GOP hacks find they disagree with arming radical Sunnis when a Democratic president does it

Ronald Reagan with Afghan mujahideen

The wingnutty Accuracy In Media‘s Citizens’ Commission On Benghazi has released an “interim report” titled How America Switched Sides in the War on Terror. It makes the following “explosive” claim:

The U.S. was fully aware of and facilitating the delivery of weapons to the al-Qa’eda-dominated rebel militias throughout the 2011 rebellion. The jihadist agenda of AQIM, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), and other Islamic terror groups represented among the rebel forces was well known to U.S. officials responsible for Libya policy. The rebels made no secret of their al-Qa’eda affiliation, openly flying and speaking in front of the black flag of Islamic jihad, according to author John Rosenthal and multiple media reports. And yet, the White House and senior Congressional members deliberately and knowingly pursued a policy that provided material support to terrorist organizations in order to topple a ruler who had been working closely with the West actively to suppress al-Qa’eda. The result in Libya, across much of North Africa, and beyond has been utter chaos, disruption of Libya’s oil industry, the spread of dangerous weapons (including surface-to-air missiles), and the empowerment of jihadist organizations like al-Qa’eda and the Muslim Brotherhood (p. 4).

This is hardly news to anyone who has followed Ronald Reagan’s arming of the Afghan mujaheddin against the Soviets, Bill Clinton’s arming of the Bosnian and Kosovo Muslims against the Serbs, and George W. Bush’s arming of radical Sunni movements throughout the Middle East as a counter-weight against Iranian influence. The fact is that the US has always made use of Sunni radicals with ties to al-Qaeda when it finds it is convenient to do so. It has done this under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

What this report is trying to do is tarnish the Obama administration by asserting that we’ve never armed al-Qaeda tied militants before Obama came into office. Of course, that’s complete and total bullshit. The authors of this report are helpfully profiled at the end of the PDF to give us an idea of the opportunistic Republican shills we are dealing with here. One of them, John A. Shaw:

Established that massive amounts of high explosives and chemical weapons were clandestinely moved to Syria by Russian troops just before the beginning of the Iraq war. Those Iraqi chemical weapons provided a massive foundation for the current Syrian arsenal of chemical weapons. Shaw’s efforts established definitively the presence of WMD in Iraq and the way in which they were dispersed despite a widespread international effort to cover up their presence (p. 28).

Uh-huh.

So overthrowing a secular dictator in Iraq, thereby giving al-Qaeda and other Islamist radicals a new breeding ground, was perfectly fine of course because a Republican president did it.

The report also entertains the notion that the Obama administration used the Benghazi attack to restrict Americans’ free speech rights:

The CCB conducted an extensive research effort into the elements and sequence of the administration’s two-week campaign to falsely claim that a protest had preceded the attack on our Benghazi mission, and their efforts to blame a YouTube video for the attack. The White House campaign appears to have been well-coordinated with U.S. Muslim Brotherhood organizations as well as Islamic state members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), who all joined in condemnation of the video, and, even more troubling, issued calls for restrictions on Americans’ free speech rights.

This is also not a new allegation. Dana Milbank reported in 2013 that Clare Lopez, one of the authors of this report “speculated that the administration covered up the Benghazi events because Obama wants to make it illegal to criticize Islam” at a Heritage Foundation event.

The report contains some interesting assertions about Gaddafi’s willingness to negotiate–possibly even abdicate his leadership–in order to end the violence plaguing Libya in early 2011. The report alleges that Gaddafi’s pleas were recklessly ignored by the Obama administration, just as the Bush administration ignored Saddam’s attempts to prevent the US military’s invasion of his country.

In short: the report touches upon some important questions and makes some decent points, but is ultimately limited by its authors’ ridiculously partisan and conspiratorial outlook.

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