ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl -- who has distinguished himself as one of the few consistently tenacious members of the White House press corps -- engaged in a lengthy exchange with Obama spokesman Josh Earnest yesterday over the president's craven ISIS spin. Karl wanted to know why Obama is blaming the intelligence services for failing to predict events and trends that they had, in fact, been warning about for some time. Did pertinent information never make it into the president's daily briefings? Reporting from McClatchy and Fox News indicates that it had. So had Obama failed to notice what was happening, even as members of his administration were offering alarming public testimony on the ascendance of ISIS? Earnest's answers made three major points -- (a) "everybody" was surprised by the swiftness of ISIS' advance, (b) one of the biggest shortcomings was missing the extent to which Iraqi security forces were incapable of handling ISIS, and (c) he can't comment on private discussions between the president and intelligence officials:
Earnest also scolds Karl for pointing out that Obama called ISIS a "jayvee" team around the same time that the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency made chillingly accurate predictions about ISIS' trajectory. "We've been through this," Earnest complains, asserting that the president wasn't referring to ISIS. Well, every major fact-checker has "been through this" dispute, unanimously ruling against the White House's tale. Karl followed up on this back-and-forth with a blog post highlighting three instances in which the administration was warned about ISIS by its own officials, dating back to last year. Here's one of them:
On Nov. 14, 2013, State Department official Brett McGurk testified before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee extensively about the growing threat of ISIL/ISIS. “We face a real problem,” McGurk said. “There is no question that ISIL is growing roots in Syria and in Iraq.” McGurk was quite specific about the extent of the threat. He cited the group’s alarming campaign of suicide bombings, its growing financial resources and its expanding safe haven in Syria. “We have seen upwards of 40 suicide bombers per month targeting playgrounds, mosques, and markets, in addition to government sites from Basra to Baghdad to Erbil,” he said. He was also specific about the inability of the Iraqi government to deal with it. “AQ/ISIL has benefited from a permissive operating environment due to inherent weaknesses of Iraqi security forces, poor operational tactics, and popular grievances, which remain unaddressed, among the population in Anbar and Nineva provinces.”
That last bolded quote undermine's Earnest's claim that "everybody" was caught off guard by the Iraqi army's unpreparedness to handle the burgeoning threat. Allahpundit flags another instance of an administration source sounding the alarm about the Iraqi army's weakness in the face of ISIS...from last October:
Al Qaeda's violent resurgence in Iraq and expansion into Syria now represents a "transnational threat network" that could possibly reach from the Mideast to the United States, according to the White House. The teaming of al Qaeda's Iraqi cell and affiliated Islamic militant groups in Syria into the new Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has developed into "a major emerging threat to Iraqi stability . . . and to us," a senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday. "It is a fact now that al Qaeda has a presence in Western Iraq" extending into Syria, "that Iraqi forces are unable to target," the official said. That growing presence "that has accelerated in the past six to eight months" has been accompanied by waves of bombings and attacks that threaten to throw Iraq into a full-blown civil war.
Again, those quotes were printed eleven months ago. This crisis didn't sneak up on anybody, let alone "everybody." It developed over time and was willfully ignored by a president who seemed primarily concerned with clinging to precious political narratives. Obama only perked up when the media started noticing developments like, say, Mosul falling to a terrorist army. And he only started dropping bombs when the press reported heavily on religious minorities being starved to death in graphic detail. And he only expanded the conflict when Americans were outraged by multiple ISIS beheadings of their fellow citizens. Now that he's playing frantic catch-up, he's duplicitously fingering the intelligence community for missing the boat on ISIS while deploying his lackeys to lie about his embarrassing 'jayvee' miscalculation. I'll leave you with this, from another honest journalist: