Hashtag diplomacy strikes again
Writing at National Review, Kevin Williamson muses that the Obama Administration’s ridiculous lies about Benghazi were “unnecessary dishonesty, as though the Obama Administration simply reflexively recoiled from the truth.”
How bad would it have been to own up to what happened in Benghazi and Cairo? After the worldwide exertions of the Bush years, with their attendant expenditures and terrible loss of life, a great many Americans not only were and are weary of being perpetually waist-deep in the snake-pit that is the Middle East but also are genuinely confused about what our role in the world should be going forward. The death of Osama bin Laden combined with the drawing down of our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan might have provided an opportunity to pause and reflect, and Barack Obama was elected to the presidency partly in the naïve hope that his elevation to that office might provide a respite, a period of relative quiet. If President Obama ever intended such a thing, he has been successful to only a very modest degree: The war abroad has been expanded to include the assassination of American citizens, while the omnipresence of the surveillance state at home has been revealed as being even more complete than most of us had feared.
It’s pretty clear from the documents watchdog groups have been able to pry out of the Administration’s white-knuckled grip that they thought it would have been pretty bad to tell the truth about Benghazi and Cairo – the latter a fairly devastating story in its own right, eclipsed by the more terrible events in Libya. And looking back to that moment in the 2012 campaign, I tend to agree with Team Obama’s analysis. The truth would have hurt them a great deal, and it might just have been enough to turn the tide of the election. Imagine Obama’s campaign spending September and October trying to deal with widespread public outrage about how they failed to anticipate the attacks, peddled a clearly false “al-Qaeda is on the run” story, and turned Egypt and Libya into ghastly foreign-policy disasters. The Obama campaign couldn’t afford to be pushed onto defense about anything, because they would have ended up playing defense on everything.
Also, the Benghazi scandal turns out to have been a very accurate indicator of what Obama’s second-term foreign policy would be like. It was a glimpse into a sad future, whose ultimate absurdity is the new Administration craze for “hashtag diplomacy.” They’re trying to shame global villains by saying tart things about them on Twitter. It’s an ongoing national humiliation that will haunt America for years to come. It’s also an extreme example of “gesture liberalism,” given that the ostensible targets of the message have virtually zero chance of hearing it, let alone heeding it. The people playing these social-media games are talking to each other, not communicating with terrorists.
What’s really pathetic is that they’re trying this technique against Boko Haram, a gang of Islamist savages that doesn’t care much for Western ideology or technology – that’s essentially the meaning of their name. Boko Haram thugs probably don’t spend a lot of time hanging out on social media, waiting for Michelle Obama to post her selfies:
The girls she wants Boko Haram to bring back are 276 schoolgirls kidnapped by the terrorist gang last month. They’re believed to be holding their captives in a series of abandoned military bunkers, deep inside a snake-infested forest, where the chances of their getting a good wi-fi connection and playing hashtag games with the Obama Administration are slim. As Fox News relates, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau says he plans to sell the captive girls into slavery:
The Nigerian government has reached out to the United States for help in hunting down the terrorists and has offered a $300,000 reward for information leading to Shekau’s capture. But catching the continent’s most-wanted man will require venturing into the 23,000-square-mile Sambisa, whose dangers have taken on mythical proportions. With confidence in Nigerian authorities completely eroded, local residents have reportedly pooled money for motorcycles to head into the forest in search of the girls missing since last month’s abduction, as well those who have been abducted since. At least two of the girls have died of snakebites, and roughly 20 others are believed to be ill, according to an intermediary.
Shekau made his evil plans clear in a video released Monday, in which he gloated about the kidnappings.
“I abducted your girls,” Shekau said, in an hour-long video that opens with fighters shooting guns into the air and shouting “Allahu akbar!” “By Allah, I will sell them in the marketplace.”
According to other translations of the video, Shekau added, “There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women.” But I’m sure he’ll abandon his belief in Allah’s will, if he sees a few more photos of Michelle Obama pouting.
It looks as if the Administration will finally do something other than hold up signs that make them feel better, although it’s still not clear exactly what forces America and other Western nations will commit to the battle against Boko Haram:
Shekau’s army is estimated to number from a few hundred to a few thousand fighters. The U.S. has offered to send a team to Nigeria to help the search efforts. A senior federal law enforcement source told Fox News that although the FBI has a permanent presence in Lagos, Nigeria, it’s “still unclear, what, if any” supplemental resources are being provided by the FBI. The FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team is not in play at this time, the source said.
Americans are understandably wary of foreign military interventions, even on this relatively small scale, but the Nigerians are going to need help bringing these creeps down, because as CNN reports, they’re secure enough in their jungle fortress to launch counter-attacks against would-be rescuers of their captive schoolgirls:
Witnesses described the Gamboru Ngala attack as a well-coordinated onslaught that began shortly after 1:30 p.m. Monday at a busy outdoor market in the town.
Wearing military uniforms, the militants arrived with three armored personnel carriers, villagers said.
The attackers shouted “Allahu Akbar” — “God is great” — and opened up on the market, firing rocket-propelled grenades into the crowd and tossing improvised explosive devices, witnesses said.
Some marketgoers tried to take shelter in shops only to be burned alive when the gunmen set fire to a number of the businesses, the witnesses said.
A few Nigerian soldiers who had been left behind at the village could not hold off the assault and were forced to flee, they said. Many sought safe haven in nearby Cameroon.
The fighters also attacked the police station during the 12-hour assault, initially facing stiff resistance. They eventually used explosives to blow the roof off the building, witnesses said. They said 14 police officers were found dead inside.
Residents who returned to the village said they found 310 bodies.
If only they had seen the hashtag and embraced its message of compassion before launching that deadly attack!
Hillary Clinton joined the hashtag offensive too, with a Twitter message that declared, “Access to education is a basic right & an unconscionable reason to target innocent girls. We must stand up to terrorism.” So now they’re going to bludgeon Boko Haram into submission with stale cant about “access to education,” as well as selfies and Twitter streams? At least Clinton didn’t try lecturing the Islamists of Nigeria on how it takes a village to raise a child.
Which brings us full circle back to the Benghazi scandal, because Hillary Clinton steadfastly refused to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization when she was Secretary of State, despite years of pleading, just like she ignored all the warnings in Libya before the attack, according to the Daily Beast. In fact, some of the exact same people were ignored by Clinton in both cases:
On Wednesday, Clinton said that the abduction of the girls by Boko Haram was “abominable, it’s criminal, it’s an act of terrorism and it really merits the fullest response possible, first and foremost from the government of Nigeria.” Clinton said that as Secretary of State she had numerous meetings with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and had urged the Nigerian government to do more on counterterrorism.
What Clinton didn’t mention was that her own State Department refused to place Boko Haram on the list of foreign terrorist organizations in 2011, after the group bombed the U.N. headquarters in Abuja. The refusal came despite the urging of the Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA, and over a dozen senators and congressmen.
“The one thing she could have done, the one tool she had at her disposal, she didn’t use. And nobody can say she wasn’t urged to do it. It’s gross hypocrisy,” said a former senior U.S. official who was involved in the debate. “The FBI, the CIA, and the Justice Department really wanted Boko Haram designated, they wanted the authorities that would provide to go after them, and they voiced that repeatedly to elected officials.”
In May 2012, then-Justice Department official Lisa Monaco (now at the White House) wrote to the State Department to urge Clinton to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization. The following month, Gen. Carter Ham, the chief of U.S. Africa Command, said that Boko Haram “are likely sharing funds, training, and explosive materials” with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. And yet, Hillary Clinton’s State Department still declined to place Boko Haram on its official terrorist roster.
Designating them as terrorists would not have been a merely rhetorical gesture, like these silly hashtag games. It would have freed up resources and tactics to deal with Boko Haram, as well as sending a potent signal to the international community. So why wasn’t it done? Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA) of the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence explains:
In an interview Wednesday, Meehan told The Daily Beast that if Clinton had placed Boko Haram on the terrorism list in 2011, U.S. law enforcement agencies now being deployed to Nigeria to help search for the girls might have been in a better position.
“We lost two years of increased scrutiny. The kind of support that is taking place now would have been in place two years ago,” he said. The designation would have “enhanced the capacity of our agencies to do the work that was necessary. We were very frustrated, it was a long delay.”
Moreover, Meehan and others believe that the Clinton State Department underestimated the pace of Boko Haram’s growth and the group’s intention to plan operations that could harm U.S. critical interests abroad.
“At the time, the sentiment that was expressed by the administration was this was a local grievance and therefore not a threat to the United States or its interests,” he said. “They were saying al Qaeda was on the run and our argument was contrary to that. It has metastasized and it is actually in many ways a growing threat and this is a stark example of that.”
That’s the same reason they worked so hard, for weeks, to push a phony story about spontaneous video protests leading to the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens in Libya – they didn’t want their precious “Bin Laden dead, al-Qaeda on the run” election narrative to go up in smoke. Benghazi was a window into this Administration’s soul. It’s no surprise that they didn’t want voters getting a good look through that window before the election.