Is John Brennan Confessing His (Petraeus’) Covert Ops in Syria Backfired?

Both Michah Zenko and Jon Schwarz noted John Brennan making a remarkable admission on Face the Nation back on May 31: that sometimes US involvement in events exacerbates things.

But both seem to interpret Brennan’s comment as a general comment on US’s big foot stepping in shit around the world (my description, not theirs). Zenko reads this as “an unprecedented recognition by a senior official about how U.S. counterterrorism activities can increase direct threats to the United States and its ‘national security interests.'” And Schwarz interprets Brennan to be “acknowledg[ing] that U.S. foreign policy might sometimes cause terrorism.”

It may well be such a generalized admission.

But I wonder whether it’s not something more: a specific admission that the US fostered the rise of ISIS with its covert role in Syria in 2012 — a topic that has discussed of late because of documents released via a Judicial Watch FOIA on briefings to Congress about Benghazi (here’s the post I did on the documents).

Here’s the full exchange between Bob Schieffer and Brennan.

SCHIEFFER: Another question I asked Jeb Bush, some of the critics of this administration and some of them are within the government. The ones in the government are not saying these things publicly but saying that the president seems to be just trying to buy time here, that he’s not ready to make a full commitment here in this war on terrorism and basically is just trying to keep things together well enough that he can leave it to the next president to resolve it.

Do you see that?

BRENNAN: I don’t see anything like that. I’ve been involved in this administration in different capacities for the last six and a half years and there has been a full court effort to try to keep this country safe.

Dealing with some of these problems in the Middle East, whether you’re talking about Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, others, these are some of the most complex and complicated issues that I’ve seen in my 35 years, working on national security issues. So there are no easy solutions.

I think the president has tried to make sure that we’re able to push the envelope when we can to protect this country. But we have to recognize that sometimes our engagement and direct involvement will stimulate and spur additional threats to our national security interests.

Brennan’s response comes — as Schieffer made clear — after Schieffer had already posed the question to Jeb!, and in that context, it specifically addressed ISIS.

SCHIEFFER: Some of the administration’s critics, even some people in the Pentagon, are saying privately that the administration is sort of just buying time and is trying to leave this for the next president to deal with.

BUSH: It looks that way, because you don’t have a clear strategy.

And I think the strategy is both military, as well as political. We need to make sure that Iraq is stable for the region and to create — narrowing the influence of ISIS not just in Iraq, but in Syria. So, it doesn’t appear that they have a strategy.

Then they put — every time that they talk about a strategy, they put conditions on that strategy to make it harder to actually implement it. So, I think the first thing you need to do is take advice of military leaders that know a lot about this than folks in the White House. Take their input. Create a strategy. Express what the strategy is.

And the strategy ought to be take out ISIS in coordinated way and do it over the long haul. This is not something that is going to happen overnight.

And while Brennan mentions two other places — Yemen and Iran — that may not (but they actually might!) be part of the covert operations in which CIA tried to arm “moderates” to oppose Syria but instead helped their buddies energize ISIS, the others were all part of the plan to deal Libyan weapons to the “moderate” liver-eaters in Syria.

The administration is still carefully protecting the details about what they did in Syria in 2012, even from Congress. But they have, in fact, been doing a lot in the Middle East, only most of it has been making things worse.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

7 replies
  1. wallace says:

    quote”But they have, in fact, been doing a lot in the Middle East, only most of it has been making things worse.”unquote

    HAHAHAHAHAHA..HOHOHOOHOHOHOHO ..BWAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

    making things worse. HOHOHOOHOHOHOHO..BWAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

    thanks for spiting in the face of these contemptuous fuckface psychopaths emptywheel. I really needed a laugh.

  2. wallace says:

    quote”The administration is still carefully protecting the details about what they did in Syria in 2012, even from Congress.”unquote

    Of course they did and still are. If anything, should a power arise that could prove in the international court of public opinion and a power more powerful than the legal imperialism dejor of the planet, they would be hung by their necks until dead. THAT is exactly what they are afraid of.

  3. wallace says:

    The entire “national security” bed of psychopathy has now led the human race over the edge of the abyss like a lemmings. What a waste of human energy and love. may god forgive these scum.

  4. Les says:

    It only looks that way. What if one of their objectives is to destabilize governments so as to force them to accept US military bases? The insurgencies in Iraq appear to have been planned far back in 2011 before the US SOFA with Baghdad had ended. There was a plan called “Breaking the Walls” to free all the Sunni insurgents from Iraq’s prison camps. It seems implausible without outside help (US Special Forces?) that the Sunnis or ‘Al Qaeda’ would have had enough firepower to break out 500-1000 prisoners at each prison. There were also the former military leaders of the Saddam Hussein regime who have been key figures in the Iraq insurgency since 2012. At least some of them were living in Qatar which hosts the main US Special Forces base in the region.

  5. Ronald says:

    Marcie said it right out in her title: US operations and policy “backfired,” in that it unintentionally resulted in supporting ISIS which is now supposedly a threat to US interests.
    I say supposedly because there are interests and there are interests.
    US policymakers — those promoting war, destruction and general turmoil in the Middle East, South Asia, East and Central Africa, and everywhere else have gotten a great boost from ISIS.
    Few would debate that.
    The only question seems to be whether they intended the rise of ISIS, or ISIS emerged out of mistaken US policy and calculations..
    Did Cheney intend or do anything to promote the “war on terror?”
    911 anyone?

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