Nationalist fear-mongering of refugees and terrorism is a consequence of the U.S. turning Middle East nations into failed states – creating the conditions for the rise of ISIS and the global refugee crisis. 

 

 

I had written like 70% of this article months ago. It had been part of a different article I’d written back in September about the war in Syria, but I took it out for a variety of reasons before the election.

I wasn’t always set on publishing it to be honest. But I thought it timely as we are not just reflecting on 2016 this New Years, but the end of eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency.

 

When Pew Research Center set out to answer what the “top voting issue” was in the 2016 election, the first was the economy. The second was terrorism.

Gallup found that “terrorism and national security” topped the chart when it came to issues that both Democrats and Republicans cared most about. In fact, over half of Americans (54%) felt that the U.S. should stop accepting refugees altogether because of national security concerns.

Unsurprisingly, a majority of these people voted for Trump…and a lot similar minded people in Britain voted to leave the European Union.

In the last month there have been a number of explanations for how Trump stunned the world (including himself) and won the election. Many have focused on the power of white working class voters, the anti-establishment fervor, or even the FBI and Russia’s interference.

But very little has gone to understand an underlying fear that both Trump and the leaders of Brexit managed to tap into – the fear of terrorism, refugees and the religion of Islam. A fear that continues to this day as more ISIS-inspired attacks occur around the world.

So what happened over Obama’s presidency to get in a situation where millions of refugees are fleeing out of the Middle East and religious terrorists groups seem more powerful and dangerous than ever?

People gather to protest against the United States' acceptance of Syrian refugees at the Washington State capitol in Olympia

When you clicked on this article you saw a man with a gun standing in front of explosions. That was some dude who decided to strike a pose during the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

The terror attack at Benghazi happened over 4 years ago, but its legacy has played a much larger role in this election than most have realized.

Not because the infamous e-mail server scandal emerged from the Benghazi investigation. Nor for the repeated testimonies and largely partisan media scrutiny which hurt Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers going into the race.

When we look back on the Obama era, Benghazi should be remembered for its far more important role in fueling the Syrian civil war and the rise of ISIS. A reality which has produced today’s global refugee crisis and ultimately fostered the environment of fear which helped bring Trump to power.

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4 nations which became failed states and now have the largest ISIS presence in the world

I’m not going to re-hash the whole Benghazi controversy here because most people don’t even remember what it was about. But I do want to call attention to one particular aspect of it.

Why were the 4 Americans who died in Benghazi even there to begin with? 

It’s a seemingly simple question after all these years, but I bet most of us don’t know the answer, or even really thought to ask.

Of the four Americans that died in Benghazi, two were security contractors with the CIA and two were employees of the US State Department. One of whom was the ambassador to Libya.

It would be easy enough to assume that they were all in Libya doing diplomatic work of some kind…because that seems like their job. But about a year ago the Department of Defense declassified an intelligence briefing from October 2012, one month after the terror attack, which would explain quite clearly what the U.S. was doing Benghazi.

“2. During the immediate aftermath, of, and following the uncertainty caused by, the downfall of the ((Qaddafi)) regime in October 2011 and up until early September of 2012, weapons from the former Libya military stockpiles located in Benghazi, Libya were shipped from the port of Benghazi, Libya to the ports of Banias and the Port of Borj Islam, Syria. The Syrian ports were chosen due to the small amount of cargo traffic transiting these two ports. The ships used to transport the weapons were medium-sized and able to hold 10 or less shipping containers of cargo.
 3. The weapons shipped from Libya to Syria during late-August 2012 were Sniper rifles, RPG’s, and 125mm and 15mm howitzers missiles. The numbers for each weapon were estimated to be: 500 sniper rifles, 100 RPG launchers with 300 total rounds, and approximately 400 howitzers missiles [200 ea – 125mm and 200ea -155mm]”

Why were weapons being shipped out of Libya and into Syria between 2011-2012?

 

Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, smiles at his home in Tripoli
Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens – first sitting ambassador to be killed since 1979

It was during this time that the peaceful demonstrations against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad were devolving into an armed resistance.

The Red Cross officially declared the turmoil in Syria a civil war in July 2012. The attack at Benghazi occurred in September 2012. This is the beginning of the destructive Syrian civil war which has played out in front of our eyes for the last 5 years.

It had been no secret that the U.S. wanted Assad to go. But the much better kept secret was what role we played in the unrest in Syria turning into a civil war to begin with.

That secret began unraveling after the Benghazi attack.

During the initial Benghazi hearings Congressman Devin Nunes asked CIA Deputy Director Mike Morrell and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper point blank whether or not weapons were being sent from Libya into Syria.

Nunes: Are we aware of any arms that are leaving that area and going into Syria?
Morell: Yes, sir.
Clapper: Yes.
Nunes: And who is coordinating that?
Morell: I believe largely the [REDACTED] are coordinating that.
Nunes: They are leaving Benghazi ports are going to Syria?
Morell: I don’t know how they are getting the weapons from Libya to Syria. But there are weapons going from Libya to Syria. And there are probably a number of actors involved in that. One of the biggest are the [REDACTED]
Nunes: And, were the the CIA folks that were there, were they helping coordinate that, or were they watching it, were they gathering information about it?
Morrell: Sir, the focus of my officers in Benghazi was [REDACTED]
While U.S. officials left it ambiguous as to how the weapons were going from Libya to Syria or what role the CIA played in that transfer, famed investigative journalist Seymour Hersh published an explosive article in the London Review of Books in April 2014 uncovering the much larger story behind Benghazi.

“The Obama administration has never publicly admitted to its role in creating what the CIA calls a ‘rat line’, a back channel highway into Syria. The rat line, authorised in early 2012, was used to funnel weapons and ammunition from Libya via southern Turkey and across the Syrian border to the opposition. Many of those in Syria who ultimately received the weapons were jihadists, some of them affiliated with al-Qaida.

libya-to-turkey-map
The “rat line” to transfer weapons from Libya, to Turkey, into Syria

By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria. A number of front companies were set up in Libya, some under the cover of Australian entities.

Retired American soldiers, who didn’t always know who was really employing them, were hired to manage procurement and shipping. The operation was run by David Petraeus, the CIA director who would soon resign when it became known he was having an affair with his biographer.”

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Retired Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were the two CIA contractors killed in Benghazi

Of course, one doesn’t need to take Seymour Hersh’s word for exposing the international gun-running operation taking place at Benghazi.

On September 6th, 2012, five days before the Benghazi attack, a Libyan-flagged vessel called Al Entisar  was received in the Turkish port of Iskenderun, 35 miles from the Syrian border. The ship carried heavy weaponry including surface-to-air missiles known as MANPADs which found their way into the hands of Syrian rebels. These sophisticated weapons were used to shoot down Assad and Russian helicopters and aircraft.

On the night of the attack on September 11th, in what became his last public meeting, Ambassador Chris Stevens reportedly met with Turkish Consul General Ali Sait Akin to negotiate the weapons transfers out of Libya and into Syria.

Three days later, another Libyan ship docked in Turkey “carrying the largest consignment of weapons for Syria”. The shipment weighed over 400 tons and included SA-7  anti-aircraft missiles and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).

Libyan official Abdul Basit Haroun would later publicly admit that he was letting weapons leave the port of Benghazi to reach the Syrian rebels. “They know we are sending guns to Syria,” Haroun said. “Everyone knows.”

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Libyan ship “Al Ensitar” docking in Turkey with weapons bound for Syria
Lighter shipments of weapons were snuck directly into smaller Syrian ports, as the original DoD intelligence report said, but the much heavier, deadly weaponry was going through a secret command center near the Syrian border jointly run by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.

A U.S. government source acknowledged that under provisions of the presidential finding, the United States was collaborating with a secret command center operated by Turkey and its allies.

Last week, Reuters reported that, along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Turkey had established a secret base near the Syrian border to help direct vital military and communications support to Assad’s opponents.

This “nerve center” is in Adana, a city in southern Turkey about 60 miles from the Syrian border, which is also home to Incirlik, a U.S. air base where U.S. military and intelligence agencies maintain a substantial presence.

NBC said the shoulder-fired missiles, also known as MANPADs, had been delivered to the rebels via Turkey.

If it were not already bad enough that the U.S. was illegally smuggling weapons out of Libya, a country whose government we had just toppled with NATO’s help, who exactly were the Syrian rebels receiving this “vital military and communications support”?
The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) offered a sobering analysis in August 2012 of what the opposition we were arming looked like.

The General Situation

A. Internally, events are taking a clear sectarian direction.

B. The Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.

C. The West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition; while Russia, China and Iran support the regime

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Syrian rebel holding surface-to-air missile, known as a MANPAD

It wasn’t just the DIA reporting that extremist militant groups were leading the opposition to Assad. The defense consultancy IHS Jane reported at the time that more than half the rebel fighters in Syria had some hardline Islamist affiliation.

“The insurgency is now dominated by groups which have at least an Islamist viewpoint on the conflict. The idea that it is mostly secular groups leading the opposition is just not borne out.” – Charles Lister, Senior Fellow at the Middle East Institute

It’s hard to imagine that at the same time U.S. intelligence was reporting that literal jihadists were leading the opposition to Assad…that we decided to covertly ship weapons to them.

But that is exactly what happened.

We were not alone of course. With the help of Turkey, the Saudis and Qataris, the U.S. helped funnel weapons to a range of extremist groups with a “salafist” or jihadist ideology to overthrow the Syrian government.

Within a year of the Syrian civil war, one of the leading jihadi opposition groups, Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), banded together with a range of other salafist militia groups to form ISIS.

isis-fighters

The origin of ISIS as an “anti-Assad” fighting force is never really reckoned with when we talk about the conflict in Syria today. Nor the extent to which the United States contributed to its rise to power.

In an e-mail to John Podesta, Hillary Clinton rather plainly pointed the finger at Saudi Arabia and Qatar for providing “financial and logistic support to ISIL”. But the U.S. has played perhaps equally as important a role.

Not only did ISIS acquire millions of dollars worth of weapons that the U.S. helped funnel into Syria, but ISIS’s senior most military commander himself was in fact a CIA-trained soldier from the eastern European country Georgia.

Abu Omar al Shishani, previously known as Tarkhan Batirashvili, joined the Georgian military in 2006 at the age of 20. There he was was extensively trained by the CIA in the Georgian special forces which fought Russia in the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict.

“He was a perfect soldier from his first days, and everyone knew he was a star,” an unnamed former comrade who is still active in the Georgian military told McClatchy DC. “We were well trained by American special forces units, and he was the star pupil.”

umar-al-shishani
Former ISIS military commander Tarkhan Batirashvili was killed by drone strike in July 2016

Batirashvili reappeared in Syria in 2013 commanding the jihadist Syrian rebel group Jaysh al Muhajireen, before he swore allegiance to ISIS and became their commander of military operations.

His military skills were so successful that Michael Cecire, an analyst of extremism at the Foreign Policy Research Institute commented that “Batirashvili’s ability to demonstrate ISIS’ tactical prowess attracted fighters in droves from other factions and tipped the scales in foreign fighter flow and recruitment.”

Though Batirashvili was killed in a drone strike just 5 months ago in July, he is but a part of one of the most destructive chapters in American foreign policy history.

The decision to arm extremist groups to overthrow the Syrian government has led to this reality:

Today, half a million Syrians lay dead as the Assad government continues to battle armed opposition groups dominated by foreign extremists. Over 10 million Syrians are displaced or seeking refuge in another country. Over 32 countries have been victims of ISIS-related terror attacks and that number is expected to grow. 

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Syrian refugees at the Turkish border
Oddly enough, this reality has its roots in one of the most loathed political scandals of the outgoing Obama administration. One that will no doubt be remembered as a “partisan witch hunt” which found no evidence of wrongdoing by anyone.
I doubt many of us were paying close attention to international politics back in September 2012, when many of us were in high school or starting college, but the attack at Benghazi was incredibly significant for what was happening at the time.
Not only did it occur 2 months before Obama’s re-election bid against Mitt Romney, but the attack risked publicly exposing an ongoing covert operation to illegally arm extremist rebel groups in Syria.
Perhaps this is why the CIA went to extraordinary lengths to prevent agents from speaking to the media or Congress about their operations in Benghazi, going as far as polygraphing agents multiple times a month.

Perhaps this is why there was a huge clash between the CIA and the State Department in creating the talking points for how to tell the story of what was happening at Benghazi without exposing the operation.

Perhaps this is why the known falsehood of a YouTube video being responsible for the Benghazi attack was trotted out by the most senior levels of the Obama administration.

 

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President Obama, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton of course did her part to try and keep the gun-running operation her State Department was helping coordinate a secret.
When questioned by Senator Rand Paul and Senator Mike Pompeo at the Benghazi hearings, she blatantly denied under oath twice that any weapons were leaving Benghazi and going to arm Syrian rebels.
But Hillary didn’t need the Benghazi charade to be exposed in order to lose the election.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction
the damage to her honest and trustworthiness poll numbers that the Benghazi investigation  to lose the election

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To help digest what you just read, it would be useful to have some background.
During those short two years, when most of us were in high school or starting college, one of the most important events in world history was happening – the Arab Spring.
This was a wave of popular uprisings broke out across the Middle East and north Africa that was borne out of discontent with a lack of political freedoms, high unemployment, corruption and poverty.  Within a year the governments of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen had been overthrown while several more faced continued unrest and crackdowns. It was the most significant political re-organization of the region since the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I.
In Libya, the United States played a central role in the removal of president Muammar Gaddafi. That’s a separate story at the very bottom of this article if you care, but after the fall of Libya
across the pond in Syria the peaceful protests were beginning to turn into violent clashes as the government began suppressing dissent.
comprehensive-map-arab-spring
Having just broken its own arms embargo by arming Libyan rebel groups,

 

Hillary Clinton herself admitted that the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar who have respectfully given  are “providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region” would give tens of millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation, far more than to any other charitable group in the world.

 

 

One could easily remember Benghazi as the partisan witch hunt which ended up proving no evidence of wrong-doing and helped create a base of fanatical of partisans with “Killary”, “Hillary for Prison” and “Lock Her Up” chants

One could also remember Benghazi as the centerpiece as one of the most destructive decisions made by the United States

Benghazi was a driving force for so many of the reasons Trump won the election. Partially because of the effect that it had in damaging Hillary Clinton’s campaign. But perhaps more so because it exposed the

In the Democratic party’s post-mortem over how they could have lost the election to Donald Trump there have been a number of explanations given. Many of them center around how we ignored the problems of “the white working class”. Others have interpreted it as a rejection of “the establishment” – the so-called elites in D.C. and New York,  the news media, etc.

So I went around asking a few friends and co-workers what they thought the most important issue of the election was.

 

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