You've probably already seen or heard about Hillary's correspondence with Sidney Blumenthal
(whom I've admired since before you heard of him). (You know, because of his work on the JFK assassination.) (Which he won't talk about now.)
When we first learned about these messages, we were led to believe that Blumenthal had developed something akin to an off-the-books intelligence network for Hillary. Well, that's not really true.
The topic was Libya...
Much of the Libya intelligence that Mr. Blumenthal passed on to Mrs. Clinton appears to have come from a group of business associates he was advising as they sought to win contracts from the Libyan transitional government. The venture, which was ultimately unsuccessful, involved other Clinton friends, a private military contractor and one former C.I.A. spy seeking to get in on the ground floor of the new Libyan economy.
This is the sort of thing conservatives find INCREDIBLY SHOCKING when Dems do it but INCREDIBLY NOT-SHOCKING when Republicans do it.
Basically, a retired Army major general named David Grange joined forces with a fundraiser named Bill White to do business in Libya, a country about which they knew little beyond the fact that the recent overthrow of Khaddafy had hit the reset button. Blumenthal was an adviser to White's company, as was the CIA guy, Tyler Drumheller, whom the NYT describes as "colorful."
The NYT does not tell you that Drumheller is best-known for trying to warn the Bush administration about the now-notorious Iraqi defector known as Curveball. As you know, Curveball's yarn about Iraqi WMDs turned out to be shit; unfortunately, the Bushies wanted
shit, which means that they ignored Drumheller -- who also debunked the Niger yellowcake claims.
this guy. And I do not often say those words about CIA alums. I've written about him previously; see here
(Do you think that he and Blumenthal ever talked about the Great Unpleasantness in 1963?) (Nah, probably not.)
When Blumenthal was writing about the Bush administration's WMD lies for Salon, he relied on Drumheller as a source. I presume that somewhere along the line, the two men decided to do some business together.
Libya had just gone through a massive upheaval, and the Americans hoped to provide humanitarian work. Those plans fell apart because the Libyans were too paranoid and too factionalized.
Nevertheless, the affair put Blumenthal in a position to learn what was what and who was who in Libya. And he passed some of this information on to Hillary, who was then the Secretary of State.
I guess that the Republicans will argue that the Hillary should have relied entirely on assessments from the CIA, but the CIA gets a lot of its info from American businessmen operating in foreign countries, so I don't see what the big damned deal is. If Hillary placed some value on insights offered by a friend who happened to be on the scene, what's the problem? That sort of thing has gone on for many years. Many centuries
Here's the only part that bugs me:
In an August 2012 memo, Mr. Blumenthal described the new president of Libya, Mohamed Magariaf, as someone who would “seek a discrete relationship with Israel” and had “many common friends and associates with the leaders of Israel.”
“If true, this is encouraging,” Mrs. Clinton wrote to Mr. Sullivan. “Should consider passing to Israelis.”
The NYT neglects to mention that Sidney Blumenthal is the father of Max Blumenthal, the author of Goliath
and one of the people I most admire. The younger Blumenthal is the single most effective and hard-hitting critic of Israel in today's world. Of course, he has been denounced as a dangerous anti-Semite -- but those denunciations have become so routine, formulaic and silly that they have lost their former sting.
Yet if the NYT is to be believed here, Sidney Blumenthal, father of Max, functioned as a kind of go-between linking the freshly-installed Libyan leader to Israel.
Maybe Magariaf was Israel's guy all along? It should be noted that Israel played a behind-the-scenes role in the overthrow of Khaddafy
When the western-educated Magariaf (who would be in charge of Libya for only about a year, resigning in May of 2013) spoke at the United Nations in September of 2012, he did offer some fairly harsh criticisms
We condemn Israel's measures in attempting the judaize the occupied land and its violations of human rights, international humanitarian law. This calls on the international community to take its responsibility to taking strong measures to put an end to Israeli aggression and assure a full protection to Palestinians as well as a radical solution to the question of Palestine...
His idea of a "radical" settlement is the two-state solution, which isn't really that radical. (It isn't ever going to happen
, but it isn't radical.)
Interestingly, he went on to condemn Assad's regime in Syria in no uncertain terms...
The regime in power is repressing its citizens violently, shedding their blood and honor. This has caused the regime to lose its legitimacy...
First: The main rebels in Syria were the Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda. Second, it has been widely reported (by Sy Hersh and by others) that, during the chaos of the Libyan revolution, CIA agents in that country transfered Libyan armaments to the Syrian rebels. Most of that weaponry ended up in the hands of Nusra and a hardy group of fun-seekers now called ISIL.
So why was Magariaf sticking his nose into the Syrian situation, anyways? He had his own fractured country to worry about.
At this point, I should note that Max Blumenthal is surprisingly terrible on Syria.
A historical note: In his book, former Mossad spy Victor Ostrovsky
revealed that Israel -- using a propaganda transmitter called a "trojan" -- framed Libya
for the 1986 bombing of the La Belle nightclub in Germany. This frame-up led to a massive American airstrike against Libya, resulting in much loss of life.
Magariaf and his successors know about this. I find it strange that everyone in Libya is now willing to let bygones be bygones.
Here's where things get really
Just last month, there was a rather vague and strikingly under-reported story
, in which Israeli jet fighters took out a warehouse in Libya. Get this: The warehouse supposedly stockpiled arms from Iran
-- arms meant for those awful, awful Palestinians in Gaza.
(Because, as everyone knows, Libya is such a convenient
stopping-off point for shipments going from Iran to Gaza. Hey, it's right on the way!)
This story is quite difficult to accept at face value. Frankly, Iran hasn't been doing very much to aid the Palestinians. They don't need weaponry right now, although they do
need pretty much everything else.
This report reminds me of that recent yarn about Iranian arms going to the Houthis in Yemen. Remember that one? It turned out to be bullshit. (Everyone in Yemen is already armed to the teeth. They have no food, but they do have AK-47s.)
As you know, Libya has become a mess, and civil war looms. The elected general assembly was overturned by Islamist parties led by Nouri Abusahmain, a Berber in a business suit who claims to be unaffiliated with any political party. Whatever else you may say about him, his man has enough
problems just trying to hold his nation together. The idea that he would countenance the stockpiling of Iranian arms in his country strikes me as ludicrous. Syria and Iran are allies, and we've already seen the Libyan view of Syria.
So what really
happened? What did the Israelis bomb, and why did they bomb it? And why are the reports about this incident so iffy and amorphous?
We may return to that conundrum at another time. This post is supposed to be about Hillary Clinton and Sidney Blumenthal.
To sum up: I simply don't see how she did anything wrong here. Two old friends shared news with other. Simple as that. It's no biggee.
The real story here would be Sidney Blumenthal's possible links to the Israelis. I'd like to learn more about that.
So what's the real point of this latest Republican pseudoscandal? Maybe they intend to link Max Blumenthal to Hillary Clinton. Months ago, I predicted that the Republicans would try to do just that.