On the same day the Select Committee on Benghazi began hearings into the lessons of that terrorist attack, the House Republican leadership ignored one of those lessons by introducing and passing legislation to fund so-called “moderate” Islamic rebels in Syria who have terrorist ties.
The fateful decision means that the Republican Party has embraced a Democratic President’s plan to intervene in another civil war in the Middle East that could replicate the Benghazi fiasco, which resulted in four Americans being killed.
On a political level, it takes away one of the best issues the Republicans had going for them as the November elections approach—Obama’s mismanagement of foreign affairs that has resulted in a far more dangerous world.
Republican Senate candidates such as Rep. Cory Gardner (CO) and Joni Ernst (IA) risk losing the support of conservative voters by embracing Obama’s failed strategy.
Four Americans were killed in Benghazi when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration refused to make the necessary decisions to safeguard their security, or to rescue them when they came under attack.
On another and equally important level, former CIA officer Clare Lopez has argued that Benghazi resulted from the Obama administration switching sides in the war on terrorism, when U.S. leadership “decided to facilitate the provision of weapons to jihadist militias known to be affiliated with al-Qa’eda and the Muslim Brotherhood in order to bring down a brutal dictator who also just happened to be a U.S. ally in the GWOT [Global War on Terrorism] at the time.”
That dictator, Moammar Gadhafi, was deposed and killed, but Libya is still in turmoil today. Conferences held by the AIM Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi have demonstrated that there were clear alternatives to get rid of Gadhafi besides supporting Islamist terrorist groups.
In the Syria case, we have been bombarded with stories that Obama is planning to support “moderate” rebels. But Libya showed that radical Jihadists were among those getting U.S. support.
A spokesman for Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst said she “is open to further arming those who can help us defeat ISIL [the Islamic State] on the ground, including Iraqi Kurds and some moderate Syrian rebels, if we are able to better ensure those arms don’t end up in the hands of those that will threaten American interests or personnel.”
But that is a big “if.” The case of Libya demonstrates that the administration can’t be trusted on this issue.
The legislation passed by the House on Wednesday in a 272-156 vote requires that members of the “Syrian opposition” getting U.S. support be “appropriately vetted” by the Department of Defense. The term “appropriately vetted” is defined in the legislation as “assessments of such elements, groups, and individuals for associations with terrorist groups, Shia militias aligned with or supporting the Government of Syria, and groups associated with the Government of Iran. Such groups include, but are not limited to, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Jabhat al Nusrah, Ahrar al Sham, other al-Qaeda 25 related groups, and Hezbollah.”
It is not clear how these associations with terrorist groups would be determined and by whom. Even giving the administration the benefit of the doubt that they tried to do this in Libya, the process clearly failed.
In total, 71 Republicans and 85 Democrats voted against the legislation. But it passed because of support from the House Republican leadership. The approval came in a “yes” vote on an amendment introduced by Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), a former Major in the Marine Corps, said, “Arming Islamists to fight other Islamists is not a winning strategy.” On the other hand, Iraq war veteran Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AK) voted yes, while his opponent in the Senate race, Senator Mark Pryor, said, “Our friends today could be our enemies tomorrow.” In fact, Pryor tried to strip the funds for the Syrian “opposition” from a spending bill for the Department of Defense.
On the promise of “vetting” the opposition, he said, “I’m concerned they will be empty promises. You can’t find any examples in the Middle East in recent years where this has actually happened.” He went on to note that many of the weapons now being used by the Islamic State were originally supplied to the Iraqi Army, and they fell into the wrong hands.
As a result, the Democrat Pryor comes down on the right side of this issue, in a tight contest.
Acting as a loyal soldier of the House Republican Leadership, Rep. Cotton voted yes while trying to confuse people about the nature of the vote, saying that he was merely attempting to “combat the threat” posed by ISIS. The legislation did much more than that.
It must be emphasized that the issue is not about fighting ISIS with air strikes, which have been going on for weeks, but rather about arming elements of the so-called Syrian rebels, whose main goal is the overthrow of the Russian-backed Assad regime. Obama wants them trained to fight ISIS, just as he said he wanted the Libyan rebels to fight Gadhafi. They turned on America and killed four of our people.
Clearly, Obama’s reckless proposal for direct military intervention in the civil war in Syria has thrown the Republican Party into turmoil. Perhaps this was intentional.
Meanwhile, in a clear-cut case of freedom versus tyranny, where the two sides are clearly defined, the Obama administration has failed to support the people of Ukraine, who are resisting a Russian invasion, with defensive weapons.
In the face of Obama’s appeasement of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko spoke to a joint session of Congress on Thursday to appeal for U.S. support. Members of Congress applauded his remarks, but there has been no rush to force Obama to do the right thing in this case. Instead, we are going back into the Middle East, into Syria, where the anti-American Islamists dominate the opposition.
It is apparent that the Russian regime, which is operating through front organizations such as the U.S.-Russia Forum, have managed to thwart effective Congressional action on behalf of the brave people of Ukraine.
Some American conservatives are themselves confused about the stakes and seem to have embraced the idea that business with Russia trumps the threat of Russian aggression. Christian conservative activist William Murray, a participant in the recent U.S.-Russia Forum, and another one like it in Moscow, titled “Advancing a Constructive Agenda for U.S.-Russia Relations,” is quoted in an article published by the conservative website WorldNetDaily that the U.S. should cooperate with Putin’s Russia in part because of the business deals that can be made. The article notes that Russian engineers are working for the Boeing company, as if this was a positive development.
Putting Ukraine’s struggle on the back burner, the Republicans have now embraced Obama’s controversial policy of interfering in Syria’s civil war despite video evidence that a former top leader of one of the Syrian “opposition” groups has stood shoulder to shoulder with the terrorists Obama claims to be against.
John Rossomando of the Investigative Project on Terrorism points to a video of former Free Syrian Army Colonel Abdel al-Aqidi discussing his close cooperation with the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, in 2013.
The Free Syrian Army is usually described as a “moderate” group.
The video includes these exchanges:
Q: How is your relationship with the ISIL?
Aqidi: It is good. My relationship with the brothers in ISIL is good.
Q: Do you communicate with them?
Aqidi: Yes, of course. I communicate almost daily with brothers in ISIL to settle these disputes and issues. The issues are being overinflated by the media. There’s a lot of spotlight being put on the issue of ISIL..that they are takfiris, etc. Perhaps it’s individual mistakes; however, when we sit down together with their leaders, they don’t have this ideology.
Another part of the video shows Aqidi standing next to an Islamic State fighter named Abu Jandal, saying, “Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. Praise be to Allah. We thank everyone. We thank Allah and we bring good news to our people in Syria and to our Muslim people in all the world that Allah has been generous with us during this blessed month (Ramadan) with this great victory, after we achieved victory in Khan al-Assal and now in Menagh military airbase, which got liberated at the hands of these heroes. Allahu akbar and praise be to Allah. Our brother, Abu Jandal.”
Abu Jandal says, “In the name of Allah, and prayer and peace be upon the Messenger of Allah. We praise Allah for this victory. The factions from several brigades, among them are the heroes of the ‘Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIL). The Menagh military airbase was conquered. Our joy was also fulfilled, through Allah, with this victory.”
How will the Obama-Republican “vetting” policy get around these curious and damaging terrorist ties?
And how can the Republicans educate the public about the lessons of Benghazi when the same policy that resulted in those deaths and that disaster are being repeated in front of our eyes?
A silver lining can be found in the decision by the House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) to vote against the Syria amendment, meaning that he is maintaining his own personal credibility as his investigations go forward. Perhaps he can now convince his fellow Republicans that they are pursuing a dangerous course by giving Obama a blank check in another war that can only make the world even more dangerous than it is now.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.