Barack Obama wants us all to simmer down about Iran. He wants Senator Bob Menendez, a fellow Democrat, and the donors he represents to butt out of the sanctions debate. He wants Republicans to quit crying wolf about Iran’s nuclear weapons program. He wants the media to stop hyping terror threats. He wants the American people in the dark about the secret correspondence he’s had for years with Iran’s supreme leader. He wants John Boehner to be mindful of protocol. And most of all, he wants Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop questioning his accommodationist approach to Tehran.
With the breezy confidence that is his trademark, the president has repeatedly delivered a reassuring message on Iran to the country and the world: Trust me.
With respect, Mr. President: No.
From the earliest moments of his first term, Obama sought to convince the country that threats from our erstwhile enemies were overblown. He forged an approach to jihadist attacks and rogue regimes meant to be a stark contrast from that of his predecessor. He ended the war on terror, quietly sought rapprochement with radical Islamist movements like the Muslim Brotherhood and the Taliban, and ostentatiously undertook a more conciliatory approach to terror-sponsoring regimes like Syria and Iran.
Notwithstanding periodic drone strikes on bad guys, Obama has demonstrated repeatedly that his instinct is to ignore, dismiss, or downplay threats to the United States and its interests and allies. The record over six years is a long list of mistaken judgments, awkward euphemisms, and false assurances.
So when Nidal Hasan opened fire at Fort Hood it wasn’t a terrorist attack but “workplace violence.” And when Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight over Detroit, he was an “isolated extremist.” And when Faisal Shahzad attempted to detonate an SUV in Times Square five months later, it was a “one-off” attack. And when jihadists attacked the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, it was a simple protest gone awry.
The problem in each of these instances wasn’t just that the descriptions were incorrect. It’s that the administration knew they were wrong and made the false claims anyway.
Numerous eyewitnesses reported that Hasan shouted “Allahu Akbar” as he shot. According to court documents in the case of the Christmas Day bomber, Abdulmutallab confessed that he’d been trained and dispatched by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula a full three days before Obama publicly labeled him an isolated extremist. The administration was aware that the Pakistani Taliban had claimed responsibility for Shahzad even before he attempted his bombing. And top intelligence officials on the ground in Libya repeatedly reported that al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists participated in the attacks and that there was no demonstration.
In the year before the 2012 presidential election, the Obama administration and campaign officials routinely claimed that al Qaeda was “on the run” or “on the path to defeat” or “decimated.” But top analysts at the Defense Intelligence Agency were regularly providing Obama detailed assessments showing that the opposite was true. “When asked if the terrorists were on the run, we couldn’t respond with any answer but ‘no,’ ’’ said Lieutenant General Mike Flynn, former director of the DIA, after he was forced out of his job a year early. “When asked if the terrorists were defeated, we had to say ‘no.’ Anyone who answers ‘yes’ to either of those questions either doesn’t know what they are talking about, they are misinformed, or they are flat-out lying.”
Or all three. There’s little question that the administration misrepresented what it knew about our jihadist enemies. It’s equally clear that the administration chose to set aside information that contradicted its campaign narrative.
The U.S. government captured more than one million documents during the May 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Top administration officials initially described it as “a treasure trove” of intelligence on al Qaeda and its affiliates. But more than three years later, the senior DIA official who ran the project, Colonel Derek Harvey, says the intelligence community has fully analyzed less than 10 percent of the collection. Top DIA officials were told directly to stop providing analyses based on the bin Laden documents. The administration had decided to end the war on terror, and no amount of new intelligence about threats from al Qaeda was going to change their minds. So they chose ignorance.