Resigning

Breaking news today: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is leaving the Obama administration. The NY Times reports that Hagel is the first casualty from the Democrats’ massive defeat on Nov. 4.

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down under pressure, the first cabinet-level casualty of the collapse of President Obama’s Democratic majority in the Senate and a beleaguered national security team that has struggled to stay ahead of an onslaught of global crises.

The president, who is expected to announce Mr. Hagel’s resignation in a Rose Garden appearance on Monday, made the decision to ask his defense secretary — the sole Republican on his national security team — to step down last Friday after a series of meetings over the past two weeks, senior administration officials said.

Hagel has “struggled to fit in” with Obama’s close circle of advisers, according to the Times, and initiated talks over his future in October.

Hagel’s departure will be announced in the White House Rose Garden this afternoon.

Hagel was the lone Republican left in Obama’s national security team. He got off to a disheartening start at Defense, in incoherent confirmation hearings. Hagel has presided over a sharp rise in the Islamic State threat, a threat that he and President Obama publicly saw very differently.

He raised the ire of the White House in August as the administration was ramping up its strategy to fight the Islamic State, directly contradicting the president, who months before had likened the Sunni militant group to a junior varsity basketball squad. Mr. Hagel, facing reporters in his now-familiar role next to General Dempsey, called the Islamic State an “imminent threat to every interest we have,” adding, “This is beyond anything that we’ve seen.” White House officials later said they viewed those comments as unhelpful, although the administration still appears to be struggling to define just how large is the threat posed by the Islamic State.

Possible replacements include former undersecretary of defense Michèle Flournoy, Democrat Sen. Jack Reed (RI), and former deputy defense secretary Ashton Carter, according to the Times.

Posted at 6:39 am on November 24th, 2014 by

Graham: House Intelligence Committee Report Clearing Admin of Misleading on Benghazi is ‘Full of Crap’

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) blasted the House Intelligence Committee’s final report on Benghazi as “full of crap.”

The committee found no big intelligence failure in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on a diplomatic facility that took four American lives, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

It also cleared the administration of wrongdoing in the time it took to launch a rescue operation for consulate staff. And it found that current National Security Adviser Susan Rice wasn’t being deliberately misleading when she made the rounds on the networks to deliver inaccurate talking points that, in part, pointed the finger of blame at anger over an anti-Muhammad video on YouTube.

“As the Committee’s bipartisan report makes clear, the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the Benghazi attacks focused on the Intelligence Community’s activities before, during, and after the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11-12, 2012,” Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said in a statement Saturday. “The bipartisan panel concluded that there was no stand down order issued by or to intelligence community personnel, and there was no denial of air support to intelligence community officers on the ground. The officers present testified to that effect.”

“The Committee did receive evidence about the activities of the Defense Department, State Department, and White House personnel, which are explained in both the report and the additional views,” he added. “But the Committee does not make final conclusions about other agencies to the extent they were not the focus of the Committee’s investigation.”

Rogers said all members of the committee “were given an opportunity to provide written comments on the Committee’s work and the report.” The retiring chairman “wrote additional views to provide further comments on the motivations and actions of some senior officials.”

“Similarly, the Minority Members provided additional comments. The Committee urges those commenting on the report to read both the report and the additional views.”

Rep. Trey Gowdy’s (R-S.C.) Select Committee on Benghazi said it “received the Intelligence Committee’s report on the Benghazi terrorist attack months ago, and has reviewed it along with other Committee reports and materials as the investigation proceeds.”

“It will aid the Select Committee’s comprehensive investigation to determine the full facts of what happened in Benghazi, Libya before, during and after the attack and contribute toward our final, definitive accounting of the attack on behalf of Congress.”

Said Graham on CNN Sunday: “I think the report is full of crap.”

“To say that Mike Morell — well, the deputy director of the CIA, when I ask him, do you know who changed the talking points, and — with Senator Ayotte and McCain and Susan Rice sitting by his side, said the FBI changed the talking points when it came to references to al-Qaeda,” Graham said. “Only later did we find out through a lawsuit that Mike Morell was deeply involved in changing the talking points, the deputy director of the FBI. When he was sitting in front of a congressional panel and he was asked, does anybody here know who changed the talking points, he sat silent. So, no, the intel community through him lied.”

The House Intelligence Committee, the senator charged, “is doing a lousy job policing their own.”

“I’m saying that anybody who has followed Benghazi at all knows that the CIA deputy director did not come forward to tell Congress what role he played in changing the talking points. And the only way we knew he was involved is when he told a representative at the White House, I’m going to do a hard review of this, a hard rewrite,” he said.

“Three days after the attack, they did not give a damn about the intelligence. They wanted to create a political narrative to protect the president. And I’m not going to stop until someone is held accountable for allowing it to be a death trap, somebody be fired for not coming to the aid of these people for nine-and-a-half-hours. And somebody ought to be fired for lying to the American people. They were worried about the reelection, not telling the truth. And when Susan Rice said, ‘I have no regrets, I gave the American people the best evidence available,’ that’s a bald-faced lie.”

Graham added that when the House Intelligence Committee “says there is no manipulating of the American people, that is absolute garbage.”

“When they say there is no evidence that CIA personnel misled the Congress regarding changing the talking points, that is a lie, because I was on the receiving end of the lie.”

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) told CNN that Graham’s reaction to the report was “right on target.”

“You know, when you look at this administration it seems like they very much wanted to say that there was no successful al-Qaeda out there,” Kirk said.

House Intelligence Committee member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told the network that “calling it crap doesn’t change the fact that it was an exhaustive and objective review.”

“It reminds me of a lawyer’s maxim that, if the law is not on your side, emphasize the facts. If the facts aren’t on your side, bang on the table. I think we heard Lindsey banging on the table quite a bit this morning,” Schiff said.

“This was a two-year exhaustive investigation. It was released by the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee and had the support of all the Republicans and Democrats on the committee. It’s designed to be the definitive word on what happened from the intelligence community’s point of view… There were 21 intelligence assessments at the time that it began as a protest. Those turned out to be wrong, but there was no malice in getting it wrong.”

Posted at 6:30 am on November 24th, 2014 by

More Defections of ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Rebels to ISIS

Earlier this month I reported here at PJ Media on the surrender and defections of U.S.-backed Syrian rebel troops to Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate), most notably the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, which the DC foreign policy establishment was hailing as “the West’s best fighting chance against Syria’s Islamist armies,” and Harkat al-Hazm, the first group to receive heavy weaponry from the U.S. earlier this year.

Now Mona Mahmood of the Guardian reports that elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are defecting to ISIS:

US air strikes in Syria are encouraging anti-regime fighters to forge alliances with or even defect to Islamic State (Isis), according to a series of interviews conducted by the Guardian.

Fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Islamic military groups are joining forces with Isis, which has gained control of swaths of Syria and Iraq and has beheaded six western hostages in the past few months.

Some brigades have transferred their allegiance, while others are forming tactical alliances or truces. Support among civilians also appears to be growing in some areas as a result of resentment over US-led military action.

“Isis now is like a magnet that attracts large numbers of Muslims,” said Abu Talha, who defected from the FSA a few months ago and is now in negotiations with other fighters from groups such as the al-Nusra Front to follow suit.

As the article notes, rebels perceive the U.S. airstrikes against ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra as a “war on Islam”:

[FSA fighter Murad] and his fellow fighters were awaiting the arrival of Isis militants in Homs, he added. “The moment Isis fighters touch the soil of the Homs countryside, we will be the first to fight with them at the front. This [US-led] military coalition is not against Isis, it is against entire Islam.”

This sentiment is hardly aberrant among the so-called “vetted moderate” Syrian rebels. As I reported back in September, the U.S.-backed Harakat al-Hazm issued a statement at the outset of the U.S. anti-ISIS bombing campaign saying it was  ”an attack on the revolution.”

And I’ve also previously reported that many of these U.S.-backed and armed “vetted moderate” groups have shifting alliances that include fighting with ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra.

As far back as July there were reports that large groups of FSA units were defecting to al-Qaeda and ISIS, surrendering their U.S.-provided weapons along the way, and that other FSA units were forging peace deals and fighting alongside al-Qaeda and ISIS in some areas.

While most of the D.C. foreign policy establishment was promoting the arming of the so-called “vetted moderate” FSA, a few of us were openly skeptical of any effort to back so-called “moderate jihadists.” Whether by Republicans or Democrats, such efforts in the past have always ended in tears for the U.S. and led to increased threats to our national security.

This policy in Syria has been so disastrous the Obama administration has been openly distancing themselves from their “vetted moderate” Syrian rebel partners.

Remarkably, as I noted earlier this month, congressional Republican leadership jumped on board with Obama’s policies at the very moment he was abandoning them, voting to spend another $500 million to arm and train the “vetted moderates.” Meanwhile, some GOP figures who supported Obama’s policies of supporting and arming the FSA since 2011, namely John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have been unapologetic in the face of the collapse and defections of their “vetted moderate” friends.

It remains to be seen whether the new Congress that will be seated in January will follow the folly of the current Congress in providing training, money and weapons to the FSA. But expect these defections by the FSA and other U.S.-backed groups to ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra to continue.

Posted at 6:20 am on November 24th, 2014 by