Niger. Up until recently I’m willing to bet that I was among the very few Americans that actually knew how to pronounce the name of this African country. I think I could have found it on a map; I know I would have at least been very close. Over the last week or so it has been one of the hottest topics in American politics and serious political thinkers still have many more questions than answers. Let’s explore.
On October 4th four American service members stationed in Niger were killed in action. Most Americans (including me) didn’t know we had troops in Niger. Malcolm Nance, who tends to know what he is talking about in matters like these, recently stated that we have troops in 126 countries. The Trump administration was silent on this matter until embarrassed into commenting by the press on October 16th. Why the long silence?
One theory I have about the long silence has to do with President Trump’s ego. Since the death of four American Army sergeants can’t be spun as a victory, Trump’s ego won’t let him comment on it. If all we are dealing with is Trump’s ego that’s fine but I’m not convinced this theory covers everything.
There is the question of why we have troops in Niger in the first place. The short answer appears to be to combat terrorism. That also leads us to an interesting set of circumstances that may or may not contribute to an answer. The African countries in this area tend to fight terrorism as a regional problem. That makes sense since terrorists certainly don’t respect borders. Of all the countries in the region Chad has the best record for successfully fighting terrorists. There is very little terrorist activity in Chad and their military has been the most effective terrorist fighting force in the region. In the latest version of Trump’s Muslim Ban his administration (seemingly inexplicably – more about that below) included Chad. In short order Chad withdrew its troops from Niger.
The reason given for including Chad on the latest (and at this writing twice declared unconstitutional) list is that Chad failed to provide a sample passport. Chad recently suspended issuing passports due to a paper supply issue. They had offered to submit a recent passport because they physically couldn’t produce a sample passport within the timeframe allowed. Apparently that wasn’t good enough for the Trump administration. So a Trump administration snafu led to the Chadian military withdrawal which may have contributed to the death of four Americans. Could that be the scandal which led to a cover-up? It would seem to me that the right thing to do is fess up, figure out whose fault it was and fire them.
Could there be something deeper at work here? If so certainly Congress, and most likely the American people have a right to know. How can Congress perform its oversight role if it is kept in the dark? As long as national security isn’t compromised I think the voters have a right to know so that they can vote out people who aren’t doing their jobs.
I smell a rat here bigger than just Trump’s ego; but I can’t be certain. We need answers. That may entail an investigation. My fear is that this turns into another Benghazi if the Democrats gain control of one or both chambers of Congress after the 2018 elections. Benghazi was a witch hunt with the sole purpose of discrediting Hillary Clinton. The investigations were a collection of scams that did nothing other than waste a lot of taxpayer money and raise the stature and campaign account balances of people like Trey Gowdy.
We have a screw-up and a cover-up here. Trump has already gone so far as to send John Kelly out to attempt to change the conversation. In the course of that Kelly told a story that has subsequently proven to be less than correct. (In the opinion of Sarah Huckabee-Sanders American citizens aren’t supposed to question a retired four star Marine General even when he is caught telling untruths. No matter how many stars you may have had on your epilates you are not infallible and therefore are subject to questioning by the people who pay your salary. By the way Sarah, you never wore any stars so who the hell are you to tell me how to act? At least I don’t tell lies for a living.)
If it’s just a screw-up it isn’t the first one and it won’t be the last for this administration. We have a shortage of answers and an abundance of questions. Covering up doesn’t solve anything!
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