Execitiove Editor of Accuracy In Media
Salvaging Mrs. Clinton’s Legacy in a Shattered Libya
Roger Aronoff — February 25, 2016
The Washington Post seems unable to grasp the irony of its support for President Obama’s latest military intervention into Libya at the same time that it seeks to salvage Hillary Clinton’s reputation on this issue. Libya remains a failed state, and no amount of reporting can change the facts of this debacle.
“With respect to Libya, I have been clear from the outset that we will go after ISIS wherever it appears, the same way that we went after al Qaeda wherever they appeared,” President Obama told the press on February 16. “And the testament to the fact that we are doing that already is that we took out…one of ISIS’s most prominent leaders in Libya.”
Obama’s words came out just days before the House Select Committee on Benghazi signaled that its report on the events in Benghazi, Libya will be issued “as soon as possible,” now that it has gained access to most of the necessary witnesses and documents.
According to The Military Times, “Many experts note that the current chaos in Libya stems from the power vacuum caused by the American-led air campaign to oust Gaddafi.” Yet reporters at the Post continue to dramatize the issue of Libya as if it were Mrs. Clinton, or President Obama, who faced the tough choices in 2011.
“The stakes Clinton faced were high,” reported Kevin Sullivan for the Post on February 3. “Introducing U.S. military force could have easily led to a much-longer-than-expected and bloodier operation, at a time when Americans were already weary of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
“But failing to act could have led to a massacre that the world would have blamed on Washington,” adds Sullivan. “It also could have solidified Gaddafi’s grip on power as other dictators were falling across the region.”
These fairy tale justifications have been exposed again and again, yet the mainstream media continue to use them in defense of their favorite Democratic presidential candidate. Reporters such as Sullivan aren’t interested in reporting facts that could damage Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy reputation. And Libya is one of Mrs. Clinton’s weakest points, for which she takes full ownership. Her aide, Jake Sullivan, wrote in a 2011 internal email while she was Secretary of State that Mrs. Clinton has “leadership/ownership/stewardship of this country’s [L]ibya policy from start to finish.”
Sullivan is now the top foreign policy adviser for Clinton’s campaign.
As we have reported, Qaddafi was actually an American ally in the war on terror before he was ousted. Our Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi (CCB) interim report demonstrates how the Obama administration, and Hillary Clinton, decided to back al-Qaeda-linked rebels in Libya instead of holding truce talks with Qaddafi, which could have ended with his abdication and a peaceful transition of power.
The Washington Times also reported that it was Mrs. Clinton who told a Pentagon general to stop communicating with Qaddafi’s son, Saif, and other Qaddafi loyalists seeking a truce after the UN resolution calling for military intervention in Libya was passed on March 17, 2011.
Now conflict-ridden Libya has devolved into an Islamic State stronghold with warring militias. And the Post is pushing President Obama to intercede. “Mr. Obama has tried waiting on the sidelines in Iraq and Syria,” argued the Post’s Editorial Board on February 17. “He should not make the same mistake in Libya.”
An American warplane killed 49 and wounded six at an ISIS training camp in Libya, reported CNN on February 20. In response, ISIS recently beheaded 12 menat the security headquarters in Sabratha, according to the Atlantic on February 24. “American intelligence officials estimate that the group’s [ISIS] ranks in Libya have grown to 6,500 fighters, more than doubling since the fall,” it reports. “The group is now thought to control 150 miles of Libyan coastline.”
The administration’s mistakes in Libya have already been made, and there have been many. The narrative that somehow the Obama administration’s multilateral intervention into Libya was necessary is false. There was no humanitarian crisis to resolve. “Despite what defenders of the mission claim, there was a better policy available—not intervening at all, because peaceful Libyan civilians were not actually being targeted,” wrote University of Texas at Austin professor Alan Kuperman for Foreign Affairs last year. “As bad as Libya’s human rights situation was under Qaddafi, it has gotten worse since NATO ousted him,” he writes.
According to a column by Pete Hoekstra, former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the CCB, “Libya devolved into a failed state when NATO assisted Qaddafi’s radical jihadist opponents in killing him and then promptly abandoned the country. Left in the wake were two rival governments competing for power, which created space for Islamists to turn Libya into a cesspool of extremism.” He added that “Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues to call the debacle American ‘smart power at its best.’”
“How will the West ever learn anything,” asks Hoekstra, “if it can’t identify its most obvious failures?”
Now it seems that the U.S. must again commit additional blood and sweat to fix the situation that Hillary Clinton and President Obama helped create in the first place.
It is no wonder that Mrs. Clinton’s foreign policy reputation needs rehabilitation under such circumstances. The Post’s Sullivan admits that Hillary Clinton’s choice to back the Libyan intervention was the “most significant—and risky—[decision] of her career,” a choice which still haunts her record. However, he takes it upon himself to dispel any doubts about her potential.
“The [Post] story doesn’t come off as uniformly flattering,” writes Cato’s Christopher A. Preble for The National Interest. “The headline calls it ‘a tough call’ that supposedly ‘still haunts’ Clinton, and the subhead references Clinton’s ill-considered support for the war in Iraq in 2002.”
However, Preble writes, “all of the people quoted by name in the story are Clinton supporters or advocates for the operation that ousted Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi from power, and eventually resulted in his death.”
Sullivan’s article contains quotes from an anonymous former official involved in the Libyan negotiations effusively championing Clinton’s decision-making style and leadership. “She consults widely and intensively. She talks to more people, takes more phone calls, travels more miles,” says the supporter. “She’s more disciplined than her husband…Hillary Clinton came into the Situation Room for every meeting thoroughly prepared,” that supporter continues. “She’s a disciplined decision-maker.”
The Washington Post is clearly attempting to pave the way for Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy by casting the intervention into Libya as a necessary evil with an unfortunate ending, and by excusing Obama’s intervention in the same country twice. The truth is, however, that Mrs. Clinton and President Obama spearheaded a policy that ended in abject failure and continues to result in death and danger abroad. The fact that this policy, which the Post now seeks to sell to the public, resulted in the Benghazi scandal and the resulting death of four Americans—and many more Libyans—cannot be overlooked no matter how much Sullivan or other reporters try to spin Libya positively.