Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) tells Breitbart News that President Barack Obama—in a closed-door Capitol Hill luncheon with Republican lawmakers on Sept. 10, 2013—defended Hillary Clinton’s rush to war in Libya by claiming that then dictator Muammar Gaddafi had been planning an imminent attack on his own people in Benghazi. However, new evidence emerging via the Washington Times suggests that wasn’t necessarily true.
The conversation between Paul and the President—which occurred during the luncheon—has never before been revealed to the public. In the meeting, Obama was seeking congressional support for military action in Syria. But Paul questioned the president on why he went along with Clinton’s push for military action against Libya in 2011, in which the Obama administration used military force—without congressional approval—to topple Gaddafi and his regime, despite the fact that Gaddafi had begun cooperating with the West years earlier.
Paul has been a regular and frequent critic of Clinton’s push for war in Libya, saying in interviews with Breitbart News and NBC News’ Meet The Press while on a medical mission trip to Guatemala this past summer—where Paul, a ophthalmologist before his election to the U.S. Senate, performed charity eye surgeries—that Clinton is a “war hawk” and her policies destabilized Libya to the point where terrorists had the upper hand in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012. That terrorist attack claimed the lives of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, foreign service officer Sean Smith and security contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
Paul hit that theme again in his Thursday interview with Breitbart News, saying Clinton led the U.S. into war with Libya “under false pretenses.”
“What I’ve been saying for over a year now is that Hillary took us to war in Libya under false pretenses,” Paul said. “She claimed there was some sort of imminent threat and that there was going to be some sort of genocide and she sold this war to the Obama administration.”
But Paul has never, until now in this exclusive interview with Breitbart News, revealed the fact that President Obama himself defended “Hillary’s war”—as Paul likes to call the U.S. military intervention in Libya—as necessary. The president believed, based on what Clinton and a few others were telling him, that the people of Benghazi were under imminent threat of attack from Gaddafi’s regime. Essentially, what Paul is revealing here is that the president of the United States himself bought the argument, or “false pretenses,” that Clinton sold him and other senior administration officials about Gaddafi.
Paul said he questioned Obama at the closed-door luncheon on why he went along with Clinton’s push for war against Gaddafi in Libya, and he said the president responded to him by saying that the people of Benghazi—Gaddafi’s own people at the time—were in “imminent” danger of being attacked. Paul noted that he was concerned Obama—who said on the campaign trail while running for president he wouldn’t engage in war without congressional approval unless there was an imminent threat of attack against Americans—considered the belief there was some kind of imminent attack looming against the people Libya, not the people of the United States, as rising to the level of justification for an act of war by his administration without congressional consent.
“In fact, I had the same conversations with the president,” Paul said.
I told him I was kind of surprised he waged war in Libya without any kind of vote of Congress because he had said as a candidate that no president should unilaterally go to war without the authority of Congress unless there’s a threat of imminent attack. So the funny thing about this is the president responded to me and he said, “yeah, Benghazi was under the threat of immediate attack.” My goodness, nobody in the world thought you meant imminent attack or immediate attack in other nations would allow you to go to war without congressional authority. We thought imminent attack meant the United States under imminent attack.
The White House hasn’t immediately responded to a request for comment in response to Paul’s allegations. But Paul says he was “aghast” that anyone “in their right mind” would believe that what Obama and Clinton were saying justified U.S. military action without congressional authorization. Paul adds:
President Obama came to Capitol Hill at the time of the discussion on Capitol Hill over Syria. And I asked him about going into Libya without the consent of Congress and his response basically was to me during a Republican lunch, his response was that ‘well, Benghazi was under imminent attack.’ I was aghast that anybody in their right mind would think that imminent attack would have anything to do with imminent attack of a foreign nation rather than imminent attack of the United States. But that is basically what his defense was but it’s the same defense Hillary’s giving now, or has been giving, that Benghazi was under the threat of imminent attack or imminent genocide. Hillary and the president seem to think that gives them justification for war without congressional authority. There are in some ways on the same page on this but largely I think credit should be given where credit is due and Hillary’s war I think deserves to be called such and she deserves to have to explain why we would want to have her as Commander-in-Chief given that the Libyan war by all objective measures was a disaster and continues to be a disaster for our country.
Given the revelation of new evidence—in the form of audio recordings of conversations between Pentagon officials and a senior Democratic lawmaker, then-Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Gaddafi emissaries—Paul’s accusation against the president is akin to Democratic lawmakers accusing former George W. Bush and his administration of pushing the argument in 2003 that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction he planned to use against his own people.
The secret tapes, uncovered by the Washington Times’ Jeffrey Scott Shapiro and Kelly Riddell, show that Pentagon officials and Kucinich “so distrusted” Clinton’s push for war “that they opened their own diplomatic channels with the Gadhafi regime in an effort to halt the escalating crisis.”
That means that elements of Obama’s and Clinton’s own political party—and other elements of the Obama administration itself—didn’t consider Clinton’s argument that Gaddafi was dangerous enough to be an imminent threat to Americans to be credible. Clinton was, the Times reporters detailed, backed by then-United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice and then-National Security Council member Samantha Powers.
After disarming his nuclear arsenal in 2003, while denouncing terrorism and re-opening relations with the West, Gaddafi—the Times reporters wrote—“later made reparations to the families of those who died in the bombing of Pan-Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.”
He still was a dictator, they noted, and civil war ravaged Libya through the country in February 2011. “Loyalist forces mobilized tanks and troops toward Benghazi, creating a panicked mass exodus of civilians toward Egypt,” Shapiro and Riddell wrote, adding that Clinton shortly thereafter met with rebel spokesman Mahmoud Jibril in a Paris hotel to “vet” their cause against Gaddafi. Within 45 minutes of the Jibril meeting in Paris, Clinton—the Times reporters wrote—“was convinced that a military intervention was needed.”
In his address to the nation on March 28, 2011, Obama hinted at the argument he would later use in this closed-door GOP luncheon in response to Paul’s questioning—but he wasn’t as blunt as Paul said he was in the meeting. Here’s what the president told Americans:
Ten days ago, having tried to end the violence without using force, the international community offered Qaddafi a final chance to stop his campaign of killing, or face the consequences. Rather than stand down, his forces continued their advance, bearing down on the city of Benghazi, home to nearly 700,000 men, women and children who sought their freedom from fear. At this point, the United States and the world faced a choice. Qaddafi declared he would show “no mercy” to his own people. He compared them to rats, and threatened to go door to door to inflict punishment. In the past, we have seen him hang civilians in the streets, and kill over a thousand people in a single day. Now we saw regime forces on the outskirts of the city. We knew that if we wanted — if we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city nearly the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.
Obama argued in that speech that there was a “looming humanitarian crisis” in Libya with Gaddafi’s forces on the march—something Human Rights Watch told the Washington Times wasn’t true.
“At that point, we did not see the imminence of massacres that would rise to genocidelike levels,” Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division for Human Rights Watch, told the Times. “Gadhafi’s forces killed hundreds of overwhelmingly unarmed protesters. There were threats of Libyan forces approaching Benghazi, but we didn’t feel that rose to the level of imminent genocidelike atrocities.”
Obama continued in his speech that night by arguing that the U.S. had an interest in defending the rebels and targeting Gaddafi, if not a direct interest but one meant to uphold American values.
There will be times when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and our values are. Sometimes, the course of history poses challenges that threaten our common humanity and our common security -– responding to natural disasters, for example; or preventing genocide and keeping the peace; ensuring regional security, and maintaining the flow of commerce. These may not be America’s problems alone, but they are important to us. They’re problems worth solving. And in these circumstances, we know that the United States, as the world’s most powerful nation, will often be called upon to help.
But Paul says that Clinton’s push for war in Libya—and Obama’s decision to go along with it—has already had a far-reaching and profoundly negative impact on U.S. standing, not just in Libya but in the region as a whole.
“From beginning to end, I think Hillary’s war has not only been a disaster for the region but it’s had ramifications for us throughout the Middle East,” Paul said.
One, Libya is a Jihadist wonderland. There are Jihadists everywhere and there’s a civil war raging. Last I heard, the parliament was meeting on a ferry in the Mediterranean. It’s had ramifications with weapons going into Syria. It’s also had ramifications with weapons going into Syria in the sense that the war in Libya sent a signal to Iran: It said if you gave up your nuclear ambitions, we may still topple you. Because that’s basically what Gaddafi did. Gaddafi traded in his nuclear ambitions, made a treaty with the West, and in the end he was still toppled. So I think the Libyan war was probably one of the worst foreign policy mistakes in a generation, not just for the lack of defense of Benghazi—it’s a host of ramifications coming from this war.
Paul added that this new evidence confirms further his previous comments about how Clinton should be “disqualified” as a presidential contender in the American people’s eyes because of her actions here.
This is involved on so many levels. One, you want a Commander-in-Chief who has wisdom and would look to all different various parts of government for information. You would want a Commander-in-Chief who would listen to the military, who would listen to the State Department, who would also listen to the intelligence community. But in this case, you have Hillary Clinton basically not listening to anyone while promulgating something that really appears to be contradicted by other branches of government—in that there was some sort of imminent genocide awaiting in Libya. But it really goes beyond that because I think there are decisions you have to anticipate in the future. The war didn’t turn out so well, it obviously didn’t turn out so well for our ambassador. The war hasn’t turned out so well for spreading arms into Syria. The war hasn’t turned out so well for I think really being a spoiler with regards to working out a negotiated settlement with Iran. So I think, really, Hillary’s war on every level you look at it was probably the greatest foreign policy failure of a generation.
When America selects its next president in 2016—in both GOP primary, in which Paul expected to compete, and the general election—Paul said Americans should keep “Hillary’s war” on their minds.
I think that ultimately this is a really, really important question when we decide how we’re going to move forward and what kind of Commander-in-Chief we need: Deciding whether military decisions led to beneficial outcomes for the United States or whether they made things worse. That can be pretty objectively looked at: are we safer or less safe since the Libyan war? Are we more stable or less stable as a region? Have American interests been advanced or really repelled by the war in Libya? I think without question, all of the objective evidence says, the war in Libya, Hillary’s war in Libya, was a disaster. I think it continues to spawn further foreign policy problems for us with the signal that it sent to Iran.