Patrick Poole reviews Obama’s top ten national security failures of 2011 at PJM:
Here you go, in chronological order:
1) President Obama claims Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood lacks major support (February 6)
During Obama’s Super Bowl interview with Bill O’Reilly, Egypt was in the midst of a revolution that eventually led to the ouster of longtime Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Obama was asked about whether the Muslim Brotherhood was a threat. He responded:
I think they’re one faction in Egypt. They don’t have majority support in Egypt. But they’re well organized. There are strains of their ideology that are anti-U.S. There’s no doubt about it.
He went on to claim that there are many secularists and liberals in Egypt that wanted representative government. The rest of the administration followed suit, with Daniel Shapiro of the National Security Council assuring Jewish groups on a conference call that the Muslim Brotherhood would “be a minor player in Egyptian politics.” New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof also pointed to questionable polls claiming that the Muslim Brotherhood only received 15 percent support.
As we’ve seen in recent weeks, the president was completely wrong in his assessment (as were the administration flacks and media lapdogs who parroted the president’s claims). In the first two rounds of elections, the Muslim Brotherhood has come out on top, and with their Salafist Al-Nour allies, they aim to control the Egyptian parliament with a significant legislative majority — possibly enough to rewrite the country’s constitution. In the first round, they secured 37 percent of the seats; in the second round, they won 47 percent of the seats up for grabs.
Now, the Obama administration’s think-tank allies are spinning the Muslim Brotherhood’s electoral success by assuring the Beltway’s “smart set” that the group is savvy and politically flexible, meaning there’s nothing for us to fear.
How did Obama miscalculate so poorly on the Muslim Brotherhood’s support in Egypt? Well, that brings us to …
2) Director of National Intelligence James Clapper tells Congress that the Muslim Brotherhood is a “largely secular” group (February 10)
Just a few days after Obama claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood lacked major support in Egypt, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper went before the House Intelligence Committee and was asked by Rep. Sue Myrick about the organization. He gave this response:
The term “Muslim Brotherhood” … is an umbrella term for a variety of movements, in the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried al-Qaeda as a perversion of Islam. … They have pursued social ends, a betterment of the political order in Egypt, et cetera. … In other countries, there are also chapters or franchises of the Muslim Brotherhood, but there is no overarching agenda, particularly in pursuit of violence, at least internationally.
Catcalls poured in from all quarters. Richard Engel on MSNBC called Clapper’s comments “a wild misreading of the organization.” Sen. Mark Kirk expressed his concern about Clapper’s remarks and the Obama administration’s position with respect to the Muslim Brotherhood. ABC News noted that the State Department’s own background note on Egypt described the Brotherhood as a “potent political and religious force.” Even FBI Director Robert Mueller, who was testifying with Clapper, had to add: “Obviously, elements of the Muslim Brotherhood here and overseas have supported terrorism.” This put the lie to Clapper’s claims that they had “eshewed violence” (e.g., Hamas).
It wasn’t even the close of business that day when Clapper’s spokesman issued a “clarification” of the director’s remarks.
What is important about this episode is that Clapper was not speaking off-the-cuff, but was reading verbatim from a set of written briefing notes that had been prepared by the top intelligence analysts in the intelligence community. They had apparently ignored (unlike PJ Media’s Barry Rubin) that the supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood had declared war on the U.S. just a few months before, just as the Clinton administration ignored al-Qaeda’s declaration of war in 1998.
As we continue to see the Middle East devolve into fundamentalist Islamic totalitarianism over the next year — perhaps the worst foreign policy disaster in the past century — we can be reminded that the U.S. intelligence community not only didn’t see it coming but actively aided in the collapse by blinding policy makers to the reality of the Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda.
3) Osama bin Laden buried by U.S. military in accordance with Islamic traditions (May 2)
The Obama administration eviscerated a decade’s worth of (admittedly misguided) U.S. strategic communications that said Osama bin Laden had hijacked Islam by burying him in accordance with Islamic law.
After the deed had been done, Obama’s national security adviser John Brennan gave a briefing to the White House press corps where he claimed: “The disposal of — the burial of bin Laden’s remains was done in strict conformance with Islamic precepts and practices. It was prepared in accordance with the Islamic requirements.” Brennan explained that bin Laden’s funeral had been conducted by a U.S. military Muslim chaplain (no word if the Muslim chaplain involved was one of those hand-picked by al-Qaeda financier Abdurahman Alamoudi on behalf of the Defense Department, or one trained by al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki). The Navy’s service for Islamic burial also includes a petition that Allah forgive the sins of the deceased, and provide a nice house and a better wife.
But that didn’t assuage prominent Islamic scholars from around the world, who complained that bin Laden’s burial at sea did violate Islamic law. In response, the Islamic scholars at the White House doubled-down, insisting that he had been buried according to Islamic tradition.
There was hardly any public discussion about the ramifications to the years of strategic communication by both the Bush and Obama administrations that insisted that Osama bin Laden had “hijacked Islam” and operated outside bounds of Islamic teaching. In one simple act the Obama administration confirmed what the U.S. government had repeatedly denied for almost a decade.
4) Pentagon overrules field commanders, grants Private Naser Jason Abdo conscientious objector status just weeks before his arrest for planning terror attack on fellow soldiers (May)
When Naser Abdo was arrested in Killeen, Texas, on July 27 just outside the gates of Fort Hood — the location of Major Nidal Hasan’s massacre two years before — it should have set off alarm bells at the Pentagon. The deputy assistant secretary of the Army had overruled Abdo’s field commanders, including the commander of the 101st Airborne, in granting conscientious objector status to Abdo just a few weeks before. Abdo would have received an honorable discharge, had it not been for an outstanding child porn charge that he was facing a court martial hearing on.
Abdo went AWOL from Fort Campbell on the July 4 weekend, only to reappear planning his terror attack at Fort Hood a few weeks later. In a recent jailhouse interview with a Nashville TV station, Abdo admitted that he had initially planned on abducting, torturing, and killing on camera one of his superiors at Fort Campbell, but when he was questioned about his visits to a local gun store by Army investigators, he went AWOL and redirected his terror attack plans.
The Pentagon had plenty of warning that Abdo was trouble. After his arrest, a member of his basic training platoon, Sgt. Michael Payton, appeared on Fox News and described the anti-American and anti-Semitic statements Abdo would make. He added that Abdo would harass a Jewish soldier in the platoon. Abdo was later kicked out of a Pashto language school.
As I noted here at PJ Media just days after he had been granted conscientious objector status, many of the statements he had publicly made parroted those made by Major Hasan. Other groups were aware of his extremist views and refused to support his conscientious objector claims, and his case was opposed by at least one Islamic organization.
That didn’t stop Abdo from being the darling of the establishment media, with his plight given coverage by CNN, Al-Jazeera, ABC News, and the New York Times (the Times story has apparently been removed from their website). His cause was also championed by Iraq Veterans Against the War and the Muslim American Society.
After his arrest, several anti-war organizations attempted to scrub their association with Abdo from their respective websites. Unfortunately for the Pentagon, their ruling in his favor as a conscientious objector will be harder to scrub away.
5) Prominent Muslim-American lobbyist Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai arrested as Pakistani intelligence agent (July 20)
The political establishment was shaken by the arrest in July of Syed Shulam Nabi Fai, the longtime leader of the Kashmiri-American Council, who was indicted on charges he had operated as an agent of the Pakistani intelligence service since 1985. One reason that this news concerned political leaders was Fai being a regular fixture of the Washington, D.C. political scene, handing out political donations to Democrats and Republicans alike. One of the largest recipients of Fai’s campaign cash was Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), the third-highest ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. After Fai’s arrest, Burton posted a response on his official congressional website.
Not only was Fai involved in the political scene, he was active with many of the prominent Islamic organizations that the U.S. government routinely engages in “outreach,” including the terror-tied Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Muslim Student Association (MSA). Fai served as MSA national president for four years (1985-1989) while he was serving his Pakistani ISI masters (I’ve written previously about the MSA’s terror problems here at PJ Media). A number of Islamic organization jumped to Fai’s defense and his Kashmiri-American Council continued to defend their leader. In an interview with Al-Jazeera, former head of CIA counterterrorism and former Pakistani CIA station chief Robert Grenier claimed the charges against Fai were politically motivated.
But earlier this month, Fai pleaded guilty to the charges against him, admitting he in fact had been a Pakistani intelligence spy and had concealed his ties to the ISI.
A 26-page Statement of Facts was signed by Fai admitting his crimes and his lies to FBI agents denying his work on behalf of Pakistan. In all, Fai admitted to taking more than $3.5 million to influence American policy. No word explaining how they could be duped has been forthcoming from his political pals and defenders.
6) Obama backs overthrow of Gaddafi, installs al-Qaeda-friendly, Shariah-compliant regime in Libya (March-present)
When U.S. missiles began striking targets in Tripoli in March in support of NATO operations aimed at ousting Libyan strong-man Muammar Gaddafi, the lobbying effort targeting the Libyan dictator was being led by Obama’s war hawks in the State Department: namely Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, and Samantha Power. The targeting of Gaddafi began in February, when Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yousef al-Qaradawi issued a fatwa on Al-Jazeera permitting Gaddafi’s assassination.
It soon became clear the U.S. was supporting bad actors.
One of the first indications was the presence of known Libyan al-Qaeda leaders appearing at the head of the anti-Gaddafi militias, including Abdelhakim Belhaj, one of the founders of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). This was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. government in 2004 after their reported involvement in the Madrid terror attacks and the 2003 suicide bombing in Casablanca. (As of Sept. 15, 2011, LIFG was still listed as a terrorist organization on the State Department’s website).
Belhaj is currently suing the UK government for their alleged role, in cooperation with U.S. authorities, in renditioning him to Libya in 2004.
So one of the top Libyan rebel commander allies had been renditioned by the U.S. for his terrorist involvement just a few years before. Other Libyan militia leaders had led terror cells in Iraq, who were responsible for killing U.S. troops in support of al-Qaeda.
After the dictator’s fall, signs immediately appeared that the new transitional government supported by the Obama administration could end up being worse than Gaddafi. Hundreds of militants tied to al-Qaeda were released from Libyan jails. Looted arms from Gaddafi’s stockpiles began showing up across the Middle East, including in Hamas-controlled Gaza. Statements on al-Qaeda affiliated websites said that captured arms were in the hands of the militants. And as soon as NATO operations were concluded, al-Qaeda flags began to appear above Libyan government buildings — including the Benghazi courthouse — prompting some in Congress to question the administration’s actions.
Even before elections could be held, the head of the National Transition Council Mustafa Abdel Jalil pledged to implement Islamic law in Libya, which apparently surprised some Western leaders and media figures. Jalil overturned Gaddafi’s ban on polygamy and vowed to allow Sharia-compliant loans in the oil-rich country.
7) Hillary Clinton backs plan by Islamic countries to criminalize “defamation of Islam” (July-present)
Fulfilling the decade-long wishes of the 57 countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Obama administration has backed an international OIC effort to criminalize “defamation of religion,” namely Islam, in the name of religious tolerance over the expressed objections of human rights, religious freedom, and free speech advocates.
The first step was taken with the passage of UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18 back in April. Among the members of the UNHRC are some of the worst human rights abusers in the world, including Libya, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China, and Cuba.
The next stop was a meeting with the OIC and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton back in July as part of the “Istanbul Process,” where Clinton vowed “to use some old-fashioned techniques of peer pressure and shaming so that people don’t feel that they have the support to do what we abhor.” Clinton failed to explain where the State Department, or any arm of the U.S. government, derives its power to “name and shame” any U.S. citizen. Clinton and OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu issued a joint statement promising U.S. cooperation in implementing Resolution 16/18.
Earlier this month, OIC officials and Hillary Clinton met in a closed-door three-day meeting in Washington, D.C. Rather than gathering to discuss the stated topics of intolerance and violence, the official OIC media center characterized the meeting as an effort to enact its “defamation of religion” agenda spelled out in the OIC’s annual Islamophobia Observatory. Just this week, Ihsanoglu told Turkish reporters that these efforts are intended to “refrain from exploiting freedoms” and that similar meetings between the OIC and EU bureaucrats, similar to those conducted with Hillary Clinton, are planned in the near future.
Eager to capitalize on the Obama administration’s joint efforts with the OIC, leaders of several prominent U.S. Islamic organizations met with Justice Department officials in October to push to redefine discrimination laws to include criticism of Islam. During the meeting one of the most vocal advocates for the change in definitions was Muslim lawyer and Huffington Post columnist Sahar Aziz. Mohamed Magid, one of the Obama administration’s closest Muslim allies and president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), said that “teaching people that all Muslims are a threat to the country … is against the law and the Constitution.” Not coincidentally, I’m sure, when Obama hosted the annual White House Iftar dinner, the official guest list omitted Magid’s name as one of the attendees. The relationship is so close, though, that Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough was dispatched to give a speech at Magid’s mosque back in March.
White House blocks appointment of moderate Muslim leader Zuhdi Jasser to State Department post (October)
When Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, held hearings back in March on the radicalization threat in the Muslim community, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser was one of the called witnesses. Jasser — a retired decorated Naval officer and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy — was called an “Uncle Tom” by prominent Muslim leaders and denounced by far-left outfits including The Nation magazine and the Center for American Progress. They attacked Jasser as “a leading light of the Islamophobia network” (the hypocrisy of denouncing a Muslim as an “Islamophobe” was apparently lost on the Democratic think tank).
But even before Jasser’s appearance before the Homeland Security Committee, he had been nominated by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to a post on the State Department’s U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, which is tasked with “appraising U.S. Government activities intended to understand, inform, and influence foreign publics.”
As former CIA Director Jim Woolsey and author Seth Leibsohn reported in October, after 15 months of vetting and receiving a top-secret security clearance, Jasser was informed that his name had been “removed from consideration” without any explanation. Senator Jon Kyl commented on the affair by saying that “the Obama administration has chosen to sideline Dr. Jasser.”
After years of lecturing about empowering moderate Muslims through “outreach,” including the White House’s own Strategic Plan for Preventing Violent Extremism published earlier this month, time and again administrations of both parties have been bound and determined to reach out exclusively to Muslim Brotherhood front groups. These groups actively promote the very extremism the government “outreach” is intended to remedy. By bowing to pressure from these same organizations to block Zuhdi Jasser’s appointment, not only has the Obama administration blinded policy makers to threats like the Muslim Brotherhood, but it has ensured that the radicalization and marginalization of the Muslim community continues unabated.
9) DOD official refuses to acknowledge the threat of radical Islam during hearing on terror threats to the U.S. military (December 10)
In one of the most comical, and equally tragic, interchanges in recent congressional history, during a joint Senate/House Homeland Security hearing on “Homegrown Terrorism: The Threat to Military Communities Inside the United States,” Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs Paul Stockton was asked by Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA), former attorney general of the state of California, on the source of the threat to America and its troops. The exchange proceeded as follows:
REPRESENTATIVE DANIEL LUNGREN (R-CA): Secretary Stockton, are we at war with violent Islamist extremism?
MR. STOCKTON: No, sir. We are at war with al-Qaeda, its affiliates –
REP. LUNGREN: OK, I understand that. My question is, is violent Islamist extremism at war with us?
MR. STOCKTON: No, sir. We are being attacked by al-Qaeda and its allies.
REP. LUNGREN: Is al-Qaeda — can it be described as being an exponent of violent Islamist extremism?
MR. STOCKTON: They — al-Qaeda are murderers with an ideological agenda –
REP. LUNGREN: No, I — that’s not my question. That wasn’t my question. My question was, is al-Qaeda acting out violent Islamist extremism?
MR. STOCKTON: Al-Qaeda is a violent organization dedicated to overthrowing the values that we intend to advance –
REP. LUNGREN: So is it yes or no?
MR. STOCKTON: Can I hear the question again? I’ll make it as clear as I can. We are not at war with Islam. And it is not –
REP. LUNGREN: I didn’t ask that — I did not ask that, sir. I asked whether we’re at war with violent Islamist extremism. That’s my question.
MR. STOCKTON: No, we’re at war with al-Qaeda and its affiliates.
It gets worse from there, as you can see in the video of the full exchange:
Predictably, Time magazine blogger Mark Thompson faulted Lungren for the surreal exchange, likening it to “Anti-Islamic Hyperventilation.” Mind you, this is after:
- Sgt. Hasan Karim Akbar killed two fellow soldiers and wounded 14 more in an ambush at an Army camp in Kuwait just days before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003;
- Four Muslim converts were arrested for planning an attack on a California National Guard armory in August 2005;
- Six Muslim men were caught planning and training for an attack on troops at Fort Dix in May 2007;
- Four Muslim converts from New York were arrested while executing a terror plot that included bringing down military airplanes at Stewart Air National Guard Base in May 2009;
- A Muslim convert and self-described jihadist, Carlos Bledsoe (aka Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad) gunned down Army Pvt. William Long and wounded Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula as the pair stood in front of an Army recruiting center in Little Rock in June 2009;
- Seven Muslim men from North Carolina were arrested for plotting an attack on the Marine base at Quantico;
- Major Nidal Hasan killed 13 and wounds 29 in a terror attack at Fort Hood in November 2009 after the Army had been warned about Hasan’s contact with Al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki;
- A Muslim immigrant, Arif Uka, opened fire on a bus carrying U.S. soldiers at the Frankfurt, Germany airport in March 2011, killing two soldiers;
- Two Muslim converts were arrested for planning an attack on a Seattle-area military processing center in June 2011;
- Pvt. Naser Jason Abdo was arrested and charged in July 2011 with planning a terror attack and compiling components for a bomb targeting Fort Hood just weeks after he had been granted conscientious objector status by the Army.
But to mention the painfully obvious connection between all these incidents is considered Islamophobic. As my colleague and former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy described the Stockton/Lungren exchange:
This is criminal recklessness. It is idiocy beyond description, so I should just stop trying to describe it. Watch it in all its jaw-dropping ignominy. Three and a half minutes — although it will take you longer than that because you’ll need to watch it a few times in order to come to grips with the fact that it’s not a parody but the real thinking of top officials in the Defense Department and throughout the administration.
10) Vice President Joe Biden says Taliban is not our enemy just days before Taliban take credit for killing four U.S. soldiers (December 18)
In a wide-ranging interview with Newsweek last week, Joe Biden said that the “the Taliban per se is not our enemy,” which launched a firestorm of criticism, including from the White House press corps. Internationally, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker was tasked with “clarifying” Biden’s statement.
But Biden’s comments came just a few days before the Taliban took credit for killing four U.S. soldiers with an IED. This year saw the second-highest number of U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan by the Taliban and its al-Qaeda allies. Included in that total are the 31 U.S. service members who were killed in the Taliban downing of a Chinook helicopter in August — the largest number of casualties in Afghanistan in a single incident — and the October suicide bombing of a bus carrying troops between bases, killing 13 Americans.
The vice president’s statement is no doubt reflective of the Obama administration’s ongoing negotiations with the Taliban, which have reportedly reached a critical stage. The discussions began earlier this year at the insistence of the late Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. By June, administration officials were claiming success in the negotiations.
But two stories this week demonstrate the high cost, beyond the lost American lives, that such negotiations with the Taliban entail. This week it was reported that the mediator chosen by the U.S. government is Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yousef al-Qaradawi, the first major Sunni Islamic cleric to endorse the use of suicide bombings. He issued a fatwa in February 2003 permitting attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq, and even the abduction and killing of American civilians working in Iraq. The Anti-Defamation League describes Qaradawi as the “Theologian of Terror” for his justification of violence and rhetoric of hate. Yet this week we hear a report that “Egyptian-born Mr. al-Qaradawi is seen by both the United States and the Taliban traditionalists as an ally in the battle against the growing influence of this new generation of [hardline Taliban] commanders.”
Another cost of negotiating with the Taliban is the pending release of high-risk Guantanamo detainee and senior Taliban commander Mohammed Fazl, who has been in U.S. custody since 2002. Fazl is accused of killing thousands of Shiite Muslims from 1998 to 2001. The U.S. has also agreed to the opening of a Taliban office in U.S.-ally Qatar.
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As I was preparing this “Not Top 10″ list, I remembered the foreign policy catastrophe that was Jimmy Carter and 1979 (yes, I’m old enough to remember). But this sampling of Obama’s “Not Top 10″ — taken from a list of more than three dozen items — bodes ill for the Obama administration’s actions in 2012. We may long for the heady days of Carter.
Patrick Poole is a national security and terrorism correspondent for PJMedia.