During hearings yesterday to reconfirm Gen. Martin Dempsey as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Sen. John McCain pushed Dempsey to find out where he stands on Syria. McCain noted that Dempsey supported arming the Syrian rebels in February and then changed his mind in April. "How do we account for those pirouettes?" McCain asked.
If McCain seems to have been unduly harsh to a military official who does not set White House policy but only implements one aspect of it, it’s worth keeping the larger context in mind. It was just last month the administration embarrassed McCain on the Senate floor when, based on conversations with administration officials who told him the White House had decided to arm the rebels, the senator commended the president for his decision. Only minutes later, McCain was compelled to walk his comments back after another administration official informed him that no such decision had been made.
Given that Dempsey, in supporting arming the rebels and then warning against it, has been part of the administration's bizarre information campaign regarding Syria, he is a perfectly suitable channel through which lawmakers might either try to discover what precisely the administration's policy is, or vent their frustration with a White House that has been anything but transparent. For the fact is that it is not just McCain who is owed an explanation, but also every other American who seeks some clarity from a White House that seems to have intended to deceive the public about its Syria policy.
It was a little more than a month ago that the White House announced that it found Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had indeed used chemical weapons against the opposition. Because Assad had crossed the redline Obama drew last August, the White House announced that it was stepping up its support for the rebels. Did that mean it had decided to send lethal aid to the rebels? In a conference call June 13 with reporters ostensibly rolling out the new policy, White House aide Ben Rhodes proved evasive. “I can’t go through an inventory of the type of assistance that we’re going to provide,” said Rhodes.
“Inventory” was the circumlocution the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications employed to express his refusal to communicate facts. Reporters pressed him repeatedly to find out what exactly the administration was going to send the rebels: Was it just more non-lethal military aid, like night-vision goggles and vehicles, or was it arms and ammunition? “I’m not going to be able to inventory the types of support that we’re going to provide,” Rhodes responded to another request for details. In other words, the purpose of the press conference was merely to lend the appearance that the administration was pushing ahead to arm the rebels. See, Obama was making good on his redline. The president doesn’t bluff.
Later that week when Obama appeared on the Charlie Rose Show and the talk-show host pushed the commander in chief for details, Obama said, “I’ve said I’m ramping up support for both the political and military opposition. I’ve not specified exactly what we’re doing, and I won’t do so on this show.”
Details came through leaks to the press. As I catalogued last month, the New York Times reported that the White House will “begin supplying the rebels for the first time with small arms and ammunition, according to American officials.” USA Today concurred, quoting an unnamed official “knowledgeable about the plans” who “confirmed to USA TODAY that the new assistance would include arming the rebels.” The Wall Street Journal wrote that “Obama issued a “classified order directing the Central Intelligence Agency to coordinate arming the rebels in concert with its allies.”
The White House left Ambassador Chris Stevens, Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods, and Sean Smith on their own on September 11 in Benghazi. That is the upshot of today’s Capitol Hill hearing featuring Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey.
Neither the secretary of defense nor the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke to the secretary of state during the 8-hour attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012. At a Thursday hearing in the Senate, Republican Ted Cruz asked both Leon Panetta and Martin Dempsey, "In between 9:42 p.m., Benghazi time, when the first attacks started, and 5:15 am, when Mr. Doherty and Mr. Woods lost their lives, what converations did either of you have with Secretary Clinton?"
"We did not have any conversations with Secretary Clinton," Panetta responded.
General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appeared to be unaware that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified that she did not see a cable from Ambassador Christopher Stevens in August of 2012 in which the late ambassador warned the consulate in Benghazi was not safe from attack. Republican senator Lindsey Graham asked Dempsey about Clinton's testimony.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted in a Senate hearing Thursday that no military assets, individual soldiers or aircraft, sent in response to the September 11, 2012, attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Watch the video below:
Earlier this week we wrote that the chairman of the Joints of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, had “provoked a public confrontation” with House Budget Committee leader Rep. Paul Ryan. It appeared that Dempsey had made a grievous error by claiming that Ryan had “called [the JCS], collectively, liars.”
In an interview on CNN, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated that “we are of the opinion that Iran is a rational actor,” from which he derived his conclusion that “we also know, or we believe we know, that Iran has not decided to make a nuclear weapon.”
NBC reports: "Iran would take pre-emptive action against its enemies if it felt its national interests were endangered, the deputy head of the Islamic Republic's armed forces was quoted by a semi-official news agency as saying Tuesday. . . .
At a House Armed Services Committee yesterday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey warned against making further reductions to future defense spending, telling lawmakers that further cuts will “truly devastate our national defense.”
“Extraordinarily difficult and very high risk.” That’s how General Martin Dempsey, the Army’s chief of staff and Obama’s pick to chair the Joint Chiefs of Staff, bluntly described proposals by the president and certain lawmakers to cut national security spending by anywhere from $400 billion to $1 trillion or more over the next decade.
President Barack Obama named nominees of new military brass today, on Memorial Day, for the positions of chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, vice chair of the Joint Chiefs, and chief of staff of the Army. USA Today reports: