Monday, December 17, 2012

Benghazi Back in Spotlight

By Elise LabottDecember 17th, 2012
06:39 AM ET

After months of accusations and political recriminations, the State Department is getting ready to present the most detailed explanation yet regarding the circumstances surrounding the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Monday, the State Department is expected to get a report on the incident from the independent Advisory Review Board, sources in the State Department told CNN Sunday. The review was ordered by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Congress will receive the report from the board ahead of a classified briefing for members on Wednesday by Thomas Pickering, who led the Advisory Review Board. Retired Adm. Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was also on the panel, will be part of the briefing as well.

The State Department is also expected to present recommendations on improving security. That's likely to include an explanation of measures that have already been put in place since the September 11 attack on the consulate, which left four Americans - including U.S. Amb. Chris Stevens - dead.

On Thursday, Deputy Secretaries Bill Burns and Tom Nides will testify about Benghazi before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The two are substituting for Clinton, who is recovering from a concussion she suffered after fainting due to dehydration from a stomach virus.
The politics surrounding the attack and how it was characterized by the Obama administration have already scuttled the ambitions of U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, whose name was in the running to succeed Clinton as secretary of state.

Critics said Rice's comments about the attack on Sunday news programs in the immediate aftermath were out of line with the true intelligence about the incident, and were an attempt by the administration to avoid tying it to terrorism.

Libya Tightens Up

Rockets hit Libyan Supreme Security Committee building

At least five people have been injured after several rocket-propelled grenades targeted the Libyan intelligence Headquarter in the oil-rich country’s capital, Tripoli.

The violence on Sunday was triggered by an exchange of fire between rival militant groups near the building of the Supreme Security Committee.

At least three police officers were also wounded as a result of a blast that hit a police station in the northern city of Benghazi.

The city has been hit by a series of bombings and attacks targeting international convoys and government buildings this year.

The US consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi came under attack on September 11, after protesters gathered outside the building to voice opposition to a blasphemous anti-Islam film made in the United States that disrespects Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three others were killed in the incident. 

Libya closes borders with four neighbors

Libya’s National Assembly has ordered the “temporary closure” of the country’s borders with four neighboring nations and declared martial law in the south, state media report.

According to Libya's official news agency, LANA, the assembly issued a decree on Sunday ordering the "temporary closure of the land borders with Chad, Niger, Sudan and Algeria pending new regulations" on the passage of people and goods.

The decree added that, "The provinces of Ghadames, Ghat, Obari, Al-Shati, Sebha, Murzuq and Kufra are considered as closed military zones to be ruled under emergency law."

Assembly member Suad Ganur who represents the city of Sebha said that the measure is taken in reaction to an "upsurge in violence and drug trafficking, and the presence of armed groups that act with complete impunity," as well as illegal immigrants.

The decree also enables the Libyan Defense Ministry to choose a military governor tasked with detaining fugitives and arresting and deporting illegal immigrants.

Members of the National Assembly from the southern regions had boycotted its sessions earlier this month in protest against the deteriorating lawlessness in the region. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Updates on the Revolutions - Benghazi - DC - Cario

Police station in Libya's Benghazi attacked, four killed

BENGHAZILibya | Sun Dec 16, 2012 12:45pm EST (Reuters) - Four policemen in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi were killed when a police compound was attacked on Sunday, a security official said, in the latest violence to plague the cradle of Libya's uprising.

The attack is believed to be linked to the recent detention of two men in connection with several assassinations of security officials in the city, as the assault happened next door to a police station where they were being held.

Unknown assailants fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the compound, which houses patrol cars, damaging an office and killing one policeman, police spokesman Khaled Hidar said.

A gun battle then followed and three of the police reinforcements who arrived at the scene were killed.

"It was a long battle. Three other policemen were severely injured," Hidar said.

He said two men recently detained in connection with a series of assassinations in the city, including that of Benghazi police chief Faraj al-Deirsy last month, were being held in the police station next door. Deirsy was killed in front of his home last month.

"This happened as two people were detained recently ... in connection with the series of assassinations in Benghazi," Hidar said, adding that Libya's new interior minister had ordered police reinforcements to Benghazi.

In September, the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, the worst of a string of attacks on international convoys and official buildings in the city.

Libya's government is struggling to contain former fighters and militias who gained power during last year's uprising, which started in Benghazi and went on to oust Muammar Gaddafi.

On Saturday, clashes broke out in the former Gaddafi stronghold of Bani Walid, and three members of the security forces were killed, according to an official from the office of the army's chief of staff. The violence began after security forces tried to make an arrest in the town.

Forces aligned to the Defence Ministry captured Bani Walid on October 24 amid chaotic scenes that demonstrated the weakness of the new government's hold over militiamen who owe it allegiance but largely do as they please.

Secretary Clinton won’t testify before Senate on Benghazi attack
16 December, 2012, 17:52

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will not have to testify before a Senate hearing concerning the deadly attack on the US consulate in Benghazi after she fainted and sustained a concussion last week.

Clinton, 65, is currently recovering at home following last week's incident, when extreme dehydration caused by a stomach virus resulted in her losing consciousness on Thursday. The concussion that she sustained while falling further aggravated her condition, which required regular medical attention. 

Clinton had to cancel a number of trips last week, as well as visits to North Africa and several Gulf countries scheduled to start on Monday because of her health. She promised to return to work soon, but has thus far carried out her duties from home. 

The fainting incident occurred a week before Clinton was scheduled to testify in House and Senate hearings on the results of the investigation into the September 11 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi
Clinton was expected to be grilled in the Senate hearing on Thursday by her Republican rivals over foreign security issues and US intelligence concerning the attack which killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. 

Republicans have repeatedly attacked the Obama Administration for its handling of the investigation into the Benghazi incident, arguing that the incident could have been prevented. 

The Obama Administration insisted that Islamic extremists hijacked a spontaneous protest against the US-made anti-Islam video ‘The Innocence of the Muslims.’

Republicans criticized the White House’s version of events, naming an inadequate reaction by the State Department to security threats to US diplomats in Libya as among the reasons the tragedy unfolded in the manner it did. 

Now it has become clear that neither the Senate Foreign Relations Committee nor the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hear Hillary Clinton’s scheduled testimony on Libya next Thursday.

Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations and the man most likely to succeed Clinton as Secretary of State, has announced through his communications director Jodi Seth that given Clinton’s condition, she “could not and should not appear” for the hearings. 

Earlier, it was the Republican chairman who insisted that  Clinton "has committed to testify before the committee before the end of the session [of Congress]."

It is expected that at both hearings, Clinton will be replaced with senior State Department officials William Burns and Thomas Nides.

The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced earlier she would step down from the Obama administration early next year. America’s top diplomat has also denied rumors of a presidential bid for the 2016 elections.

REPORT    AIR DATE: Dec. 14, 2012
Polarized Egypt Protests and Prepares for Referendum Vote on Cons
MARGARET WARNER: Finally tonight, to Egypt.

Egyptians will go to the polls tomorrow to vote on whether to approve a newly drafted constitution. But the path to that vote has deeply polarized the country.

It's been nearly two years since exuberant Egyptians, backed by their own military, forced out Hosni Mubarak after three decades in power.

But in recent weeks, the streets outside the palace he once occupied have been the site of counterdemonstrations and clashes between Egyptians who joined forces in early 2011.

Seven people died last week, with hundreds more injured, in hand-to-hand fighting between secular and liberal Egyptians and members of Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.

They were fighting over what the new man in the palace, former Muslim Brotherhood figure, now President Mohammed Morsi, has done to bring about tomorrow's vote on a new constitution, including a late-November decree granting himself unchecked power until the vote.

That led many to compare him to his reviled predecessor.

MANAL ABDEL AZIZ, Egypt (through translator): I want to say that we protest against Mubarak because he polluted our revolution with blood. Morsi, like Mubarak, he did the same thing.

MARGARET WARNER: Morsi said the decree was needed to ensure Egyptians could vote on the new charter without interference by Mubarak holdovers in the judiciary.

PRESIDENT MOHAMMED MORSI,Egypt (through translator): The revolution has passed, but will not stop. However, I must put myself on a clear path that will lead to the achievement of a clear goal.

MARGARET WARNER: That clear goal is a constitution that reapportions powers among the president, parliament and military, and changes the role played by the Islamic code of Sharia.

Opponents charge it will let the party in power smother the rights of women, minorities, political opponents, and the press.
KHALID ABDALLA, The Mosireen Collective: Right, so people understand, without understanding, without reading the constitutional draft, that this is a power grab.

MARGARET WARNER: Motion picture actor Khalid Abdalla was a leader of the revolution in early 2011. He is now involved in Mosireen, an online video activist group.

KHALID ABDALLA: The constitutional draft that they are proposing to the country is essentially a sugarcoated poisoned pill, in which I wish the sugar was real, but, ultimately, it's saccharine. We're being told that here is a constitution that is going to guarantee your rights. But, actually, what it is, is it's a road map to ensure Muslim Brotherhood dictatorship and control of power over Egypt for the next 10, 20, 30 years.

MARGARET WARNER: Not so, say Morsi's backers. They insist there are plenty of new limits on presidential authority.

GEHAD EL HADDAD, Freedom and Justice Party: These checks and balances are a good way forward, not the perfect way that our generation or even our creed as revolutionaries wanted, but certainly a step in the right direction, and a big step at that.

MARGARET WARNER: Gehad El Haddad is a senior adviser to the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party.

GEHAD EL HADDAD: The president doesn't have most of the powers that he had in the 1971 constitution. The president actually got stripped from about 60 percent to 70 percent of his powers. All of the powers that he has are put under checks and balances from the parliament of both houses.

SAMER SHEHATA, Georgetown University: It would be unfair to say that this constitution establishes the possibility of dictatorship or anything approaching the authoritarianism of the Mubarak regime.

MARGARET WARNER: Samer Shehata is a professor of Arab politics at Georgetown University.

SAMER SHEHATA: There were articles in the old constitution which made -- which didn't limit presidential terms, and Mr. Mubarak was, essentially, president for life, 29-and-a-half years. This constitution reduces term length from six years to four years, and stipulates that the president can only be reelected once, two-term limits.

MARGARET WARNER: Opponents also charge the proposed constitution lays a foundation to impose stricter Islamic law over a country with many strains of Islamic thought, from secular to severely religious, and a 10 percent minority of Coptic Christians. Morsi supporters have in fact been chanting "Bread, freedom and Sharia" at rallies, and this Morsi backer in Alexandria seemed to have that expectation.

SAID KASSEM, Egypt (through translator): I support the president, and I think that opponents fear the growth of the Islamic political current. They know that if the people vote yes, the Islamic constitution will rule for a long time, and that will affect the lives of the opponents of the president.

MARGARET WARNER: It's a prospect that deeply alarms many more liberal-minded Egyptians.

MAN (through translator): The Brotherhood are here to occupy the country. We will not let them. We don't need them to teach us what Islam is all about. We are much better Muslims than they are, and at least we aren't hypocrites.

MARGARET WARNER: Samer Shehata says there are reasons for concern, especially in the role it gives clerics at a leading Islamic university in determining whether a piece of legislation contracts Sharia.

SAMER SHEHATA: Certainly, it emboldens the idea that Islam should play a larger role in politics and also in the social code and in law. I think everyone in Egypt and anywhere else would say, yes, the Sharia means social justice, it means equality, it means fairness. That's what my grandmother's interpretation of the Sharia is. Unfortunately, there are some in Egypt, Islamists of different stripes, that have a very different interpretation of the Sharia that have to do with limiting the rights of non-Muslims, limiting the rights of women, possibly limiting some kinds of freedoms of speech and so on.

MARGARET WARNER: Even more divisive than the particulars in the constitution has been the way it's been shaped, a process controlled first by the military, and then the Muslim Brotherhood and new Islamist- dominated parliament, rammed through, opponents say, without regard for the views of other segments of Egyptian society. That divide may be hardest to heal. Secular and liberal forces say, though some of them were involved in the constitution-writing process, they had little influence against the Islamists. Most ultimately walked out. That's not dialogue, says Khalid Abdalla.

KHALID ABDALLA: If you're going to talk, you don't pull a dagger on me and say, I'm threatening you. And that's ultimately the way in which it's -- the process is being guided by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Muslim Brotherhood leadership, and it shows that the methodology which they're using to force this country to accept something that reorganizes the state in a way that entirely fits their agenda and their agenda alone.

MARGARET WARNER: Gehad El Haddad disputes the charge.

GEHAD EL HADDAD: I don't think it's a rushed process because the constitutional assembly took six months in the writing, and they didn't start from scratch either. They started from well-written drafts of various groups in the society itself.

MARGARET WARNER: El Haddad says he understands the opposition's frustration, but it's time to move on.
GEHAD EL HADDAD: I think that it -- we really need to be responsible and civilized enough and look at the full half of the cup, knowing well that we have another half to fill up.

MARGARET WARNER: Many apolitical Egyptians clearly yearn for their leaders to start filling that half-empty cup. In Khan el Khalili marketplace, 60-year-old pensioner Muhammad Taha bemoaned the upheaval that has kept tourists and business away.

MUHAMMAD TAHA, Egypt (through translator): We want life to go on. It doesn't matter if people say yes to constitution or say no.

MARGARET WARNER: But Samer Shehata says it may be hard for Egypt to move on after the vote. If this referendum is approved, as expected, where does that leave Egyptian society?

SAMER SHEHATA: It produces a very divided, polarized Egyptian society, one in which many of those liberal and secular voices will feel that the constitution is an illegitimate document, and that certainly is not healthy for democratic consolidation in Egypt.

MARGARET WARNER: For an Egypt still waiting for the promise of the revolution to be fulfilled in its citizens' daily lives, that would be a bleak prospect indeed. We asked two experts to weigh in on the discontent in Egypt. Read their responses on the Rundown.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Justice in Libya

OPINION: Justice for the Transition in Libya: Dealing With the Past Paves Way for Our Future – By Abdullah Elmaazi

"The worst investment we make in the future is to allow the present atmosphere of vindictiveness and desire for revenge to prevail. Unfortunately this is what is taking place at present. 
At a time when we are moving towards a system of government based on the rule of law and of equality in justice and the championing of human rights, it would be difficult to exaggerate the harm that is being done to the raison d'ĂȘtre of the Libyan revolution by continued reports of human rights abuses in post revolution Libya."


Libya’s political leaders must not mistake the lack of demonstrative political pressure to address the issue of national reconciliation as a sign that all is forgiven. Dealing with our past is akin to treating national internal bleeding whose symptoms might not be immediately apparent to the naked eye but whose long term consequences for the health of Libya’s body politic can be extremely harmful.

The need to deal speedily and effectively with the past is best illustrated by the German writer Jurgen Fuchs who expressed concern to Adam Michnik, a leader of the Polish opposition to communist rule about crimes committed by the communist regime in East Germany. “If we do not solve this problem in a definite way, it will haunt us."

Likewise in post revolution Libya the present and the past are entwined and the burden of the past will continue to be an albatross around our present and future. The albatross will pull us back if justice is not done and seen to be done.

When a forty-two-year-old regime ends as a result of a violent revolution, anomie is inescapable. But it is the duty of the successor regime to come up with a strategy that ensures justice is dispensed in a balanced way.

This brings to the fore the urgent need to establish accountability for past crimes of human rights abuses and addressing allegations of active participation in systematic abusive practices in a court of law in a transparent and fair manner.

It is in the proceedings of this transitional justice process, perhaps more than anywhere else, that the notion that “justice must be seen to be done” is of paramount importance specifically in helping speed up the national reconciliation process.

Victims need to see that justice has been done. Seeing their tormentors brought to justice is a moral obligation to the victims of repression. It can have a cathartic effect not just on the personal but also the national level. Of greater significance, fairly administered justice will help in reconstructing a morally just society.

Transitional justice will not only help consolidate Libya’s nascent democracy. It will also preclude the rise of vigilante justice with people taking the law into their own hands. Justice served and seen to be done will also be an important deterrent against future abuses of human rights. It will entrench in our people’s mind the value and high esteem and dignity associated with upholding human rights and the ignominy and contempt deserved by those who abuse it.

Furthermore transitional justice helps in healing festering wounds and in acting as a national cleansing process. If Libyans are to fail in cleansing themselves of the heinousness of their past they will forever be beset by incessant ruminating.

One avenue to take is to allow the truth to set us free. In a number of post conflict societies airing grievances in a public forum had a cathartic effect and was nationally therapeutic. This was the road trodden by South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission as well as the Chilean National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation, and the United Nations sponsored Truth Commission in El Salvador.

These public forums brought perpetrators and their victims face to face. Publicly acknowledging the pain and grief of victims can be instrumental in accelerating the national healing process, reducing the likelihood of continuing the vicious cycle of revenge and counter revenge and ending the vigilantism and lynch mob mentality beginning to take root in parts of post revolution Libya.

A truth telling process, including full disclosure of human rights abuses, will also ensures that "the facts" are not forgotten but remain alive in memory. Lest we forget, Libyans need to establish permanent reminders of the past, such as monuments, museums and public holidays to commemorate the victims of tyranny and human rights abuses.

Future generations must be taught about the dangers of repeating the past. There needs to be documentation of human rights violations and identification of the violators in public records at the national level with documents available to everyone to inspect, investigate and even challenge.

This record should include oral narratives of victims and their families. The testimonies of the abusers, whenever available, should also be made available as part of this record. If and when commissions are established, their published findings should be an integral part of this national archive.

These records/archives should be incorporated in the curriculum of law enforcement training academies as well as law schools. National/social studies classes at schools and universities should make human rights, and the history of its abuse in Libya, part of the curriculum.

However, for some, general knowledge of the truth is not enough. An official recognition of the injustices that have been suffered is necessary. This can only be achieved through a uniformly and judicially applied law, specific for this transition period to close the chapter of the past in order to usher in the far more important future chapter.

The worst investment we make in the future is to allow the present atmosphere of vindictiveness and desire for revenge to prevail. Unfortunately this is what is taking place at present.

At a time when we are moving towards a system of government based on the rule of law and of equality in justice and the championing of human rights, it would be difficult to exaggerate the harm that is being done to the raison d'ĂȘtre of the Libyan revolution by continued reports of human rights abuses in post revolution Libya.

Equally disturbing are the arbitrary and selective exclusions of individuals from the political process merely on the basis of their perceived past association. Of concern also is the sporadic outburst of mindless tribalism and occasional attempts at mob rule and mob justice similar to those which prevailed and were the norm during the era of the defunct regime.

In Libya, because of a prevalent tribal culture and sentiments of regional bias it is best if exclusion is not done in a manner which seems to many to be arbitrarily in nature. Every effort should be made to avoid even the mere appearance of being biased and selective in excluding individuals from public office.

Forfeiture of political and civil rights should be the result of a criminal conviction in a court of law administering transitional justice laws enacted by a duly elected legislative body with recognised legitimacy to represent the people and legislate on their behalf.

For this reason there is an urgent need for transitional justice legislation. Its only in the judicial application of such a law, that we will have a national consensus that those indicted as being an integral part of the Gaddafi regimen and therefore have whether by commission or through omission helped prolong the suffering of the Libyan people, that such individuals, forfeit some of their political and civil rights for a period of time.

This is the route taken by most of the post-communist countries of Eastern and Central Europe. The consensus was to disqualify those who formed the backbone of the Communist regimes and administered its policies from holding public office in the immediate post-communism governments.

So it should be the law applied fairly and justly which arbitrates our future. We Libyans, of all people should not accept otherwise. An indispensable condition of democracy and equality before the law is the equal legal right for all Libyans to seek and gain political office or public employment.

Life under a totalitarian regime with its lawlessness should have taught us Libyans the importance of legal security in its most elementary sense of freedom from arbitrary and selective punitive measures including those of political exclusion. In building a democratic Libya we should be cognisant of the fact that the notion of equality in justice could not be more important. This means in practice that just laws shall be applied without discrimination merely on the ground political or other opinion.

Equality before the law also means that in the making of a law every person is to be treated equally. Equal protection of the law means applying or enforcing a law already made, without differentiation except on a rational and justifiable basis.

The emphasis on a central role for the rule of law and equality before the law cannot be meaningfully discussed in the absence of a robust and independent judiciary not susceptible to pressures emanating from transient popular whims and prejudice nor one which conforms to executive pressure for the sake of political expediency.

It is broadly accepted that an independent and empowered judiciary is central to the rule of law. An independent judiciary is equally central to the maintenance of horizontal accountability, without which democratic development is not possible.

The English philosopher John Locke (b. 1632, d. 1704) warned that: “Wherever law ends, tyranny begins.” More poignantly he spoke of "those evils, which necessarily follow from men being judges in their own cases" highlighting the consequence of people taking the law into their own hands, which is to “magnify the wrong suffered, if any, and to exact a punitive revenge rather than a dispassionate retribution.”

JFK on Arab Spring

John F. Kennedy – From “The Strategy of Peace”  Chapter 13. The Middle East

The Middle East today is a monument to Western misunderstanding. During the last eight years the West has ignominiously presided over the liquidation of its power in the whole region, while the U.S.S.R. has gained important footholds. American policy has wavered and wobbled as much, if not more, than any other Western country…

But the main problem was and is understanding the driving forces and central needs of the region as a whole and devising an appropriate farsighted American policy….

Our mistakes in the Middle East, it seems to me, were primarily mistakes of attitude. We tended to deal with this area almost exclusively in the context of the East-West struggle – in terms of our own battle against international Communism. Their own issues of nationalism, of economic development, and local political hostilities were dismissed by our policy-makers as being of secondary importance.

This is not to say that we were necessarily wrong in saying that Communism was their greatest enemy – but we were wrong in believing that we could convince them that it was. We were wrong in believing that what was so clear to us could be made equally compelling to other peoples with problems very different from our own – people with a much lower standard of living, a much greater pride in neutrality and a much more cent history of foreign exploitation. The Arabs knew that their lands had never been occupied by Soviet troops – but they had been occupied by Western troops – and they were not ready to submerge either their nationalism or their neutrality in an alliance with the Western nations.

We made other grave errors in the Middle East. We overestimated our own strength and underestimated the force of nationalism. We failed to perceive when we had lost control of events – and failed to act accordingly once it became clear. We gave our support to regimes instead of to people – and too often we tied our future to the fortunes of unpopular and ultimately overthrown governments and rulers.

We believed that those governments which were friendly to us and hostile to Communists were therefore good governments – and we believed that we could make unpopular policies acceptable through our own propaganda programs. Without question some of these governments were good governments – genuinely devoted to the welfare of their people and the development of their economies – but logic and fact are not the same as what people believe. The mutilated body of Iraqi Premier Nuri As-said, to cite one vivid example, hanging from a Bagjhdad lamp post a year ago last July, became the symbol of what happened to our policy in Iraq.

Is it not ironic that today – after considerable expenditure, turmoil, Communist gains and Western defeats – we are striving to achieve for the Middle East the very status of neutrality on which we turned our backs some three years ago?

In short, from here on out, the question is not whether we should accept the neutralist tendencies of the Arabs, but how we can work with them. The question is not whether we should recognize the force of Arab nationalism, but how we can help to channel it along constructive lines.

The mistaken attitudes of the past – our previous misconceptions and psychological barriers – must all be junked – for the sake of the Arabs and for our own sake as well. Where our approach was once trite and traditional, it must now be imaginative, progressive, and practical. Above all, it must recognize things as they are and not just as we would have them to be for our convenience. We must talk in terms that go beyond the vocabulary of Cold War – terms that translate themselves into tangible values and self-interest for the Arabs as well as ourselves.

It is not enough to talk only in terms of guns and money – for guns and money are not the basic need in the Middle East. It is not enough to approach their problems on a piecemeal basis. It is not enough to merely ride with a very shaky status quo. It is not enough to recall the Baghdad Pact or the Eisenhower Doctrine – it is not enough to rely on the Voice of America or the Sixth Fleet. The approaches have failed.

But if we can learn from the lessons of the past – if we can refrain from pressing our case so hard that the Arabs feel their neutrality and nationalism are threatened – if we can talk with them in terms of their problems, not ours – then I am convinced that the Middle East can become an area of strength and hope. Let us make clear that we will never turn our back on our steadfast friends in Israel, whose adherence to the democratic way must be admired by all friends of freedom. But let us also make clear throughout the Middle East that we want friendship, not satellites – and we are interested in their prosperity as well as ours. To do this job, to do it right, requires the combination of imagination and restraint which we have thus far not demonstrated in the Middle East. But the time to do so is now.

While we, along with the leaders of our nation and the world, are concerned tonight with the daily developments in the Middle East, I think my comments should be directed toward a longer-range view of the situation. It would be worth while for all of us now while negotiations proceed to examine the problems that will still be present once hostilities have ceased, borders have been redrawn, and alliances rebuilt.

Much in the Middle East, of course, is the same as it was a generation ago; much will remain the same: the special importance of the Middle East to the great religions of the world, Jewish, Moslem and Christian; the economic interests of Britain and France in the area, present today as they were a generation ago; the traditional rivalries between the various Arab blocs, between the Saudis and the Hashimites, beween the Nile and the Euphraties-Tigris valleys, between northern Arabs and Southern Arabs, rich states and poor.

But let us consider the new trends and developments which have altered the character and significance of the Middle East and its problems, and with which we will be reckoning long after the present crisis has ended. There are, it seems to me, seven such facts.

  1. First is the highly strategic position occupied by the Middle East in the world’s political, ideological and military battles…the Middle East has consequently assumed an importance in the Cold War out of proportion to its size, strength and previous significance.
  2. The second permanent factor in the Middle East of which we must never lose sight is oil. The dependence of the world upon Middle Eastern oil and its transportation through the Suez Canal has been made abundantly clear. Whatever political and military settlements are made, whatever tensions are lifted and problems solved, we must remember that Europe’s dependence upon these oil supplies will continue – and continue indefinitely, regardless of our developments in atomic energy.
  3. The third fact which will remain once the dust of the present battle has settled and the smoke has cleared away will be the unprecedented success of Soviet penetration in the Middle East….
  4. Fourth, we must never consider the problems of the nations of the Middle East apart from the economic and social conditions which surround them. Life in the Middle East, it has been said, is a perpetual fight against the desert, and always the desert has won in the past – with poverty and illiteracy and disease and underdevelopment dominating an area where only a few enjoy the benefits of great oil and land holdings. Indeed, the increase in outside capital poured into the area to exploit its oil and other resources has only aggravated the problems of unequal distribution of wealth and inadequate development of human resources. These are problems with which the new nations of the Middle East must struggle for the next generation; and no amount of nationalistic oratory can create the scientific and technological revolution necessary to raise the standard of living of their people. Nor is such a revolution easily purchased by oil royalties. It requires the closest associations and assistance of either Western Europe, who is mistrusted, or the Soviet Union, or the United States. This decision will be a continuing one facing our nation and the nations of the Middle East for many years after the close of the present hostilities.
  5. Another factor is the rise of Arab nationalism, the revolt in the Middle East against Western colonialism. In Morrocco, Algeria, and Tunisia; in Jordan, Yemen, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Aden, and in Egypt and throughout the entire area, the desire to be free from direct or indirect Western influence has become a powerful and sometimes violent force. Policies of repression have only fanned the flames of discontent; and the close ties between this nation, home of the Declaration of Independence, and the great colonial powers have caused Arab spokesmen to warn our State Department that the nations of the Middle East were beginning to regard America as a supporter of colonialism. In recent weeks, particularly with respect to the present crisis, we have proclaimed our independence from our traditional allies on issues affected by the colonialism-nationalism struggle, but it is not yet clear that we have recognized this factor to be the most powerful, dynamic force for good or evil in the Middle East today.
  6. A sixth factor, related to but separate from the growing force of Arab nationalism, has been the emergence of Egypt as the leader of the Arab bloc, the champion of Arab unity, and the chief provocator against the West…it’s roots are in the history of Egypt’s bitter relations with the British….and in a series of more recent Western actions in the area which Egypt regarded either as an affront or a threat to its prestige…
  7. Seventh, the character of the Middle East will be shaped for generations to come by one more factor which was not present a generation ago – the State of Israel. It is time for all the nations of the world, in the Middle East and elsewhere, realized that Israel is here to stay. Surrounded on every side by violent hate and prejudice, living each day in an atmosphere of constant tension and fear, Israel is certain to survive the present crisis and all future crisis; and all negotiations between the United States and Arab nations should accept that fact.

The future of the Middle East will be based upon the interrelation of these seven factors. We now realize that there is no problem in the Middle East in which the security of the United States is not involved and to the solution of which we don not have some responsibility. But we shall fulfill those responsibilities with lasting benefits for ourselves and the world only if we develop a Middle Eastern policy of our own; and only if we base that policy upon a long-range point of view – upon the interlocking and interaction of the above facts and factors.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Chronology: The Benghazi Attack And The Fallout

Chronology: The Benghazi Attack And The Fallout
December 13, 2012 4:16 PM

A look at the events surrounding the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, and the controversy that followed.

Before The Attack: February 2011-Sept. 10, 2012

A few weeks after an uprising against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi began in February 2011, U.S. envoy Chris Stevens arrives in Benghazi by cargo ship on April 5. He leads a team that makes contacts with the Libyan rebels. Gadhafi is driven from the capital, Tripoli, in August and is killed in October. Stevens is named ambassador to Libya, based in Tripoli, in May 2012.

U.S. security personnel working in Libya later say they recommended adding more security in the months preceding the attack, but the requests were turned down. A local militia leadersays he warned U.S. officials of the deteriorating security in Benghazi on Sept. 9. Stevens arrives in Benghazi on Sept. 10 for meetings.

The Attack: Sept. 11, 2012

An armed man waves his rifle as buildings and cars are engulfed in flames after being set on fire inside the U.S. Consulate compound in Benghazi late on Sept. 11.

The U.S. consulate first reports being under attack at about 9:40 p.m. local time, according to later State Department accounts. After gaining access to the compound, the attackers set fire to a building where Stevens and information management officer Sean Smith are sheltered in a fortified save haven.

The building fills with smoke and flames. Smith's body is recovered by diplomatic security agents; Stevens cannot be found. A small U.S. security team and Libyan forces arrive on the scene. After continued searching for Stevens, the surviving Americans evacuate the compound and head to a nearby CIA annex, which also comes under attack.
Two former Navy SEALs acting as CIA security contractors, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, are killed in that attack. Later, all of the Americans, including a team that has arrived from Tripoli, leave Benghazi on two flights. Stevens' body is returned to U.S. custody at the airport from a hospital where he had been taken by Libyans.

Initial Assessments: September

News of the attacks spreads against the backdrop of two other major stories: protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and the U.S. presidential campaign. The Cairo protests, which took place just hours before the attack in Benghazi, were sparked by anger over an anti-Muslim video made in the United States. In the following days, angry demonstrations are held at U.S. diplomatic missions throughout the Muslim world.

Initial reports from journalists in Libya also link the Benghazi attack to the video, and remarks from U.S. officials seem to lay blame there as well. On Sept. 12, President Obama says in his Rose Garden remarks about the attack: "We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence." He also makes a general reference to terrorism, saying, "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation."

In her remarks on the same day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says: "We are working to determine the precise motivations and methods of those who carried out this assault. Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior, along with the protest that took place at our embassy in Cairo yesterday, as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet." In a State Department briefing that day, however, officials say they don't have information about whether there were protests related to the video at the Benghazi compound at the time of the attack.

In the following days, some witnesses tell NPR there was no protest before the attack, and Libyan government officials say the attack was planned.

"The idea that this criminal and cowardly act was a spontaneous protest that just spun out of control is completely unfounded and preposterous," Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif tells NPR on Sept. 16. "We firmly believe that this was a pre-calculated, preplanned attack that was carried out specifically to attack the U.S. Consulate."

On the same day, Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, appears on behalf of the Obama administration on five Sunday talk shows and indicates the attack began as a spontaneous protest over the video. She and other administration officials later say her account was based on talking points provided by the intelligence community.

According to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who read from the talking points on Capitol Hill, the document said: "The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the United States embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault."

In the wake of the attack, lawmakers on Capitol Hill hold hearings to investigate. In his testimony at a hearing Sept. 19, Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, refers to the violence as "a terrorist attack" and allows that al-Qaida might have played some role. In the days after Olsen's testimony, Clinton and White House spokesman Jay Carney also call the assault "a terrorist attack." Clinton also suggests a possible linkwith an al-Qaida affiliate in North Africa.

Capitol Hill Controversy: October

On Oct. 2, Republicans looking into the attack send a letter to Clinton outlining previous threats and attacks in Libya and asking about security there. Ahead of a House hearing, the State Department briefs reporters Oct. 9, laying out a narrative of the attacks and saying there was "nothing unusual during the day at all outside" the diplomatic post. When asked what led officials to initially believe the attacks began with protests against the video, a senior official says, "That was not our conclusion."

During the Oct. 10 hearing, the leader of a U.S. security team in Libya testifies that attacks against Westerners were increasing before the Sept. 11 strike. A State Department regional security officer says he recommended additional guards, although he also says in his prepared testimony: "Having an extra foot of wall, or an extra-half dozen guards or agents would not have enabled us to respond to that kind of assault." Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Charlene Lamb testifies: "We had the correct number of assets in Benghazi at the time of 9/11, for what had been agreed upon."

At an Oct. 11 vice presidential debate, Joe Biden says of Benghazi: "We weren't told they wanted more security." Clinton takes responsibility for the attack a few days later, telling CNN, "I'm in charge of the State Department's 60,000-plus people all over the world — 275 posts. The president and the vice president wouldn't be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals."

Post-Election Wrangling: November

Following Obama's re-election, on Nov. 14 three Republican senators — John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte — call for a Watergate-style panel to investigate the Benghazi attack. They also pledge to block Rice if the president nominates her to replace Clinton as secretary of state, criticizing the way Rice characterized the attack in her media appearances Sept. 16.

Obama angrily defends Rice in a news conference later the same day, saying: "She made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her. If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me."

Two days later, former CIA Director David Petraeus, who stepped down days after the election because of an extramarital affair, tells lawmakers in a closed-door hearing that he always thought the attack was a terrorist strike. But he also says the White House did not politicize the process of determining what could be said, lawmakers report. And his testimony supports the view that Rice didn't deliberately mislead with her remarks, they say.

Still, Republicans say they want answers about whether Rice tried to spin the account of the attack to avoid talking about terrorism during an election season. After a series of meetings with Rice during the week of Nov. 26, GOP senators say they're more concerned than ever about what she said after the attack.

On Dec. 13, Rice sends a letter to the president asking that he not consider her for the secretary of state post. She says she is "now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly — to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities."

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

DOD Monitored Benghazi Drone

Defense had live video of attack in Benghazi
No drone feed to White House

Live video from a drone flying over the U.S. Consulate during the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, was monitored at a Defense Department facility, but was not fed to the White House, senior officials say.

The Obama administration has declined to respond to media requests for details about who was watching the live video, but a senior defense official told The Washington Times that “the surveillance aircraft captured footage of events on the ground” and “it wasn’t available that night at the White House.”

The officials said the “overhead footage was available at a DOD location,” and they declined to comment further.

Questions about the drone video have largely gotten lost amid the raucous political theater that has arisen in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack, in which U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, and State Department officer Sean Smith were slain.

Some close observers of the Benghazi attack’s aftermath are hoping that details about the video will emerge when the findings of the State Department's Accountability Review Board investigation into the attacks are eventually made public.

The review board has conducted its work in secrecy, and its findings and recommendations are expected to draw heavily from classified intelligence about the attack.

On Friday, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican and chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, announced that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would testify publicly about the findings, but gave no date for her appearance.

The State Department this week suggested that the review board findings may be imminent. Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters Monday that when Mrs. Clinton announced the board’s members in late September, she “asked them to try to meet a 60- to 65-day timeline.”

That would mean the findings could be released during the coming days. “I don’t have any reason to think that we’re off base there, but obviously we want them to do it, do it right,” Mrs. Nuland said.

Various video footage

The digital camera aboard what defense officials have described as an “unarmed surveillance” drone, meanwhile, was one of several that recorded portions of the Benghazi attack.

Closed-circuit security cameras fixed to the consulate’s outer security walls also captured images.

A senior State Department official said during an Oct. 9 background briefing that one camera “on the main gate” of the Benghazi diplomatic mission showed “a large number of men, armed men, flowing into the compound” at about 9:40 p.m. on Sept. 11 — the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S.

Footage from that camera is thought to be what Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, the Obama administration’s top intelligence official, has shown to lawmakers on Capitol Hill during two recent classified briefings about the Benghazi attack.

“It was very difficult to watch,” Rep. Thomas J. Rooney, Florida Republican and a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said Dec. 5 after one of the briefings. “That is U.S. sovereign territory, and for people to just walk in like a street mob and light the embassy on fire it just made you feel extremely helpless.”

It is unclear whether footage from the surveillance drone has been included in Mr. Clapper’s briefings.

Defense Department officials have said the drone did not arrive over the Benghazi compound until about two hours after the militants stormed through the facility’s gates.
Critical observers, including one family member of the men who were killed, have questioned whether officials monitoring the drone video missed a chance to launch a more aggressive rescue mission or a counterstrike on the militants.

Response in real time

Senior defense officials argued otherwise during a Nov. 9 background briefing on the Benghazi attack.

“There are people out there who have suggested that an overhead surveillance aircraft could have perfect visibility into what was happening on the ground, and on that basis alone, you could send in a team,” one senior defense official said. “That is not necessarily how things work.

“You get a lot of good information from a surveillance aircraft, but it doesn’t necessarily provide you a complete and instant picture of what is happening on the ground. If you’re going to undertake military action, you’d better have solid information before you decide to take the kinds of steps that are required to effectively complete a military mission of this sort.”

A senior U.S. intelligence official, meanwhile, has told The Times that the CIA’s personnel in Benghazi “responded to the situation on the night of 11 and 12 September as quickly and as effectively as possible.”

“The security officers in particular were genuine heroes,” said the official, noting that CIA personnel drove to the site of the attack within 25 minutes of the alarm first being raised and “put their own lives on the line to save their comrades.”

The official said a support team was scrambled from the Libyan capital of Tripoli and, despite having to put together a team from scratch and charter a plane to fly them to Benghazi, were able to make the trip in less than four hours.

Officials have declined to comment on whether anyone in Benghazi or Tripoli had access to the drone footage in real time, or whether it was used to help the rescue team find its way into the city from the Benghazi airport.

• Shaun Waterman contributed to this report.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Suspect Questioned in Deadly Benghazi Attack

Suspect linked to Benghazi, Libya attack that killed US Ambassador Chris Stephens arrested in Egypt: report

Mohammed Abu Jamal Ahmed is being questioned in relation to the terror attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, NBC News is reporting


A suspected terrorist accused of playing a part in the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stephens and three other Americans in Libya has reportedly been detained by Egyptian authorities.

Mohammed Abu Jamal Ahmed, who allegedly has ties with militant groups in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been arrested in CairoNBC reported citing unnamed intelligence sources. 

Ahmed is also accused of running guns for extremist groups between Libya and Egypt.

It is still unclear what role, if any, he played in the Benghazi attack, the network reported.

Early intelligence reports suggested that fighters trained at camps Ahmed established in Libya had participated in the attack, a former U.S. official told the Wall Street Journal in October.

Ahmed was trying to start a new branch of Al Qaeda, authorities told the Journal, and has been considered a major threat by Western counterterrorism officials since he was released from Egyptian prison in the wake of the revolution that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak.

Benghazi Attack Suspect Arrested, Masterminding New Terror Group
A suspect arrested for the deadly September 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is believed to be organizing a new terror group.

A suspect arrested in connection with the deadly September 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is believed to be organizing a new terror group.
Two intelligence sources were quoted by NBC News on Saturday in a report that alleged Mohammed Abu Jamal Ahmed was arrested in Egypt on charges of involvement in the attack in Libya that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. diplomats.

Others involved in the Benghazi attack were terrorists affiliated with the groups Ansar al Shari'a and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM), based in Algeria.

Ahmed escaped from an Egyptian jail in a prison break that took place during the January 25 Revolution that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. He has a long history of terrorist activity.

He traveled to Afghanistan in the late 1980s, where he trained to make bombs,according to an exclusive report published in October in The Wall Street Journal. A former head of the operational wing of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Ahmed was not in the upper echelons of the organization, Ahmed's associates said. 

According to the report, last year he began building his own terror group, referred to by Western officials as the Jamal Network. The organization appears to have training camps in Libya, WSJ reported.

He was recently arrested in Cairo, where he resides, the sources told NBC News, but has not yet been charged in Egyptian State Security Court. Actively involved with terror groups in Iraq and Afghanistan, Egyptian intelligence has been monitoring Ahmed's movements, they added. In addition to being charged with involvement in the Benghazi attack, he was also accused of transporting weapons to Egypt from Libya.

Fears are being raised in Washington that a secret delivery of arms shipments to Libyan rebels, approved by the Obama administration may also have reached the hands of Islamic terrorists, and may have been the weapons used by Al Qaeda-linked terrorists to kill U.S. Ambassador Stevens.

It is believed that Ahmed also fought in the Libyan revolution that toppled the regime of former dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Rebel forces received generous support from Western nations in that uprising.

Suspect Questioned in Deadly Benghazi Attack

Mohammed Abu Jamal Ahmed was detained and questioned in Egypt for his suspected involvement in the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi

A man accused of having ties to the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, has been taken into custody in Egypt and is being questioned for his suspected involvement.

Four Americans were killed in that September 11 attack in Benghazi, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three men from San Diego: diplomat Sean Smith, 34, and former Navy SEALS Glen Doherty and Tyrone “Ty” Woods.
Doherty and Woods were working as security contractors in Libya.

On Saturday, authorities took suspect Mohammed Abu Jamal Ahmed into custody in Egypt. Two intelligence sources in Cairo tell NBC News that Ahmed is also accused of transporting weapons from Libya to Egypt.

He's described as in his late 30s, and is known among Egyptian intelligence officials for his involvement with radical militant groups in Egypt, Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Ahmed was in prison in Egypt before the uprising there, but escaped after the country's revolution.

He has not been formally charged but is being questioned about his involvement in the attack in Benghazi.

NBC 7 spoke with defense strategist Glen Irvine about this potential break in the case. Irvine said it's important that U.S. Intelligence be involved in questioning Ahmed.
"The real important thing is, can we get in the room with Egypt officials to interrogate as much information as we can from him, to really get a good grip of what actually happened in Benghazi [and see] if he was involved? More importantly, what is the spread of these terrorist groups?" said Irvine.

At this point, it is unclear exactly what role Ahmed may have played in the attack in Libya, but his arrest may lead to some answers for the families of those Americans killed in the attack.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Rogers: Benghazi "Gross Negligence"

House Intel chairman on Benghazi: "Gross negligence"

(CBS News) As members of Congress continue to seek additional answers to the sequence of deadly events that transpired on September 11 in Benghazi, Libya, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said on CBS News' "Face the Nation" that the State and Defense Departments did not take appropriate precautions to prevent the attacks.

"The intelligence said they're looking for western targets. That they want to be more aggressive. All of that is right," Rogers said Sunday. "What I find absolute gross negligence in is they did not take the right precautions" to protect the U.S. compound in Benghazi.

His counterpart in the Senate, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., echoed his remarks about the response to the attacks that killed four Americans. "[I]n my view, you can't blame the intelligence. I think you have to blame the decision makers who didn't really make the right decision," she said on "Face the Nation".

Feinstein said American officials listened to some of the concerns reported by U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens about weak security, but they didn't do enough to protect him and his colleagues. "Some improvements were made. They were, clearly, inadequate improvements," said Feinstein, who has been briefed by top intelligence and administration officials about the Benghazi attacks.

"Somebody was absolutely negligent in not providing the right security to the ambassador and the employees that lost their lives that day. And somebody should be held accountability for that and we shouldn't walk away from that," Rogers added.

As for U.N. ambassador Susan Rice's role in the days after the attack when she called the attacks "spontaneous," Feinstein said the CIA edited the talking points and removed the part that said al Qaeda played a role because they feared compromising a contact or security. "And so al Qaeda was pulled out of it," she said.

"I do not believe the intelligence community should prepare these talking points," Feinstein added.

Rogers, however, blamed the Obama administration for the faulty narrative. "[I]t's not a crime" for the president to alter the explanation for the public, but he said it is "irresponsible" and "many have risen to the level of negligence."

"[I]t really is beyond the talking point, it's beyond Rice, because it was a political narrative designed not around...the intelligence," he said.

© 2012 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.