Ya know, I am old enough to remember the Watergate-era question, “what did the President know, and when did he know it?” (I was a little kid at the time, so I didn’t understand the whole context of the question, but I do remember hearing it over and over on the evening news back when there were only four networks if you count PBS, and we got our TV from an antenna on the roof).
It seems that question has been answered for a different President, and a different issue. President Obama credibly knew that the al-Qaeda spinoff ISIS was a problem as early as 2012, according to testimony before Congress:
In congressional testimony as far back as November, U.S. diplomats and intelligence officials made clear that the United States had been closely tracking the al Qaida spinoff since 2012, when it enlarged its operations from Iraq to civil war-torn Syria, seized an oil-rich province there and signed up thousands of foreign fighters who’d infiltrated Syria through NATO ally Turkey.
The testimony, which received little news media attention at the time, also showed that Obama administration officials were well aware of the group’s declared intention to turn its Syrian sanctuary into a springboard from which it would send men and materiel back into Iraq and unleash waves of suicide bombings there. And they knew that the Iraqi security forces couldn’t handle it.
In other words, the intelligence community did its job, investigated ISIS, determined it was a threat, and notified the civilian overseers. And what did those overseers, namely, the Obama White House do? Nothing. They even knew about the ISIS advance on Mosul — which pushed ISIS into the news headlines for the first time — in plenty of time to airlift soldiers in to help defend Mosul. Despite having ample time to reinforce Mosul, they refused to.
In fresh testimony before Congress this week, [Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett] McGurk revealed that the administration knew three days in advance that the attack on Mosul was coming. He acknowledged that the Islamic State is no longer just a regional terrorist organization but a “full-blown” army that now controls nearly 50 percent of Iraq and more than one-third of Syria. Its fighters have turned back some of the best-trained Iraqi units trying to retake key cities, while in Syria, it’s seized nearly all that country’s oil and natural gas fields and is pushing the Syrian military from its last outposts in the country’s east.
The US could easily have had boots on the ground in Mosul within 24 hours via airlift from bases in Europe. Resupply and logistics would have taken a bit longer, admittedly, but even the news that the US was sending troops might have convinced ISIS that attacking Mosul was a bad idea. Yet Obama did nothing except perhaps play a round of golf.
I believe he wanted Mosul to fall. Obama has long been a critic of American actions in Iraq, and he wants — yes, actively wants — it to fail. He wants that result for the most petty of reasons: to show that Bush was wrong and he was right. That’s the sort of motive you find on grade school playgrounds and in cheap mysteries. Obama is willing to let human beings die in order to prove a political opponent’s foreign policy wrong.
Many people think another part of the reason for Obama’s hands-off approach to the Middle East is because he’s a Muslim. I honestly don’t think that’s the case. In order to be a Muslim — or a Christian, for that matter — one must believe that there is a Being greater than one’s self. Obama evinces absolutely no belief in anything greater than Obama.
With that said, however, Islamism as a political force does have much that would seem to appeal to Obama. It is, after all, highly totalitarian, something Obama has shown a fondness for through the years of his
reign presidency. From “I Won” to siccing the IRS on conservative groups to regulating the health insurance industry to death, he’s shown that he has the soul of a dictator. Thus, he likes seeing dictators win, and ISIS appears to be a highly dictatorial group. Therefore, even without the common bond of Islam, Obama wants ISIS to win.
And that’s why he didn’t reinforce Mosul despite having intelligence about where they were going to strike.