Sunday, December 2, 2012

Questions for John McCain and Co

If you’ve been following the Benghazi Saga, you’ll know that John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Kelly Ayotte have taken upon themselves the herculean and quixotic task of proving that the breakdown in Benghazi was entirely the fault of Susan Rice, the United Nations Ambassador. 

For those of you who haven’t been following what increasingly looks like one of John McCain’s periodic, inexplicably bizarre obsessions, into which he is dragging along his acolyte Graham and Graham’s apprentice, Ayotte, this began when Rice went on television and essentially read out the talking points created by the intelligence community.  These talking points were partially incorrect in their description of the facts, and they were also cautious about assigning blame for and drawing conclusions about the attacks.  This caution is understandable, because even though McCain now insists on referring to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi as being the work of Al Qaeda, it is still not clear that the group responsible was anything other than inspired-by or tangentially linked to Al Qaeda. 

The fabrication of intelligence and the invention of such linkages, strategies well-beloved of bloodthirsty hawks like McCain, and precisely the irresponsible moves which drew the public into supporting the invasion and occupation of Iraq, are dangerous.  McCain and his Republican colleagues are playing a cynical game which threatens the integrity of the decision-making process by those responsible for our international affairs.  McCain’s all-too-obvious to regain some sense of purpose and relevance have turned him into a rather pathetic figure in recent years, and this is no exception.

Their obsession with pinning the blame on Rice—who just read the memos she were given which she was told represented the best intelligence available—is truly weird.  I’m not a fan of the UN Ambassador, and I believe for reasons quite different to those which preoccupy the fevered minds of these blinkered Senators that she is not fit to be promoted to Secretary of State (watch for a blog post on the subject in the coming days if you’re interested to hear more), but the attacks they are mounting miss the mark.

As Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice is not responsible for intelligence gathering in Libya.  She is not responsible for embassy security, in Benghazi or elsewhere.  She is not responsible for creating intelligence memos.  She is not responsible for vetting those memos.  In short, it is farcical to imply that she is responsible for events in Benghazi, absurd to suggest that her reading of a memo represented a deliberate attempt by her person to misinform the public, and a waste of the public’s time to focus so intently on what is clearly a red-herring, both in terms of uncovering what occurred at Benghazi and in evaluating its significance.

Rice has humoured McCain and Co. by holding personal meetings with them, but the thick-headed threesome remain unconvinced, as CBS reported.  Graham whined that he was “more disturbed now than I was before [his meeting with Rice]”.  “Before anybody could make an intelligent decision about promoting someone involved in Benghazi”, Graham persisted, ignoring the fact that Rice was in no way, shape, or form involved in Benghazi, “we need to do a lot more”.  McCain and Graham routinely make fools of themselves on national security issues—a sphere in which they’ve earned their “expertise” by a willingness to say stupid things to reporters—but it is unfortunate that Ayotte appears ready to join their wacky clique.  She declared, “I have many more questions that need to be answered”. 

If McCain, Graham, and Ayotte want to ask questions, I’ve got some ideas for them about questions that would be more on-point and substantive.

They could ask the President and his National Security team whether they believe that intervening from 20,000 feet in Libya is an intelligent or useful way to exercise U.S. power, and whether the exercise of such power in conjunction with NATO is in the public interest.

They could ask the President why he is pretending that waging war by drone attack—a method which, after all, kills and maims people, destroys property, and inflicts casual terror in much the same way as other methods of waging war—is not subject to the War Powers Act.

They could ask themselves why they have rolled over in such craven fashion and let the President get away with making the outrageous claim that dropping bombs, firing missiles, killing and maiming people, conducting assassinations, destroying property, and overthrowing governments are not subject to the War Powers Act.

They could ask the President and themselves whether an approach to international relations governed by hubris, jingoism, and militancy is in the public interest, or only in the interest of weapons manufacturers, oil companies, the self-propelled national security apparatus, and the mercenary thugs from private security firms to whom we increasingly trust embassy security.

They could ask the President to explain why his administration scuppered the arms trade, a criminal traffic peddled by merchants of death, and why he let the NRA get away with pretending that the global treaty, aimed at checking the selling of arms to embargoed or criminal regimes, had anything to do with the right to bear arms in the United States.

They could ask the President why he has transformed the Bush era War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq into a global War of Terror conducted without oversight or even debate by our elected representatives, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen. 

They could ask the President why he whitewashed inquiries into the murder by the CIA of prisoners in U.S. custody.

They could ask the President why he dropped the shuttering of Guantanamo—a blemish for all time on our conduct and an illustration of our pathetic failure to play by our own rules—the moment the issue became contentious, putting his poll numbers and the comfort of Congressional representatives ahead of the rights, lives, and reputations of those imprisoned illegally.

They could ask the President why his administration is contemplating the mass deployment of unmanned drones—a tool hitherto used to spy and to kill in countries with which we are at war—in the United States.

They could ask the President how he sleeps at night having continued to sow fear and anger at other countries and peoples amongst our public, creating artificial divisions using the unholy pretext of “national security” even when his actions—as they do with such disturbing regularity—directly contravene the public interest.

But I suspect that none of these questions will be asked in Congress, because the President’s actions, morally abhorrent and chilling though they might be, increasingly represent conventional wisdom amongst our two parties, the national security apparatus, and a media which is as uninterested in the liberties and livelihoods of people in other countries as is our deplorably quiescent public.

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