American Vice President Joe Biden is known for putting his proverbial foot in his mouth when speaking before audiences, but his most recent address at the JFK Jr. Forum at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University on Thursday contained quite a few candid moments where the V.P. acknowledged a number of things no high-level administration officials have yet been willing to publicly acknowledge. Unfortunately the U.S. corporate media organizations have chosen to focus almost exclusively on his carelessly-worded comments in which he described the office of the Vice Presidency as “a bitch“. Or, if they have covered the more revealing comments, they focused singularly on the subsequent apology Biden issued to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogon for essentially throwing him under the bus, while completely ignoring the substance of what of he was actually saying.
Here is where the Vice President lets his guard a little bit and spoke rather frankly (though he disappeared America’s role in all of it, which is discussed below).
The remarks begin at 0:29:
“The idea of identifying a moderate rebel has been a chase America’s been engaged with for a long time. We Americans think that in every country in transition there’s a Thomas Jefferson hiding under some rock or a James Madison beyond one sand dune.
But the fact of the matter is the ability to identify a moderate middle in Syria was, uh, there was no moderate middle because the moderate middle are made up of shopkeepers, not soldiers.
They’re made up of people who in fact have ordinary elements of middle class in that country.
And what happened was, and history will record this because I am finding that former administration officials are writing books, which I think is inappropriate (*audience laughter*)
No, I’m serious. I do think it’s innappropriate, at least give the guy a chance to get out of office.
And what my constant cry was that our biggest problem was our allies.
Our allies in the region are our largest problem.
The Turks are our great great friends and I have a great relationship with Erdogan who I just spent a lot of time with; the Saudis, the Emirates, etc.
What were they doing there?
They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war. What’d they do?
They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad, except the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.
Now you think I’m exaggerating? Take a look. Where did all of this go?
So now what’s happening when all of a sudden everybody’s awakened because this outfit called ISIL which was al-Qaeda in Iraq, which when they were essentially thrown out of Iraq found open space and territory in western.. excuse me, eastern Syria worked with al-Nusra, who we declared a terrorist group early on.
And we could not convince our colleagues to stop supplying them. So what happened?
Now all of a sudden, and I don’t want to be too facetious, but they have seen the Lord!
And the President’s been able to put together a coalition of our Sunni neighbors, because America can’t once again go into a Muslim nation and be the aggressor.
It has to be led by the Sunnis to go and attack a Sunni organization.
And so what do we have for the first time?
Now Saudi Arabia’s stopped the funding going in; Saudi Arabia’s allowing training on its soil of American forces under Title 10 open training.
The Qataris have cut off their support for the most extreme elements of the terrorist organizations.
And the Turks, President Erdogan told me – he’s an old friend – said, ‘You were right. We let too many people through.’ Now they’re trying to seal their border.”
Though this is the most candid anyone in a top level position has been so far, there’s a number of things to take issue with in these statements, not least of which is the complete disappearing of America’s role in all of it. After NATO and al-Qaeda unofficially allied to overthrow the Libyan government of now slain revolutionary leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the CIA oversaw the transferring of weapons looted from Gaddafi’s stockpiles, along with foreign jihadist fighters, into Turkey where they crossed into Syria to join the rebel armies in trying to overthrow the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad.
According to the New York Times, the airlift of these weapons began in the early months of 2012:
With help from the C.I.A., Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, according to air traffic data, interviews with officials in several countries and the accounts of rebel commanders.
… It has grown to include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and, to a lesser degree, at other Turkish and Jordanian airports.
CIA operatives and U.S. special operations troops have been secretly training Syrian rebels [at covert U.S. training at bases in Jordan and Turkey] with anti-tank and antiaircraft weapons since late last year, months before President Obama approved plans to begin directly arming them, according to U.S. officials and rebel commanders. […]
The rebels were promised enough armor-piercing anti-tank weapons and other arms to gain a military advantage over Assad’s better-equipped army and security forces, the [rebel commander in the Syrian province of Dara who helps oversee weapons acquisitions] said. But arms shipments from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, provided with assent from the Americans, took months to arrive…
Most telling of all however is a May report from PBS‘s Frontline series in which several exclusive interviews seem to suggest that America’s role in arming, training, and recruiting fighters to fight in the Syrian war have been much stronger than previously acknowledged. In the episode, which follows around with a camera some of the ‘moderate’ rebels:
“…the rebels describe their clandestine journey from the Syrian battlefield to meet with their American handlers in Turkey and then travel on to Qatar, where they say they received training in the use of sophisticated weapons and fighting techniques, including, one rebel said, “how to finish off soldiers still alive after an ambush.”
…at least five rebel units have posted videos showing their members firing U.S.-made TOW anti-tank missiles at Syrian positions. The weapons are believed to have come from Saudi Arabia, but experts on international arms transfers have told McClatchy that they could not have been given to the rebels without the approval of the Obama administration.
[PBS journalist Muhammad] Ali is shown riding with a rebel supply officer as he traveled to the Turkish border to reportedly pick up American-supplied Russian weapons and ammunition…
The commander of the unit also told Ali that their American contacts had asked him to bring 80 to 90 members of his unit to Ankara for training. Once in Ankara, after a 14-hour drive from Syria, they were interrogated for days about their political leanings and their unit’s fighting history. The commander told Ali that their questioners identified themselves as belonging to “the military,” but that he believed they were from the CIA.
…Moderate rebel groups have worked closely with the al Qaida-aligned Nusra Front and the Islamic Front, one of whose factions, Ahrar al Sham, includes al Qaida members among its founders.
Perhaps because of those reasons, Congress has never publicly signed off on funding for a training and arming effort, and officially, the United States only provides non-lethal aid, like food rations, clothing and first aid supplies.
Given that the CIA appears to have taken a very hands-on approach in Turkey, how does Biden expect us to believe that the arming and training of the most extremist rebel groups is the fault of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar alone without U.S. intelligence agencies being equally complicit?! And more to the point, how is it that these countries – Obama’s so-called “coalition of the willing” – are to be entrusted with “degrading and destroying” ISIS, while at the same time the parties who’ve actually been at the forefront (the Syrian army, Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah) fighting against Daesh (ISIS) are being excluded from this much-hyped “coalition”?