Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta suffered some poor timing this week.
Two days following a speech he gave before the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) asserting the importance of confronting climate change to national security, an Osama bin Laden memo released by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point revealed that the terrorist was keen on diverting America’s attention from al-Qaida and to combating climate change.
“This is a chance to explain our motives for continuing the war,” bin Laden wrote — as reported by The Guardian — scheming ways to exploit the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the media. “The wise people would tell you to give people their rights in order to be able to focus on other vital issues such as global warming. They have the option to stop the war, but we do not have any option, except to defend our nation. This is a conflict between the biggest cultures in the world at a time when the climate is changing rapidly.”
The memos were released on Thursday. But on Tuesday, Panetta delivered a speech before the EDF in which he asserted the importance that taking on climate change represents to national security.
“The area of climate change has a dramatic impact on national security,” The Hill reported Panetta said on Friday. “Rising sea levels, severe droughts, the melting of the polar caps, the more frequent and devastating natural disasters all raise demand for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.”
According to The Hill, the event was to honor the Pentagon for their clean-energy strategies.
In the wake of news about Panetta’s speech, in which he reportedly promised that his agency would lead the change in America’s energy usage, Republican Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming and James Inhofe of Oklahoma expressed disappointment in what they see as a misplacement of priorities.
Barrasso urged that the Pentagon focus more on protecting the country than on climate change.
“The Department of Defense should focus on continuing to do what it was created for — to protect the security of our country. A job it does well,” he told The Daily Caller. “It would be a terrible mistake to allow the debate over climate change to distract our military men and women from the very critical work of keeping Americans safe.”
Inhofe was similarly put off and encouraged more congressional oversight of the agency’s energy policies.
“The real threat to national security are policies that force DOD to expend increasing amounts of its scarce resources on extremely expensive alternative energy, when President Obama has gutted the defense budget by a half trillion dollars over the next 10 years. DOD is already drastically cutting its personnel, the number of brigade combat teams, tactical fighters and airlift aircraft,” he said. “It is cutting or postponing programs such as the C-27, Global Hawk Block 30, C-130 avionics modernization, the F-35, the littoral combat ship, the next generation ballistic missile submarine and ground combat vehicles. Forcing DOD to expend more money on expensive alternative fuels further exacerbates its budget issues.”
When asked for comment, the Pentagon asserted that bin Laden’s assumptions were flawed and reasserted Panetta’s interest in finding solutions to the country’s energy needs.
“There is absolutely no connection, thought or consideration between the SecDef’s long-scheduled event and bin Laden,” Cheryl Irwin, a public affairs officer in the Office of the Secretary of Defense told The Daily Caller.
“It is ludicrous to suggest any connection between the secretary’s comments and bin Laden’s warped assumptions,” she added. “The secretary spoke to what he believes is a national imperative to better understand energy challenges and to find innovative solutions.”