Guest Post by Kristinn Taylor
In the nearly 17,000 word New Yorker article by David Remnick on the current state of the Obama presidency based on numerous in person interviews with President Barack Obama, the word Benghazi is nowhere to be found. Libya is only mentioned twice in passing with no reference to the terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Fallujah on September 11, 2012 that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Dougherty.
Remnick found talking to Obama about football and basketball more important than Benghazi.
Toward the end of the approximately 38 page (if printed) article, Remnick declares the Obama presidency free of major scandals, as if Benghazi, the IRS targeting of conservatives, ‘Fast and Furious’, spying on reporters, the Obamacare lies, etc., happened on some other president’s watch.
“Obama has every right to claim a long list of victories since he took office: ending two wars; an economic rescue, no matter how imperfect; strong Supreme Court nominations; a lack of major scandal; essential support for an epochal advance in the civil rights of gays and lesbians; more progressive executive orders on climate change, gun control, and the end of torture; and, yes, health-care reform.”
The article contains what appear to be Obama’s first comments on the fall of Fallujah to al Qaeda in recent weeks. In late 2004 U.S., British and Iraqi forces, led by the Marine Corps, waged an intense block by block battle to liberate Fallujah from al Qaeda. In 2007, the Bush administration employed a ‘surge’ strategy in conjunction with the ongoing Sunni tribe ‘Anbar Awakening’ to wipe out al Qaeda in Iraq’s stronghold in Anbar province. Those gains have been largely lost in the wake of Obama withdrawing all U.S. forces from Iraq and basically turning his back on the country.
In his comments on Fallujah, the Commander in Chief of the U.S. military does not mention the sacrifice made there by U.S. forces. Not once.
“At the core of Obama’s thinking is that American military involvement cannot be the primary instrument to achieve the new equilibrium that the region so desperately needs. And yet thoughts of a pacific equilibrium are far from anyone’s mind in the real, existing Middle East. In the 2012 campaign, Obama spoke not only of killing Osama bin Laden; he also said that Al Qaeda had been “decimated.” I pointed out that the flag of Al Qaeda is now flying in Falluja, in Iraq, and among various rebel factions in Syria; Al Qaeda has asserted a presence in parts of Africa, too.
“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Obama said, resorting to an uncharacteristically flip analogy. “I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.
“Let’s just keep in mind, Falluja is a profoundly conservative Sunni city in a country that, independent of anything we do, is deeply divided along sectarian lines. And how we think about terrorism has to be defined and specific enough that it doesn’t lead us to think that any horrible actions that take place around the world that are motivated in part by an extremist Islamic ideology are a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into.
“He went on, “You have a schism between Sunni and Shia throughout the region that is profound. Some of it is directed or abetted by states who are in contests for power there. You have failed states that are just dysfunctional, and various warlords and thugs and criminals are trying to gain leverage or a foothold so that they can control resources, populations, territory. . . . And failed states, conflict, refugees, displacement—all that stuff has an impact on our long-term security. But how we approach those problems and the resources that we direct toward those problems is not going to be exactly the same as how we think about a transnational network of operatives who want to blow up the World Trade Center. We have to be able to distinguish between these problems analytically, so that we’re not using a pliers where we need a hammer, or we’re not using a battalion when what we should be doing is partnering with the local government to train their police force more effectively, improve their intelligence capacities.”