Rand Paul’s ISIS Delusions – Arnold Ahlert
On the matter of ISIS, presumed GOP presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has embraced the same revisionist history promoted by Democrats, blaming Republican “hawks” for the group’s rise and expansion. “ISIS exists and grew stronger because of the hawks in our party, who gave arms indiscriminately, and most of those arms were snatched up by ISIS,”
Paul told MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough. If this is the senator’s conclusion, he hasn’t been paying attention to world events of the last several years very closely. If he had, he would recognize that Republicans “hawks,” sidelined throughout much of Obama’s tenure, have had minimal influence on the foreign policy debacles that have given rise to ISIS. Rather, it was Obama and Hillary Clinton who ran the show during this time, independent of any Republican input. And America is facing the disastrous national security ramifications as a result.
These hawks also wanted to bomb Assad, which would have made ISIS’s job even easier. They created these people. ISIS is all over Libya because these same hawks in my party loved – they loved Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya. They just wanted more of it, but Libya’s a failed state, and it’s a disaster. Iraq really is a failed state, or a vassal state now of Iran. So everything that they’ve talked about in foreign policy, they’ve been wrong about for twenty years, and yet they have somehow the gall to keep saying and pointing fingers otherwise.
ISIS started as an al-Qaeda off-shoot in Iraq headed by Osama bin Laden associate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Al-Zarqawi’s primary targets were Iraq’s Shi’ite Muslim majority, a political calculation designed to curry favor with Iraq’s Sunni population, marginalized by the fall of Saddam Hussein. However, by 2005, even bin Laden’s al-Qaeda grew disenchanted with al-Qaeda in Iraq’s brutality. The American troop surge, in conjunction with Sunni Iraq’s own disenchantment with Zarqawi’s depravity, gave birth to the “Awakening” (rejection of al-Qaeda) that allowed the U.S. to prevail in Iraq. Far from “creating” ISIS, America was a key force holding back its reign of terror.
Mockery of Obama’s 2011 declaration
Unfortunately, a Shi’ite-dominated Maliki government looking for payback after years of Sunni Ba’athist domination, coupled with the Obama administration’s precipitous troop withdrawal in 2011, threw that victory away, ultimately making a mockery of Obama’s 2011 declaration he was leaving behind it a “sovereign, stable and self reliant Iraq with a representative government that was elected by its people.”
During the 2012 presidential campaign, Obama doubled down on his assertions, making withdrawal from Iraq one of the principal planks his 2012 reelection campaign, along with the president’s unconscionable and oft-repeated lie that al Qaeda was “on the run.” And while he blamed Maliki for the failure to negotiate a Status of Force Agreement (SOFA), it was Obama who ignored the recommendations of former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen to leave at least 10,000 American troops in country after the failure of military brass to convince the president that 20,000 troops needed to be left behind. Thus, when Obama announced in August 2011 that he would commit only 3000 to 5000 troops, Iraqi leaders already facing anti-American political backlash concluded the president’s utter lack of seriousness was bad for their political careers. That impasse led to a breakdown in talks.
And it is not as if Obama was unaware of what could happen. “Multiple experts have testified before my committee that the Iraqis still lack important capacities in their ability to maintain their internal stability and territorial integrity,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon in October of 2011. “These shortcomings could reverse the decade of hard work and sacrifice both countries have endured to build a free Iraq.”
Ever since, Obama has done next to nothing as ISIS took over more and more territory in Iraq and Syria, to the point where even Democrats, including the reliably clueless Jimmy Carter, hammered the president for his non-strategy. “President Obama, it’s been hard to figure out exactly what his policy is. It changes from time to time,” Carter declared. “He’s been delayed. Sometimes he draws red lines in the sand on the Mideast and then when the time comes, he doesn’t go through with it.” Carter’s sentiment were echoed by former Intelligence Committee chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who also insisted Obama’s strategy had failed. And after the recent fall of Ramadi Janine Davidson, senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, asked the ultimate question. “How much do you let ISIS continue to take ground having faith [it will be gained back?” she asked. “Is there a point at which you say, ‘We’ve got to stop this now with more than airpower?’”
As of now, the Obama administration’s answer is no.
As for Libya, while Paul is right that some hawks in the GOP favored that venture, their influence was marginal. It was Obama who bypassed Congress and unilaterally embarked on it, violating the War Powers Resolution in the process. As for the former Secretary of State, it is very apropos that Paul referred to that debacle as “Hillary Clinton’s war,” one described by an senior American intelligence official as “an intelligence-light decision.” That sentiment was shared by nearly a dozen other key officials in the intelligence and military communities, including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, whose concerns about removing Muammar Gaddafi from power were routinely ignored.
It was also shared by Libyan officials who prepared a report indicating their fear the Clinton-led effort to overthrow of Gaddafi allowed weapons to flow to NATO-backed rebels with ties to al Qaeda. Those officials were particularly worried the training and weapons given to these “rebels” would lead to their spread throughout the region and turn Benghazi into a future haven for jihadists.
Even more important, U.S. intelligence officials didn’t believe Clinton’s rationale for removing Gaddafi. She insisted his regime was on the verge of committing genocide, a claim that was viewed by Pentagon officials and a key Democrat with such skepticism, they bypassed the State Department and opened separate secret diplomatic conversations with the Gadhafi regime. Unfortunately, Clinton’s worldview prevailed and the chaos ultimately engendered by her disastrous decision-making led directly to the assault of the American compound in Benghazi and the deaths of four Americans, including ambassador Chris Stevens. After that, Clinton blamed a video for the attack until that lie became untenable.
Today, Libya is a nation where ISIS is currently expanding its territory, in addition to the huge chunks of Iraq and Syria it already controls. That reality has alarmed U.S. officials due to Libya’s proximity to Europe, just across the Mediterranean Sea.
As for Syria, while there was a bipartisan vote in Sept. of 2014 approving the Obama administration’s request to arm Syrian rebels, that vote came a full year after the Washington Post reported that the CIA “has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria.” “The CIA shipments are to flow through a network of clandestine bases in Turkey and Jordan that were expanded over the past year as the agency sought to help Middle Eastern allies, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, direct weapons to moderate Syrian rebel forces,” the paper reported. In short, long before any input from Congress, the Obama administration was engaged in a haphazard, reckless policy of trying to arm rebels by allowing terrorism supporting countries like Qatar and Turkey to do the weapon transfers.
And even as the U.S. was monitoring those weapons flows, a document written in August 2012 reveals officials in the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) were worried about the rise of ISI (ISIS) “which could declare an Islamic state… in Iraq and Syria” – a full 17 months before Obama dismissed them as a “JV team.” As for the establishment of a counter-terrorist cadre of Syrian rebels referred to by the Post, the Obama administration has finally begun training them in Jordan 20 months later – all 90 of them.
U.S. intelligence agencies knew about weapons shipments
Furthermore, documents obtained by Judicial Watch reveal U.S. intelligence agencies knew about weapons shipments far earlier than that. During the aftermath and ensuing uncertainty precipitated by Gaddafi’s downfall “in October 2011 and up until early September of 2012, weapons from the former military stockpiles located in Benghazi, Libya were shipped from the port of Benghazi, Libya to the ports of Banias and the Port of Borj Islam, Syria,”
All of the above, coupled with the administration’s inexplicable refusal to arm Kurdish fighters willing to take on ISIS, and the calculated ineffectiveness of the airstrikes Americans were told – eight months ago – would be more than enough to “degrade and defeat” the terrorist organization, makes one thing clear: the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton, not the GOP, owns the rise of these bloodthirsty savages.
Thus, one is left with only one reasonable explanation for Paul’s assertion: politics. Paul sees himself as the “crossover candidate” among GOP presidential contenders, even as he and his supports fervently believe his nonconformist approach to the issues of the day is his strongest asset. Fox News’s Brit Hume more accurately describes Paul as a candidate who “seems confused about which party he’s running in. There’s a segment of the Republican electorate which shares his somewhat paranoid views of things, and he’ll have their support, but that’s not a nominating set,” Hume declared. Columnist George Will explains why, noting that “events are not playing out the way he anticipated two years ago when he began running for president,” Will explained. “The world looks much more dangerous than it did.” That’s because it is.