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Don’t Miss the Big Picture: The Benghazi, AP, and IRS Scandals

May 20, 2013

by J. Andrew Zalucky

ap

Of course, right when I go leave for a two-week vacation to Europe, three massive scandals involving the President decide to blow wide open. Gee thanks events, you couldn’t wait to turn before I got back!? Actually it doesn’t matter so much, perhaps my time away allowed me to better collect my thoughts on each of these issues.

The one crucial point with the Benghazi, the Associated Press, and the IRS scandals is this: don’t lose the wider narrative at play here, don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.

In each instance, the scandals involve executive overreach and misconduct that goes far deeper than the events themselves. To anyone who has payed attention, it would seem as if the mainstream press has suddenly awoken from a massive drunken stupor to realize the nature of the administration they once protected so carefully. In fact, the “no-drama Obama” moniker really lost its validity long ago, shortly after the start of Obama’s first term. It’s taken a series of mainstream-level scandals to finally crush those ill-founded dreams of a new era of “Camelot” at the White House.

Benghazi

When the news first broke about the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, the line taken by movement conservatives was rather silly, focused on whether or not the President had designated the events as a “terrorist attack”. Mitt Romney even wasted several minutes on this during the Presidential debates. However, recent reporting has made it clear that the attack on the US Consulate was indeed a planned-out, well coordinated assault which the administration failed to adequately respond to or acknowledge. The reasons for this have not been laid out explicitly, but as it was election season, its obvious that political motives played a role. Whatever the facts may be in this case, the scandal itself doesn’t really tell us much. But if one was to take a wider view, the picture begins to change significantly.

The obscuring of the facts goes beyond with the attack on Benghazi. If this really was an isolated attack by Islamic militants, it would have been easy enough to put that into the official talking points. But in this instance the attack is part of a much larger story of blow-back against US-led covert operations across the globe, including Libya. As the authors of Benghazi: The Definitive Report point out in the following excerpts (Source: Daily Mail):

With JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command), Brennan waged his own unilateral operations in North Africa outside of the traditional command structure. These Direct Action (DA) operations, unlike the traditional ISR missions mentioned above, were ‘off the books’ in the sense that they were not coordinated through the Pentagon or other governmental agencies, including the CIA.

The aftermath of one of these secret raids into Libya would have grave consequences for all of them, including former Navy SEALs Ty Woods and Glen Doherty. SOFREP believes the Benghazi attack on 9/11/12 was blowback from the late-summer JSOC operations that were threatening the Al Qaeda-aligned militant groups (including Ansar Al-Sharia) in Libya and North Africa, now a leading base of operations for Islamic extremism.

In light of these operations, conducted outside the military chain-of-command and without the oversight of elected officials, to focus too heavily on the Benghazi attack would almost be missing the point. It’s only fitting that Jeremy Scahill’s new book, Dirty Wars comes out around the same time as the recent congressional hearings. Liberals would do well to take this more seriously in the future, as it lands another blow to the long-exploded notion that Obama is less hawkish and more transparent on foreign policy than the previous administration was. Conservatives should also take note. While they are perfectly happy to slam Obama for not responding adequately enough to the attacks, their opinions on the covert operations that preceded them are ambiguous at best. For those who go around saying “Who cares what special-Ops we do out there? Those people aren’t Americans, fuck em!”, perhaps some thought on the logical consequences of this attitude are well overdue.

The Associated Press

Again, in relation to the Department of Justice’s seizure of phone records of reporters from The Associated Press, a recent article by Glenn Greenwald recently made it clear that the actions by the DOJ go beyond the simple plugging of leaks:

The key point is that all of this takes place in the ongoing War on Whistleblowers waged by the Obama administration. If you talk to any real investigative journalist, they will tell you that an unprecedented climate of fear has emerged in which their sources are petrified to talk to them. That the Obama administration has prosecuted double the number of whistleblowers under espionage statutes as all previous administrations combined has already severely chilled the news gathering process.

No administration likes to deal with an adversarial press, but if a President has enough confidence in his own leadership and principles, a few rough op-eds here and a leak or two there should do little to shake the edifice of the country’s highest office. But if a President’s habits are more akin to the ethics of celebrity and personality, then it becomes necessary to monitor sources of dissent and opposition, especially when the sources of same come from mainstream outlets such as The Associated Press.

As a writer, this feels like worst of all the recent scandals, and should frighten people of all political persuasions. This is a scandal that the administration cannot possibly feign ignorance on, and one of many that should pressure Attorney General Eric Holder to resign.

Unfortunately, some progressives are still stupid enough to let their personal admiration for Obama blind them from his abysmal record on civil liberties. However, it seems as if even some of these supporters are finally pinching themselves awake. And yes, some conservatives probably wouldn’t mind to see “lame-stream” media outlets like AP gutted and firebombed, much less unfairly spied on (on a phone interview during the Watergate Scandal, Charles Colson mockingly told Bob Woodward that he wanted to burn down The Washington Post).

The IRS

But the scandal involving the IRS mistreatment of Tea Party and conservative groups should make them realize that the encroachment of executive power knows no boundaries. As Peggy Noonan describes in her column at the Wall Street Journal:

All of these IRS actions took place in the years leading up to the 2012 election. They constitute the use of governmental power to intrude on the privacy and shackle the political freedom of American citizens. The purpose, obviously, was to overwhelm and intimidate—to kill the opposition, question by question and audit by audit.

It is not even remotely possible that all this was an accident, a mistake. Again, only conservative groups were targeted, not liberal. It is not even remotely possible that only one IRS office was involved.

It is indeed possible that President Obama did not personally authorize or even know about these actions, but decisions to target certain groups for special treatment do not simply occur in a vacuum. They occur because at least one person or group within or connected to the administration wanted to stall the opposition to secure their own victory.

The Big Picture- the Watergate Comparisons Begin

As they are wont to do, many commentators in the US have begun making the inevitable comparisons to Watergate. As far as impeachment is concerned, I agree with others who say we’d better wait for further investigations to take place. That and I don’t quite see Obama matching the levels of paranoia associated with Richard Nixon. But I do see the same and sense of self-importance desire for popularity, and that should be clear to anyone who has followed these events.

Again, I will emphasize my earlier point, as important as the actual events involved are, don’t let them obscure the overall. Don’t allow yourself to be convinced that these are isolated incidents:

The obfuscation surrounding the Benghazi attack had little to do with the attack itself. It had more to do with shielding covert military operations from a war-weary public and to prevent the stirring of opposition from the Left and isolationist elements on the right. This allowed Obama to claim a moral victory in Lybia while claiming to not having “boots on the ground”

The DOJ obtaining of AP phone records wasn’t so much about the Yemen bombing story that the AP distributed so much as the general war on leaks and whistle-blowers, and the desire to limit what stories the press could pick up and investigate that could cast a negative light on the administration

Whether the President actually had any foreknowledge of the IRS targeting of the Tea Party remains to be seen, but in a way is beside the point. As the chief executive, he is responsible for the agencies which report to him. The connection between this and the attacks on press freedom is far from tenuous and reflects the entire culture of the Obama White House

Anyone with at least a stolen grain of sense should start to gain a healthy cynicism and disillusionment with this White House. And no, I don’t care that his poll ratings have remained stable. Please.

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