‘Why are Americans fighting & dying in Niger & other countries?’ – former diplomat Jim Jatras
Senator John McCain said the White House hasn’t been forthcoming regarding the ambush in Niger which left four US soldiers dead and two wounded. McCain told reporters on Thursday the Senate Armed Services Committee, which he chairs, has been told “very little” about the incident in Niger. He added that the committee may have to take legal action to get answers from the White House.
RT America’s Ed Schultz asked former US diplomat Jim Jatras where he thinks this is going when McCain is talking subpoena.
Jim Jatras: To tell the truth he shouldn't have to subpoena anything. He is the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and the administration should be willing to provide him whatever information he asked for. My only concern here is that: are they just going to look at the worm’s eye view of what happened on the ground tactically, who may be messed up here that these guys got killed, or they are going to look at the bigger picture that I think most Americans are worried about. Niger, where is Niger? Why do we have Americans fighting and dying in Niger? What other countries, under what authority, do we have Americans fighting and dying? I think those are the real questions there. And I hope chairman McCain and the Armed Services Committee delve into that, not just who messed up here.
RT: What is your analysis? Why is the US in Niger?
JJ: In a way, some people especially on the Democratic side, say “Well, this is going to be Trump's Benghazi.” Maybe there's an element to that. Because remember the enemy here in Niger is Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. This is the same group the French had to come in 2012 against in Mali. It all leads back to the boneheaded decision to overthrow Gaddafi and which was just a huge shot of adrenaline, a big pile of weapons to go to all of these terrorist groups that destabilized now the whole region including Niger. Let's look at the big picture here, not just what happened here a few days ago that tragically resulted in these deaths.
RT: The mainstream media has got a lot of Americans ginned up about the fact the White House is not forthcoming. Defense Secretary James Mattis said Thursday he didn’t have a full report on what happened in the Niger attack. How unusual is this?
JJ: I think that they should have most of those details now, it doesn't sound so much that these details are available even to the Pentagon. But even what the Pentagon knows is not being turned over to the committee. I don't think chairman McCain would be that angry and essentially accused them of not cooperating and threatened a subpoena unless he thought they had more information than they were giving him.
RT: It's two weeks after the attack, these investigations shouldn't take that long because the military is in total control of this. But what I find interesting is that the intel for the military told the patrol that violence was “unlikely.” Apparently, they got it wrong. Why and how?
JJ: The same questions people asked about the death that occurred in Yemen early in the Trump presidency. Again, how many countries do we have where Americans are in these situations, where “violence is unlikely”? But it is likely to happen anyway. And that is the real question that, I think, needs to be gotten to hear. I hope the committee addresses it.
RT: Leaving a soldier behind on the field - that just isn't good. Is someone going to have to answer for that?
JJ: I think so. And of course, you do hear coming out of the administration “We don't leave people behind.” Is that just a slogan or is that something that they're actually committed to? At least, from what I understand of the circumstances, three soldiers were killed and then another one was missing. And then later was found dead. How did they lose account of him? What exactly happened? Those are legitimate questions. Let's not lose the forest for the trees here. There's a strategic problem here in terms of a broader US policy that is simply moving forward on inertia without a whole lot of examination.
RT: But it really does seem that the Trump administration is just following what the Obama administration did with scattering troops across the globe and hitting these hotspots. What do you think?
JJ: Exactly right. And let's be honest the Obama administration was simply following the George W. Bush administration's precedent on this as well that we have this global war on whoever they are this week: whether it's ISIS or Al-Qaeda or some spinoff from Al-Qaeda. Where is the strategy? I don't see the strategy and I don't think there is one coming out of this administration either.