You remember that moment. The first time you hold your baby in your arms. You pick up the little darling, gaze into his or her eyes, and say, “Someday you can help provide close air support for the Yazidis fleeing ISIS on Mount Sinjar.”
Who among us knew that there was a monotheistic religious group in Iraq that believed the Creator had entrusted the planet to seven angels, chief among them the Peacock Angel, not to be confused, as some of their detractors have alleged, with the fallen Angel Satan of Biblical fame.
Well, there is. And now the president of the United States, if his own words are to be believed, is hell bent on protecting the Yazidi religious minority from what Obama labels as genocide at the hands of the undeniably terroristic Islamic State of Syria. Don’t believe it.
The Yazidi may well be imperiled, but it is hardly the case that Obama initiated bombing raids over Iraq merely to save the followers of the Peacock Angel. According to an Aug. 8 New York Times story the president and his advisers, as they contemplated what to do about Iraq, had one eye on Mount Sinjar, one eye on Capitol Hill and their third eye (policy makers have to have at least three eyes) looking in the rearview mirror at Benghazi.
Benghazi? Why should a 2012 attack on a consular office in Libya play a prominent role in decisions about how to respond to a 2014 offensive by ISIS across central and northern Iraq? Because the state of our domestic politics has become so frenetic that anyone with a cause and a camera can hijack a debate over even important matters such as genocide and regional security.
To be fair to Obama, there was an outside chance that if the Sunni militants made their way through Peshmerga lines they might have put a U.S. consular office in jeopardy. But if that were the concern, there still was time to evacuate the Erbil consular office ahead of the ISIS advance.
To be fair to the president’s critics, the events leading up to the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others on Sept. 11, 2012, and the aftermath deserved serious scrutiny. But there have been at least eight investigations of Benghazi. Still House Republicans insist on launching yet another, and the GOP-led House Select Committee on Benghazi can’t wait until Congress comes back into session to once again relive the Benghazi affair.
This in spite of a report from the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee that found no sign of a conspiracy, neglect or intelligence failures. Nonetheless, Fox News talking head Jeanine Pirro, the teleprompter-challenged former Westchester County DA whom New York voters had the good sense to reject when she ran for attorney general after her campaign to defeat Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton imploded, insists that Obama’s “dereliction of duty” is grounds for his impeachment. Since we forced President Richard Nixon from office for abuse of power in covering up a burglary and impeached President Bill Clinton for lying about a blowjob, she argues, why shouldn’t we impeach Obama for “not protecting and defending Americans in the bloodbath known as Benghazi?” Yes, the bloodbath.
The problem is that the conspiracy theorists have tried time and time again to prove this assertion, to no avail. The latest Benghazi report, released by the House Intelligence Committee and approved by a unanimous and bi-partisan vote, took nearly two years to study the matter, and concluded:
“This report shows that there was no intelligence failure surrounding the Benghazi attacks. … Our investigation found the intelligence community warned about an increased threat environment, but did not have specific tactical warning of an attack before it happened … which is consistent with testimony that the attacks appeared to be opportunistic.”
And in debating long-discredited conspiracies, we take our eye off the one lesson from the Benghazi tragedy that might have relevance to the decision regarding the Yazidis. From the Times’ study and the committee report comes this frightening fact: The group that attacked our consulate in Benghazi was not al-Qaida, but rather a militia group that the U.S. had aided with air strikes to prevent their slaughter by Muammar Gaddafi troops. You can’t use that conclusion to point fingers, but it is enough to make you think twice when we hear a president once again talking about surgical strikes in pursuit of humanitarian goals.
The local response to the Yazidi crisis
For the record, Congressional candidate John Katko had this to say about the airstrikes in Iraq:
“I support the President’s authorization of targeted air strikes in Iraq. They were effective in helping to prevent a very real genocide crisis within Iraq’s Yazidi minority, but by no means should we put boots on the ground without a strategy to implement and counter the threat of ISIS encroachment.
“Still, these strikes did not resolve the ongoing problems in that part of the world. While this President did not first engage the United States in Iraq, he’s had six years to effectively address the situation and develop a multilateral plan.
“What are our daily surveillance flights showing? What do current movements and mobilizations of these Islamic radical terrorists suggest? What is the United States’ future game plan as this crisis continues to boil?
“As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Mr. Maffei ought to be more vocal about the situation in Iraq and about the President’s lack of a coordinated plan. Dan Maffei’s silence is simply irresponsible, especially as a member of Armed Services.”
Dan Maffei did not return a request for comment.