by Ari Lieberman
A glimpse inside the Obama inner circle's culture of deceit and delusion.
I’ve never been a big fan of former Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, but one cannot help but feel some sympathy for a man who had to endure two years of fecklessness, incompetence and back-stabbing in the Obama White House. It would have been enough to drive any sane person stark, raving mad. Hagel announced his resignation in November 2014 (he stayed on a bit longer until replaced by Ashton Carter), but the brutal reality is that Obama had betrayed their friendship, and asked for his resignation, an utter humiliation.
But Hagel did not spare the rod and had some choice words for the administration’s national security advisor, Susan Rice. He claimed that she frequently convened unproductive, long-winded meetings that went on for hours without accomplishing anything. Tough decisions were frequently put off (as if vexing national security issues affecting the nation would somehow resolve themselves). Even more disturbing, Rice’s office would frequently subject the Pentagon to unwarranted meddling and micromanagement. Hagel, a Vietnam veteran, was likely cognizant of the Vietnam experience, when stiff-necked, professional pencil pushers tied the Pentagon’s hands with absurd rules of engagement and other forms of meddling, ensuring a prolonged, bloody conflict that would ultimately lead to defeat.
Some of Hagel’s criticisms have been echoed by various former high-level Pentagon officials including Leon Panetta, Martin Dempsey, and Michele Flournoy, lending credence to the notion that there is substance to Hagel’s allegations, and it’s not just another case of sour grapes. Moreover, former senior diplomat and special assistant to Obama, Dennis Ross, noted that Susan Rice had needlessly exacerbated difficult situations and was largely responsible for increasing tensions with close allies, such as Israel.
Though there seems to be a consensus that Susan Rice is a flawed and incompetent diplomat, ultimately, it is the President of the United States who bears responsibility for the negative consequences resulting therefrom. Despite the integral role Rice played in the Benghazi fiasco, and subsequent cover-up, Obama appointed her as national security advisor, an appointment that did not require congressional approval. Obama had originally wanted her to succeed Hillary Clinton but Rice had enough common sense to subsequently remove her name from contention, sparing the administration additional embarrassing scrutiny.
Hagel describes how he clashed with the administration on matters ranging from Ukraine to Syria to Guantanamo. On Syria, Hagel had drafted a comprehensive military plan in response to Assad’s employment of chemical weapons against his own citizens in 2013, only to be told by Obama to stand down. Hagel believed that that decision hurt America’s credibility, especially since Obama publicly stated that usage of chemical weapons by Assad would represent a red line that, if crossed, would prompt a U.S. military response.
Since assuming executive office, Obama has demonstrated nothing but flagrant contempt for Congress. On immigration, Obama acted unilaterally, contravening his own acknowledged limitations, and invoked his so-called executive authority to provide legal status to millions of illegal aliens while hamstringing efforts to enforce existing immigration laws. On Cuba, Obama announced that he would seek to normalize relations with the wretched rulers of that rogue nation without first consulting Congress. On Iran, Obama signed the JCPOA, despite the fact that Congress (and the majority of Americans) overwhelmingly rejected the deal. At least 25 House Democrats, and four Democratic senators, recognized the JCPOA’s obvious pitfalls and voted with their Republican colleagues. This, however, did not sway the arrogant Obama who eagerly sought to sign a deal with the world’s premier state-sponsor of terrorism and mayhem.
In addition to demonstrating his disdain for Congress, the president has also demonstrated contempt for the law. It is no secret that, since assuming office, Obama has tried to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo and transfer its detainees elsewhere. Under existing congressional legislation, however, the Secretary of Defense is required to sign off on prisoner transfers. The Obama White House pressed Hagel to expedite the transfers but Hagel was more cautious, noting that he would ultimately bear responsibility if, at some later stage, those released terrorists took up arms against the U.S. This caused additional friction with the administration, ultimately leading to the demise of Hagel’s standing in the Obama White House.
Notwithstanding Obama’s legal limitations and requirement to consult with Congress before releasing Guantanamo detainees, the administration violated the law by releasing five Taliban/al-Qaida terrorists for confirmed deserter Bowe Bergdahl (who will now face a court martial) without timely notifying Congress. It is this type of pervasive contempt for the legislative branch that permeates the mindset of the Obama White House; a sense that it can do what it wants, when it wants to, without being held accountable to our revered system of checks and balances.
Despite its penchant for disregarding and circumventing Congress, the administration now has the temerity to claim that it did not wish to act unilaterally on Syria without first seeking a congressional endorsement. Given its past record of dishonesty, and the manner in which it sought to bypass Congress at every turn, that pitiful excuse is beyond absurd and represents the zenith of deceit.
Ari Lieberman is an attorney and former prosecutor who has authored numerous articles and publications on matters concerning the Middle East and is considered an authority on geo-political and military developments affecting the region.
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