NEW YORK – As the allied bombing of Libya began in 2011, the Obama administration rejected an offer by Moammar Gadhafi to engage in negotiations to abdicate, according to a retired U.S. Navy officer who says he was prepared to broker the deal.
Instead, the U.S. decided to provide weapons to "rebels" consisting of al-Qaida-related local Libyan militia and members of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood, contends retired Rear Adm. Chuck Kubic.
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Kubic began email and telephone contact March 21, 2011, between Tripoli and AFRICOM in Stuttgart, Germany, to broker an offer by Gadhafi to engage in talks with the U.S. under a white flag of truce, according to testimony he provided the Citizens' Commission on Benghazi.
As WND reported Monday, the commission – comprised of 17 retired admirals and generals; former intelligence agents; active anti-terrorist experts; media specialists; and former congressmen – has been conducting its own investigation and working behind the scenes for the past year and a half to ensure Congress uncovers the truth of what happened in Benghazi and holds people accountable.
WND reported Tuesday the commission found in an interim report that the Obama White House and the State Department under the management of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “changed sides in the war on terror” in 2011 by implementing a policy of facilitating the delivery of weapons to the al-Qaida-dominated rebel militias in Libya attempting to oust Gadhafi.
The commission's April 2014 interim report said the war in Libya continued "and ultimately cost tens of thousands of lives."
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"The U.S. failure to even consider Gadhafi's request for talks, and its determination to enter and pursue this war in support of al-Qaida-linked rebels, presents the appearance of a policy intent upon empowering Islamic forces with no measurable benefit to U.S. national security," the report said.
The commission was organized in 2013 by Accuracy in Media Editor Roger Aronoff along with three retired military officers: Navy Adm. James Lyons, Army Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely and Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney.
Their interim report said Gadhafi "expressed his willingness to abdicate shortly after the beginning of the 2011 Libyan revolt, but the U.S. ignored his calls for a truce, which led to extensive loss of life (including four Americans), chaos, and detrimental outcomes for U.S. national security objectives across the region."
In the following days, the report said, Gadhafi "expressed interest in a truce, and possible abdication and exile out of Libya."
"He even pulled his forces back from several Libyan cities as a sign of good faith."
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The report detailed the precise chain of communications with the U.S. government regarding the possibility Gadhafi would abdicate and obviate the need for the U.S. to join with NATO to back the al-Qaida-affiliated militia seeking to depose the dictator.
Kubic, according to the report, telephoned Lt. Col. Brian Linvill, the U.S. AFRICOM point of contact for all military matters regarding the Libyan situation, to "advise him of Gadhafi's desire to enter into military-to-military discussions."
Gen. Carter Ham was advised immediately on March 21, 2011, of the communications and conveyed them up his chain of command to the Pentagon.
The Obama administration, however, expressed no apparent interest in pursuing the possibility Gadhafi might step down from power in Libya, the report said.
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After two days of communication with the Libyans, however, Ham had received no consent from Washington to pursue Gadhafi's offer.
The consequences of rejecting Gadhafi's offer to step down were dire, the interim report detailed, leading to the Obama administration "changing sides" in Libya to support and help arm the al-Qaida-related Islamic militia and Libyan Muslim Brotherhood members planning to launch a violent rebellion to oust Gadhafi.
"About the time the bombing of Libya by U.S. and European forces under NATO started around March 19, 2011, I became aware through intermediaries that Gadhafi was ready to step aside and go into exile," Kubic explained to WND in an exclusive interview. "I was talking through intermediaries to Gadhafi's top military commanders and the command center at Stuttgart, but I never spoke directly with General Ham."
Kubic explained he was trying to facilitate a 72-hour truce to conduct discussions between opposing battlefield commanders, Ham for AFRICOM and Gen. Abubaker Saad for the Libyans.
"I was concerned there were too many politicians and diplomats involved, but Gadhafi trusted his generals, and I thought that from a military perspective pursuant to the laws of war this would be the best way to do it," Kubic continued.
Kubic explained what he was trying to achieve.
"This resonated with AFRICOM, so we drafted up proposal and there were phone calls between Tripoli and Stuttgartt," he said.
"Under the 72-hour truce, the military commanders from both sides would meet either ashore at Tripoli or afloat, and there would be observers from the African Union to police the truce. The goal was to negotiate a cease-fire, and the purpose was to get Gadhafi's abdication and his subsequent either internal or external exile.
Kubic said that as an expression of good faith, AFRICOM asked Gadhafi to pull back at Benghazi, "and AFRICOM was able to observe Gadhafi complying and pulling back."
Kubic noted that part of the initial agreement was for Ham to make a public statement that the U.S. was not targeting Gadhafi.
The condition was partially met in a Department of Defense news briefing held by Vice Admiral Gortney in Washington on behalf of AFRICOM on March 20, 2011.
Gortney said he could "guarantee" that Gadhafi was not on a target list for the U.S. joint operation with European forces under NATO in Operation Odyssey Dawn, the U.S. military code name for the U.S. military involvement in Libya.
Then, also on March 21, 2011, in a televised news briefing from Germany, Ham, in response to reporters' questions, stressed the U.S. military was not targeting Gadhafi.
"Everything seemed to be set and there was a lot of enthusiasm that we could stop this crisis in Libya before it got out of hand," he continued.
Gadhafi had two conditions, Kubic explained.
"He wanted to ensure that there was a residual military force left in Libya to oppose the al-Qaida forces he knew were operating in Libya, and he wanted safe passage for his family and friends," he said.
"The Libyan military, as part of the discussions, wanted to leave one or two of Gadhafi's top generals who would continue to command the military forces to make sure Libya remained stable after Gadhafi abdicated and to insure al-Qaida didn't take over the country."
Suddenly, Kubic was informed the U.S. did not want to proceed with the discussions. The idea of a 72-hour cease-fire was "off," and AFRICOM was ordered "to stand down" form truce talks.
"AFRICOM thought Gadhafi's conditions were reasonable, and we were just in the process of settling where the truce talks would be held, when AFRICOM told me that everything had been called off," Kubic said.
"I then asked to speak with Gen. Ham and was told the decision was reached above his head. I then asked who at the Pentagon I needed to see and was told the decision came from outside the Pentagon," he continued.
"I found it hard to understand that we have a Nobel Peace Prize winner in the White House and President Obama was not willing to give peace a chance in Libya for 72 hours," Kubic said.
"I don't know if the decision came from the White House or from Hillary Clinton at the State Department," he said, "but the advice for me from AFRICOM was to basically just leave everything alone, to simply stand down."
Yet that was not the end of the story.
"I was told by an authoritative source in the U.S. government that an intelligence memorandum was prepared on the negotiations that went to President Obama in its raw form. And this was the document that basically gave the actual intelligence on the al-Qaida elements that were part of the Libyan revolution," Kubic said.
"All these negotiations happened in the period of March 19-22, 2011, and the intelligence document given the president was created on March 24, 2011," Kubic noted. "It was on March 29, 2011, that President Obama signed the finding authorizing the United States to arm the rebels."
Confirming Kubic's timeline, Reuters reported March 30, 2011, that Obama "has signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi," citing government officials.
Reuters further reported the "presidential finding" signed by Obama was "a principal form of presidential directive used to authorize secret operations by the Central Intelligence Agency."
Did Obama administration brief GOP?
Former CIA agent Kevin Shipp, a member of the Citizens' Commission on Benghazi, said he believes House Majority Leader John Boehner and other members of the "Gang of Eight" in Congress were briefed by the Obama administration on Ambassador Christopher Stevens' involvement with the CIA was in Benghazi.
Shipp spent 17 years with the CIA counter-intelligence, counter-terrorism, human intelligence operations and internal security. He also was a program manager of the State Department's Diplomatic Security, Anti-Terrorism Assistance global police training program.
Among his roles was working on the 7th floor at Langley conducting protective duties for then-CIA Director William Casey.
In his interview with WND, Shipp made clear he was speaking on the record for himself, not representing the views of the Citizens' Commission on Benghazi or of any of the other members.
The "Gang of Eight" leaders in Congress, who are regularly briefed by the White House on intelligence matters, are the speaker of the House, the House minority leader, the Senate majority and minority leaders and the chairmen and ranking members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
In the 113th Congress from 2012-2014, the Republican members were House Speaker John Boehner; then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell; Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
"I think the GOP Gang of Eight, including Boehner, have guilty knowledge of everything the Obama administration and the State Department conducted in Libya," Shipp said.
"Even when it got to the ultimate goal of Christopher Stevens diverting weapons up with the assistance of Qatar and Saudi Arabia of diverting weapons from Libya up through Turkey to the rebels in Syria, the GOP Gang of Eight, with security clearances, would have been briefed in advance of the operation."
Shipp continued: "In my opinion Boehner and the other GOP members of the Gang of Eight would have been witting of the gun-running activities the CIA and State Department were conducting in Libya from the very beginning. When everything went wrong and Stevens was killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it's my belief Boehner and none of the other GOP members of the Gang of Eight wanted the American public to know they had anything to do with it."
Kubic told WND he could not confirm the Gang of Eight had received an intelligence briefing on the presidential finding Obama signed March 29, 2011, authorizing the CIA to support the Libyan al-Qaida-affiliated rebels in their military efforts to oust Gadhafi.
"In this particular case, I don't know whether the Gang of Eight was briefed, whether they were partially briefed and not given the whole story, or whether they were really not briefed at all," Kubic cautioned.
"It makes a big difference," he said. "The question is whether the Gang of Eight were accessories to Obama's presidential directive of March 29, 2011, or were they unwitting accomplices. We don't know, and it's my personal opinion that it's not proper to jump to conclusions."
He said it's a matter for the House Select Committee on Benghazi, headed by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.
Did GOP leaders know of al-Qaida affiliation
On April 22, 2011, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., publicly called for support of Libya's rebels in their rebellion to oust Gadhafi.
"They are my heroes," McCain told reporters as he out of a hotel in Benghazi after having toured a rebel stronghold, NBC's Richard Engel reported.
Engel said that McCain, "one of the strongest proponents in Congress of the U.S. military intervention in Libya, said he planned to meet with the rebel National Transition Council, the de-facto government in the eastern half of the country."
NBC further reported McCain "said at a news conference Friday that all nations should recognize the council as the legitimate voice of the Libyan people."
Engel quoted McCain saying: "I would encourage every nation, especially the United States, to recognize the Transitional National Council as the legitimate voice of the Libyan people."
On May 2, 2011, after being informed privately by a phone call from the White House in advance of Obama's nationally televised announcement that Osama Bin Laden had been killed by U.S. Special Forces operating in Pakistan, House Speaker John Boehner put out a statement.
"This is great news for the security of the American people and a victory in our continued fight against al-Qaida and radical extremism around the world," Boehner said.
'Papered silent with security agreements'
Shipp explained both Republican and Democratic White Houses require the Gang of Eight to sign secrecy agreements before receiving classified administration briefings on foreign policy and intelligence matters.
"The White House papers everybody briefed in Congress with secrecy agreements," he said. "This agreement threatens the possibility of criminal prosecution if any classified information is leaked to the public in an unauthorized fashion."
He noted a member of the House or Senate could be removed from office for violation of the agreement.
"These agreements are powerful instruments of persuasion."
Shipp questioned whether the Benghazi gun-running operation was classified "above top secret," meaning Boehner and the other GOP members would face severe penalties, including the possibility of criminal prosecution, if any leaked the information.
Or, he asked, was it possible the GOP leadership believed Obama signing of the Presidential Finding on March 29, 2011, authorizing the CIA to support the Libyan rebels would have implied his approval of the gun-running activities subsequently undertaken by the CIA in conjunction with the State Department?
Shipp acknowledged that a criminal or, even worse, a traitorous White House could use the secrecy agreements to ensure silence.
"Unfortunately, that could happen," he said. "If the CIA wants to conceal an operation, they classify it at a very high level and they paper Congress with a secrecy agreement such that you are bound for life."
Shipp emphasized how ironclad the CIA-executed secrecy agreements were.
"Any disclosure of information in an unauthorized fashion could result in prison time," he said. "The document makes it clear that anyone who signs it can never mention the operation or any connection to the operation. Even if the information comes out in a public forum, you can't so much as confirm a news report, because just confirming information can be considered a violation of the security agreement."
A 'de facto, third-party assassination'
Shipp discussed his concerns that the Obama administration shifted ground in Libya and refused to accept Gadhafi's offer to abdicate.
"Gadhafi had established diplomatic relations with the United States and we had an embassy in Libya," Shipp noted.
"One of the most astounding parts of this whole thing is that Gadhafi had destroyed his stash of WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction), and he was providing us with a steady stream of intelligence on al-Qaida movements in Libya," he said.
Shipp said Gadhafi "was collaborating with us as an ally, so for the Obama administration, the White House national security team and the State Department to break off contact with Gadhafi was amazing, especially when he was asking to step down and seek asylum."
Shipp expressed amazement the Obama administration stood by not only while Libyan rebel forces aligned with al-Qaida toppled Gadhafi but also killed him.
"It amounted to a de facto, third-party assassination committed ultimately by the United States, if you ask my opinion," he concluded.
"Why would we completely destabilize Libya when the leader was trying to be our ally is a huge question that falls into a pattern of the Obama administration and his national security advisers supporting Islamic rebel movements, including now supporting the Free Syrian Army, over what could be a more stable solution."
Shipp speculated on why the Obama administration began covering up the truth about Benghazi, attributing the attack to the reaction to a Youtube video that insulted Islam's founder, Muhammad.
"What the Obama administration was terrified about, in my view, was the American public knowing the CIA and State Department were running guns secretly into Libya before Gadhafi was deposed, that the guns got into the hands of al-Qaida, and that the guns ended up bound for Syria," he said.
"Those events put together could be looked at even as traitorous, in my opinion, if the facts ever came out to the American public."