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Hillary on the Hill…and other news

March 30, 2011

Secretary Clinton was giving classified briefings to members of the House and Senate and here are some photos from her day:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accompanied by U.S. Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) (R) and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) (L), arrives for a closed briefing on Libya March 30, 2011 on Capitol Hill

~There seems to be a debate over whether or not to arm the Libyan rebels, with some expressing concern that some of the rebels may have links to extremist groups like Al Qaida or Hezbollah:

An Obama administration debate raged on supplying weapons to Libyan rebels as administration officials planned to brief lawmakers on U.S. involvement there.

A growing concern among some administration officials is that providing arms would deepen U.S. involvement in what they believe has become a civil war — and that some fighters may have links to al-Qaida, officials told The New York Times.

A classified briefing for U.S. senators by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen is to take place at 5 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday.

The meeting will follow a similar briefing with House members, officials said.

The senators’ meeting will also focus on the joint congressional War Powers Resolution of 1973, which said the president could send U.S. armed forces into action abroad only by authorization of Congress or in case of “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.”

Gates said Sunday Libya did not pose a U.S. threat, nor was it “a vital national interest to the United States.”

The Obama administration debate over supplying the rebels battling forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi prompted an urgent call for intelligence about who the rebels really are, the Times said.

“We don’t know as much as we would like to know,” Clinton told reporters in London Tuesday, adding the United States expected it would know more soon.

Clinton and other Western leaders who spoke at the end of an multinational conference on Libya’s future said the military operation, which NATO took over Wednesday, would end only with Gadhafi’s removal, even if that was not the stated goal of the U.N. Security Council’s resolution.

The notion that the rebels had ties to Osama bin Laden’s multinational, stateless militant Islamist group al-Qaida — which allegedly carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington — surfaced publicly for the first time Tuesday.

While it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that some members of extremist Islamist groups may try to take advantage of the unrest in the region, it seems like every time there is an uprising there are claims that the protesters/rebels/revolutionaries have ties to extremist groups or that the protests themselves are the result of conspiratorial “outside influence” – Syria, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are currently using that excuse to crack down on protesters.

That said, in the current situation with Libya, it certainly makes sense to try to determine whether or not the rebels are totally infiltrated by groups like Al Qaida, particularly if we (or France, Great Britain) are considering arming them. We’ve made that mistake in the past (for example, in Afghanistan arming the Mujahadeen against the Soviets only to have them use those weapons against us right now). But at the same time, we shouldn’t give Al Qaida more credit than they deserve. Much of what I’ve heard from reporters who have talked to rebels in various parts of Libya is that they want an end to a corrupt, despotic regime and they want democracy and human rights.

~I came across this article a little while ago and I’ll admit it makes me uncomfortable if it is in fact true:

President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi, government officials told Reuters on Wednesday.

Obama signed the order, known as a presidential “finding”, within the last two or three weeks, according to four U.S. government sources familiar with the matter.

Such findings are a principal form of presidential directive used to authorize secret operations by the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA and the White House declined immediate comment.

[snip]

The diplomat’s comments were a rare assertion that the aims of the air campaign that began on March 19 go beyond protecting civilians to helping rebel forces in their battle against Gadhafi, who has been in power for 41 years.

The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the emphasis on the imposing a no-fly zone over Libya was a smoke screen to secure Arab support for the military mission, which has been authorized by the UN Security Council.

The Council on March 17 approved “all necessary measures” — code for military action — to protect Libyan civilians despite the concern of some nations such as Russia and China the operation could amount to taking sides in a civil war.

“We are going to tip the balance. That’s exactly what we do,” the diplomat told reporters. “What is happening in Libya is not a no-fly zone … [the] no-fly zone was a diplomatic [thing] to get the Arabs on board. Let’s be clear about it.”

emphasis added

Well, whatever Arab support we had for this operation could disappear immediately if they read these reports. Why on earth would someone disclose that?

~In the interest of debate, Glenn Greenwald takes a critical look at the legal and ethical implications of arming the rebels and the issue of the no-fly zone possibly not really being about a no-fly zone from the start, but rather more of an excuse to get a coalition together with the unstated goal of regime change by any means necessary. In other words, his analysis relates to the revelations discussed in the article above although he doesn’t seem to address the CIA covert action aspect of the story. And again, we don’t really know if that part of the story/report is true since the sources are all anonymous.

~Just minutes ago the WH released this statement, ostensibly in response to questions about covert action/arming the Libyan rebels:

As is common practice for this and all Administrations, I am not going to comment on intelligence matters. I will reiterate what the President said yesterday – no decision has been made about providing arms to the opposition or to any group in Libya. We’re not ruling it out or ruling it in. We’re assessing and reviewing options for all types of assistance that we could provide to the Libyan people, and have consulted directly with the opposition and our international partners about these matters

Well, that settles it. *cough*

~Sort of OT but not really. These people give Christians a bad name. Seriously. The fact that the despot Laurent Gbagbo, in addition to other human rights abusers (leaders of Uganda, for example), are guests of honor at that National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC every year, is a disgrace. To support and rationalize everything Gbagbo is doing right now simply because he’s a Christian is the most warped, self-defeatingly tribal BS I’ve heard. Talk about ethically-challenged. The problem with that reasoning of course is that Muslim extremists, for example, rationalize what they do based on…being Muslim! (and of course other issues too). That sort of it’s-only-ok-when-my-group-does-it tribalism is responsible for some of the worst human rights violations in modern history (and probably ancient history too). Violence in the Ivory Coast is increasing by the day and pretty soon it’s going to make Libya look like Kindergarten, which is going to be a tough situation for this administration given our intervention in Libya largely on humanitarian grounds.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 30, 2011 6:40 pm

    This situation Stacy describes above reminds me of Afghanistan. I’m NOT saying it is identical. But in the 1980s, we (and elements within Pakistani military) funded, armed, and trained fundamentalist, militant Sunnis who were fighting the Soviets. We called them freedom fighters then.

    I have great sympathy for Libyan civilians and am not anti-Muslim at all. Fundamentalist militant Sunnis kill more Muslims than Westerners actually (e.g., in Iraq). I just wonder about this intervention and where it’s headed. What is our goal?

    • March 30, 2011 7:56 pm

      Yeah, we armed the Mujahadeen and even gave them surface to air missiles which they then turned around and used on us- they still apparently use the weapons we gave them and old soviet weapons left behind when they turned tail and left Afghanistan. Did we ever give weapons to Saddam when he was our friend?

      From a philosophical standpoint the whole terrorist vs. freedom fighter distinction is interesting. Basically, if you support what they are doing they are freedom fighters and if not, they are terrorists. Look at the Irgun who planted bombs to help the British (and US) support the founding/recognition of the state of Israel. But could Palestinian militants who only attack Israeli military targets be considered “freedom fighters” or “rebels?” They clearly think so. And if the answer is no, then why? For the record, I think people/groups that target civilians easily fall in the terrorist category, but when a group doesn’t have a state military to use to fight back, does the lack of a uniform make them terrorists. Conversely, if [alleged] crimes are committed in the name of security by people wearing military uniforms we seem to be more willing to accept that (think over 200 dead children in a matter of weeks during Operation Cast Lead).

      Don’t mind me, I’m just thinking out loud😉

  2. GayDar permalink
    March 30, 2011 6:42 pm

    It’s interesting you mention the National Prayer Breakfast, which is sponsored by the secretive, elitist rightwing Christian group The Family (also known as the Fellowship) because Hillary Clinton was a member of the women’s part of the group and is a follower of rightwing nutcase Douglas Coe, who aligns himself with every wealthy Christian dictator and despot all over the world. Hillary refused to answer questions about it during the campaign.

    http://motherjones.com/politics/2007/09/hillarys-prayer-hillary-clintons-religion-and-politics

    http://www.oliverwillis.com/2008/03/25/hillary-clintons-spiritual-adivsor-doug-coe-and-his-curious-admiration-for-nazis-and-communist-killings/

    Why can’t people just leave religion out of politics?

    • March 30, 2011 8:09 pm

      Oh come on, just because I link to a story about The Family and Evangelical conservatives why on earth would you bring up Hillary? Why not bring up the many other politicians who have been associated with the group, many in a much less tangential, passing way than Hillary was. I don’t even think she’s still involved with any aspect of that group.

      Now, to be honest, I don’t like the idea of ‘The Family’ because as a general rule I don’t like secret societies and in particular, religious secret societies whose members are US govt officials living in male-only, tax exempt brownstones on tree-lined streets in DC…

      But the fact that Hillary knew Coe and attended prayer meetings with other women doesn’t necessarily make her part of The Family. It would be like faulting each successive President for knowing/spending time with the Rev. Billy or Franklin Graham because at times they make very controversial and intolerant statements about various groups. What’s interesting is by all accounts The Family as an organization/society seems very misogynistic and it sounds like women just don’t have the stature of men within it. That doesn’t seem like something Hillary would be a part of.

      • PYW permalink
        March 31, 2011 10:46 am

        Well said. Hillary was not a “follower” of Douglas Coe. I remember this from the campaign, and it was much ado about nothing.

  3. danny permalink
    March 30, 2011 10:47 pm

    that one lady with the orange lanyard looks pissed!

    • Carolyn-Rodham permalink
      March 31, 2011 2:14 am

      You mean the blond? I think she’s probably part of Hillary’s secret service detail. They always look severe, anticipating the worst.

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