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Muslim Extremism & Other Serious Problems Facing President Obama; Australia’s Anti-Terrorist Policies

The Obama Administration has slipped further underwater with the release, apparently a forced reaction, by the Administration of emails exchanged by agencies required to make deletions from CIA talking points on the Benghazi situation. The result? The release shows deletions occurred wherever “Islamic extremists”, “ties with al Qaeda” and “attack” appeared in the CIA’s first edition. The emails ran to no less than 100 pages and the White House seems to have instigated the sanitisation and participated in the re-drafting. They also reveal that claims were subsequently incorrectly made by the W House that the State Department (Hillary Clinton’s department) had only altered one word in the drafts: it is now clear the department was heavily involved.

The Australian of 17 May published some details about the talking points exercise (see attached). Most important is that the version which emerged from the exchanges was declared virtually useless by the then head of the CIA (Petraeus). That the head of the CIA chose not to complain directly to the President suggests Obama had already decided what should be in the talking points.

Another problem facing Obama is what seems like a reluctant resignation by the head of the IRS (in Australian terms, the Tax Office). This too was covered in The Australian and I have also accessed a Wall St Journal article (16 May) which argues Obama’s election campaigning in 2012 set the scene for the “targeting” by the IRS of organisations and individuals involved in fund raising for the Tea Party and similar conservative bodies in the lead up to that election (a tax exemption exists for “genuine” fund raising organisations). Republications are claiming more than usual investigations of funding bodies. Also, according to the WSJ article in April 2012 the Obama campaign website named eight major donors to Romney and variously described them as "wealthy individuals", having a "less-than-reputable record", and having been "on the wrong side of the law." Soon after being named one donor was subjected to a tax audit (his first ever) but no fine or penalty resulted. Similar actions were taken against others named during the election campaign.

It only became public a week or so ago that the IRS had been targeting such individuals. Yet the Washington Post reports efforts to target the conservative groups reached the highest levels of the agency by May 2012—far earlier than the agency acknowledged. Reuters has reported that high-level IRS officials, including its chief counsel, knew in August 2011 about the targeting. But once it became public knowledge Obama denied any involvement or knowledge about what had been happening and publicly condemned any such action by an agency for which he is responsible.

Although there appears to be no direct connection between the Benghazi and IRS affairs, parallels are being drawn between the present situation under Obama and the dirty tricks played by Nixon on opponents that led to his resignation. The journalist who exposed those dirty tricks – Bob Woodward – has stated that he sees similarities, adding that “I would not dismiss Benghazi. It’s a very serious issue”. Credible analysts suggest Congress is likely to continue inquiries of one kind or another on both the bombings and the IRS actions. 

As to US policy on terrorism respected analyst at Hoover, Victor Davis Hanson, offers a perceptive picture of what has gone badly wrong with US policy on terrorism. Hanson argues that “in general, since 2009, the United States has officially believed that much of the cause of Islamic violence lies in American history, American policies and attitudes, and American jurisprudence and military operations — all correctable, if not always in deed, at least in loud word. The therapeutic Obama believes that if Islamists just knew the “real” America, they would desist; most sober critics object that they know us all too well and hate us all the more for such intimacy”.

Pertinent here is the latest Pew Research Forum report, “The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society,” released April 30, 2013. This shows that over 70 per cent of Muslims in Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt and Nigeria support making Sharia the official state law of their respective societies. But to what extent are Americans (and Australians for that matter) aware of the extent of Muslim support for such extremist situations?  The Administration’s attempts to dismiss any influence of Muslim extremism in the bombings seem so far to have been fairly widely accepted by Americans. This is illustrated in a US Public Policy poll published on 13 May (ie after the inquiry involving the whistleblowers) showing that voters trust Hillary Clinton over Congressional Republicans on the issue of Benghazi by a 49/39 margin and Clinton's +8 net favourability rating at 52/44 was identical to what it was on the previous national PP poll in late March. Even so, there is a large proportion of sceptics and non-believers.

It would be a stretch to claim that what Hanson calls the therapeutic approach taken by Obama is also being reflected in Australia’s anti-terrorist policies. Yet as I have previously mentioned Gillard has recently downgraded Australia’s risk from terrorist action, Australians travelling are told the danger is “medium”, and no action has been taken to outlaw the al Qaeda group with whom some Australians are fighting in Syria.

It has also emerged that two reports tabled in Parliament on 14 May which recommend a sweeping rollback of counter-terrorism laws have not been rejected by either Attorney General Dreyfus or Coalition Shadow Attorney Brandis. The recommendations include scrapping preventative detention, reducing or abolishing the penalties for various terrorist offences and changing the control order regime to allow greater leeway in challenging them. Dreyfus is reported as saying "we have to keep thinking about whether or not we've got the balance right"... whether or not we are adequately protecting rights and freedoms, whether the provisions that we have are needed and that's the purpose of these two reports." Anyone concerned about the potential risks from extremist Muslims here in Australia would know “the balance” does not need loosening

Finally, I need to correct a statement made in my last message which claimed that the body of the US Ambassador at Benghazi was dragged through the streets of Benghazi: in fact he was just murdered. I should add, however, that new reportage of the inquiry which heard evidence from the three whistleblowers has revealed that the consulate’s Libyan guards included persons who were known to be jihadists. The experienced US diplomat told the inquiry that “elements of that militia were complicit in the attacks. The attackers had to make a long approach march through multiple checkpoints that were manned by February 17 militia”. The latter’s full name is the February 17 Martyrs Brigade. It seems astonishing that, in the existing circumstances, a consulate had few American security guards and was apparently refused more. 

Des Moore
18-19 May 2013

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