By Patrick Poole, December 31, 2014
With the world descending into chaos driven in no small measure by the incoherent, contradictory and frequently non-existent foreign policy of the Obama administration, it was difficult this year to narrow the field for this year’s biggest national security blunders. The task seemed so formidable, I nearly abandoned the endeavor.
But undaunted, I present to you the National Security “Not Top 10” of 2014, in no particular order.
(For past editions of my “Not Top 10”, see: 2012, 2011, 2010)
1) Befriending “moderate Al-Qaeda” in Syria:
There are some ideas so at war with reason and reality they can only exist in the fetid Potomac fever swamps of DC think tanks and foreign policy community. Such was the case in January when three of the best and brightest from those ranks published an article in Foreign Affairs (the same publication that in 2007 brought us the “Moderate Muslim Brotherhood”) contending that the US needed to “befriend” the Syrian jihadist group Ahrar al-Sham as some kind of counter to more extreme jihadist groups, like ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra. The precedent they cited was the US failure to designate the Taliban (!!!) after 9/11.
Mind you, at the time they wrote this, one of Ahrar al-Sham’s top leaders was a lieutenant for Al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri who openly declared himself a member of Al-Qaeda. After most of their leadership was wiped out in a bombing in September, they have gravitated closer to the jihadist groups they were supposed to counter and their positions have been bombed by the US – much to the consternation of other “vetted moderate” rebel groups. So ridiculous was their proposition that the original subtitle of their article “An Al-Qaeda Affiliate Worth Befriending” was changed online to “An Al-Qaeda-Linked Group Worth Befriending” in the hopes of minimizing the absurdity of their case.
2) Obama Administration deploys three hashtag divisions in response to Russian invasion of Ukraine.
As Ukrainians made their bid to free themselves from Russia’s interference, Putin responded by deploying tanks and troops into Ukraine in violation of the1994 Budapest Memorandum. Obama’s rejoinder was to give a speech and to deploy three divisions of State Department employees all armed with a #UnitedForUkraine hashtag. Hilarity ensued as the Russian Foreign Ministry counterattacked by hijacking the hashtag, prompting State Department spox Jen Psakito decry, “Let’s hope the Kremlin will live by the promise of hashtag,” leaving many asking: Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.
3) Obama: ISIS is the “JV team”.
In January President Obama sat down for an interview with the New Yorker, and when asked about ISIS gains in Iraq, he likened them to the JV team, saying ““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.” Those words came back to haunt him as ISIS surged in both Syria and Iraq, particular when Obama authorized missile strikes against ISIS in August. Even then Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken defended the president’s “JV team” remark, saying they didn’t pose the threat to America as much as Al-Qaeda. A few week later, the Washington Post noted the attempts to spin the president’s statement. By September, Obama laughably claimed in an interview on Meet the Press that he wasn’t talking about ISIS in his New Yorker interview. But even the notoriously biased Politifact rated his walk-back as “false” and two weeks ago the Washington Post’s fact checker Glenn Kessler branded Obama’s “JV team” spin as “the lie of the year”.
4) State Dept Official denies Boko Haram targeting Christians.
Just weeks after the Nigerian terrorist group abducted nearly 300 Christian school girls in Chibok and committed them to sexual slavery, State Department undersecretary Sarah Sewalldenied in a congressional hearing that Christians were being targeted. As I noted in an article here at PJ Media earlier this month on disturbing trends in Nigeria, the burning of churches and the abduction and murder of Christians continues to intensify, with more than 1,000 churches burned in just a few weeks earlier this year.
Readers might recall that this is the same State Department that in April 2012 was telling Congress that Boko Haram was not driven by religious ideology the day after the group bombed a church during an Easter service that killed 39 worshippers. Not only did the State Departmentvehemently defend not designating Boko Haram a terrorist organization, this year we discovered that they intentionally lied to Congress about the threat posed by the group. Having only designated them barely a year ago, 2014 has been Boko Haram’s deadliest year yet, with 9,000 killed, 1.5 million people displaced, and 800 schools destroyed. Nigerian authorities still complain that the Obama administration is reluctant to provide the country what it needs to fight the Boko Haram terror insurgency.
5) Homeland Security adviser’s pro-caliphate tweet used by ISIS recruiters.
Twitter proved to be the downfall of Homeland Security Advisor Council Senior Fellow Mohamed Elibiary, when he was unceremoniously let go by DHS in September following a long string of extremist social media statements. Critics, including myself, had noted Elibiary long history of promoting radical Islamic groups and publicly defending terrorist supporters. Things began to unravel when earlier this year he tweeted that America was “an Islamic country with an Islamically compliant constitution,” but the wheels definitely came off when he tweeted about the inevitability of the return of an Islamic caliphate – a statement that was later used by ISIS in their recruiting efforts. After his dismissal, which even international media took note of, I talked with Michelle Fields here at PJTV about Elibiary’s highly controversial tenure at DHS.
6) Obama, State Dept give shout-outs to Islamic cleric who OK’d fatwa authorizing killing of Americans in Iraq.
The Obama administration repeatedly promoted their BFF Mauritanian Islamic scholar Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, whose organization issued a fatwa in 2004 calling for the killing of American soldiers in Iraq and has spoken out in support of the terrorist group Hamas. But as I reported here at PJ Media in 2013, that didn’t prevent Bin Bayyah from receiving a warm welcome in the White House by members of Obama’s national security staff and being feted on Capitol Hill by two of Obama’s top Muslim advisers. When critics noted the cleric’s extremist views, the White House doubled down their support.
That continued when in May of this year, the State Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau tweeted out their support of Bin Bayyah, including a link to his website. Facing a backlash from critics and inquiries from the media, the State Department apologized and deleted the tweet. That didn’t stop President Obama from giving Bin Bayyah a shout-out in his address to the United Nations in September, remarkably praising the extremist cleric as a moderate scholar.
7) Obama administration gives heavy weapons to “vetted moderate” Syrian rebel groups that promptly turn up in hands of ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
Earlier this year, the DC foreign policy establishment was hailing two US-backed “vetted moderate” Syrian groups as the saviors to the Obama administration’s disastrous Syrian policy. The Syrian Revolutionaries Front was billed by Foreign Policy as “the West’s best fighting chance against Syria’s Islamist armies,” and the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Harakat al-Hazm was deemed by DC think tankers as “rebels worth supporting.” In fact, both groups were among the first to receive shipments of US TOW missiles. But as I’ve reported here at PJ Media, both groups were openly allying with jihadist groups, and in response to US airstrikes targeting ISIS, Harakat al-Hazm began denouncing the strikes as an “attack on the revolution.” Within the past two months,both groups have collapsed and many of their fighters have defected to ISIS and Al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra.
Even more importantly, they surrendered their weapons to these jihadist groups. Earlier this month I reported that Jabhat al-Nusra was using US TOW missiles – a report confirmed over the weekend by the New York Times. This week brings news that ISIS is now using US TOW missiles in attacks near Damascus. The Iraqi Army has gotten into the act as well, having surrendered to ISIS 1,500 US-provided armored Humvees, 52 M198 howitzers with 20 mile range, and 4,000 PKC belt-fed machine guns.
8) White House defends Muslim Brotherhood’s “commitment to non-violence”.
Earlier this month the White House curtly responded to a “We the People” petition on its website calling for the designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, saying that “we have not seen credible evidence that the Muslim Brotherhood has renounced its decades-long commitment to non-violence.” Both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates declared the Brotherhood a terrorist group earlier this year. As I noted as far back as 2007, the popular DC myth that the Muslim Brotherhood had renounced terrorism has no basis in reality. This was summarized ably by Congresswoman Michele Bachmann in an oped earlier this year that not only had the US government itself rejected the notion of a non-violent Muslim Brotherhood, but it has also designated as terrorists branches, leaders and charities of the international Muslim Brotherhood.
Those official US government statements testifying to the Muslim Brotherhood’s long history of violence and terrorism, as well as its violent doctrines, were included as findings in H.R. 5194, sponsored by Bachmann and 19 other House members calling for the Brotherhood’s designation. Events of this year have testified to Brotherhood’s ongoing support for terrorism, such as the raid last January by Egyptian authorities of a Molotov cocktail factory inside a Brotherhood office in Alexandria, the brutal murder in April of a Christian woman who was dragged from her car during a Muslim Brotherhood protest, and thearrest of Brotherhood officials earlier this month in Jordan who were smuggling weapons into the West Bank for terror attacks on Israelis. If to highlight the point, when UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced that his government would be investigating the Muslim Brotherhood, the group’s London office threatened attacks in response.
9) Obama administration defends US Islamic groups branded as terrorist organizations by UAE.
The White House reportedly spent its Christmas appealing to the UAE to remove two US Islamic groups – the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim American Society – from the UAE’s terrorist blacklist. What makes this defense, particularly of CAIR, so remarkable is that the US government itself has noted the terror connections in federal court. In 2007, federal prosecutors named CAIR as unindicted co-conspirators in the largest terrorism financing trial in American history, and during the trial one FBI agent testified that CAIR was a front for Hamas and prosecutors contended in court filings (p. 13) that it was part of an international Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy to provide “media, money and men” to the terror group. The federal judge in the case agreed, stating in a ruling that there was “ample evidence” CAIR and other Islamic groups identified as conspirators acted in support of Hamas. The Justice Department has also said in federal court that MAS was “founded as the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States.” Notwithstanding a FBI ban on official contact with CAIR, White House officials have admitted to hundreds of meetings with the terror front.
10) Having banned discussions of ideology driving Islamic terrorism, Pentagon says it can’t understand ideology of ISIS.
The New York Times reported over the weekend about the unsuccessful efforts of the Pentagon’s Special Operations Command (SOCOM) to counter the ideology of ISIS. “We have not defeated the idea. We do not even understand the idea,” said SOCOM’s Major Gen. Michael Nagata, while “other officials acknowledge they have barely made a dent in the larger, longer-term campaign to kill the ideology that animates the terrorist movement,” the article noted. This is no surprise as the Joint Chiefs of Staff formally banned any discussion of the Islamic ideology driving terrorist groups in its counter-terrorism training and in its war colleges in an October 2011 Joint Action Staff Directive that was sourced solely on the questionable and highly partisan reporting of far Left blogger Spencer Ackerman.
As I have detailed elsewhere, the Joint Chiefs’ actions were part of a larger Obama administration effort to purge counter-terrorism training across all national security and law enforcement agencies. The architect of the Obama administration’s failing counter-terrorism strategy, Quintan Wiktorowicz, defended these polices earlier this year, telling Bill Gertz of the Washington Free Beacon that the US government is prohibited by the First Amendment from discussing the religious ideology of terror groups threatening the US, and that such efforts would have to be outsourced to “partners in the Muslim world.” That didn’t stop Wiktorowicz from saying that more money was needed for efforts to counter the very ideology that he said no one in the US government can talk about.
Needless to say, this list is hardly exhaustive. And the coming year looks to have plenty of candidates for 2015’s “Not Top 10.”
Also see this key report written by Patrick Poole on JUNE 4, 2013: