In their continuing effort to turn the tragedy in Niger into “Trump’s Benghazi,” the media, as RedState diarist Bonchie put so eloquently in his must-read, first-person account of what it’s like on the ground in Niger, “continue to shame themselves.”
You can add members of Congress to that shame list because some of our capable elected leadership are insisting they knew nothing about the US presence in Niger, despite being sent letters as far back as 2013 apprising them of the situation, being counted as present at associated briefings, and being asked to provide oversight on AFRICOM’s mission in the region.
As Omri Ceren noted on Twitter this morning:
One way for Senators to learn what our military is doing in Africa: show up to the AFRICOM hearings they keep blowing off. https://t.co/MK2sAJTFag
— Omri Ceren (@omriceren) October 23, 2017
And as former Army Special Forces soldier Jim Hanson added in response to Ceren’s tweet:
They could also read Reutershttps://t.co/xm1WNUpODt
— Jim Hanson (@Uncle_Jimbo) October 23, 2017
However, despite reports to the contrary, Senators such as Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania; Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina; John McCain, R-Arizona; and Chuck Schumer, D-New York, among others, insist they were not aware of US involvement in counterterrorist training in Niger.
“I didn’t know there was 1,000 troops in Niger,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, told NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” Sunday. “They are going to brief us next week as to why they were there and what they were doing.”
He continued: “I got a little insight on why they were there and what they were doing. I can say this to the families: They were there to defend America. They were there to help allies. They were there to prevent another platform to attack America and our allies.”
Graham also said during the interview that his longtime friend and colleague in the Senate, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, is frustrated, “rightly so.”
“We don’t know exactly where we’re at in the world, militarily, and what we’re doing. So John McCain is going to try to create a new system to make sure that we can answer the question (about) why we were there,” he said. “We’ll know how many soldiers are there, and if somebody gets killed there, that we won’t find out about it in the paper.”
For his part, McCain seems to be in line with The New York Times (and even the libertarian Cato Institute) in calling for a more cohesive strategy by the US as they continue to train locals around the world to fend off ISIS terrorists for themselves (no word on how this criticism gibes with the anti-neocon, anti-occupying force fervor all of these actors have exhibited in the past).
But, as Sean Davis of The Federalist has pointed out, McCain, Graham, and the rest, WERE informed of US movements in Niger, and the strategy of training locals to fight for themselves:
Poor Congress was left completely in the dark on troop levels in Niger. Two presidents hid that info in letters they sent…to Congress. pic.twitter.com/yBhVTcpiGh
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) October 23, 2017
According to Senate documents, Lindsey Graham was present at the March hearing where the head of AFRICOM said U.S. troops were in Niger. pic.twitter.com/CTU3cG43fG
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) October 23, 2017
This begins to look like either some members of Congress were asleep on the job, or they’re conveniently turning this situation — which looks less like Benghazi and more like a simple consequence of counter terrorism — into a political red herring (perhaps to cover up for the fact that they were asleep on the job?).
And, as is becoming the norm, the mainstream press is right there with them, spinning the same version of the story. When they’re not falsely accusing the White House (presumably both Obama’s and Trump’s) of failing to provide information, they’re apparently mostly focused on the sad story of the widow of one of the young men killed in Niger and her unfortunate interaction with the president.
I mean, just look at this graphic:
That’s a lot of he said/she said about Trump’s handling of a Gold Star widow and not much substance about just exactly what got her husband killed, and whether it was a noble death in the cause of defeating terrorism (it looks at this point, and without evidence to the contrary, like it was).
In summation, I’m not sure if we, as a country, should be more concerned that some of our leadership can’t remember what we’re doing in Africa, despite being repeatedly informed of it; or if it’s more worrisome that they would fabricate a lack of information when they must know how very easy it is to prove otherwise.