So, other than Israel intervening in Syria — with no heads-up to the United States — and unnamed administration officials telling the New York Times that the “red line” policy was a giant accident, and the fact that the Benghazi hearings appear set to have the deputy chief of mission contradicting all kinds of administration statements about the attacks, and bad news for Democrats in South Carolina and Virginia . . . well, other than all that, President Obama had a good weekend.
From the first Morning Jolt of the week:
The New White House Line: Maybe We Don’t Care About Chemical-Weapons Use After All
Ladies and gentlemen, some unidentified White House official, within our government:
“How can we attack another country unless it’s in self-defense and with no Security Council resolution?” another official said, referring to United Nations authorization. “If he drops sarin on his own people, what’s that got to do with us?”
I realize that we’re all tired of war, that we’re tired of being asked to intervene in Arab countries, with their tribal loyalties and factionalism and blood feuds and cycles of revenge and seemingly endless reserves of cruelty and capacity for bloodshed. But if we don’t see any purpose or value in attempting to prevent, deter, or punish the use of chemical weapons against civilians, we might as well close up shop. Every two-bit dictator and ruthless regime is watching the international response to Syria or lack thereof, and we’ve already sent the signal that you can probably escape serious consequence if your use of chemical weapons is hard to prove and on a small scale.
How soon they forget. According to the Times that line was uttered last August, not quite four months after Mr. Obama established his “Atrocities Prevention Board.” In a speech on April 23, 2012 he said this at the Holocaust Museum:
And finally, “never again” is a challenge to nations. It’s a bitter truth — too often, the world has failed to prevent the killing of innocents on a massive scale. And we are haunted by the atrocities that we did not stop and the lives we did not save.
We may feel like the use of chemical weapons isn’t enough to justify airstrikes, a no-fly-zone, a “safe zone” for refugees, or any other steps beyond a sternly worded United Nations resolution, but other countries see their own interests in what happens in Syria, and they’re acting. Also this weekend:
Israel launched airstrikes into Syria for the second time in three days, said Syria and its allies, targeting what it believes are stores of advanced missiles that could be transferred to the militant group Hezbollah, amid new concerns that the Syrian civil war could widen into broader regional conflict.
Surely a lot of factors go into the decision to use military force, but it’s tough to ignore that that the Israeli Defense Force suddenly got a lot more active in Syria just a couple of days after Obama said that crossing the red line meant . . . well, that we would “rethink the range of options that are available to us.”
The Benghazi Hearings: This Week’s Must-See TV
Jake Tapper offers a preview of what we can expect from this week’s hearings on Benghazi, and everyone crying “oh, this is a partisan witch hunt” can go sit in the corner.
Greg Hicks, former deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, told congressional investigators that the State Department internal review of the catastrophe at the mission in Benghazi “let people off the hook,” CNN has learned.
The Accountability Review Board “report itself doesn’t really ascribe blame to any individual at all. The public report anyway,” Hicks told investigators, according to transcript excerpts obtained by CNN. “It does let people off the hook.”
The board’s report on the Benghazi attack, in which Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in September, is being reviewed by the State Department’s Office of Inspector General.
Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Sunday on CBS that Hicks will testify Wednesday in a congressional hearing on the deadly attack in Benghazi.
“In our system, people who make decisions have been confirmed by the Senate to make decisions,” Hicks told investigators. “The three people in the State Department who are on administrative leave pending disciplinary action are below Senate confirmation level. Now, the DS (Diplomatic Security) assistant secretary resigned, and he is at Senate confirmation level. Yet the paper trail is pretty clear that decisions were being made above his level.
Whom might Hicks be referring to? He specifically mentions Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy.
“Certainly the fact that Under Secretary Kennedy required a daily report of the personnel in country and who personally approved every official American who went to Tripoli or Benghazi, either on assignment or TDY (temporary duty), would suggest some responsibility about security levels within the country lies on his desk,” Hicks said.
In the interview, conducted on April 11, Hicks also makes clear that he immediately believed the September 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi had been conducted by terrorists, though the White House and other officials in the Obama administration initially suggested that the attack was the result of an out-of-control demonstration against an anti-Muslim YouTube video.
“I thought it was a terrorist attack from the get-go,” said Hicks, who was in Tripoli during the attack. “I think everybody in the mission thought it was a terrorist attack from the beginning.”
Looks like a rough week ahead, Mr. President.