The Big Lie About the Libyan War: The Obama administration s

The Big Lie About the Libyan War: The Obama administration s

Postby admin » Thu Dec 22, 2016 1:27 am

The Big Lie About the Libyan War: The Obama administration said it was just trying to protect civilians. Its actions reveal it was looking for regime change.
by Micah Zenko
March 22, 2016



In this fifth anniversary week of the U.S.-led Libya intervention, it’s instructive to revisit Hillary Clinton’s curiously abridged description of that war in her 2014 memoir, Hard Choices. Clinton takes the reader from the crackdown, by Muammar al-Qaddafi’s regime, of a nascent uprising in Benghazi and Misrata; to her meeting — accompanied by the pop-intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy — with Mahmoud Jibril, the exiled leader of the opposition National Transitional Council; to her marshaling of an international military response. In late March 2011, Clinton quotes herself telling NATO members, “It’s crucial we’re all on the same page on NATO’s responsibility to enforce the no-fly zone and protect civilians in Libya.”

Just two paragraphs later — now 15 pages into her memoir’s Libya section — Clinton writes: “[By] late summer 2011, the rebels had pushed back the regime’s forces. They captured Tripoli toward the end of August, and Qaddafi and his family fled into the desert.” There is an abrupt and unexplained seven-month gap, during which the military mission has inexplicably, and massively, expanded beyond protecting civilians to regime change — seemingly by happenstance. The only opposition combatants even referred to are simply labeled “the rebels,” and the entire role of the NATO coalition and its attendant responsibility in assisting their advance has been completely scrubbed from the narrative.

In contemporary political debates, the Libya intervention tends to be remembered as an intra-administration soap opera, focused on the role Clinton — or Susan Rice or Samantha Power — played in advising Obama to go through with it. Or it’s addressed offhandedly in reference to the 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. special mission and CIA annex in Benghazi. But it would be far more pertinent to treat Libya as a case study for the ways that supposedly limited interventions tend to mushroom into campaigns for regime change. Five years on, it’s still not a matter of public record when exactly Western powers decided to topple Qaddafi.

To more fully comprehend what actually happened in Libya five years ago, let’s briefly review what the Obama administration proclaimed and compare that with what actually happened.

On March 28, 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama addressed the nation: “The task that I assigned our forces [is] to protect the Libyan people from immediate danger and to establish a no-fly zone.… Broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.” Two days later, Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon declared, “The military mission of the United States is designed to implement the Security Council resolution, no more and no less.… I mean protecting civilians against attacks from Qaddafi’s forces and delivering humanitarian aid.” The following day, Clinton’s deputy, James Steinberg, said during a Senate hearing, “President Obama has been equally firm that our military operation has a narrowly defined mission that does not include regime change.”

From the Defense Department, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen informed David Gregory of Meet the Press, “The goals of this campaign right now again are limited, and it isn’t about seeing him go.” Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates echoed the administration line: “Regime change is a very complicated business. It sometimes takes a long time. Sometimes it can happen very fast, but it was never part of the military mission.” (Emphasis added.)

Now, contrast Gates’s assertion in 2011 with what he told the New York Times last month:

“I can’t recall any specific decision that said, ‘Well, let’s just take him out,’” Mr. Gates said.

“I can’t recall any specific decision that said, ‘Well, let’s just take him out,’” Mr. Gates said. Publicly, he said, “the fiction was maintained” that the goal was limited to disabling Colonel Qaddafi’s command and control. In fact, the former defense secretary said, “I don’t think there was a day that passed that people didn’t hope he would be in one of those command and control centers.”

This is scarcely believable. Given that decapitation strikes against Qaddafi were employed early and often, there almost certainly was a decision by the civilian heads of government of the NATO coalition to “take him out” from the very beginning of the intervention. On March 20, 2011, just hours into the intervention, Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from a British submarine stationed in the Mediterranean Sea struck an administrative building in Qaddafi’s Bab al-Azizia compound, less than 50 yards away from the dictator’s residence. (This attack occurred just 100 yards from the building that Ronald Reagan authorized to be bombed by F-111s a quarter-century earlier in retaliation for a Berlin discothèque bombing ordered by the Libyan leader.) Just as the dictator somehow survived the attack on his personal residence in 1986, he also did in 2011.

Later that day, Vice Adm. William Gortney, director of the Joint Staff, was asked by the press, “Can you guarantee that coalition forces are not going to target Qaddafi?” Gortney replied, “At this particular point, I can guarantee that he’s not on a targeting list.” When it was then pointed out that it was Qaddafi’s personal residence that had been attacked, Gortney added, “Yeah. But, no, we’re not targeting his residence. We’re there to set the conditions and enforce the United Nations Security Council resolution. That’s what we’re doing right now and limiting it to that.”

In fact, not only was the Western coalition not limiting its missions to the remit of the U.N. Security Council resolutions, but it also actively chose not to enforce them. Resolution 1970 was supposed to prohibit arms transfers to either side of the war in Libya, and NATO officials claimed repeatedly that this was not occurring. On April 19, 2011, a brigadier general stated, “No violation of the arms embargo has been reported.” Three weeks later, on May 13, a wing commander admitted, “I have no information about arms being moved across any of the borders around Libya.” In fact, Egypt and Qatar were shipping advanced weapons to rebel groups the whole time, with the blessing of the Obama administration, while Western intelligence and military forces provided battlefield intelligence, logistics, and training support.

Yet, the most damning piece of evidence comes from a public relations video that NATO itself released on May 24, 2011. In the short video, a Canadian frigate — the HMCS Charlottetown — allegedly enforcing the arms embargo, boards a rebel tugboat and finds small arms, 105mm howitzer rounds, and “lots of explosives,” all of which are banned under Section 9 of Resolution 1970. The narrator states, “It turns out the tugboat is being used by Libyan rebels to transport arms from Benghazi to Misrata.” The Charlottetown captain radios NATO headquarters for further guidance. As the narrator concludes, “NATO decides not to impede the rebels and to let the tugboat proceed.” In other words, a NATO surface vessel stationed in the Mediterranean to enforce an arms embargo did exactly the opposite, and NATO was comfortable posting a video demonstrating its hypocrisy.

In truth, the Libyan intervention was about regime change from the very start.

In truth, the Libyan intervention was about regime change from the very start. The threat posed by the Libyan regime’s military and paramilitary forces to civilian-populated areas was diminished by NATO airstrikes and rebel ground movements within the first 10 days. Afterward, NATO began providing direct close-air support for advancing rebel forces by attacking government troops that were actually in retreat and had abandoned their vehicles. Fittingly, on Oct. 20, 2011, it was a U.S. Predator drone and French fighter aircraft that attacked a convoy of regime loyalists trying to flee Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte. The dictator was injured in the attack, captured alive, and then extrajudicially murdered by rebel forces.

The intervention in Libya shows that the slippery slope of allegedly limited interventions is most steep when there’s a significant gap between what policymakers say their objectives are and the orders they issue for the battlefield. Unfortunately, duplicity of this sort is a common practice in the U.S. military. Civilian and military officials are often instructed to use specific talking points to suggest the scope of particular operations is minimal relative to large-scale ground wars or that there is no war going on at all. Note that it took 14 months before the Pentagon even admitted, “Of course it’s combat,” for U.S. soldiers involved in the ongoing mission against the Islamic State in Iraq. Meanwhile, the public learned just this week — only because Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin was killed on Saturday — that there is a previously unannounced detachment of Marines in northern Iraq providing “force protection” for the Iraqi military and U.S. advisors. The gradual accretion of troops, capabilities, arms transfers, and expanded military missions seemingly just “happens,” because officials frame each policy step as normal and necessary. The reality is that, collectively, they represent a fundamentally larger and different intervention.

During the theatrical and exhaustive Benghazi hearing in October 2015, Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) asked Clinton about a video clip that read, “‘We came, we saw, he died [meaning Qaddafi].’ Is that the Clinton doctrine?” Clinton replied, “No, that was an expression of relief that the military mission undertaken by NATO and our other partners had achieved its end.” Yet, this was never the military mission that the Obama administration repeatedly told the world it had set out to achieve. It misled the American public, because while presidents attempt to frame their wars as narrow, limited, and essential, admitting to the honest objective in Libya — regime change — would have brought about more scrutiny and diminished public support. The conclusion is clear: While we should listen to what U.S. and Western officials claim are their military objectives, all that matters is what they authorize their militaries to actually do.
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Re: The Big Lie About the Libyan War: The Obama administrati

Postby admin » Thu Dec 22, 2016 1:41 am

‘Bravo!’ Email Appears To Show Clinton’s Friend Congratulating Her on Bombing of Libya: The newly released email from Anne-Marie Slaughter belies Clinton’s attempts to distance herself from the military intervention
by Branko Marcetic
February 24, 2016



Hillary Clinton has spent much of her presidential campaign running away from her responsibility for the United States’ disastrous 2011 intervention in Libya. The February 19 release of more emails from her private server may make it harder for her to do so.

In an email with the subject “bravo!” sent on March 19, 2011—the day the United States and its allies began bombing Libya—Clinton confidant and former employee Anne-Marie Slaughter appears to praise then-Secretary of State Clinton for convincing a reluctant President Obama to take military action in Libya.

“I cannot imagine how exhausted you must be after this week, but I have NEVER been prouder of having worked for you,” writes Slaughter, who worked as an advisor to Clinton in the State Department from 2009 to February 3, 2011, and then remained a consultant to the policy planning bureau. “Turning POTUS around on this is a major win for everything we have worked for.” An earlier email release, which I reported on previously, showed that Slaughter had spent February 2011 imploring Clinton to involve the United States militarily in Libya, insisting that it would “change the image of the United States overnight.”

“Keep your fingers crossed and pray for a soft landing for everyone’s sake,” Clinton replies.

Other emails from earlier releases indicate that people close to Clinton gave her credit for the Libyan intervention. The day the UN Security Council approved a no-fly zone in Libya, Clinton’s unofficial adviser Sidney Blumenthal sent her an email saying: “No-fly! Brava! You did it!”

In another email, then-Bloomberg View Executive Editor James Rubin, who previously served as Bill Clinton’s assistant secretary of state, tells Clinton: “I think your efforts to keep the world's focus on removing Qaddafi and helping avoid a slaughter there last year will be long remembered.”

State Department staff even got an email from the former president of the American Refugee Committee Hugh Parmer asking them to pass on his “congratulations to Secretary Clinton for what was apparently her key role in persuading the Administration to act to protect the people of Libya.”

Clinton’s role in the Libya intervention has come under the spotlight due to the increasingly scrappy battle for the Democratic nomination, with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders using Libyan dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi’s ouster to question her judgment on foreign policy. For her part, Clinton has sought to play down her involvement in the decision to go into Libya, even though at the time she clamored to gain credit for the operation.

Her role also bears scrutiny as the situation in present-day Libya continues to deteriorate. Far from a successful model of military force, the removal of Qaddafi led to the transformation of Libya into a lawless haven for terrorists, contributing to the ongoing refugee crisis and threatening to lead to renewed Western intervention in the country. The United States has launched two airstrikes against ISIS forces in Libya over the last three months, sent in ground forces as recently as January and has been pressing for a coalition of European countries to act. Today it was revealed by Le Monde that French special forces have been operating against ISIS in Libya for several months.

As the West gets further and further entangled in the Libyan conflict, the media ought to keep pressing Clinton on whether her foreign policy credentials are truly a selling point, given her apparent eagerness for war.
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Re: The Big Lie About the Libyan War: The Obama administrati

Postby admin » Thu Dec 22, 2016 1:48 am

New Hillary Clinton Emails: Anne-Marie Slaughter, Sidney Blumenthal Urged Libya Military Action: The most recent release of Clinton’s emails show the two liberal advisors strongly encouraging U.S. intervention against Libya.
by Branko Marcetic
October 7, 2015



The latest release of emails from Hillary Clinton’s private server has prompted numerous stories about the former Secretary of State’s battle with an intransigent White House phone operator, her preparations for an appearance on Ellen DeGeneres' TV show and the fact that even the United States’ top diplomat gets sent the same kind of scam emails that the rest of us do. What hasn't been reported is how the current Democratic frontrunner was urged by her unofficial advisers to take up the interventionist stance she eventually adopted toward the Libyan civil war during her time in cabinet—with disastrous results.

Back in 2011, the United States, along with a number of other Western powers, intervened in an increasingly violent civil war in Libya, first by imposing a no-fly zone and then by commencing a bombing campaign that forced dictator Muammar Gaddafi to flee the capital. Clinton was reportedly instrumental in not just convincing President Obama to approve the U.S.’s involvement, but in keeping the entire fractious coalition of Western powers together.

After Gaddafi was toppled, Clinton was quick to declare the operation a success, flashing a peace sign in Tripoli and declaring it “Libya’s victory.” She publicly praised the United States’ “smart power,” while privately—as previously released emails revealed—her advisers urged her to take credit for the operation’s supposed success.

But Clinton’s enthusiasm for intervention in Libya didn’t emerge out of a vacuum, as the most recently released emails show. She was encouraged to back military action early on by two key figures: former White House official and friend Sidney Blumenthal and former State Department official and columnist Anne-Marie Slaughter.

Blumenthal’s role as Clinton’s confidante is well established at this point, as previous State Department’s email releases have shown. Hundreds of those emails involved advice from Blumenthal on everything from domestic and foreign politics to ideas for speeches.

But Slaughter’s role is less well known. Serving under Clinton as the State Department’s Director of Policy Planning from 2009 to February 2011, Slaughter stepped down and moved into a professorship at Princeton and, later, a role as President and CEO of New America, a think tank. Slaughter remained a consultant to the State Department’s Public Policy Bureau, however, and continued sending emails directly to Clinton about a variety of topics—including the events in Libya.

Slaughter was one of the loudest voices publicly calling for U.S. involvement in the North African state, and she continued this line in her private correspondence with Clinton. In one email dated February 23, 2011, in reference to images of brutality that were emerging from Libya, Slaughter insisted that “with this level of violence, force can only be met by force.”

In fact, as she saw it, intervening in Libya was vital to America’s global standing, as it would “change the image of the United States overnight, particularly with the millions of young people who are watching.” As historical examples to bolster her case, Slaughter picked three that would have been particularly meaningful for Clinton, having occurred during her husband's presidency: NATO intervention in response to the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Bosnia, the NATO bombing campaign against Serb forces in Kosovo and, most significantly, the United States' and other countries' failure to act to prevent genocide in Rwanda in 1994.

And the entire world would see, as they saw in Bosnia, NATO forces using force to save Muslims. Remember Rwanda. Even a small deployment could have stopped the killing. … Remember Kosovo.

UNCLASSIFIED U.S. Department of State Case No. F-2014-20439 Doc No. C05779501 Date: 09/30/2015


From: Anne-Marie Slaughter [DELETE]
Sent: Wednesday, February 23, 201110:48 PM
To: H
Cc: Abedin, Huma
Subject: my thoughts are with you

You probably know this, but in case you don't, you should know that The Daily Beast has posted the most horrific
pictures of what is happening in Libya, including pictures of the bodies of soldiers reportedly burned in their barracks for
refusing to fire on their fellow citizens — these are also being sent all over Twitter. With this level of violence, force can
only be met by force. If the eastern provinces set up a government and invite the international community in, we have
good reason to believe that the army will defect as soon as possible. And the entire world would see, as they saw in
Bosnia, NATO forces using force to save Muslims. Remember Rwanda. Even a small deployment could have stopped the
killing. People will say that we will then get enmeshed in a civil war, that we cannot go into another Muslim country, that
Gaddafi is well armed, there will be a million reasons NOT to act. But all our talk about global responsibility and
leadership, not to mention respect for universal values, is completely empty if we stand by and watch this happen with
no response but sanctions. Acting together, at the invitation of a legitimate Libyan government rather than waiting for
the UN, could save thousands if not tens of thousands of lives and change the image of the United States overnight,
particularly with the millions of young people who are watching. Remember the role of the British in Sierra Leone.
Remember Kosovo. We could also get the AU to issue an invitation — there is precedent for that with the OAS in the
Cuban Missile Crisis.

I feel better knowing that you are leading our response — we need both toughness and a willingness to act. But I wish I
could help lighten your load.


Slaughter continued to send emails that threw an overwhelmingly positive light on potential Libyan intervention. In another email three days after her initial one, she urged Clinton to issue a public statement of support for Libyan protesters, which she believed would help “impress the young people across the Middle East.” In March, she sent Clinton a copy of an op-ed she had written that was due to appear in the next day’s New York Times, which called for a no-fly zone and touted intervention as “a chance to support a new beginning in the Muslim world.” She also sent Clinton potential talking points on U.S. policy toward Libya for the Sunday talk shows, and advised her to frame the conflict as a “popular revolt” instead of a “civil war.”

Blumenthal also encouraged military action against Libya, passing along an article in February which reported former UK Foreign Secretary David Owen calling for a no-fly zone over the country. Later, in June, he wrote to Clinton about the deteriorating situation in Syria, assuring her that “the most important event that could alter the Syrian equation would be the fall of Gaddafi, providing an example of a successful rebellion.” He attached an article that he had helped develop, which argued the eventual fall of Gaddafi could serve as a new model for removing Middle Eastern dictators: “limited but targeted military support from the West combined with an identifiable rebellion.”

Given that the period from February to March marked Clinton’s transformation from a skeptic to a “strong advocate” for U.S. intervention in Libya, and that the weeks after that saw NATO’s original mission morph into one of regime change, the existence of these messages is significant.

Slaughter and Blumenthal weren’t just yelling into the breeze—Clinton clearly valued their advice. Responding to an email from Slaughter about the Egyptian Revolution, the former Secretary of State told her she would include her points in her upcoming interviews, concluding: “Thx so much. Pls keep the ideas coming!” Meanwhile, when Blumenthal suggested establishing a no-fly zone over Libya, Clinton forwarded it on to her Director of Policy Planning Jacob Sullivan within 10 minutes, asking him, “What do you think of this idea?”

In reality, the outcome of Western intervention in Libya was far more disastrous than Slaughter and Blumenthal predicted. Clinton may have deemed it a “victory” in 2011, but toppling a government is the first, and often easiest, step when it comes to regime change; the trouble, as the United States has found in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, is everything that comes after.

Today, Libya is an anarchic failed state split between literally hundreds of armed factions and two rival governments, all vying to win control over the country. Food and electricity is scarce while crime and armed conflict is rife. Schools and universities are closed, becoming shelters for the displaced. And with no police to uphold the law, people have turned to armed militias.

It’s tempting to wonder whether things might have been different had Clinton had another, less interventionist set of informal advisors. There was no shortage of voices at the time warning that involvement in Libya, particularly expanding the original mission to focus on toppling Gaddafi, would lead to exactly the state of affairs the country now faces.

The Ottawa Citizen recently revealed that the Canadian military, part of the NATO campaign in Libya, had produced a report four days before bombing commenced in 2011 stating that removing Gaddafi would create a long-term civil war. Four days before that, Retired General Wesley Clark, an “old friend” of Clinton’s, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post with a similar warning. Even though Clinton cited the article in her memoir, she seems not to have heeded its message.

By contrast, Slaughter's advice to Clinton was dismissive of such concerns:

People will say that we will then get enmeshed in a civil war, that we cannot go into another Muslim country, that Gaddafi is well armed, there will be a million reasons NOT to act. But all our talk about global responsibility and leadership, not to mention respect for universal values, is completely empty if we stand by and watch this happen with no response but sanctions.

By all available accounts, Clinton single-mindedly and aggressively went on to pursue the goal of Western military intervention in Libya. By July, her chief of staff was celebrating that the State Department had managed to feed the New York Times “more ammo” for an op-ed urging the United States to stay the course in Libya. And although Clinton downplayed her role in pushing for intervention in her 2014 book Hard Choices (by which time the country had long plunged into chaos and claiming credit for Gaddafi’s ouster would have been a liability rather than a benefit), her own director of policy planning wrote a timeline of her “leadership on Libya” in August 2011, demonstrating Clinton’s “leadership/ownership/stewardship of this country's Libya policy from start to finish.” The timeline begins two days after Slaughter's first email advocating intervention.

As the Clinton 2016 campaign rolls on, the public will hear much about her foreign policy experience. But it’s not just Clinton herself the public should be keeping an eye on—they should also be assessing the judgment of those who have her ear.
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Re: The Big Lie About the Libyan War: The Obama administrati

Postby admin » Thu Dec 22, 2016 2:02 am

Anne-Marie Slaughter tweets call for intervention in Libya
by Josh Rogin
February 24, 2011



Former State Department Policy Planning Chief Anne-Marie Slaughter used her brand-new Twitter account on Thursday to call for international intervention on behalf of the Libyan people.

“The international community cannot stand by and watch the massacre of Libyan protesters. In Rwanda we watched. In Kosovo we acted,” Slaughter tweeted, in one of her first ever entries. She confirmed to The Cable that the Twitter account is genuine.

Slaughter seems to be enjoying the freedom to express her opinions openly following her exit from government. Her message goes far beyond what President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have said about the Libyan crisis.

Both Clinton and Obama have said that all options are on the table, but no specific decisions have been made on how the international community might respond to the unfolding crisis in Libya. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said on Wednesday that sanctions and asset freezes are being discussed, but he didn’t mention military intervention.

By invoking Rwandan, Slaughter is comparing the situation in Libya to the 1994 bloodshed that saw 800,000 Rwandans murdered in about 100 days — a clear case of genocide. Likewise in 1999, NATO bombed the Serbian capital of Belgrade following that government’s genocidal actions in Kosovo, although a U.N. court in 2001 decided the situation did not technically constitute genocide.

Libya’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations Ibrahim Dabbashi, who resigned this week in protest of the Libyan government’s brutal crackdown, contended that Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi‘s massacre of civilians constitutes genocide, but no U.S. officials have made such a statement.

Slaughter’s other messages on her first week on Twitter focused on how to use social networks to aid in the Arab uprising spreading throughout the region.

“I think foreign policy has to be quite different in the networked world,” she told The Cable. “To understand it and work within it, I have to join it.”
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Re: The Big Lie About the Libyan War: The Obama administrati

Postby admin » Thu Dec 22, 2016 2:07 am

UNCLASSIFIED U.S. Department of State Case No. F-2014-20439 Doc No. C05779589 Date: 01/07/2016


From: sbwhoeop0 [DELETE]
Sent: Thursday, March 17, 2011 7:40 PM
To: H
Subject: H: Libya, Med & big idea. Sid
Attachments: hrc memo Iibya & big idea. 031711.docx; hrc memo libya & big idea. 031711.docx


March 17, 2011

For: Hillary
From: Sid
Re: Libya & Big Idea

1. No-fly! Brava! You did it! I am deeply proud and grateful.More intel to come...

2. Big idea: See the article below on a projected Union of the Mediterranean by Mustapha Tlili, research
scholar at New York University, founder and director of the NYU Center for Dialogues, and a member
of Human Rights Watch's advisory committee for the Middle East and North Africa.

Sarkozy hit upon this as an earlier ploy and has not taken it up again because he's playing demagogic
games about "multiculturalism." But this is a strategic idea to reorient thinking about integration of the
Muslim world and the West, with the US playing a critical role—the Union of the Mediterranean. Such
a Union is only possible after the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions. It can begin with initial economic
links much like the EU began with a coal and steel accord and then unfold into many other areas. After.
your trip to Tunisia and Egypt—and the opportunity that Libya will present—the US can take a
leadership role. You might consider formulating some first steps and articulating the concept. This gives
the US a new role in Europe; recasts the war on terrorism; isolates those Arab states that remain
authoritarian repressive regimes without imposing punitive measures; gives the US a hand in reform and
development in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, etc.; and offers a new incentive into the Mideast peace
process (such as it is).


Best regards,

Mustapha Tlili

Imagining a New Mediterranean World
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Re: The Big Lie About the Libyan War: The Obama administrati

Postby admin » Thu Dec 22, 2016 2:09 am

Emails Show How Hillary Clinton Valued Input From Sidney Blumenthal
By Peter Baker
September 1, 2015



WASHINGTON — As secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton had access to the latest information and analysis from the nation’s premier intelligence agencies, from a corps of seasoned diplomats reporting back from every corner of the world, from a range of foreign policy experts in and out of government. And from Sidney Blumenthal.

A former journalist, White House official and longtime confidant of Mrs. Clinton’s, Mr. Blumenthal became a frequent correspondent and tipster during her time in President Obama’s cabinet, passing along news articles, inside information, political gossip, election polls, geopolitical advice and sheer speculation in a steady drumbeat of emails, according to documents released by the State Department.

In addition to memos on Libya that have drawn attention, Mr. Blumenthal weighed in freely on events in Britain, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iran, China, Greece, Mexico, Italy and even Kyrgyzstan, becoming a sort of unofficial early warning service for the secretary on the far-flung issues that confronted her. He also served as an informer on domestic politics, keeping her up-to-date on the latest machinations in the White House and on the campaign trail, even offering suggestions for midterm election strategy.

Mr. Blumenthal, in fact, was so prolific in his messages to “H,” as he addressed her, that he seems to be the person she heard from by email the most outside her department. Of the 4,368 emails and documents, mostly from 2010, that were posted on the State Department website on Monday night in response to a court order, a search found that 306 involved messages from Mr. Blumenthal to Mrs. Clinton or vice versa.

Mrs. Clinton was usually terse and revealed little in reply, but she indicated that she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, welcomed Mr. Blumenthal’s input outside the normal chain of command.

“I shared your emails w Bill who thought they were ‘brilliant’!” she wrote after a series of messages about elections in Britain. “Keep ’em coming when you can.”

When he was slow with a promised memo, she nudged him. “Are you still sending?” Other messages referred to late-night phone conversations.

Mr. Blumenthal’s assessments were at times bracing, especially regarding American politics. In one message, he referred to Speaker John A. Boehner as “that old scandal ridden hack Republican.”

In another, he said younger Republican lawmakers “despised” Mr. Boehner. “They are repelled by his personal behavior,” he wrote. “He is louche, alcoholic, lazy, and without any commitment to any principle.”

In several messages, Mr. Blumenthal argued that Democrats should present Mr. Boehner as the face of the Republican Party during the 2010 midterm elections. “Making Boehner the GOP poster child should be systematic and relentless,” he wrote.

Mrs. Clinton — who, as the nation’s chief diplomat, publicly stayed out of the campaign — never responded to such suggestions in the emails that were released. But she clearly followed the elections carefully as Democrats were headed to a blowout defeat.

“I’m on a plane on the way to Papua New Guinea for the next 6 hours so pls email me results as you get them,” she wrote to Mr. Blumenthal on Election Day. “Needless to say, I’m so distressed over all of this.”

Mr. Blumenthal did not hesitate to suggest aggressive pushback against the White House, including David Axelrod, then the president’s senior adviser. “Axelrod should not be a foreign policy spokesman on any issue or area,” Mr. Blumenthal wrote.

He urged Mrs. Clinton to have James B. Steinberg, her deputy at the time, tell Tom Donilon, then the national security adviser, to “rein in” Mr. Axelrod. “Axelrod has enough to do fixing the domestic messes he’s made,” he wrote.

In another message, Mr. Blumenthal forwarded a memo from David Brock, a pro-Clinton political activist, with the subject line “Memo on Impeaching Clarence Thomas,” the Supreme Court justice. It argued that a new tell-all book by a former girlfriend conflicted with Justice Thomas’s testimony during his confirmation hearings in 1991.

Mr. Blumenthal passed along political intelligence liberally. He said “Republican sources” had told him that Karl Rove had predicted that the party would nominate Mitt Romney and Haley Barbour, then the governor of Mississippi, in 2012. He said an acquaintance had had dinner with Gen. David H. Petraeus, “who freely talked about running for president.”

And he offered a scathing assessment of Martha Coakley, the Democrat running for Senate in Massachusetts in 2010, who he said was “not a very good candidate, dull, dutiful, rote.”

The emails posted on Monday, along with previous batches disclosed by the State Department, shed light on a relationship that has already drawn scrutiny from Republicans in Congress investigating the terrorist attack on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.

While not a State Department employee, Mr. Blumenthal was being paid by Mr. Clinton’s foundation as well as by advocacy organizations that have advanced Mrs. Clinton’s political interests.

Mr. Blumenthal has been a figure of much interest for years in Clinton circles. He was a trusted adviser to Mrs. Clinton when she was first lady, and a chief defender of her and her husband against what she once called a “vast right-wing conspiracy.”

"EVERYBODY IS FAIR GAME, simply for being on the other side," Sid Blumenthal wrote in the New Yorker when the Clintons were moving into the White House. "Humiliating one's prey, not merely defeating one's foes, is central to the process." No doubt this nasty blueprint for political success struck a chord with Hillary. According to Carl Bernstein, who wrote the Hillary biography A Woman in Charge, "His was a message that Hillary could embrace, along with its author." She hired him. [1] Blumenthal helped write some of Clinton's speeches and, in 1997, went to work in the White House as assistant to the president.

And assist he did.

By the time Bill and Hillary were up to their necks in Whitewater and Jones and Monica and me, Blumenthal concluded and collected "copious research on almost every aspect of the political, professional, and private lives of Starr, his prosecutors, the Paula Jones gang, the Republicans in Congress ... and ... the individual mercenaries of the right." [2] He would eventually be questioned in detail as to how he went about collecting that "copious research."

When Monica's story came out, Blumenthal cheered blindly for his team. Like a cult follower, he blamed Hillary's vast right-wing conspiracy. "The right-wing politics that had forced the scandal were alien and unknown to much of the White House senior staff," Blumenthal wrote in The Clinton Wars, his eight-hundred-page account of his years in the Clinton White House. "To them, what the right was doing seemed far-fetched, so impossibly convoluted, that they couldn't quite credit it." [3] It was quite a stretch of the imagination that White House aides would swallow the story that my testimony -- and Monica's and Paula's and Gennifer's -- were creations of right-wing politics, but the Clintons' brainwashed minions chose to swallow it. And Hillary's boy Sid served up the bait.

-- Target: Caught in the Crosshairs of Bill and Hillary Clinton, by Kathleen Willey

Other Clinton aides viewed him suspiciously for his conspiratorial bent; some nicknamed him “G.K.,” for grassy knoll. As Mr. Obama’s White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, a Clinton veteran, blocked an effort to hire Mr. Blumenthal at the State Department.

But even if she could not put him on her staff, Mrs. Clinton clearly valued his input, at least to a degree. She used him at times as a conduit to foreign officials, particularly in Britain, where he has extensive contacts in Labour Party circles and referred to top officials like Gordon Brown, then the prime minister, by their first names.

In some of the emails, he arranged a dinner for Mrs. Clinton, himself and Shaun Woodward, then Britain’s top official on Northern Ireland. During elections that deposed Mr. Brown, Mr. Blumenthal reported real-time results from London, even informing Mrs. Clinton when the prime minister was heading to meet with the queen to step down. “Alas, poor Gordon, Heathcliffe, unloved, unlovable, suffering,” Mr. Blumenthal wrote.

Mr. Blumenthal’s advice ranged widely. After Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy was attacked by a man in a square, Mr. Blumenthal recommended that Mr. Obama call to wish him well. He urged a strong stance on Middle East peace negotiations. “Without ‘tough love,’ any support for Israel will lack credibility,” he wrote. He offered his own cheeky translation of an Iranian statement, saying it really meant: “Oh, how we miss George Bush! He was such an easy target.”

Mr. Blumenthal regularly forwarded articles by his son, the journalist Max Blumenthal, and intervened on behalf of some people with Mrs. Clinton. He encouraged her to give an interview to the author James Mann, who was writing a book about Democratic foreign policy, and he urged intervention when Israel barred the prominent scholar Noam Chomsky from entering the West Bank. “He is a U.S. citizen barred for his political views, after all,” Mr. Blumenthal wrote.

He was also Mrs. Clinton’s outlet on some of the old battles that reached back to her days in Arkansas as the wife of an up-and-coming Democrat. When Jim Johnson, a former segregationist, State Supreme Court justice and longtime foe of the Clintons, committed suicide in 2010, Mr. Blumenthal sent her a news report. “What a sad ending to the tale,” Mrs. Clinton wrote.

Mr. Blumenthal did not seem sad. He wrote that he wished Mr. Johnson’s death “were as politically conclusive” as that of a Confederate who “blew his brains out” after Appomattox. “Unfortunately, the evil Justice Jim did lives on — in the wild bigotry against Obama and even through the Supreme Court decision in the case of Citizens United, a group he helped galvanize to circulate the Whitewater hoax,” he wrote.

Mr. Blumenthal made a point of passing along articles and rumors that suggested disarray in the White House of Mrs. Clinton’s former primary rival, Mr. Obama. He sent a poll showing her with a higher approval rating than the president, and a column urging Mr. Obama to fire Mr. Emanuel, which she then forwarded to a top aide with an “fyi.”

He passed along a gossipy piece reporting that Michelle Obama had supposedly told Carla Bruni, the wife of the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, that life in the White House was “hell.”

In October 2010, just weeks before the Democratic midterm defeat, Mr. Blumenthal sent along a column by the political analyst Mark Halperin saying Washington elites of both parties had concluded that “the White House is in over its head, isolated, insular, arrogant and clueless about how to get along with or persuade members of Congress, the media, the business community or working-class voters.”

Mr. Blumenthal added his own verdict. While much of the article was “twaddle,” he said, its central conclusion was “completely accurate in assessment.
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Re: The Big Lie About the Libyan War: The Obama administrati

Postby admin » Thu Dec 22, 2016 3:25 am

UNCLASSIFIED U.S. Department of State Case No. F-2014-20439 Doc No. C05789645 Date: 12/31/2015


From: James P. Rubin [DELETE]
Sent: Sunday, March 8, 2012 3:10 PM
To: H
Subject: RE: We will always have Paris..

Hillary, I will find a few select journalists for the dinner we discussed. The name I couldn't remember was, of course,
Arthur Schlesinger. Also, Christiane interviewed a senior Iranian in geneva this week, who I think said something worth
exploring. He said Iran would accept more than NPT requirements, what he called the Japan model of permanent
human presence at their sites, in exchange for U.S. cooperation per NPT on technology. It seems to me that goes
beyond previous statements and I thought I would pass it on. Enjoyed our talk. All best, Jamie p.s. the text of the
interview should be available to your office. If not, I will find..

From: H []
Sent: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 7:31 PM
To: 'jamesprubin [DELETE]
Subject: Re: We will always have Paris..

You're right, we will!

Sorry for the delay in responding, but I've had big problems w my blackberry, which has been having a nervous
breakdown on my dime!

I'm delighted to hear about your new job and would love to talk w you about it. I will ask my team to reach out to set up
a visit. Looking forward to catching up--all the best. H

From: James P. Rubin [DELETE]
Sent: Saturday, January 21, 2012 02:51 PM
To: H
Subject: We will always have Paris..

Greetings, the last time we saw each other was Paris, I believe, right after the fall of Qaddafi. Although Libya is still
messy, I think your efforts to keep the world's focus on removing Qaddafi and helping avoid a slaughter there
last year will be long remembered.


In any event, in Paris I mentioned the possibility of arranging some off the record events with key journalists and
influential types for you in your last year as Secretary of State. Although Bloomberg is not the right place for it any
more, I am also President of the Atlantic Partnership in NYC and Washington, which could be a perfect venue for such
events, if you are still interested.

In the meantime, I did want to ask you about coming to see you in Washington in connection with my work for Andrew,
in order to promote some international opportunities for the State of New York, for which I hope you still have a soft
spot. I have also heard from some colleagues that you have set up a foreign affairs board analogous to the Pentagon's
Defense Policy Board.


[DELETE] In any event, I hope I can get in to see you in Washington, or if it suited you better, on
one of your rare downtimes in New York.

Best regards, your friend,

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Re: The Big Lie About the Libyan War: The Obama administrati

Postby admin » Thu Dec 22, 2016 3:30 am

UNCLASSIFIED U.S. Department of State Case No. F-2014-20439 Doc No. C05780242 Date: 11/30/2015


From: Mills, Cheryl D <>
Sent: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 5:45 PM
Subject: FW: Congratulations on Libya intervention

Original Message
From: Toiv, Nora F
Sent: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 5:43 PM
To: Mills, Cheryl D
Subject: RE: Congratulations on Libya intervention

He is currently a Fellow at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, the former President of the American Refugee
Committee and a former Assistant Administrator at USAID (98-01).

Original Message
From: Mills, Cheryl D
Sent: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 5:38 PM
To: Toiv, Nora F
Subject: FW: Congratulations on Libya intervention

Can you review and revert.

Original Message
From: H []
Sent: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 12:06 AM
To: Mills, Cheryl D
Cc: Huma Abedin
Subject: Re: Congratulations on Libya intervention


Original Message
From: Mills, Cheryl D []
Sent: Monday, March 21, 2011 02:03 PM
To: H
Subject: FW: Congratulations on Libya intervention

Original Message
From: Parmer, Hugh [mailto: [DELETE]
Sent: Monday, March 21, 2011 12:33 PM
To: Mills, Cheryl D
Subject: Congratulations on Libya intervention

Ms. Mills,

Please pass on my congratulations to Secretary Clinton for what was apparently her key role in persuading the
Administration to act to protect the people of Libya. [DELETE]
With all the demand on USG humanitarian resources [DELETE]

Hugh Parmer
Adjunct Professor
International Studies Program
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Re: The Big Lie About the Libyan War: The Obama administrati

Postby admin » Thu Dec 22, 2016 3:34 am

Abducted Serbs 'killed in US air strikes' in Libya: Toll from raids targeting suspected ISIL camp in Sabratha rises to 49, including two kidnapped Serbian embassy staff.
February 20, 2016



Serbia says two members of its embassy staff who were abducted in Libya in November are believed to have been among at least 49 killed in US air strikes on a suspected training camp of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.

US officials said the site targeted in Friday's strikes in Sabratha, a coastal city in western Libya, was a camp used by up to 60 fighters, including Tunisian Noureddine Chouchane, blamed for two attacks on tourists in Tunisia last year in which dozens were killed.

Sladjana Stankovic, a Serbian communications officer, and Jovica Stepic, a driver, were taken hostage on November 8 after their diplomatic convoy, including the ambassador, came under fire near Sabratha.

"Unfortunately as a consequence of this attack on the Islamic State in Libya, the two of them lost their lives," Ivica Dacic, Serbia's foreign minister, said, referring to Friday's air strike.

He said they had received information from several sources, including other intelligence services, of the deaths of Stankovic and Stepic.

The information was yet to be officially confirmed by Libyan authorities.

Dacic offered "sincere condolences to the families of the victims", saying they had been informed of the news and that the repatriation of bodies would be organised in the coming days.

Hussein al-Thwadi, the mayor of Sabratha, said Libyan authorities had sent photos of the bodies to Serbian diplomats for an initial identification.

He said the death toll from Friday's strikes had risen to 49.

It was the second US air raid in three months against ISIL in Libya, where the fighters have exploited chaos following Muammar Gaddafi's 2011 downfall to build up a presence on the southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

Libya's attorney general said on Saturday that one of six wounded survivors told prosecutors that those in the building that was hit were "members of ISIL who came to Libya recently for training and then to carry out terrorist acts in Tunisia".

But Thwadi said the building was "just a house", adding: "The house was used for meetings and other acts but not training."

Dacic said Serbian authorities had been negotiating the release of the two staff before the attack.

"The kidnappers had a financial interest," he said, adding that demands had been "impossible" to meet by either the families or the government.

He said Serbia would send a protest note to Washington DC for not informing Serbian authorities of the raid.

US officials have said they gave advance warning of the strikes to Libyan authorities, without specifying who they contacted.

Since 2014 Libya has had two competing governments, one based in Tripoli and the other, which has received international recognition, in the east.

Serbia has ties with both of Libya's governments.

Both sides are supported by loose alliances of former rebels and armed brigades.

A unity government has been nominated under a UN-backed plan, but has yet to win approval or move to Libya.

Western powers and the UN have, in the meantime, been trying to reach out to armed factions to provide security for the unity government and tackle the threat from ISIL.

The group took control of Gaddafi's home town of Sirte last year, and has carried out attacks in several other towns and cities.

Diplomats and foreign nationals have been targeted in the past for kidnappings, mostly for ransom or to demand the release of fighters being held by overseas governments.

Armed groups have also targeted foreigners.
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Re: The Big Lie About the Libyan War: The Obama administrati

Postby admin » Thu Dec 22, 2016 3:39 am

Department of Defense Press Briefing by Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook in the Pentagon Briefing Room
by U.S. Department of Defense Press Operations
Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook
Jan. 27, 2016

PETER COOK: Afternoon, everyone. Hope you survived Snowzilla adequately. You look -- crowd's a little smaller today. Maybe people are still trapped. But -- hope everyone's doing all right.

I wanted to begin, today, with a statement regarding – a statement from the secretary regarding Afghanistan -- again, from Secretary Carter.

"I want to thank General John Campbell for his extraordinary leadership and dedication in his dual role as commander of the United States forces Afghanistan, and as commander of the NATO Resolute Support mission.

"While many challenges remain, we have made gains over the past year that will put Afghanistan on a better path, and much of the credit for that progress rests with General Campbell.

"Under General Campbell's leadership, our forces have engaged in two important and enduring missions: our train, advise and assist support to the Afghan security forces, and our counterterrorism effort. General Campbell has taken the fight to Al Qaida and made clear our resolve to deny it safe haven.

"He has consistently identified ways to increase the capability and capacity of the Afghan forces -- forces that have shown the motivation and resiliency required to ensure the long-term success of our partnership and the security and the stability of the Afghan -- that the Afghan people deserve.

"General Campbell has presided over important milestones in our mission to enable the ANDSF, including the recent delivery of the A-29s to the Afghan military to provide close air support, which will be a key element in increasing superiority over Taliban forces.

"He has also forged strong partnerships with the Afghan unity government led by President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah, and it is clear that we have strong partners with a common vision focused on a secure and prosperous future for the Afghan people.

"For nearly 18 months, General Campbell has given his all to the mission as our top commander in Afghanistan, and his personal sacrifices on behalf of his troops and the Afghan people will be remembered by us all.

"As his tour in Afghanistan comes to a close, I want to personally thank him for everything he has done to bring us to this moment in Afghanistan, and for all that he has done throughout his extraordinary career. There will be more to say about his future in the coming days.

"The good news is that we have a deep bench. I am absolutely confident the man the president intends to nominate to take General Campbell's place when his work in Afghanistan is completed, Lieutenant General John "Mick" Nicholson, is an accomplished soldier with extensive command experience both in Afghanistan and around the world.

"He has led soldiers at all levels, from platoon to division, in airborne, ranger, mechanized, Stryker and light infantry units in five different infantry divisions and the 75th Ranger Regiment. He commanded the 82nd Airborne Division, reestablishing global response force capabilities, and commanded NATO's Allied Land Command.

"He knows what it means to lead a responsive and nimble force, and how to build the capacity of our partners to respond to immediate and long-term threats and remain adaptable to confront evolving challenges. And he understands the importance and complexity of our mission in Afghanistan, having served in multiple capacities, including chief of staff of operations for the International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, director of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Coordination Cell for the Joint Staff and deputy commander of stability of ISAF Regional Command-South.

"I am confident that General Nicholson will build upon General Campbell's hard work to secure a bright future for the Afghan people and help the government of Afghanistan strengthen a professional and capable security partner to the American people."

I also wanted to update you as well on the secretary's visit to CYBERCOM earlier today. The secretary and Chairman Dunford visited U.S. Cyber Command or CYBERCOM in Fort Meade, Maryland, this morning. They discussed a range of cyber-related topics with the leadership there, including the latest on efforts to degrade ISIL's messaging campaign.

As the secretary made clear in his remarks to the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell and in his speech in meetings with allies last week in Paris, our effort to accelerate the campaign to deliver a lasting defeat to ISIL includes targeting their use of the Internet to spread their message of hate, recruit fighters and inspire acts of terror.

CYBERCOM is charged with supporting our inter-agency partners in our whole of government effort to counter ISIL messaging in addition to several other vital aspects of the counter ISIL campaign. Secretary was able to engage directly with some of the men and women directly engaged in cyber operations. He encouraged them, the entire CYBERCOM team, to do what they can to intensify the fight against ISIL.

And with that, I'd be happy to take your questions.


Q: I wanted to ask you about the possibility of the U.S. expanding its counter ISIL efforts into Libya. The chairman traveling in Europe this week said that it was fair to say that the U.S. needed to take decisive military action -- he said, in conjunction with the political events in Libya.

Can you help us understand what he's talking about and what's under consideration in terms of expanding efforts against ISIL into Libya?

MR. COOK: Well, as the chairman has discussed, as the Secretary has spoken on numerous occasions, including just last week in our visit to Paris and our meetings with other members of the ISIL coalition, we are extremely worried about the metastasis of ISIL to other locations, Libya being just one of those locations.

We continue to monitor the situation there. Continue to work very closely with our coalition partners, with others in the region who have similar concerns about the situation in Libya. And I think it's fair to say that we are closely monitoring the situation. As Chairman Dunford has indicated, working with those partners and also continuing to have conversations with people on the ground as to exactly what is happening there and the threat that ISIL poses to the United States and others.

Q: Could we see an expansion into Libya that looks something like what's going on in Iraq and Syria? That is to say, more consistent air strikes and even possibly some limited ground actions?

MR. COOK: We've shown in the past a willingness to strike in Libya. We've taken out a key ISIL leader in Libya in the past. But I think Jamie, it's too soon to say at this point exactly where things will evolve. We're taking a very close look at this situation.

Again, it's not just the United States that's involved here, that has a stake in what happens in Libya. We're continuing, of course, through the State Department, to support the effort to -- to forge a government in -- in Libya, and we think that's a critical step in terms of the governance of the country to trying to address the -- the ISIL threat as well. It's not just a military solution here.

But we're going to continue to monitor it, and -- and as Chairman Dunford indicated, we see this threat in ISIL as a serious threat, and we're going to continue to -- to monitor the situation and consider what options we have moving forward.

Q: Chairman Dunford seemed to indicate that those options might be presented to the president in -- I think he said in -- in a matter of weeks. Are -- so we -- are we talking about seeing some significant stepping-up of the operations against Libya in a matter of weeks?

MR. COOK: I think we're going to continue to assess the -- the threat in Libya and respond accordingly, and the chairman and the secretary will continue to have those conversations with the president's national security team and with our partners as well, as we assess the threat in Libya.

Q: Peter?

MR. COOK: Jennifer.

Q: Can you -- can you rule out U.S. boots on the ground going to Libya? Is that (inaudible) discussion?

MR. COOK: You -- you know the situation right now. We've had -- acknowledged that there have been some U.S. forces in Libya trying to establish contact with forces on the ground so that we get a clear picture of what's happening there.

But beyond that, it's -- again, we're going to consider all of our options going forward. Right now, that's not something that's -- that's under consideration.

Q: And can you help me understand -- twice this week, Ash Carter told CNN and CNBC -- gave the impression that U.S. boots on the ground are on their way to Iraq and possibly Syria.

He told CNN, "I just went to Fort Campbell, headquarter of 101st Airborne. They're going to be the next unit going into Iraq -- whole division. This is your mission: to get the Iraqis positioned. Is that hazardous? Boots on the ground -- yeah."

That led to some confusion. Did he mean to say that a division of the 101st was going to Iraq?

MR. COOK: The deployment of the 101st -- it's been scheduled for some time. They're rotating in to replace existing forces on the ground. So hopefully there isn't any confusion there.

Q: It's not a whole division. It's a brigade.

MR. COOK: It's my understanding it's about 1,800 troops that will be moving in. And, as the secretary acknowledged to those troops, they have an important mission to carry out.

It's been planned for some time. It's going to be the same mission that's being conducted right now by the 82nd Airborne, and they have a critical role to play going forward.

And I think the secretary was making the point that those forces, while they're on the ground in Iraq trying to, again, enable Iraqi security forces to move forward, will be at risk -- will be in harm's way. I think that was the point he was trying to make in that conversation.

Q: Is there any change to their mission in terms of -- will they be closer to the front lines? Will they be embedded if the Mosul operation begins? Is there any change to their mission?

MR. COOK: Their mission will be the same as the mission that -- for the forces that they're replacing, and this is, again, an effort to enable those Iraqi security forces, as U.S. trainers were able to do with Iraqi security forces that successfully took back those parts of Ramadi.

We're looking for much the same thing out of these forces, and they -- I can tell you from our travel to Fort Campbell and our conversations with them -- are -- are ready for this mission.

They understand the importance of this mission, and they will play a critical role in enabling those Iraqi security forces as they move towards their next targets, including, ultimately, Mosul.

Q: And I -- can I just shift to China for a moment?

Secretary Kerry is over in China today, and he was quoted in talking about the disputed islands in the South China Sea -- he was quoted saying, "Let me emphasize again: the United States does not take sides on the sovereignty questions underlying the territorial disputes in the South China Sea." That is a very different tone than what we've heard from this building.

Secretary Carter has said that we will continue to fly over the disputed islands. And in fact, there has been a lot more said that suggests that we do actually take sides on this issue. So where -- how do I understand this?

MR. COOK: I think Jennifer, that careful reading of the secretary's comments on this topic, including when we were in the region, he has been very clear -- and I think you can look at his testimony as well. We don't take sides in terms of these disputes. We encourage a diplomatic resolution to these disputes.

But what he's said is that efforts to reclaim these areas and to militarize these disputed islands is counterproductive to the effort to try and get a final resolution. And in the meantime, the United States will continue to be a force for stability in the region.

And we're going to continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows. But we don't take sides in these disputes, whether it's disputes involving China or other players in the region.


Q: Going back to Libya for a second, are there currently U.S. forces on the ground there?

MR. COOK: I'm not going to tell you exactly what the disposition of our forces are there. I can acknowledge that we've had forces on the ground previously as we've indicated, to engage in conversations with local forces to get a clearer picture of exactly what's happening there.

Q: And can you give us a better sense of what that discussion with local forces is? Is that is preparing to organize the kinds of militias we can work with? Is it meeting with political leaders to get a sense of whom supports whom? I mean, it sounds as though it's a very complicated picture with dozens if not hundreds of different kinds of militias. What exactly is the U.S. stance?

MR. COOK: It is a complicated picture and I think you've characterized pretty well what the goal would be and that is to simply get a better sense of who the players are, who might be worthy of U.S. support and support from some of our partners going forward in the fight against ISIL.

It is a complicated picture. And that's why the formation of a government is so central to the future for Libya and to also addressing the issue of ISIL in Libya. And so part of the presence -- the reason for the presence of those troops is to, again, get a sense of the forces on the ground, the players on the ground and exactly what's happening, because it is a muddled picture right now. And we -- that is one of the best ways we can get a better sense of what's happening.

Q: Have they come to any conclusions on the kinds of forces we can work with?

MR. COOK: I think they provided valuable information. And again, there's a big picture here. There are lots of players involved, there are also a lot of foreign partners that we have who are providing us critical information about what's happening in Libya and we'll continue to work closely with them. It's not the only way we're getting information on the ground.

Q: Going back to Jamie's question. I realize that ISIS is a problem in many countries beyond Iraq and Syria, but Libya, as we understand it, is the only place where they are exercising active command and control. And I wonder, given Chairman Dunford's comments, given Secretary Carter's comments, is Libya getting a greater priority, a greater sense of urgency in the anti-ISIL fight than other countries?

MR. COOK: Well, I think we've acknowledged the threat posed by ISIL as it metastasizes and Libya is clearly a place where we've seen movement of ISIL forces, of ISIL members if you will. So clearly, it's a significant concern for us.

I'm not going to say it's more of a concern than other countries at this particular point but we have seen an increase in ISIL members, ISIL-affiliated groups, if you will, in Libya, and that's a cause for concern. And -- and as a result, we're doing everything we can to monitor that situation and work with our partners, trying to get a better fix on what's happening and, again, consider our options going forward.


Q: A domestic question for you. Can you confirm the secretary's going to brief the budget on February 2nd and maybe give us a preview of the preview?

MR. COOK: I can confirm that the secretary will have something to say about the budget on February 2nd, yes. But I can't give you more details than that. And he'll make -- he'll make those comments here in Washington.

So, Barbara?

Q: Can we go back to Libya again?

My -- my memory may be very faulty on this. I recall -- I think it was a couple of months ago -- there was a photo that emerged, that was acknowledged, of some U.S. troops that appeared in Libya, and it was said at the time that they were asked by a local militia to please leave the area, and they did leave. they did not stay.

And I -- I acknowledge my memory maybe faulty -- that is the only instance I recall. Is what you're saying today the first time the Defense Department is now openly acknowledging that U.S. special forces have gone in on the ground in Libya to establish contact with local groups?

Because I don't recall, other than that photo -- and I may -- my memory may be faulty. So is this your first time you're saying this?

MR. COOK: I don't know if it's the first time we've said it as -- as a building, but I would just acknowledge, I think, what we've said previously -- that there have been U.S. personnel there, doing exactly what I described: trying to get a better sense of the picture there.

Q: (off-mic.) I believe, in Tripoli, but you seem to be indicating that it's much more of an enduring mission that just --

MR. COOK: (inaudible) --

Q: -- so help -- help us understand if you could --

MR. COOK: -- this is --

Q: -- what these -- the task and mission of these U.S. special forces is?

MR. COOK: -- there have been U.S. personnel in Libya, as I described --

Q: Military personnel?

MR. COOK: -- at the concurrence of -- of Libyan officials in an effort to try and explore relationships, to get a better sense of what's happening on the ground in Libya.

And, again, we've acknowledged this in the past -- small group, and they're trying to get a clearer picture of what's happening there. And they've made contact with people on the ground to try and get a better sense of not only the threat that ISIL poses there, but the dynamic on the ground in terms of the security situation.

We're looking for partners who can give us a better sense of the security situation, and it's not just the United States, of course, that has a keen interest here, Barbara. It is our foreign partners as well, and likewise, they have been able to provide us a significant amount of information as to what's happening in Libya.

And again, cause for concern for us, and that's why I think you've heard from Chairman Dunford, Secretary Carter -- been very up-front that this is a situation that does cause us concern, and we're considering what our options might be going forward should that threat – ISIL, become an even bigger threat from Libya.

Q: So you -- just to clarify, they are U.S. military personnel? These are not just random government employees? These are U.S. military personnel you're referencing?

MR. COOK: U.S. military personnel.

Q: And you are also acknowledging that you are working on -- you just said "options". So you're -- you're -- you are acknowledging you are indeed, then, working on military options to deal with ISIS in Libya?

MR. COOK: We're taking the appropriate steps, along with our partners, to assess the threat that ISIL may pose in Libya. And obviously, looking at the security situation there, and doing everything we can separately.

Very important, Barbara, the -- the diplomatic side of this -- the formation of a -- of a central government in Libya -- critically important to the future of that country, of course, and to try to stabilize the security situation.

Q: But -- but you said "options," and since you're the Defense Department spokesman, you are talking military --

MR. COOK: We are --

Q: -- I just need to make sure I understood accurately. You're talking -- your podium?

MR. COOK: We are -- yes. We -- we're looking at military options, a range of other options as a government that we can engage in to try and -- as the situation in Libya unfolds, we want to be prepared, as -- as the Department of Defense always wants to be prepared, in the event that ISIL in Libya becomes more of a threat than it is even today.

Q: And can I just follow up, also, on Mosul, if I might? So the secretary is going to have this meeting with the allies to talk about getting increased contributions.

To what -- and -- and I think Colonel Warren referenced -- you know, you're looking, in particular, at Mosul coming down the road, and the need for eight trained Iraqi brigades -- brigades.

So how much of this meeting he is going to have focuses -- and why -- on trying to get the Persian Gulf and the Middle East allies to contribute to get the Iraqi forces ready for a fight to take Mosul? How much of the meeting focuses on that?

MR. COOK: Well, I think the secretary's made clear that he's looking for contributions from as many contributors as possible -- as many countries that are engaged in the campaign -- including those, perhaps, that aren't engaged in the campaign at all right now.

So he doesn't want to single out any particular group here. But he thinks there's plenty of contributions that can be made -- and it's not just, Barbara, in the -- in the training, if you will, of those eight brigades.

There are a whole host of other things that need to be done in the counter-ISIL fight, and what the secretary and his -- and his partners at the table in Paris have -- have said about doing is to -- identifying the key capabilities that are going to be needed, going forward, in the fight against ISIL.

Again, it's not just training forces. It could involve additions to the air campaign. It could involve logistical support. It could involve the training of police. There are a whole host of things that countries could do as part of this effort -- ISR is another example -- where countries could step up and do more.

Q: If -- and not hypothetically, because as you said, many of them are doing nothing. So if that -- of the status quo continues, what is the general range of additional U.S. personnel that are needed for Iraq to be ready for Mosul?

MR. COOK: I think the secretary -- again, we -- this is a coalition. We have 26 nations, plus Iraq, in Brussels. We have seen great contributions from many members of that coalition.

The secretary believes that more can be done -- that more can be offered towards this effort -- that there should be no free riders, in his words. And -- and we'll see what comes out of Brussels.

But this is an ongoing conversation, and I think, at this point, we remain optimistic that there will be additional contributions from foreign partners that will enable this effort to move forward.

In the meantime, the United States is going to continue to do what it's been doing -- and we are the leader of this coalition right now, and contributing the most to it at this point. We're going to continue to do what we're doing to push this --

Q: (off-mic.)

MR. COOK: -- to accelerate this effort along, with the help of our partners.

Q: So how many more U.S. troops are needed?

MR. COOK: I think you know where we are right now.

Q: I don't.

MR. COOK: We're about 3,700 U.S. troops, right now, in Iraq, and that's -- that's the level, right now, that the secretary feels is the appropriate level, and if he feels like he needs to request more, then he's prepared to do that.

It depends on the circumstances, going forward, and if unique capabilities need to be brought into the fight. But this is -- that's where we are right now, and that's part of -- again, that's a calculated assessment of -- of what this campaign needs, at this moment particularly, from the U.S. side.

But if -- the secretary has said, if he sees an opportunity for us to be able to do more, and it requires additional U.S. forces, he's prepared to make that request. But he doesn't have a pending request right now.


Q: Peter, I want to go back to Libya. You said that -- just to make it clear. You said that now the Pentagon is (inaudible) the military options to (inaudible) of ISIS fight inside Libya. Is that correct?

MR. COOK: We are always reviewing our options with regard to Libya and a whole host of other challenges facing the United States.

Q: What about you could clarify the size of the U.S. force, the military personnel who is -- who worked in Libya before or -- what is the status?

MR. COOK: It's a small number of military personnel -- I'm not going to get into the disposition right now of those forces. But we've indicated before there was a small group there to meet the diverse range of groups to get a better sense of what's happening on the ground.

Q: And when you say small group, this isn't --

MR. COOK: I'm going to leave it at that. This is a small group, Joe, I'm going to leave it at that.

Yes, Austin.

Q: Peter, at Fort Campbell in his prepared remarks, the secretary once again knocked Congress for holding up the last $49 million in Syria train and equip funds. Have there been any updates on that in terms of briefings to answer Congress' questions. And at this point, have there been any real world consequences for not having that money?

MR. COOK: Austin, let me take that question to give you a definitive update as to where that -- to my understanding, as at last check, there was still some money being held up if you will, had not been released fully. And I think in terms of real world consequences, the department and the secretary believes that that money could be well used in this effort to take the fight to ISIL, and so we'll continue our efforts to work with Congress to try and free up those funds.

Q: Thank you.

MR. COOK: Yep.


Q: Of course.


Q: Two questions.

MR. COOK: Everyone knows who you are, Gordon, so (inaudible).

Q: (Inaudible) When you were with Secretary Carter in Afghanistan in September, he hinted talking to troops about a longer term mission for troops in Afghanistan, okay. And then we see these reports, or a report today about rethinking the idea of an exit strategy altogether.

Can you respond to this notion that the current plan which will withdraw most of the troops I believe, by the end of the year or whatever it is now, is being rethought. And I have a second question, unrelated which is, the Turks had proposed to Chairman Dunford a kind of a new, teeny program, slightly more limited, for folks inside Syria to be training somewhere and then brought back into Syria.

Has the secretary received any recommendation on that?

MR. COOK: I know that this topic came up previously. The secretary -- I'm not aware of any specific action or review that the secretary has conducted yet that I can share with you at this point. On your first question, there is no change right now to the number of U.S. forces and the current plan in place.

Ninety-eight hundred U.S. troops being reduced down, ultimately to 5,500. The pace of that will be determined by commanders on the ground and there's been no change to that. Obviously, we are going to continue to assess the security situation in Afghanistan.

The secretary is going to continue to listen very carefully to General Campbell on his assessment on what is happening in Afghanistan. But as of now, there's no change in that plan.

Q: And we have several months to go before the end of the year, but is there a point at which a decision would have to be made on not starting to draw down the 9,800 to 5,500?

MR. COOK: Again, this will be determined by commanders on the ground. I think everyone's looked at this situation, understands what -- what that end point is scheduled to be, at this -- at this moment, and is confident that we can get there, if necessary.

And, again, if there needs to be a review -- a reassessment, that will be done with -- in coordination with commanders on the ground, of course. The secretary engaging with the -- with the national security team at the -- at the White House as well.


Q: (inaudible) -- in the nomination for General Nicholson. Is that -- is he being nominated for a fourth star, or is this going to be a three-star command now?

MR. COOK: My understanding, this would be a fourth star.

Q: And there's been a development in South America with this Zika virus that is drawing concern. Last night, the president had a meeting with his health care leadership, and also national security leaders like defense -- Deputy Defense Secretary Work was there.

What is the role that the U.S. military or the Pentagon is being asked to play as part of this health initiative to try to prevent the spread of this disease?

MR. COOK: My understanding is we've been asked -- and, again, the deputy secretary was at the White House yesterday -- we've been asked to support Health and Human Services in their efforts to convene experts and -- and stakeholders, specifically in the research area.

This is an area where the DOD has done some research in the past, and I think some of that expertise will be brought to this effort, and we'll be supporting HHS in whatever way we can.

Q: Is there any consideration to --

MR. COOK: Excuse me.

Q: -- an initiative similar to what happened with Ebola, where the U.S. military played a role in containing that disease in Africa?

MR. COOK: I don't think anyone is talking about that kind of role at this particular time. So this is a support role, again, sharing our research knowledge as -- as much as anything else, with the folks at HHS.

Okay? Jennifer.

Q: Peter, why haven't we heard from the 10 sailors who were held by Iran overnight? If you have any plans to allow them to take questions?

MR. COOK: I'll refer you to the Navy as to exactly what stage they are. My understanding is the reintegration process has been completed, and I'll leave it to the Navy -- I know that the Navy investigation is still ongoing -- as to exactly what took place.

And I think that could be -- a determination could be a factor in exactly their status at this point, and whether or not they might be made available for media interviews.

Q: And does the secretary have any reaction to the CBS report last night on the Wounded Warrior Project and how money has been wasted that was raised to help wounded warriors -- up to $1 billion? Any reaction to that?

MR. COOK: To be honest. Jennifer, I didn't see the report myself. I'm not sure if the -- the secretary did. We'll obviously look into it. The secretary would obviously be concerned about any report of malfeasance in this sort of area.

But we didn't see the report, so let me take a look and find out if -- if the secretary saw it himself.

Okay. All said? Thanks, everyone.
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