Reprinted from The Guardian
Why does the US continually send deadly weapons to the Middle East, make things even more chaotic than they were before and expect better results the next time?
As pretty much everyone who was paying attention predicted, the $500m program to train and arm "moderate" Syrian rebels is an unmitigated, Bay of Pigs-style disaster, with the head of US central command admitting to Congress this week that the year-old program now only has "four or five" rebels fighting inside Syria, with dozens more killed or captured.
Even more bizarre, the White House is claiming little to do with it. White House spokesman Josh Earnest attempted to distance Obama from the program, claiming that it was actually the president's "critics" who "were wrong." The New York Times reported, "In effect, Mr Obama is arguing that he reluctantly went along with those who said it was the way to combat the Islamic State, but that he never wanted to do it and has now has been vindicated in his original judgment."
This bizarre "I was peer pressured into sending more weapons into the Middle East" argument by the president is possibly the most blatant example of blame shifting in recent memory, since he had every opportunity to speak out against it, or veto the bill. Instead, this is what Obama said at the time: "I am pleased that Congress...have now voted to support a key element of our strategy: our plan to train and equip the opposition in Syria."
But besides the fact that he clearly did support the policy at the time, it's ridiculous for another reason: years before Congress approved the $500m program to arm the Syrian rebels, the CIA had been running its own separate Syrian rebel-arming program since at least 2012. It was reported prominently by the New York Times at the time and approved by the president.
In fact, just before Congress voted, Senator Tom Udall told Secretary of State John Kerry, who was testifying in front of the foreign relations committee, "Everybody's well aware there's been a covert operation, operating in the region to train forces, moderate forces, to go into Syria and to be out there, that we've been doing this the last two years." In true Orwellian fashion, Kerry responded at the time: "I hate to do this. But I can't confirm or deny whatever that's been written about and I can't really go into any kind of possible program."