The Corner

The Strange Case of John Brennan

I am mystified by the various metamorphoses and general weirdness in the recent statements from John Brennan, Obama’s anti-terrorism czar. Since 2009, two characteristics unfortunately distinguish his all-too-frequent public proclamations: post-facto attacks on the prior administration whose anti-terrorism protocols he was knee-deep in, and commentary on current events that is either silly or soon proves untrue.

The latest, of course, was his rush to the microphone to make statements about the circumstances of bin Laden’s killing, which he apparently watched (“from a visual perspective”) in real time (e.g., “From a visual perspective, here is bin Laden who has been calling for attacks, living in this million-dollar-plus compound, living in an area that’s far removed from the front, hiding behind women who were put in front of him as a shield”), nearly all of which has now been rendered ‘inoperative.’ There was no “million-dollar” compound. Did he or did he not see on tape such “women” in front of bin Laden?

After the Mutallab Christmas Day bombing attempt, almost everything he said was later proven wrong or seemed wrongheaded. His defense of the high recidivism rate at Guantanamo by comparison to the American penal system was puerile (“Oh my goodness, one out of five detainees returned to some type of extremist activity. You know, the American penal system, the recidivism rate is up to something about 50 percent or so, as far as return to crime. Twenty percent isn’t that bad.”)

He lectured us about not using the term “jihadist,” insisting that religion was a secondary catalyst for global terrorism that originates from the Islamic world. His praise for “al-Quds” (Jerusalem) came across as part showboating, part PC pandering. After working for the Bush administration — to such a degree an angry Left blocked his potential appointment as CIA director — he pontificated, “Over the years the actions of our own government have at times perpetuated those attitudes: violations of the Patriot Act, surveillance that has been excessive, policies perceived as profiling, over-inclusive no-fly lists subjecting law-abiding individuals to unnecessary searches and inconvenience.” If all true, surely he knew the supposed abuses better than any — and so why did he not resign immediately?

Such post-facto sentiments like that seemed deliberately reformulated to fit the Obama  atmosphere of 2009–10, but now appear once more obsolete in light of the sort of intelligence that led to the bin Laden killing — which is what usually happens when one calibrates policy outlook in terms of contemporary political advantage.

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