The Libyan revolution was Obama’s first major foreign intervention. It was portrayed as an extension of the Arab Spring, and NATO involvement was framed in humanitarian terms.
The fact that the CIA was actively working to help the Libyan rebels topple Gaddafi was no secret, nor were the airstrikes that Obama ordered against the Libyan government. However, little was said about the identity or the ideological leanings of these Libyan rebels. Not surprising, considering the fact that the leader of the Libyan rebels later admitted that his fighters included Al-Qaeda linked jihadists who fought against allied troops in Iraq.
These jihadist militants from Iraq were part of what national security analysts commonly referred to as Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Remember Al-Qaeda in Iraq was ISIS before it was rebranded.
With the assistance of U.S. and NATO intelligence and air support, the Libyan rebels captured Gaddafi and summarily executed him in the street, all the while enthusiastically chanting “Allah Akbar”. For many of those who had bought the official line about how these rebels were freedom fighters aiming to establish a liberal democracy in Libya, this was the beginning of the end of their illusions.
Prior to the U.S. and NATO backed intervention, Libya had the highest standard of living of any country in Africa. This according to the U.N.’s Human Development Index rankings for 2010. However in the years following the coup, the country descended into chaos, with extremism and violence running rampant. Libya is now widely regarded as failed state (of course those who were naive enough to buy into the propaganda leading up to the war get defensive when this is said).
Now after Gaddafi was overthrown, the Libyan armories were looted, and massive quantities of weapons were sent by the Libyan rebels to Syria. The weapons, which included anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles were smuggled into Syria through Turkey, a NATO ally. The times of London reported on the arrival of the shipment on September 14th, 2012. (Secondary confirmation in this NYT article) This was just three days after Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed by the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi. Chris Stevens had served as the U.S. government’s liaison to the Libyan rebels since April of 2011.
While a great deal media attention has focused on the fact that the State Department did not provide adequate security at the consulate, and was slow to send assistance when the attack started, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh released an article in April of 2014 which exposed a classified agreement between the CIA, Turkey and the Syrian rebels to create what was referred to as a “rat line”. The “rat line” was covert network used to channel weapons and ammunition from Libya, through southern turkey and across the Syrian border. Funding was provided by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
With Stevens dead any direct U.S. involvement in that arms shipment was buried, and Washington would continue to claim that they had not sent heavy weaponry into Syria.
It was at this time that jihadist fighters from Libya began flooding into Syria as well. And not just low level militants. Many were experienced commanders who had fought in multiple theaters.
The U.S. and its allies were now fully focused on taking down Assad’s government in Syria. As in Libya this regime change was to be framed in terms of human rights, and now overt support began to supplement the backdoor channels. The growing jihadist presence was swept under the rug and covered up.
However as the rebels gained strength, the reports of war crimes and atrocities that they were committing began to create a bit of a public relations problem for Washington. It then became standard policy to insist that U.S. support was only being given to what they referred to as "moderate" rebel forces.
This distinction, however, had no basis in reality.
In an interview given in April of 2014, FSA commander Jamal Maarouf admitted that his fighters regularly conduct joint operations with Al-Nusra. Al-Nusra is the official Al-Qa’ida branch in Syria. This statement is further validated by an interview given in June of 2013 by Colonel Abdel Basset Al-Tawil, commander of the FSA’s Northern Front. In this interview he openly discusses his ties with Al-Nusra, and expresses his desire to see Syria ruled by sharia law. (You can verify the identities of these two commanders here in this document from The Institute for the Study of War)
Moderate rebels? Well it’s complicated. Not that this should really come as any surprise. Reuters had reported in 2012 that the FSA’s command was dominated by Islamic extremists, and the New York Times had reported that same year that the majority of the weapons that Washington were sending into Syria was ending up in the hands Jihadists. For two years the U.S. government knew that this was happening, but they kept doing it.
And the FSA’s ties to Al-Nusra are just the beginning. In June of 2014 Al-Nusra merged with ISIS at the border between Iraq and Syria.
So to review, the FSA is working with Al-Nusra, Al-Nusra is working with ISIS, and the U.S. has been sending money and weapons to the FSA even though they’ve known since 2012 that most of these weapons were ending up in the hands of extremists. You do the math.
[UPDATE 9.03.14]: Retired Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney admits: “We Helped Build ISIS”: Note that the first version of this video I uploaded (here) was quickly taken down. To insure that this clip does not disappear we have provided a secondary download link here. So if the video below isn’t playing then use that link and upload it elsewhere.
Syria, we backed I believe, in some cases some of the wrong people and not in the right part of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) that’s a little confusing to people. So I’ve always maintained, and go back quite some time that we were backing the wrong types. I think it’s going to turn out maybe this weekend in a new special that Brett Baer is going to have Friday that’s gonna show some of those weapons from Benghazi ended up in the hands of ISIS. So we helped build ISIS.
In that context, the sarin gas attacks of 2013 which turned out to have been committed by the Syrian rebels, makes a lot more sense doesn’t it? If it wasn’t enough that U.N. investigators, Russian investigators, and Pulitzer prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh all pinned that crime on Washington’s proxies, the rebels themselves threatened the West that they would expose what really happened if they were not given more advanced weaponry within one month.
By the way, this also explains why Washington then decided to target Russia next.
This threat was made on June 10th, 2013. In what can only be described as an amazing coincidence, just nine days later, the rebels received their first official shipment of heavy weapons in Aleppo.
After the second sarin gas fiasco, which was also exposed and therefore failed to garner public support for airstrikes, the U.S. continued to increase its the training and support for the rebels.
In February of 2014, Haaretz reported that the U.S. and its allies in the region, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel, were in the process of helping the Syrian rebels plan and prepare for a massive attack in the south. According to Haaretz Israel had also provided direct assistance in military operations against Assad four months prior (you can access a free cached version of the page here).
Then in May of 2014 PBS ran a report in which they interviewed rebels who were trained by the U.S. in Qatar. According to those rebels they were being trained to finish off soldiers who survived attacks.
"They trained us to ambush regime or enemy vehicles and cut off the road,” said the fighter, who is identified only as "Hussein." "They also trained us on how to attack a vehicle, raid it, retrieve information or weapons and munitions, and how to finish off soldiers still alive after an ambush."
This is a blatant violation of the Geneva conventions. It also runs contrary to conventional military strategy. In conventional military strategy soldiers are better off left wounded, because this ends up costing the enemy more resources. Executing captured enemy soldiers is the kind of tactic used when you want to strike terror in the hearts of the enemy. It also just happens to be standard operating procedure for ISIS.
One month after this report, in June of 2014, ISIS made its dramatic entry, crossing over the Syrian border into Iraq, capturing Mosul, Baiji and almost reaching Baghdad. The internet was suddenly flooded with footage of drive by shootings, large scale death marches, and mass graves. And of course any Iraqi soldier that was captured was executed.
Massive quantities of American military equipment were seized during that operation. ISIS took entire truckloads of humvees, they took helicopters, tanks, and artillery. They photographed and video taped themselves and advertised what they were doing on social media, and yet for some reason Washington didn’t even TRY to stop them.
U.S. military doctrine clearly calls for the destruction of military equipment and supplies when friendly forces cannot prevent them from falling into enemy hands, but that didn’t happen here. ISIS was allowed to carry this equipment out of Iraq and into Syria unimpeded. The U.S. military had the means to strike these convoys, but they didn’t lift a finger, even though they had been launching drone strikes in Pakistan that same week.
Why would they do that?
Though Obama plays the role of a weak, indecisive, liberal president, and while pundits from the right have had a lot of fun with that image, this is just a facade. Some presidents, like George W. Bush, rely primarily on overt military aggression. Obama gets the same job done, but he prefers covert means. Not really surprising considering the fact that Zbigniew Brzezinski was his mentor.
Those who know their history will remember that Zbigniew Brzezinski was directly involved in the funding and arming the Islamic extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan in order to weaken the Soviets.
By the way Osama bin Laden was one of these anti-Soviet “freedom fighters” the U.S. was funding and arming.
This operation is no secret at this point, nor are the unintended side effects.
Officially the U.S. government’s arming and funding of the Mujahideen was a response to the Soviet invasion in December of 1979, however in his memoir entitled “From the Shadows” Robert Gates, director of the CIA under Ronald Reagan and George Bush Senior, and Secretary of Defense under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, revealed that the U.S. actually began the covert operation 6 months prior, with the express intention of luring the Soviets into a quagmire. (You can preview the relevant text here on google books)
The strategy worked. The Soviets invaded, and the ten years of war that followed are considered by many historians as being one of the primary causes of the fall of the USSR.
This example doesn’t just establish precedent, what we’re seeing happen in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria right now is actually a continuation of a old story. Al-Nusra and ISIS are ideological and organizational decedents of these extremist elements that the U.S. government made use of thirty years ago.
The U.S. the went on to create a breeding ground for these extremists by invading Iraq in 2003. Had it not been for the vacuum of power left by the removal and execution of Saddam, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, aka ISIS, would not exist. And had it not been for Washington’s attempt at toppling Assad by arming, funding and training shadowy militant groups in Syria, there is no way that ISIS would have been capable of storming into Iraq in June of 2014.
On every level, no matter how you cut it, ISIS is a product of U.S. government’s twisted and decrepit foreign policy.
Now all of this may seem contradictory to you as you watch the drums of war against ISIS begin to beat louder and the air strikes against them are gradually widened http://www.wjla.com/articles/2014/08/president-obama-considers-possible-…). Why would the U.S. help a terrorist organization get established, only to attack them later?
Well why did the CIA put Saddam Hussein in power in 1963?, Why did the U.S. government back Saddam in 1980 when he launched a war of aggression against Iran, even though they knew that he was using chemical weapons? Why did the U.S. fund and arm Islamic extremists in Afghanistan against the Soviets?
There’s a pattern here if you look closely. This is a tried and true geopolitical strategy.
Step 1: Build up a dictator or extremist group which can then be used to wage proxy wars against opponents. During this stage any crimes committed by these proxies are swept under the rug. [Problem]
Step 2: When these nasty characters have outlived their usefulness, that’s when it’s time to pull out all that dirt from under the rug and start publicizing it 24/7. This obviously works best when the public has no idea how these bad guys came to power.[Reaction]
Step 3: Finally, when the public practically begging for the government to do something, a solution is proposed. Usually the solution involves military intervention, the loss of certain liberties, or both. [Solution]
ISIS is extremely useful. They have essentially done Washington dirty work by weakening Assad. In 2014, while the news cycle has focused almost exclusively on Ukraine and Russia, ISIS made major headway in Syria, and as of August they already controlled 35% of the country.
Since ISIS largely based in Syria, this gives the U.S. a pretext to move into Syria. Sooner or later the U.S. will extend the airstrikes into Assad’s backyard, and when they do U.S. officials are already making it clear that both ISIS and the Syrian government will be targeted. That, after all, is the whole point. Washington may allow ISIS to capture a bit more territory first, but the writing is on the wall, and has been for some time now.