In the Milwaukee debate, Hillary Clinton took pride
in her role in a recent UN Security Council resolution on a Syrian ceasefire:
But I would add this. You know, the Security Council finally got
around to adopting a resolution. At the core of that resolution is an agreement
I negotiated in June of 2012 in Geneva, which set forth a cease-fire and moving
toward a political resolution, trying to bring the parties at stake in Syria
This is the kind of compulsive
misrepresentation that makes Clinton unfit to be President. Clinton's role in
Syria has been to help instigate and prolong the Syrian bloodbath, not to bring
it to a close.
In 2012, Clinton was the obstacle, not the
solution, to a ceasefire being negotiated by UN Special Envoy Kofi Annan. It
was US intransigence - Clinton's intransigence - that led to the failure of
Annan's peace efforts in the spring of 2012, a point well known among
diplomats. Despite Clinton's insinuation in the Milwaukee debate, there was (of
course) no 2012 ceasefire, only escalating carnage. Clinton bears heavy
responsibility for that carnage, which has by now displaced more than 10
million Syrians and left more than 250,000 dead.
As every knowledgeable observer understands,
the Syrian War is not mostly about Bashar al-Assad, or even about Syria itself.
It is mostly a proxy war, about Iran. And the bloodbath is doubly tragic and
misguided for that reason.
Saudi Arabia and Turkey, the leading Sunni
powers in the Middle East, view Iran, the leading Shia power, as a regional
rival for power and influence. Right-wing Israelis view Iran as an implacable
foe that controls Hezbollah, a Shi'a militant group operating in Lebanon, a
border state of Israel. Thus, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel have all
clamored to remove Iran's influence in Syria.
This idea is incredibly naïve. Iran has been
around as a regional power for a long time--in fact, for about 2,700 years. And
Shia Islam is not going away. There is no way, and no reason, to
"defeat" Iran. The regional powers need to forge a geopolitical
equilibrium that recognizes the mutual and balancing roles of the Gulf Arabs,
Turkey, and Iran. And Israeli right-wingers are naïve, and deeply ignorant of
history, to regard Iran as their implacable foe, especially when that mistaken
view pushes Israel to side with Sunni jihadists.
Yet Clinton did not pursue that route. Instead
she joined Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and right-wing Israelis to try to isolate,
even defeat, Iran. In 2010, she supported secret negotiations between Israel
and Syria to attempt to wrest Syria from Iran's influence. Those
talks failed. Then the CIA and Clinton pressed successfully for Plan B: to
When the unrest of the Arab Spring broke out
in early 2011, the CIA and the anti-Iran front of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and
Turkey saw an opportunity to topple Assad quickly and thereby to gain a
geopolitical victory. Clinton became the leading proponent of the CIA-led
effort at Syrian regime change.
In early 2011, Turkey and Saudi Arabia
leveraged local protests against Assad to try to foment conditions for his
ouster. By the spring of 2011, the CIA and the US allies were organizing an
armed insurrection against the regime. On August 18, 2011, the US Government made public its position: "Assad
Since then and until the recent fragile UN Security Council accord,
the US has refused to agree to any ceasefire unless Assad is first deposed. The
US policy--under Clinton and until recently--has been: regime change first,
ceasefire after. After all, it's only Syrians who are dying. Annan's peace
efforts were sunk by the United States' unbending insistence that U.S.-led
regime change must precede or at least accompany a ceasefire. As the Nation editors put it in August 2012:
The US demand that Assad be removed and sanctions be imposed
before negotiations could seriously begin, along with the refusal to include
Iran in the process, doomed [Annan's] mission.
The U.S. policy was a massive, horrific
failure. Assad did not go, and was not defeated. Russia came to his support.
Iran came to his support. The mercenaries sent in to overthrow him were
themselves radical jihadists with their own agendas. The chaos opened the way
for the Islamic State, building on disaffected Iraqi Army leaders (deposed by
the US in 2003), on captured U.S. weaponry, and on the considerable backing by
Saudi funds. If the truth were fully known, the multiple scandals involved
would surely rival Watergate in shaking the foundations of the US
The hubris of the United States in this
approach seems to know no bounds. The tactic of CIA-led regime change is so
deeply enmeshed as a "normal" instrument of U.S. foreign policy that
it is hardly noticed by the U.S. public or media. Overthrowing another
government is against the U.N. charter and international law. But what are such
niceties among friends?
This instrument of U.S. foreign policy has not
only been in stark violation of international law but has also been a massive
and repeated failure. Rather than a single, quick, and decisive coup d'état
resolving a US foreign policy problem, each CIA-led regime change has been,
almost inevitably, a prelude to a bloodbath. How could it be otherwise? Other
societies don't like their countries to be manipulated by U.S. covert
Removing a leader, even if done
"successfully," doesn't solve any underlying geopolitical problems,
much less ecological, social, or economic ones. A coup d'etat invites a civil
war, the kind that now wracks Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. It invites a
hostile international response, such as Russia's backing of its Syrian ally in
the face of the CIA-led operations. The record of misery caused by covert CIA
operations literally fills volumes at this point. What surprise, then, the
Clinton acknowledges Henry Kissinger as a mentor and guide?
And where is the establishment media in this
debacle? The New York Times finally covered a bit of this story last month in describing the CIA-Saudi connection, in which
Saudi funds are used to pay for CIA operations in order to make an end-run
around Congress and the American people. The story ran once and was dropped.
Yet the Saudi funding of CIA operations is the same basic tactic used by Ronald
Reagan and Oliver North in the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s (with Iranian
arms sales used to fund CIA-led covert operations in Central America without
consent or oversight by the American people).
Clinton herself has never shown the least
reservation or scruples in deploying this instrument of U.S. foreign policy.
Her record of avid support for US-led regime change includes (but is not
limited to) the US bombing of Belgrade in 1999, the invasion of Afghanistan in
2001, the Iraq War in 2003, the Honduran coup in 2009, the killing of Libya's
Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, and the CIA-coordinated insurrection against Assad from
2011 until today.
It takes great presidential leadership to
resist CIA misadventures. Presidents get along by going along with arms
contractors, generals, and CIA operatives. They thereby also protect themselves
from political attack by hardline right-wingers. They succeed by exulting in
U.S. military might, not restraining it. Many historians believe that JFK was
assassinated as a result of his peace overtures to the Soviet Union, overture
he made against the objections of hardline rightwing opposition in the CIA and
other parts of the U.S. government.
Hillary Clinton has never shown an iota of
bravery, or even of comprehension, in facing down the CIA. She has been the
CIA's relentless supporter, and has exulted in showing her toughness by
supporting every one of its misguided operations. The failures, of course, are
relentlessly hidden from view. Clinton is a danger to global peace. She has
much to answer for regarding the disaster in Syria.