The man who once spearheaded congressional efforts to strengthen American intelligence is hammering former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her description of the U.S. mission in Libya at the recent Democratic debate and blames both Clinton and President Obama for unnecessarily turning a reluctant ally into a hotbed for jihadism.
Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., chaired the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence during his time in Congress. He is now a senior fellow at the Investigative Project on Terrorism and the author of “Architects of Disaster: The Destruction of Libya.”
During the first Democratic presidential debate on Oct. 13, Clinton vigorously defended the Obama administration’s decision to intervene in Libya and ultimately force the overthrow and killing of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
“Our response, which I think was smart power at its best, is that the United States will not lead this. We will provide essential, unique capabilities that we have, but the Europeans and the Arabs had to be first over the line. We did not put one single American soldier on the ground in Libya,” said Clinton at the debate.
Hoekstra was stunned.
“If this is smart power, I’d hate to see what dumb power would be,” he said, slamming Clinton for touting America as a follower instead of a leader.
“She’s passing the buck and saying, ‘We didn’t lead.’ If we’re going to use our resources, whether they are men and women in the military or whether it is the Air Force where we don’t put a boot on the ground but were fully involved, I’m sorry. I want us to lead. I’m not willing to turn over our military over to what the Europeans want, what the Arab countries want or what the U.N. wants,” Hoekstra said.
Even more stunning to Hoekstra than America’s subordinate role in the Libya campaign is that America picked the wrong side. He said despite Gadhafi’s horrific past of sponsoring terrorist attacks that killed scores of Americans, by 2011 the dictator was providing far more help than harm to the U.S.
“For eight years, Moammar Gadhafi and Libya did everything the United States asked them to do in terms of their nuclear weapons program, in terms of paying reparations to the victims of their past terrorist activities. They were partners in fighting jihadists and al-Qaida, not only in northern Africa but in other parts of the world,” said Hoekstra, who says he met with Libyan leaders, including Gadhafi, three times between 2003-2009.
“He was still a bad and evil man, but he was working with us to secure our national interests,” he said.
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich.:
Instead of relishing that cooperation, Hoekstra said Clinton and Obama threw it away.
“In this case, the president and the secretary of state snatched defeat from the jaws of victory,” Hoekstra said.
The Obama administration’s case for intervention morphed from the immediate need to prevent a genocide in Benghazi to eventually demanding Gadhafi’s ouster. Hoekstra not only says the mission creep was unacceptable but asserts the dire predictions of Gadhafi being on the brink of slaughtering rebels was a major exaggeration.
“In hindsight, there’s all kinds of evidence that was not even anywhere close to what was going to be happening in Libya. Throughout the process, Gadhafi and his sons wanted to negotiate a settlement and a peace agreement, and Hillary and the Europeans said no. They just wanted to get rid of Gadhafi,” Hoekstra said.
In the debate, Clinton said Libya was on the path to democracy until outside factors intervened.
“They voted for moderates,” she said. ” They voted with the hope of democracy. Because of the Arab Spring, because of a lot of other things, there was turmoil to follow.”
Again, Hoekstra is baffled by Clinton’s interpretation of events.
“Chaos followed? No, disaster followed,” he said. “Sure, they had an election, but the jihadists were well enough organized that this new government never effectively took control of the country. Europe, America, we walked away. Read the papers every day. It is a state of chaos. It is an ungoverned region.”
But worst of all, Hoekstra said Libya is a mess because the U.S. teamed up with some of the most radical Islamist elements on earth.
“In Libya, we allied ourselves with jihadists who had American blood on their hands,” Hoekstra said. “They recruited and they fought in Afghanistan and Iraq and we allied with them.”
Hoekstra fears America may soon learn that the weapons used by jihadis in Libya and elsewhere came from NATO and then they took them to the Middle East under the pretense of ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He said these radical elements the Obama administration trusted in Libya are now perpetrating the worst horrors seen in generations.
“They never got rid of Assad,” he said. “What they did is they morphed into what today we call ISIS, which is operating a genocide against Christians in Syria and Iraq and now holds large geographic parts of both of those countries.”
More than a year after Gadhafi was killed, terrorists attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012. Ambassador Chris Stevens was murdered along with Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.
In the Democratic Party debate, Clinton suggested the death of Stevens came with the job of serving in a volatile part of the world.
“Unless you believe the United States should not send diplomats to any place that is dangerous, which I do not, then when we send them forth; there is always the potential for danger and risk,” Clinton said.
Hoekstra said any educated assessment of the unrest in Benghazi should have prevented the U.S. ambassador from being there without a major security upgrade.
“That’s not a place for an American ambassador to go unless he’s got an enhanced security detail traveling with him,” Hoekstra said. “He was sent anyway. He was sent to a facility where they’d been cutting back on security. The real question we’re going to have to find out is: Why was he there, and why were we allowing jihadists to actually provide security for the facility where he was staying?”
While Hoekstra said Clinton still owes Americans a lot of critical information, he argued one fact about the entire Libya operation remains the most chilling.
“President Obama and Hillary Clinton, for the first time in American history, made the decision that you could work with, you could manage and you could trust radical jihadist groups,” he said. “That is a huge mistake. These people want to attack. They want to destroy, and they want to eliminate the American way of life. This president and this secretary of state thought that these were groups that we could work with.”