aside The Americans Are The Adults, Part XIII (Libya)

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Senator Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton

The former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is considered the likely winner for the 2016 democrat presidential nominee even though the outsider, Senator Bernie Sanders is proving that he is a serious contender with his recent surprise victory in Michigan.

I personally, am in a quandary about considering her as a viable future U.S. president. While Mrs. Clinton is very knowledgeable about foreign affairs, I have serious concerns about her ability to make sound judgments.

Putting aside her vote in favor of the War on Iraq in 2003 because she was far from alone in her thinking at the time, I have taken time to review her role in promoting the 2011 U.S. intercession on behalf of Libyan opposition forces looking to overthrow their leader, Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi. At the time Colonel Qaddafi was NOT a threat to U.S. national security interests. This was a war of choice. Although the demise of Colonel al-Qaddafi was a success, the aftermath was not and today, Libya is considered a failed state. The lack of governmental structure which resulted after the fall of Colonel Qaddafi, created a power vacuum which was filled by Islamic militant terrorist groups, including ISIS.

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With the above all too familiar scenario, I am concerned that she has not learned from past U.S. mistakes to where she would be more judicious when considering future U.S. intercessions in middle east affairs. It is my opinion, that she has not been sufficiently questioned about the 2011 Libyan affair during the various recent debates.

The author Conor Friedersdorf addresses my concerns in the 10/14/15 Atlantic article, “Hillary Defends Her Failed War in Libya.” Here are some excerpts:

“At Tuesday’s primary debate (10/13/15), Clinton was criticized not just for the Iraq War vote that cost her the 2008 election, but also for the undeclared 2011 war that she urged in Libya.

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” Using contested intelligence, a powerful adviser urges a president to wage a war of choice against a dictator; makes a bellicose joke when he is killed( “We came…We saw…He died”); declares the operation a success; fails to plan for a power vacuum; and watches Islamists gain power. That describes Dick Cheney and the Iraq War—and Hillary Clinton and the war in Libya.” (2011 U.S. military intercession in Libya was without U.S. congressional approval.)

“Governor Webb has said that he would never have used military force in Libya and that the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was inevitable,” Anderson Cooper told the former Secretary of State. “Should you have seen that attack coming?”

“Her answer included a broad defense of the war in Libya. “Remember what was going on,” she began, repeating a version of events that some intelligence officials and human rights groups doubt.“We had a murderous dictator, Gadhafi, who had American blood on his hands … threatening to massacre large numbers of the Libyan people. We had our closest allies in Europe burning up the phone lines begging us to help them try to prevent what they saw as a mass genocide, in their words. And we had the Arabs standing by our side saying, ‘We want you to help us deal with Gadhafi.’”
She characterized the Obama Administration’s response as “smart power at its best,” saying that while America refused to take the lead in the war, “we will provide essential, unique capabilities that we have, but the Europeans and the Arabs had to be first over the line. We did not put one single American soldier on the ground.”

Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli March 2, 2011. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli March 2, 2011. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

She then put a positive gloss on the war’s outcome. “I’ll say this for the Libyan people…” she said. “I think President Obama made the right decision at the time. And the Libyan people had a free election the first time since 1951. And you know what, they voted for moderates, they voted with the hope of democracy. Because of the Arab Spring, because of a lot of other things, there was turmoil to be followed.”

​”That is about as misleading as summarizing the Iraq War by saying that the Iraqis had a terrible leader; they had a free election after the war; and they voted for moderates. It elides massive suffering and security threats that have occurred in postwar Libya.”

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“Yet the answer didn’t hurt the Democratic front-runner. That’s because neither CNN moderators nor prospective Clinton supporters understand the magnitude of the catastrophe that occurred amid the predictable power vacuum that followed Ghadafi’s ouster. “Libya today—in spite of the expectations we had at the time of the revolution—it’s much, much worse,” Karim Mezran, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, told Frontline. “Criminality is skyrocketing. Insecurity is pervasive. There are no jobs. It’s hard to get food and electricity. There’s fighting, there’s fear … I see very few bright spots.”

​”U.S. arms found their way into the hands of Islamists.”

“Nearly three and a half years after Libyan rebels and a NATO air campaign overthrew Muammar al-Qaddafi, the cohesive political entity known as Libya doesn’t exist,” Libya expert Frederic Wehrey reported earlier this year in Defense One. “There is no central government, but rather two competing claims on legitimacy.”

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“He went on to describe the rivals:

On one side of the fight are the forces of Operation Dignity gathered around General Khalifa Hifter, a former Qaddafi-era officer who defected in the 1980s and returned to the country in 2011. In May, he launched Dignity as a military campaign to root out Islamist militias in the eastern city of Benghazi and exclude Islamists from political power. His allies include disaffected military units, security men from the old regime, prominent eastern tribes, federalists demanding greater autonomy for the east, and militias from Zintan and other western towns.

“On the opposing side is the Libya Dawn coalition… It includes ex-jihadists from the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, militias from the powerful port of Misrata, and fighters drawn from certain Tripoli neighborhoods, the ethnic Berber population, and some communities in the western mountains and coast. Dawn has forged a tactical alliance with a coalition of Benghazi-based Islamist militias that are battling Hifter’s forces, one of which is the U.S.-designated terrorist group Ansar al-Sharia. Each side claims its own parliament, prime minister, and army.”

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“In August, The New Yorker’s John Lee Anderson described the gains made by the Islamists as well as the consequences of ISIS fighters controlling territory in Libya:

Last November, battle-hardened Libyan Islamists, who had returned home from fighting in Iraq and Syria, along with Islamists from other countries, seized the eastern city of Derna and claimed it for ISIS. Emulating their comrades in Raqqa and Mosul, they stoned, shot, beheaded, and crucified people deemed guilty of espionage or ‘un-Islamic’ behavior. Last month, a rival militia loyal to Al Qaeda waged and won a battle for control of the city. The victors are said to have marched the captured ISIS commander through the streets naked before executing him. ISIS lost Derna, but in the past few months they have taken Qaddafi’s home town of Sirte and surrounding areas in Libya’s “Oil Crescent,” and have begun attacks on the outer defenses of the city of Misrata.”

“For months, ISIS has been trumpeting its abduction and execution of African Christians in Libya. In February, a slick, ghoulish video showed twenty-one Egyptian hostages in orange jumpsuits being led along a beach by black-masked executioners, who forced them to kneel and then cut off their heads.”

“In April, another video appeared, showing the execution of twenty-nine Ethiopians in Libya. Gunmen who trained with ISIS in Libya were involved in the murder of twenty foreign tourists, at a Tunis museum in March, and thirty-eight more tourists, most of them British, at a seaside resort in Tunisia in June. These attacks focused attention on the fact that Libya, a vast, oil-rich, underpopulated country with a long southern-Mediterranean coastline, has become part of the self-proclaimed ISIS caliphate. In a parallel phenomenon, armed trafficking gangs in Libya are driving most of Africa’s illegal immigration to Europe. As many as a hundred and seventy thousand are thought to have made the crossing last year, with thousands dying en route. Unprecedented numbers are continuing to cross this year, taking advantage of the chaos in Libya.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with Libya Transitional National Council President Mustafa Abdel-Jalil at the World Islamic Call Society Headquarters during a visit to Tripoli in Libya Tuesday Oct. 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Kevin Lamarque, Pool)
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with Libya Transitional National Council President Mustafa Abdel-Jalil at the World Islamic Call Society Headquarters during a visit to Tripoli in Libya Tuesday Oct. 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Kevin Lamarque, Pool)

“An unnamed Obama Administration official told Anderson, “We think that the threat from ISIL-affiliated groups in Libya is very serious and we’re treating it that way.”

“A strong case can be made that the war made Americans less safe.”

Michael Brendan Dougherty describes Clinton’s incoherent approach. “American military adventurism relies on a very backward notion of causation,” he explained. “When evil men in the world kill their own people, somehow America is to blame for not stopping them. When American action leads directly to disorder, barbarism, and terror, well, that’s someone else’s fault.”

He continued:

“Death and civil war in Libya were unacceptable outcomes for America when Gadhafi was alive. But death and civil war continue unabated, the difference being that the Islamic State is now one of the players — and somehow it’s not in the American interest to stop it or to help Libyans establish some kind of law and order. The lessons of Iraq have been internalized: Once you create a total power vacuum that will attract terror gangs and radical Islamic fundamentalists, it’s best to not have any boots on the ground to stop them.”

“Clinton is hardly alone in bearing blame for Libya. But she was among the biggest champions of the intervention. She stands behind her course of action even today. More than that, she calls it “smart power at its best”!

10 comments

        • I returned early on 3/9. I have been fighting a bad cough which was getting better which is why I decided to go. After a few days, I started getting worse again.And so I am back in Florida.

        • Good to know …. you’re back. Hope you feel better soon. We have MJ’s family visiting for another week. After they go back home, we could try a phone call. What say you?

    • PS. I am truly concerned that Hillary Clinton and the neocons are on the same page. There was a recent DECEMBER debate which really bothered me and I’ll be blogging on this next. I am hoping that she will be better vetted on her middle east policies and intentions in future debates and interviews.

  1. As Trump and the others are unrecognizable as Reaganesque Republicans, Hillary….Wall Street Hillary, seems comfortable in conservative shoes…..truly a bizarre time.

    • Welcome!! Truer words can’t be said. We are definitely in strange times .I hear a lot of my republican friends bemoaning that they will probably be voting for Hillary Clinton especially if Donald Trump becomes the republican presidential nominee.

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