May their sacrifice never be forgotten.
May no American serviceman's sacrifice be in vain.
George Washington Univ. Law Prof. Johnathan Turley, writing at the Wapo, has had an epiphany:
[Our federal government] is dangerously off kilter. Our carefully constructed system of checks and balances is being negated by the rise of a fourth branch, an administrative state of sprawling departments and agencies that govern with increasing autonomy and decreasing transparency. . . .
This exponential growth has led to increasing power and independence for agencies. The shift of authority has been staggering. The fourth branch now has a larger practical impact on the lives of citizens than all the other branches combined.
The rise of the fourth branch has been at the expense of Congress’s lawmaking authority. In fact, the vast majority of “laws” governing the United States are not passed by Congress but are issued as regulations, crafted largely by thousands of unnamed, unreachable bureaucrats. One study found that in 2007, Congress enacted 138 public laws, while federal agencies finalized 2,926 rules, including 61 major regulations.
This rulemaking comes with little accountability. It’s often impossible to know, absent a major scandal, whom to blame for rules that are abusive or nonsensical. . . .
Welcome to the party Prof. Turley. Or as Stephen Heyward srites at Powerline of the professor, In Praise Of Slow Learners. As I wrote last year in a detailed post, End The Tyranny - Stop Regulation Without Representation, this as the single greatest systemic threat to our form of government.
To his credit, Prof. Turley concludes likewise:
In the new regulatory age, presidents and Congress can still change the government’s priorities, but the agencies effectively run the show based on their interpretations and discretion. The rise of this fourth branch represents perhaps the single greatest change in our system of government since the founding.
We cannot long protect liberty if our leaders continue to act like mere bystanders to the work of government.
The problem is that this is completely off the radar screen in our national discourse.
Jon Stewart does a great bit explaining the main thrust of the IRS scandal, the targeting of 501(c)(4) applications of conservative organizations.
But there is much more to this scandal than just IRS handling of applications for tax exempt status by conservatives. There is the targeting of these applicants for audits by not just the IRS, but other organs of our federal government. Peggy Noonan at the WSJ recounts one particularly horrific story:
[T]he most important IRS story came not from the hearings but from Mike Huckabee's program on Fox News Channel. He interviewed and told the story of Catherine Engelbrecht—a nice woman, a citizen, an American. She and her husband live in Richmond, Texas. They have a small manufacturing business. In the past few years she became interested in public policy and founded two groups, King Street Patriots and True the Vote.
In July 2010 she sent applications to the IRS for tax-exempt status. What followed was not the harassment, intrusiveness and delay we're now used to hearing of. The U.S. government came down on her with full force.
In December 2010 the FBI came to ask about a person who'd attended a King Street Patriots function. In January 2011 the FBI had more questions. The same month the IRS audited her business tax returns. In May 2011 the FBI called again for a general inquiry about King Street Patriots. In June 2011 Engelbrecht's personal tax returns were audited and the FBI called again. In October 2011 a round of questions on True the Vote. In November 2011 another call from the FBI. The next month, more questions from the FBI. In February 2012 a third round of IRS questions on True the Vote. In February 2012 a first round of questions on King Street Patriots. The same month the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms did an unscheduled audit of her business. (It had a license to make firearms but didn't make them.) In July 2012 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration did an unscheduled audit. In November 2012 more IRS questions on True the Vote. In March 2013, more questions. In April 2013 a second ATF audit.
All this because she requested tax-exempt status for a local conservative group and for one that registers voters and tries to get dead people off the rolls. Her attorney, Cleta Mitchell, who provided the timeline above, told me: "These people, they are just regular Americans. They try to get dead people off the voter rolls, you would think that they are serial killers."
This week Ms. Engelbrecht, who still hasn't received her exemptions, sued the IRS.
That goes far beyond merely targeting a 501(c)(4) application. It is far more Soviet than American. Who is coordinating the activities of all of these other organizations in their thuggery? Somehow, that seems like it would go far beyond a mid-level bureaucrat at the IRS's Cincinnati office. One of the key bits of information we need to know is who authorized the FBI investigation as well as the audits by OSHA, ATF and the IRS.
Between the IRS, Benghazi, AP & Fox scandals, it is safe to surmise that the Obama administration felt that it had lost control of the media cycle. So it is no surprise that team Obama would make a highly touted, short notice speech on _____________ (insert non-scandal related topic here). In this case, they opted to make the topic "counterterrorism." The underlying theme was "LOOK, A SQUIRREL." You can read the speech here.
There was virtually nothing new in this speech beyond the gloss. Obama used a lot of words to cover ground he has covered before - for example, close Guantanamo, how to authorize drone strikes, treating counterterrorism as a legal matter rather than one of war, change the AUMF, and foreign aid for unfriendly governments.
The most troubling part of the speech was when Obama restated his intent to unilaterally end the "War on Terror." We may of course end our side of it, but somehow I doubt that al Qaeda or Iran will respond in kind. Obama asked for Congress to withdraw the Authorization For Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed after 9-11, both on grounds that it was no longer necessary and because, he intimated, future governments could not be trusted with such an open ended authorization.
What Obama succeeded in doing in his speech was to highlight just how utterly naive and dangerous his foreign policy truly is. Obama ignored Iran and the nuclear threat it poses. He ignored all of the dangers of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. He almost wholly ignored the role of al Qaeda in Syria and how the Syrian civil war is destabilizing the entire Middle East. He almost wholly ignored the extensive gains by al Qaeda across North Africa - including in Libya and Benghazi, as well as ignoring the attack on our diplomats in Benghazi but for an embrace of the Accountability Review Board recommendations.
After jaw droppingly asserting that we now face only the same dangers as we faced pre 9-11, Obama explained the threat as: ,
Most, though not all, of the terrorism we faced is fueled by a common ideology -- a belief by some extremists that Islam is in conflict with the United States and the West, and that violence against Western targets, including civilians, is justified in pursuit of a larger cause. Of course, this ideology is based on a lie, for the United States is not at war with Islam. And this ideology is rejected by the vast majority of Muslims, who are the most frequent victims of terrorist attacks.
If you were to drill down to the single greatest problem with Obama's foreign policy, it is shown in the above paragraph. The terrorism we face is not "fueled by a common ideology," it is fueled by a common strand of a religion - Wahhabi Salafi Islam. It is not "rejected" by the "vast majority of Muslims," it is the mainstream of teaching coming out of Saudi Arabia and Saudi influenced mosques and madrassas around the world. Indeed, it is an interpretation of Islam that is spreading around the world, overtaking all other forms of Islam. Bottom line, so long as Obama and the left around the world try to whitewash Islam - and in particular, Wahhabism - and shield it from sunlight and responsibility, we will hemorrhage blood and gold dealing with the threat.
One other issue of note was Obama's attempt to deflect blame on the AP and Fox investigation scandals by calling for a media shield law to protect journalists. In other words, 'stop me before I do it again.
So this was Obama's attempt to reset the media narrative. Its effect won't last, but that won't be because the far left in the media fail to talk up this ridiculous speech as something substantive rather than the bit of refried misdirection that it actually is. The NYT editorial board is a case in point. It claims to be in thrall with the Obama speech, and in particular, his decision to unilaterally end war:
President Obama’s speech on Thursday was the most important statement on counterterrorism policy since the 2001 attacks, a momentous turning point in post-9/11 America. For the first time, a president stated clearly and unequivocally that the state of perpetual warfare that began nearly 12 years ago is unsustainable for a democracy and must come to an end in the not-too-distant future.
If this were not so deadly serious, one would have to laugh at this bit of insanity. It is the NYT cheering a modern day Kellogg-Briand Pact, the 1928 declaration outlawing war and signed by, among others Germany, Italy, Japan and the Soviet Union.
Update: MSNBC joins the NYT in labeling Obama's speech as "historic." One wonders whether between the NYT and MSNBC there is an ounce of intellectual honesty.
Update: Andrew McCarthy at NRO makes precisely the same points I raised above about Obama's speech. Michael Ledeen at PJM is left bewildered that Obama could make a speech on counterterrorism and not mention the world's biggest source of terrorism, Iran.
For the past six years, the right has been railing against the mainstream media for wholly ignoring all stories that would be problematic for Obama and the left. The worm has finally turned with Benghazi, the IRS scandals (targeting conservative 501(c)4's and targeted auditing), and the DOJ's investigations into Fox News and the AP over national security leaks.
And yet, the efforts of the most vile on the left is not to seek the truth, but to try and spin this all either as mere Republican partisan spin, Republican hatred of Obama, or Republican overreaching - or indeed, in the innocuous case of wording difference in some of the Benghazi e-mails, as pure right wing fabrication. It is so far beyond the pale as to cross a real boundary line where any thought of fair and open debate with these people is simply no longer an option. That said, certainly not all on the left fit this mold - Kirsten Powers being perhaps the most shining example of an intellectually honest left of center reporter. And today, she took the Obama administration and her fellow journalists on the left to task for their scurrilous acts in an exceptional column:
It’s instructive to go back to the dawn of Hope and Change. It was 2009, and the new administration decided it was appropriate to use the prestige of the White House to viciously attack a news organization—Fox News—and the journalists who work there. Remember, President Obama had barely been in office and had enjoyed the most laudatory press of any new president in modern history. Yet even one outlet that allowed dissent or criticism of the president was one too many. This should have been a red flag to everyone, regardless of what they thought of Fox News. The math was simple: if the administration would abuse its power to try and intimidate one media outlet, what made anyone think they weren’t next?
These series of “warnings” to the Fourth Estate were what you might expect to hear from some third-rate dictator, not from the senior staff of Hope and Change, Inc.
"What I think is fair to say about Fox … is that it really is more a wing of the Republican Party," said Anita Dunn, White House communications director, on CNN. “[L]et's not pretend they're a news network the way CNN is." On ABC’s “This Week” White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Fox is "not really a news station." It wasn’t just that Fox News was “not a news organization,” White House chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel told CNN’s John King, but, “more [important], is [to] not have the CNNs and the others in the world basically be led in following Fox, as if what they’re trying to do is a legitimate news organization …”
These series of “warnings” to the Fourth Estate were what you might expect to hear from some third-rate dictator, not from the senior staff of Hope and Change, Inc.
Yet only one mainstream media reporter—Jake Tapper, then of ABC News—ever raised a serious objection to the White House’s egregious and chilling behavior. Tapper asked future MSNBC commentator and then White House press secretary Robert Gibbs: “[W]hy is [it] appropriate for the White House to say” that “thousands of individuals who work for a media organization, do not work for a ‘news organization’?” The spokesman for the president of the United States was unrepentant, saying: “That's our opinion.”
Trashing reporters comes easy in Obama-land. Behind the scenes, Obama-centric Democratic operatives brand any reporter who questions the administration as a closet conservative, because what other explanation could there be for a reporter critically reporting on the government?
Now, the Democratic advocacy group Media Matters—which is always mysteriously in sync with the administration despite ostensibly operating independently—has launched a smear campaign against ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl for his reporting on Benghazi. It’s the kind of character assassination that would make Joseph McCarthy blush. The main page of the Media Matters website has six stories attacking Karl for a single mistake in an otherwise correct report about the State Department's myriad changes to talking points they previously claimed to have barely touched. See, the problem isn’t the repeated obfuscating from the administration about the Benghazi attack; the problem is Jonathan Karl. Hence, the now-familiar campaign of de-legitimization. This gross media intimidation is courtesy of tax-deductable donations from the Democratic Party’s liberal donor base, which provides a whopping $20 million a year for Media Matters to harass reporters who won’t fall in line.
In what is surely just a huge coincidence, the liberal media monitoring organization Fairness and Accuracy in the Media (FAIR) is also on a quest to delegitimize Karl. It dug through his past and discovered that in college he allegedly—horrors!—associated with conservatives. Because of this, FAIR declared Karl “a right wing mole at ABC News.” Setting aside the veracity of FAIR’s crazy claim, isn’t the fact that it was made in the first place vindication for those who assert a liberal media bias in the mainstream media? If the existence of a person who allegedly associates with conservatives is a “mole,” then what does that tell us about the rest of the media?
What all of us in the media need to remember—whatever our politics—is that we need to hold government actions to the same standard, whether they’re aimed at friends or foes. If not, there’s no one but ourselves to blame when the administration takes aim at us.
In the video below, Ms. Powers points out not only the outrageousness of the DOJ's investigation of Fox News' James Rosen, but also the Obama administration practice of punishing and prosecuting whistleblowers while letting pass all leaks of national security information which paintw the Obama administration in a favorable light.
My respect for Ms. Powers has long been full and complete. Meanwhile, three of the most vile left wing journalists, Jonathan Capehart, Josh Marshall, and Ezra Klein, were yesterday seen filing into the West Wing, no doubt for a journolist meeting with Carney, if not Obama.
There have been countless potential scandals in the Obama government, but the supine mainstream media merely yawned. Yet now with team Obama safely ensconced in a second term, the mainstream media is actually taking some notice. Finally, Benghazi, the IRS, and the AP scandals are being deemed at least somewhat newsworthy, And one gets the distinct feel that the Obama administration did not expect this. Their response has been stonewalling and castigating. From Hillary's "what difference does it make" to Obama's rewrite of history while scolding us that the Benghazi talking points are a mere side show, they are treating us to a combined display of arrogance and shamelessness never before seen in my lifetime.
And of course, the far left is likewise in damage control mode. Donna Brazile brazenly refers to the IRS and AP scandals as lynch parties and the Benghazi investigation as itself the scandal. According to Albert Hunt, Bloomberg's Executive Editor Emeritus, these are mere "faux scandals" - "Republicans are trying to destroy President Barack Obama’s second term by magnifying bureaucratic miscues and distorting policy realities." Four dead Americans, an election where conservative voices were wrongfully silenced, and a bevy of people being treated differently by government would suggest otherwise, but Hunt is hardly the only one making such claims. Yet another left wing talking point is that some of the language in the actual Benghazi e-mails differs in form from what was reported in the stories run by Stephen Hayes and John Karl. The fact that the substance of the e-mails is unchanged is wholly ignored. The intellectual dishonesty of these people is stunning.
The Obama administration is accusing anyone who speaks of these scandals as "politicizing" them. It is rather a unique definition of "politicizing" they are pushing - to have the temerity to demand facts and seek truth that might in any way hurt the administration.
We are at an inflection point, I think. The left is bound and determined to brazen their way through these scandals. Whether the MSM will ultimately help them is unknown. If the left succeeds, it will be yet another nail in the coffin of our nation. But then again, we may finally have reached critical mass and the supine MSM will start doing their jobs. In at least one case Sunday, an old school journalist decided not to drink the Obama Kool-aide. Dumb and dumber indeed.
In the aftermath of the document dump covering just a three day slice of time beginning two days after the Benghazi attack, the White House position is that all things Benghazi are now pure partisan politics by evil right wingers. In other words, the MSM have been given their marching orders, now its time to move on.
But it would seem that not all in the MSM are prepared to drink the Kool-Aid just yet. For instance, there was this on CBS News show Flashpoint, which noted that much about Benghazi still remains hidden:
CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson reports that many in the administration are pleading a defense of incompetence for leaving our people in Benghazi to die with no support forthcoming:
Obama administration officials who were in key positions on Sept. 11, 2012, acknowledge that a range of mistakes were made the night of the attacks on the U.S. missions in Benghazi, and in messaging to Congress and the public in the aftermath.
The officials spoke to CBS News in a series of interviews and communications under the condition of anonymity so that they could be more frank in their assessments. They do not all agree on the list of mistakes and it's important to note that they universally claim that any errors or missteps did not cost lives and reflect "incompetence rather than malice or cover up." Nonetheless, in the eight months since the attacks, this is the most sweeping and detailed discussion by key players of what might have been done differently.
"We're portrayed by Republicans as either being lying or idiots," said one Obama administration official who was part of the Benghazi response. "It's actually closer to us being idiots."
The Obama administration's chief critics on Benghazi, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., remain skeptical. They see a pattern, even a conspiracy, to deflect attention from the idea that four Americans had been killed by al Qaeda-linked attackers, on the president's watch. "There is no conclusion a reasonable person could reach other than that for a couple of weeks after the attack, [the Obama administration was] trying to push a narrative that was politically beneficial to the president's re-election," Graham told CBS News.
The list of mea culpas by Obama administration officials involved in the Benghazi response and aftermath include: standing down the counterterrorism Foreign Emergency Support Team, failing to convene the Counterterrorism Security Group, failing to release the disputed Benghazi "talking points" when Congress asked for them, and using the word "spontaneous" while avoiding the word "terrorism."
There is much more to her column. She goes on to assert that Commander In Extremis force was in fact diverted from its training mission in Croatia to forward deployment in Italy, but by the time they arrived, the fighting was over. She also notes that AFRICOM was in the process of forming its own Commander In Extremis force, but it was in the U.S. finishing up its training. That still does not explain the lack of military support.
Be that as it may, that still does not explain the lack of sending other assets, whether air or land. You go to war with what you have, not with what you want to have. The fact that a specially trained QRF was not available does not mean that a host of other assets could have been on the ground or over target in time to make a difference. You will recall that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff claimed that the military did not provide assets during the attack because they were never "asked" to do so by the State Dept. That testimony must be read in light of the testimony the other day that, at 2 a.m. Benghazi time, while the terrorist attack was ongoing, Hillary Clinton spoke by phone with State's second in charge in Libya, Johnathan Hicks, and told him that no military support would be coming. Those two statements seem to be in direct conflict. Bottom line, there is much more to this story to be told or, to use the words of POTUS, there is a lot more there there. I suspect that there is some truth to the gross incompetence story, but I also suspect that the dominant consideration in all aspects of the Benghazi scandal was political.
The hard left doesn't debate, they demonize. Their opponents don't have policy differences, they are fundamentally evil people. They don't want to merely win the argument without having to engage, they want to drive their opponents wholly from acceptability in the public square.
If you contest Obama's policies, you're a racist teabagger. Object to abortion on demand, you hate women. To be a Christian in the U.S. today is to be a second class citizen. This is the world of the radical 60's lefties who have come to control power in America today, and their standardbearer is Obama, a man who regularly paints those who disagree with him as having the basest of motives. Any criticism of him is "partisan" and "political." Obama has regularly steamrolled over his opponents and the law. The examples are numerous - the GM bondholders, the war in Libya without Congressional authorization, and most recently the decision to implement the DREAM Act by unilaterally picking and choosing which laws to apply to name but just a few examples. And if Congress wants to investigate wrongdoing, they are fought ever inch of the way by a regime that holds itself above the law.
And now left wingers in the IRS used their power to punish people on the right over a near two year period leading up to the 2012 election. I would be amazed if Obama has any knowing involvement, though I would be less surprised if one of the many political operatives in the White House had dirty hands. But given the mindset of the left, the IRS scandal is no surprise at all - and make no mistake, it is Obama's scandal.
As Peggy Noonan wrote in today's WSJ:
A president sets a mood, a tone. He establishes an atmosphere. If he is arrogant, arrogance spreads. If he is too partisan, too disrespecting of political adversaries, that spreads too. Presidents always undo themselves and then blame it on the third guy in the last row in the sleepy agency across town.
The IRS scandal has two parts. The first is the obviously deliberate and targeted abuse, harassment and attempted suppression of conservative groups. The second is the auditing of the taxes of political activists.
In order to suppress conservative groups—at first those with words like "Tea Party" and "Patriot" in their names, then including those that opposed ObamaCare or advanced the second amendment—the IRS demanded donor rolls, membership lists, data on all contributions, names of volunteers, the contents of all speeches made by members, Facebook FB +1.28% posts, minutes of all meetings, and copies of all materials handed out at gatherings. Among its questions: What are you thinking about? Did you ever think of running for office? Do you ever contact political figures? What are you reading? One group sent what it was reading: the U.S. Constitution.
The second part of the scandal is the auditing of political activists who have opposed the administration. The Journal's Kim Strassel reported an Idaho businessman named Frank VanderSloot, who'd donated more than a million dollars to groups supporting Mitt Romney. He found himself last June, for the first time in 30 years, the target of IRS auditors. His wife and his business were also soon audited. Hal Scherz, a Georgia physician, also came to the government's attention. He told ABC News: "It is odd that nothing changed on my tax return and I was never audited until I publicly criticized ObamaCare." Franklin Graham, son of Billy, told Politico he believes his father was targeted. A conservative Catholic academic who has written for these pages faced questions about her meager freelance writing income. Many of these stories will come out, but not as many as there are. People are not only afraid of being audited, they're afraid of saying they were audited.
All of these IRS actions took place in the years leading up to the 2012 election. They constitute the use of governmental power to intrude on the privacy and shackle the political freedom of American citizens. The purpose, obviously, was to overwhelm and intimidate—to kill the opposition, question by question and audit by audit.
This IRS scandal is not the rot inside the Obama administration. It is a symptom of the rot inside the entire left wing of our nation.
At a press conference yesterday, an angry Obama wanted everybody to know that Benghazi is a non-issue - or as he put it, "there's no there there." It's all just Republicans acting for wholly political motives.
Apparently seeking objective truth is purely political to the ideological left, where only "socialist truth" matters. Obama's arrogance, shamelessness and dishonesty are breathtaking.
Just a reminder of what's "there":
1. Our diplomats were put in a situation where they were left unprotected despite repeated requests for more security in an environment of ever increasing threat. We still don't know whether the decisions to deny increased security was the result of a policy decision to "normalize" our security posture, as e-mails have suggested and at least one person has testified, or, as the ARB states, the decisions were simply bad judgement by low level security officials. If it is the former, than this is ipso facto proof that this administration's policy towards radical Islam is dangerously out of touch with reality.
2. Once news of the attack hit Washington, not a single asset beyond a spy drone was activated to respond, thus leading one to speculate that our people were left to die rather than risk a messy situation two months before the election. There has yet to be anything close to an adequate and believable answer that would suggest otherwise. Where were Obama, Clinton and Panetta? Did Generals' Dempsey and Ham really sit on their thumbs and not begin to forward deploy assets? Why did the White House refuse to activate the FEST? Who told the small spec ops contingent in Tripoli not to deploy to Benghazi and why? What was Hillary's role? Why did Johnathan Hick's testify that, in a 2 a.m. phone call during the attack, Hillary told Hicks that no military response would be forthcoming? And if Hillary was in the loop, why did she not testify before the ARB?
3. Obama just engaged in a complete rewrite of history regarding the talking points. Powerline has the definitive post on this, though you can't go wrong with the Fox News panels analysis (and it is now official, Kirsten Powers is my favorite living left of center person):
I could go on, but suffice it to say that there is a hell of a lot of there there. And it matters.
The headline in Wapo yesterday was: "Libya protests prompt U.S. to evacuate diplomats, put troops on alert." In the body of the story, we learn that, in response to potential violence directed at our diplomats, our military has forward deployed several spec ops units. For those of you with no time in the military, let me point out, this is not something special, it is utterly routine. The only thing unusual about this is that it is making the papers.
With that in mind, if we go back to the Benghazi time line, we can see several points that would have led our military to prepare for action. One, it was September 11 - that alone would have led commanders to shorten alert times for quick reaction forces at their disposal. Two, there were huge demonstrations in Cairo that nearly saw our diplomatic post come under attack at least 12 hours before first shots in Benghazi. At that point, QRF forces would have been suited up, locked and loaded, and sitting near an airport tarmac. Aircraft would have been put on alert, loaded with munitions and fuel. Tankers for fuel resupply would have been repositioned if need be. The bottom line, when the Benghazi attack occurred, the military should have been able to respond immediately with a line of assets that would have arrived in Benghazi between two and eight hours after the attack was initiated.
Yet in regards to the terrorist attack at our compound in Benghazi, there is no evidence that a single unit of any sort was triggered. The FEST unit was, inexplicably, put off the table within the first hour of the attack by the White House. The White House wants us to believe that nothing could have been done - no assets were available and that intelligence was insufficient. I am willing to be my last dollar that if you were to ask anyone who has ever served as a combat arms officer, let alone spec ops, if they believed any of that, 99.99% would say no, it is pure bullshit. Moreover, had Obama said to get assets to Benghazi and stop the attack, the military would have moved heaven and earth to make it happen.
The first leg of the Benghazi scandal, the refusal over months to provide increased security in the face of an open and obvious threat, is perhaps the most important leg of the scandal. It shows an administration that completely misunderstands the threat we face from radical Wahhabi Islamists, and indeed, whitewashes Wahabbi Islam to the point of portraying it as benign. That is a major national policy issue. The third leg of the scandal, the cover up, is likewise important because it shows that the administration did not and does not want to have a debate on this existential issue.
Yet the second leg - the refusal to send any military assets to Benghazi - is by far the most damning. Our people were left to die, likely because of domestic political considerations. It is unforgivable. The Chairman of the JCS, Martin Dempsey, testified in February that the military never received a request for help on Sep. 11 or 12, so they never reacted to anything. This claim to utter passivity is just pure bullshit. This is where the House needs to be investigating next. Where they need to start is with General Ham, the former AFRICOM Cdr, as well as reaching out to Gen. Ham's plans officer (J-3), intelligence officer (J-2) and liaisons from the State Dept. and Air Force.
Finally, 8 months after the murder of four Americans in Benghazi and six months after the election, the media is grudgingly becoming interested at least one leg of the Benghazi scandal - whether the administration lied to the nation in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attack. The Obama administration succeeded in their number one priority, running out the clock on Benghazi prior to the election, and since has taken the dual positions that this is all a "political witch hunt" and, in the case of Hillary, that their potential misdeeds or stunning incompetence do not "matter." Reason's Nick Gillespie does a very good short response listing the reasons why it matters:
That is a good summary, but in at least one respect, it provides nowhere near enough emphasis. The worst thing our government has done, under Bush and now exponentially more so under Obama, is to obfuscate the dangerous problems with Islam, and in particular, the dogma and tenets of Wahhabi Islam - the most radical, xenophobic, triumphalist and retrograde force in the world today. It is not that al Qaeda or the brothers Tsarnaev and their ilk are following a perversion of Islam, it is that they are true believers in all the dogma of Wahhabi Islam. Obama - and indeed, most on the left, want to pretend that radical Islam is a rare outlier rather than the single most dominant form of Islam today. I've pontificated on this til I am blue in the face, but suffice it to say, until the problem is addressed honestly and openly, it will not go away, far more Americans will die, and Wahhabi Islam will continue to metastasize throughout the world.
Within that rubric, the causes of the attack in Benghazi, as well as the criminal refusal to provide security commensurate to the threat, matter very much indeed. It goes to the heart of the national security issue of our time - the threat to our nation and our lives from radical Islamists. If Benghazi was merely a rogue movie review conducted with violence that could not be predicted, then the administration really cannot be faulted. If, however, Benghazi represents a failure to accurately see and gauge the threat, than the Benghazi attack is the canary in the coal mine - the warning that, over a decade on from 9-11, we are still not on the track. And that is the most important reason Benghazi matters.
Here is what we actually know about CO2:
1. Current CO2 levels in the atmosphere are about 400 parts per million today. They have risen about 30 or 40 ppm over the past sixteen years, during which time there has been no planetary warming.
2. In geological terms, CO2 levels are much lower today than in the past. Some 65 million years ago, CO2 levels were at 3,000 parts per million. Believe it or not, life flourished.
3. During warming and cooling trends on geologic scales, CO2 levels have been a lagging indicator, showing increases after planetary warming. There is no evidence of CO2 levels ever having driven planetary warming. The belief that CO2 increases will drive planetary warming are found only in modern warmie computer models.
4. CO2 is necessary for plant growth. More CO2 means better agricultural yields. And indeed, some scientists have tied our ability to feed an ever expanding population to the industrial revolution and increasing atmospheric CO2.
Nevertheless, the warmies have been sliming CO2 as a dangerous pollutant. Today, in the WSJ, two scientists, former Apollo 17 astronaut, former Sen. and now professor of engineering at the Univ. of Wisconsin, Harrison Schmitt, and Princeton Univ. physics professor William Harper, respond:
Of all of the world's chemical compounds, none has a worse reputation than carbon dioxide. Thanks to the single-minded demonization of this natural and essential atmospheric gas by advocates of government control of energy production, the conventional wisdom about carbon dioxide is that it is a dangerous pollutant. That's simply not the case. Contrary to what some would have us believe, increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will benefit the increasing population on the planet by increasing agricultural productivity.
The cessation of observed global warming for the past decade or so has shown how exaggerated NASA's and most other computer predictions of human-caused warming have been—and how little correlation warming has with concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide. As many scientists have pointed out, variations in global temperature correlate much better with solar activity and with complicated cycles of the oceans and atmosphere. There isn't the slightest evidence that more carbon dioxide has caused more extreme weather.
The current levels of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere, approaching 400 parts per million, are low by the standards of geological and plant evolutionary history. Levels were 3,000 ppm, or more, until the Paleogene period (beginning about 65 million years ago). For most plants, and for the animals and humans that use them, more carbon dioxide, far from being a "pollutant" in need of reduction, would be a benefit. This is already widely recognized by operators of commercial greenhouses, who artificially increase the carbon dioxide levels to 1,000 ppm or more to improve the growth and quality of their plants.
Using energy from sunlight—together with the catalytic action of an ancient enzyme called rubisco, the most abundant protein on earth—plants convert carbon dioxide from the air into carbohydrates and other useful molecules. Rubisco catalyzes the attachment of a carbon-dioxide molecule to another five-carbon molecule to make two three-carbon molecules, which are subsequently converted into carbohydrates. (Since the useful product from the carbon dioxide capture consists of three-carbon molecules, plants that use this simple process are called C3 plants.) C3 plants, such as wheat, rice, soybeans, cotton and many forage crops, evolved when there was much more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than today. So these agricultural staples are actually undernourished in carbon dioxide relative to their original design. , , ,
We know that carbon dioxide has been a much larger fraction of the earth's atmosphere than it is today, and the geological record shows that life flourished on land and in the oceans during those times. The incredible list of supposed horrors that increasing carbon dioxide will bring the world is pure belief disguised as science.
Do read the whole article.
The three legs of the Benghazi scandal:
1. The criminally reckless refusal to increase security at Benghazi despite full knowledge of the increasing threat.
2. The failure to respond to the terrorist attack in Benghazi with any military assets.
3. The post attack actions of the Obama administration, from lying about the nature of the attacks to stonewalling and witness intimidation.
Today's hearing on Benghazi before the House Committee On Oversight and Government Reform informed on all of these legs, but brought to light more questions than answers.
Hicks Testimony Contradicts The Accountability Review Board
As regards the refusal to increase security at Benghazi, Gregory Hicks, former top deputy to Ambassador Christopher Stevens, said that Ambassador went to Benghazi on Sep. 11 because Sec. of State Clinton was going to convert the Benghazi mission to a permanent constituent post. Yet the Accountability Review Board, in their whitewash of Clinton and the State Dept., justified the failure to increase security in Benghazi on the grounds that it was a "temporary" post whose future was "uncertain." Those assertions are in direct contradiction - one that might have been answered if the Accountability Review Board had actually interviewed Secretary of State Clinton. It raises yet more questions as why increased security was refused. If you will recall, there are indications that it was done in respect to a policy decision referenced in certain e-mails.
Military Assets & FEST Were Denied Permission To Repond
As regards the lack of any military response, Hicks testified that a four man special ops detachment was twice denied clearance to travel from Tripoli to Benghazi to respond to the attack. No justification was given, and Hicks speculated that the stand down order came from AFRICOM.
Mark Thompson, the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism at the State Department, on duty when the first reports of the terrorist attack reached Washington, testified that he immediately sought White House approval to activate FEST, described by the State Dept. as an:
. . . on-call, short-notice team poised to respond to terrorist incidents worldwide. Led and trained by the Operations Directorate of the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, it assists U.S. missions and host governments in responding quickly and effectively to terrorist attacks. The FEST, which has deployed to over 20 countries since its inception in 1986, leaves for an incident site within four hours of notification, providing the fastest assistance possible.
The FEST provides round-the-clock advice and assistance to Ambassadors and foreign governments facing crisis. The Team is comprised of seasoned experts from the Department of State, FBI, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, and the Intelligence Community. Once on the scene, FEST members help Ambassadors assess the emergency, advise on how best to respond, and assist in managing consequent operations. . . .
Thompson testified that the request was denied by the White House with no justification given. Hicks further testified that the defense attache said that jets from Italy could've been there in 2-3 hours, but there were no tankers to refuel them. To add, an F22 has a range of about 1,800 miles. Using back of an envelope calculations, a flight from the air base in Italy to Benghazi would have eaten up about half or more of the fuel, so refueling would be an issue. That said, where were the tankers and what would there response time have been?
The testimony as to FEST is indeed significant, but on the larger issue of a lack of military response, it is little more than walking around the margins. The day of the attack was Sept. 11. Hours earlier there had already been a potential incident at the Embassy in Cairo. I spent too long in the military as an infantry officer, including doing plans and operations in Korea, to believe anything other than that AFRICOM, responsible for military operations in Egypt and Libya, would have had contingency plans operational and soldiers suited up and on alert for just such an attack as occurred in Benghazi. Knowing what I know, anything else is inconceivable. The one person we have yet to hear from is General Ham, the Commander of AFRICOM on Sep. 11, 2012. He has not been heard from since Sept. 11, 2012, but he was relieved of his command early, a little more than a month after the attack. Get him in front of a hearing and we will get full and honest answers to why there was a complete lack of military response, leaving our State Dept. and CIA personnel in Benghazi to fight and die wholly on their own.
On a related note, the Hill is running a story today that Obama's Pentagon is refusing to comply with a request from the House to provide "access to documents on last year’s terrorist attack in Benghazi."
Post Attack Cover-up
Lastly, on the issue of the post attack actions by the White House and Sec. of State, Hicks testified that no one from the State Dept. mission in Libya ever characterized the attack as anything other than a terrorist attack. There was never even a suggestion that it was a movie review gone rogue. This from PJM:
Hicks testified to a pattern of behavior that leads to the reasonable conclusion that many officials within the State Department wanted him to remain silent after the Benghazi attack. He said that on the night of the attack he was personally commended both by Secretary Clinton and President Barack Obama. But he later questioned why Ambassador Rice blamed the YouTube movie, and from that point on his superior, Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Beth Jones, questioned his “management style” and told him directly that no one in State should want him on their team in the field again. He was eventually demoted to a desk job after having been deputy to Ambassador Stevens, and remains in that post. Hick also testified that the Accountability Review Board, convened by Clinton last fall allegedly to determine the facts of the attack, never had stenographers in the room during his tw0-hour interview. Nordstrom concurred. Thompson was not even allowed to testify to the ARB despite having direct knowledge of the attacks due to his position on the U.S. Foreign Emergency Support Team. Thompson testified that the FEST was designed to go from zero to wheels up very quickly but was not deployed at all. He wanted to tell his story to the ARB, but was not allowed to. Hicks also testified that for the first time in his career, the State Department assigned a lawyer/minder to attend witness interviews with the ARB. He also testified that Jones told him not to be personally interviewed by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Republican House member who was investigating the attack on behalf of the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee. It all adds up to a pattern of witness control and intimidation.
Questions Raised Or Left Unanswered
In sum, as regards the three legs of this scandal, this hearing scratched a bit below the surface, but left more questions than answers on each of the issues. We still don't know anything approaching the full story behind the criminally reckless refusals to increase security, only now we know that the ostensible reason for the refusal given by the Accountability Review Board is likely false.
We now know that some military assets were withheld and we now know that someone in the White House made a decision to sideline the FEST team. Who and why remain unanswered. Further, as to all available military assets, we need to hear directly from Gen. Ham. Lastly, never addressed during the hearing - but still out there - is Obama's role in the non-response. I can guarantee that if he said deploy to Benghazi and deploy now, the military would have had assets on the ground long before the last two Americans died some seven hours after hostilities began.
As to the post attack cover-up, there seems to be no question that we were lied to by the Sec. of State and the President in the days and weeks following the attack. There is a real question as to whether the Accountability Review Board report, issued in Dec., was a whitewash. I will add that it seems obvious that it was.
Finally, let me speculate on what I think happened as to the three legs of this scandal. The refusals to provide additional security despite the dangerously increasing threat were the result of a policy approved by or at least known to Clinton, if not Obama. Do remember the e-mails discussing a decision made to "normalize" our security posture in Libya. As to the second leg, when the attack came, Obama did precisely as I forecast he or Clinton would do in such a situation in a post I wrote in 2008 - he made a purely political decision not to deploy assets and risk a major embarrassment prior to the election. Lastly, the charges of a cover up really go beyond speculation at this point. Obama will stonewall this for as long as possible, and every left wing media outlet in the nation has already circled the wagons around Hillary. The reality is that their cover-up may work - or at least it will until the House gets Gen. Ham under oath. Then I will be proven wrong or the dam will break.