Think Not, Look Away

pic-2By JOHN BUNDOCKMarch 18, 2015: (h/t @michaeldweiss)

From John Brennan’s hopes of reaching out to “moderates” among Hezbollah to the Countering Violent Extremism conference, the Obama administration has made counter-information campaigns a central part of its foreign policy. This is particularly the case on the “cyber front;” whether through hashtag campaigns or YouTube back-and-forths.

In the war to counter online jihadist recruitment, the Department of State’s Think Again Turn Away Twitter account (@ThinkAgain_DOS) is exemplary of this trend. Many of the statements put out by the account are indeed admirable, whether in exposing the Islamic State’s (ISIS) atrocities or celebrating the unity of Syrian rebels and Kurdish nationalists in Kobane. However, the account’s rapid retweet-and-forget strategy, coupled with the administration’s selective concern for extremism, has proven not merely counter-intuitive to meaningful dissuasion, but has also serviced the interests of the jihadist propagandists themselves.

The account’s most intrinsic flaws are reflective of the problems besetting the overall messaging campaign of the State Department and Inherent Resolve. In championing any and all who oppose ISIS, the organization has endorsed the accounts of various apologists for the Iran-led Shiite militias.

The first instance, a tweet mourning a regime soldier who had evidently fallen in battle with jihadists was written off as a mistake that was deleted. However, a pattern has emerged recently of retweetingpartisans of groups like Asaib Ahl al-Haq (or “special groupies”). Initially these “special groupies” seem innocent enough, engaging in mass information distribution (or “Info dumps,”) and being generally amicable to watchers of the region. They soon become regarded as “reliable” even as their sectarian agenda becomes evident. What’s more worrisome is how this sets a norm for other observers of the region: if the Department of State believes these agents, so might members of prominent think tanks. This is particularly problematic given these accounts’ willingness to actively spread disinformation or harass genuine experts on militant groups.

A case in point was the distribution of the @SunniTribes “sockpuppet” account. In January, a Shiite militia source tweeted out celebrations of ISIS fighters purportedly being beheaded at the hands of the allied al-Jaghaifa tribe. When the atrocity was called out, a “@SunniTribes” account spontaneously merged to blame the atrocities on the Albu Mahal tribe in Ramadi. Haidar Sumeri then used this fake account as “proof” that the Albu Mahal tribe was responsible. Furthermore, from the original account blaming the Jaghaifa tribe, only the heads are shown; no Jaghaifa flag is present. Instead, there were images of the Ubaidi tribal militia Fursan Emarat al-Ubaid carrying heads. A brief perusal of the militia’s YouTube account indicates its proud affiliation with Sadrists. While members of the Jaghaifa tribe certainly “were” in al-Khafsa village and had worked alongside the Ubaidis in another village, uncertainty remains as to whether they actually committed the war crime in question. The Jaghaifa tribe may well have been guilty, as asserted by the original militia source, but the reliability is called into question given the propaganda tactics these “special groupies” deploy. Relying on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) militants and their apologists for public information opens up the possibility of being the stenographers for the jihadists you so condemn.

On March 12, Think Again retweeted Hala Jaber’s, journalist for The Sunday Times, tweets about an ISIS suicide bomber. Considering that Jaber has at times served as a kind of stenographer-propagandist for the Assad regime and Hezbollah, Syrian rebels can be forgiven for thinking this was a foreshadowing of Kerry’s rapprochement with the IRGC satrap himself.

With these facts in mind, perhaps the gaffes are not so much flaws as they are features. As the Obama administration stated its willingness to negotiate with Assad and his Shiite jihadist backers to end the conflict, it should not be surprising about what has happened to “countering violent extremism:” they have simply decided that some extremists are better than others. Barack Obama once advocated “we don’t look away” in the face of mass atrocities, and hypocritically proved otherwise. In keeping with this about-face, maybe @ThinkAgain_DOS should change its name to “Think Not, Look Away.”

John Bundock is a recent graduate from Fordham University who writes on Middle Eastern politics.

Bearing Witness: Survivor Describes Nigerian Islamist Terror

Finally: U.S. Names Boko Haram as Foreign Terrorist Organization

victims of boko haram1

Why did the U.S. resist designating the group for so long, even though it fits every definition of a foreign terrorist org. and threatens the West?

BY RYAN MAURO:

The U.S. government has finally designated Boko Haram, an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Nigeria, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. In July, the Clarion Project started a petition to label the group as such. The State Department also designated Ansaru, a Boko Haram offshoot, as foreign terrorists.

“Boko Haram is a Nigeria-based militant group with links to al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) that is responsible for thousands of deaths in northeast and central Nigeria over the last several years including targeted killings of civilians,” the State Department said, making the announcement.

Notice the timeframe mentioned by the State Department: “Several years.” For “several years” — during both the Bush and Obama Administrations — the U.S. government resisted designating Boko Haram as a terrorist group, even though it fits every definition of one and threatens the West.

Three top Boko Haram officials were blacklisted as terrorists by the U.S. government in June 2012, but the Obama Administration dragged its feet in designating the group entirely. This was due to a complete misreading of Boko Haram’s ideology and an apparently desire to keep the “War on Terror” as narrow as possible.

In May, President Obama gave a speech where he emphasized that “not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al-Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States.

Read more at Clarion Project

Issa: Benghazi attack result of Hillary Clinton’s reckless, ill-advised ‘war on terror’ policies [VIDEO]

13b4e42346e4466e87448caa1d1b378d-e1369771025902By Grae Stafford:

Responsibility for the September 11 Benghazi assault and the deaths of four U.S. citizens — including Libyan ambassador Chris Stevens — lies personally at the feet of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa.

“The investigation really is now not about what we know, but about how we can prevent abuse of security before the fact, how we respond during the fact, and how we hold people accountable after the fact for deliberate misinformation — if you want to be kind — [and] outright lies, if not,” said Issa, who serves as head of the Oversight and Government reform committee.

Clinton recklessly pursued an ill-advised policy of “normalization” meant to make the U.S. look like it was winning the war on terror, dividing the State and Defense Departments. The rift between the two weakened cooperation — the full weight of assets that the U.S. could have deployed to help the Americans stranded in the consulate were not dispatched, since the State department did not want to involve military forces for the sake of appearances, Issa said.

“We know from Hillary Clinton on down there was a policy of normalization to make it appear as though we had won the war on terror,” Issa said. “I was in Libya just the other day, and one thing that I came back with was a strong opinion that that ‘stand down’ had everything to do with the fight between Department of State headed Hillary Clinton and the Defense Department, and that ultimately, State was willing to put their assets in, and did not want any military assets in, because they did not want to escalate what ultimately should have been escalated to a real rescue mission.”

Issa harshly criticized Clinton’s role in the U.S. response to the attack and took a dim view of her congressional testimony.

“Secretary Clinton famously said, ‘What difference does it make?’ It makes a difference whether or not you were leading an organization that cared about the people beforehand, did everything it could during the attack, and whether you told the truth afterwards. [I]n this case, she fails all three tests.”

See Ginni Thomas interview Daryl Issa at Daily Caller

 

Theft of US weapons in Libya involved hundreds of guns, sources say

download (16)By Adam Housley:

EXCLUSIVE: The recent theft of massive amounts of highly sensitive U.S. military equipment from Libya is far worse than previously thought, Fox News has learned, with raiders swiping hundreds of weapons that are now in the hands of militia groups aligned with terror organizations and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The equipment, as Fox News previously reported, was used for training in Libya by U.S. Special Forces. The training team, which was funded by the Pentagon, has since been pulled, partly in response to the overnight raids last August.

According to State Department and military sources, dozens of highly armored vehicles called GMV’s, provided by the United States, are now missing. The vehicles feature GPS navigation as well as various sets of weapon mounts and can be outfitted with smoke-grenade launchers. U.S. Special Forces undergo significant training to operate these vehicles. Fox News is told the vehicles provided to the Libyans are now gone.

091113_hn_housley2_640Along with the GMV’s, hundreds of weapons are now missing, including roughly 100 Glock pistols and more than 100 M4 rifles. More disturbing, according to the sources, is that it seems almost every set of night-vision goggles has also been taken. This is advanced technology that gives very few war fighters an advantage on the battlefield.

“It’s not just equipment … it’s the capability. You are giving these very dangerous groups the capability that only a few nations are capable of,” one source said. “Already assassinations are picking up in Tripoli and there are major worries that the militias are using this stolen equipment to their advantage. All these militias are tied into terrorist organizations and are tied to (salafists).”

The “salafists” are a jihadist movement among Salafi Muslims. This growing movement in Libya directly endangers the U.S.-supported government, and sources worry that this sensitive equipment is now going to be used by these groups in an attempt to overthrow the government and install a more hardline Muslim leadership.

Some diplomats, who asked to remain anonymous, say they are seeing the kinds of conditions that opened the door to the Sept. 11 Benghazi attack now appearing in Tripoli and across the rest of Libya.  They worry that American convoys and western convoys will be attacked using these stolen weapons and vehicles.

Read more at Fox News

 

Hearing: Benghazi: Where is the State Department Accountability?

 

Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy

Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy

House Committee on Foreign Affairs:

(begins at 12:40)

Opening Statements

Rep. Edward R. Royce, Chairman
[full text of opening statement]

 

Witnesses

The Honorable Patrick F. Kennedy
Under Secretary for Management
U.S. Department of State
[full text of statement]

 

Upcoming hearings:

Kennedy: Libya Is Not Allowing U.S. Law Enforcement to Enter Country and Arrest People

BY: 
September 18, 2013 2:11 pm

 

 

Under Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy said the government of Libya is not allowing U.S. law enforcement into the country to arrest individuals connected with the Benghazi attack because the Libyan government “is not in control to that degree” Wednesday in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.

Kennedy explained ever since the events of September 11, 2012 the country has taken a “serious turn for the worse.”

Journalists, according to Kennedy, still have access to the country but the Libyan government’s authority is so diminished it is incapable of allowing the United States in to arrest people:

REP. TED POE: But at the end of the day, here we are. Nobody has been taken out. Nobody is in custody. Nobody is in jail. Either on the side of the State Department, nobody is in jail, accountable for the murder. So whether it’s the people who were responsible for the killing or the people who may have made mistakes about the administration of this, nobody’s in custody.

[…]

REP. LOIS FRANKEL: Mr. Kennedy, Ambassador, thank you for your service. And, please, if you want to answer.

MR. PATRICK KENNEDY: I just — in response to the last question, Congressman, I believe that individuals of the State Department were held responsible. Being a deputy assistant secretary of state or an assistant secretary of state is not — is not, I humbly submit, sir, being a junior employee. Those are senior positions in the State Department. And for — one of those individuals resigned as the assistant secretary, and then all of them be relieved of their responsibilities is a serious act of accountability to be relieved at that level. And secondly, Benghazi has taken, even since the events of 9/11, has taken a serious turn for the worse. Yes, they will let journalists in, but they are not letting U.S. law enforcement in to arrest people there because the government of Libya is not — is not in control to that degree.

Also see: