Letting the Neocons Lead

Exclusive: At the G-20 meeting, Putin-bashing was all the rage, as President Obama and other Western leaders berated Russian President Putin for his supposed “aggression” in Ukraine. The mainstream media also piled on. But the reality is much more complex, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

In a rational political system, the American neocons would be the most discredited group in modern U.S. history. If not in the dock for complicity in war crimes from Central America in the 1980s to Iraq last decade they would surely not be well-regarded scholars at prominent think tanks and welcomed as op-ed columnists at major publications.

But the United States doesn’t currently have a rational political system. Instead of being prosecuted or ostracized, the neocons continue to dominate Official Washington’s foreign policy thinking. They and their “liberal interventionist” sidekicks continue to demonize disfavored “enemy” leaders just as they did in Central America and Iraq and bait doubters for “weakness” if they don’t climb onboard.

President Barack Obama talks with President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation as they join other leaders en route to the APEC Family Photo at the International Convention Center in Beijing, China, Nov. 11, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama talks with President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation as they join other leaders en route to the APEC Family Photo at the International Convention Center in Beijing, China, Nov. 11, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

And, the mainstream U.S. news media, led by the likes of the New York Times and the Washington Post, falls into line or is actually led by neocons. Then, politicians, even those who should know better like President Barack Obama, don’t dare alienate the opinion leaders and thus end up reinforcing the neocon themes by sounding “tough.”

It may be highly naive at this point to think that President Obama will ever demonstrate true leadership by repudiating the neocon “group think” regarding a whole variety of issues including today’s hotspots, such as Iran, Syria, Iraq, Russia and Ukraine.

But just pause for a minute and contemplate what would have happened if President Obama had followed neocon advice last year and launched massive air strikes to take out Syria’s military over dubious allegations that it was responsible for a Sarin gas attack.

Though Official Washington’s “group think” is that somehow, magically, the virtually non-existent “moderate” Syrian opposition would have taken over and everything would have worked out just wonderfully, the much more likely result would have been that radical Islamists, either the Islamic State or Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, would have seized power. The black jihadist flag might very well have been flying over Damascus.

And then what? Could the West tolerate a Syria, in the heart of the Middle East, controlled by Al-Qaeda or the even more extremist Islamic State? Plus, with the relatively secular government of Bashar al-Assad gone, one could bet that there would be horrendous accounts of massacres against Christians, Shiites, Alawites and other minorities that have supported Assad’s regime.

Would the United States and Europe stand by and watch? There would be more demands for Obama to “do something.” And, at that point, the only “something” would be a massive U.S. military intervention, meaning hundreds of thousands of troops and hundreds of billions of dollars without any realistic possibility of ultimate success.

How We Got Here

One should also remember how we got here. There was no Al-Qaeda presence in Iraq or Syria before President George W. Bush embraced the crazy neocon scheme of invading and occupying Iraq in 2003. The brutal Islamic State arose in Iraq in resistance to the U.S. military occupation as “Al-Qaeda in Iraq.”

Under the leadership of Jordanian extremist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, “Al-Qaeda in Iraq” developed an ultra-violent strategy of relying on extreme brutality, including the slaughter of Shiites and Westerners, to drive these supposedly heretical forces out of Muslim land.

Though Zarqawi was killed by a U.S. airstrike in 2006, his strategy lived on, inspiring the unapologetic cruelty of the Islamic State, which even Al-Qaeda has renounced in favor of its preferred Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front.

So, if the neocons hadn’t prevailed a decade ago in their insistence on invading and occupying Iraq with the enthusiastic support of the mainstream U.S. media’s “liberal” careerists there might not be the current crisis in Iraq and Syria. Yet, Official Washington continues to submit to a neocon-driven consensus about what must be done in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Granted, the situation is now such a mess that it is hard to decide what the best course of action is. But rational policymaking would surely rule out the advice of the people who created the mess in the first place.

Instead of being sent to sit in the corner in dunce caps, the neocons have been allowed to expand the range of their operations, now spreading their influence to the conflict over Ukraine and the decision to make Russia and its President Vladimir Putin the latest bogeymen to justify a new Cold War.

The neocons charted this geopolitical strategy by stirring up trouble in Ukraine, knowing its sensitivity to Russia’s security. In September 2013, as Putin was helping Obama avert the neocon-desired, U.S. bombing campaign against the Syrian government, neocons decided to take aim at Ukraine and Putin.

The plan was even announced by U.S. neocons such as National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman who took to the op-ed page of the neocon-flagship Washington Post to call Ukraine “the biggest prize” and an important interim step toward eventually toppling Putin in Russia.

Gershman, whose NED is funded by the U.S. Congress, wrote: “Ukraine’s choice to join Europe will accelerate the demise of the ideology of Russian imperialism that Putin represents.   Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”

In other words, from the start, Putin was the target of the Ukraine crisis, not the instigator. But even if you choose to ignore Gershman’s clear intent, you would have to concoct a bizarre conspiracy theory to support the conventional wisdom about Putin’s grand plan of “aggression” against Ukraine as a first step toward rebuilding the Russian Empire. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Why Neocons Seek to Destabilize  Russia.”]

Distracted by Sochi

The truth is that when the Ukrainian crisis erupted in February 2014, Putin was distracted by the Sochi Winter Olympics and he was supporting the status quo in Ukraine, i.e. the government of elected President Viktor Yanukovych, not seeking to expand Russian territory into Ukraine.

It was the United States and the European Union behind neocons like Gershman, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland and Sen. John McCain that were supporting the toppling of Ukraine’s constitutionally elected government.

These facts are obvious and indisputable. They were even recognized by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who said in an interview with Der Spiegel:

“Putin spent tens of billions of dollars on the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The theme of the Olympics was that Russia is a progressive state tied to the West through its culture and, therefore, it presumably wants to be part of it. So it doesn’t make any sense that a week after the close of the Olympics, Putin would take Crimea and start a war over Ukraine.”

In other words, Putin actually wanted to cooperate with the United States and the West, as he had demonstrated both in getting Syria to surrender its chemical weapons arsenal and in encouraging Iran to agree to an interim agreement for constraining its nuclear program.

But both policies represented a challenge to the neocon agenda, which continues to seek “regime change” in countries considered hostile to Israel. Thus, Putin and his behind-the-scenes collaboration with Obama on finding political solutions to disputes with Syria and Iran had become threats to what the neocons ultimately want to accomplish, i.e., more wars. So, Putin became the new target.

Yet, the Western news media and virtually all of the West’s political leaders embraced the neocon narrative that the Ukraine crisis was entirely the fault of Putin and Russia, both in the larger context and in each and every incident, including the Kiev regime’s slaughter of thousands of ethnic Russians. The West’s double-think went that if Putin hadn’t caused the crisis in the first place, these people wouldn’t have to be killed.

Thus, the U.S.-backed coup regime in Kiev got almost a free pass on its brutal “anti-terrorism operation” against ethnic Russian rebels in the east and south who have resisted the overthrow of their leader Yanukovych and the imposition of a new order that seeks to enact harsh International Monetary Fund “reforms.”

When ethnic Russians in Crimea voted to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia a move accepted by Moscow the Western press mocked the referendum as a “sham” and accused Russia of an “invasion” though Russian troops were already in Crimea as part of an agreement for maintaining the naval base at Sebastopol.

As Kiev’s “anti-terrorist operation” killed thousands of ethnic Russians in the east even enlisting neo-Nazi militias to do much of the dirtiest work the U.S. mainstream media either ignored the brutality or somehow shifted the blame onto Russia again.

The Shoot-down: Whodunnit?

On July 17, when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, the Kiev regime, Washington’s officialdom and the MSM rushed to blame the rebels for killing all 298 people onboard and Russia for supposedly supplying powerful anti-aircraft missiles capable of bringing down a commercial airliner at 33,000 feet.

Soon after the shoot-down, I began hearing indirectly from U.S. intelligence analysts that their investigation was actually going in a different direction, that there was no evidence that the Russians had supplied such sophisticated weapons, and that suspicions were focusing on extremist elements of the Ukrainian government. I’m further told that President Obama was apprised of this intelligence analysis.

But Obama has been unwilling to correct or even update the record. Why step on a useful propaganda theme? He also may fear being called “soft” on Putin by deviating from the “tough-guy” conventional wisdom that blames Putin for everything. Obama has even continued to imply that Russia was at fault for the atrocity.

Speaking in Australia on Nov. 15, Obama left the impression of Russian guilt as he reprised the self-congratulatory “America is No. 1” themes favored by the neocons. He declared: “As the world’s only superpower, the United States has unique responsibilities that we gladly embrace.

“We’re leading the international community in the fight to destroy the terrorist group ISIL [Obama’s preferred acronym for the Islamic State]. We’re leading in dealing with Ebola in West Africa and in opposing Russia’s aggression against Ukraine — which is a threat to the world, as we saw in the appalling shoot-down of MH17, a tragedy that took so many innocent lives, among them your fellow citizens.

“As your ally and friend, America shares the grief of these Australian families, and we share the determination of your nation for justice and accountability.”

If you parse Obama’s phrasing carefully, you might note that he does not explicitly blame Russia for the shoot-down of MH-17, but he leaves that inference. It seems clear that hope is quickly fading if it ever existed that Obama would seize the post-election opportunity to chart a more realistic and honest approach to U.S. foreign policy.

Obama seems content to follow the lead of the neocons, albeit sometimes reluctantly and possibly deviating from their most extreme policies at the last minute as he did in deciding not to bomb the Syrian military in summer 2013.

But there are grave dangers in Obama not honestly informing the American people about what he knows regarding these crises. Yes, he would face condemnation from the insider community of Official Washington and face broader Republican accusations of “weakness” and “capitulation.”

Still, he would at least give the thoughtful part of the U.S. populace a chance to resist the next neocon-scripted disaster.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

20 comments for “Letting the Neocons Lead

  1. Eric
    November 18, 2014 at 15:18

    Putin’s “supposed aggression” in Ukraine? On what planet is an invasion a supposed aggression?? Since we’re on the subject, this sounds like NeoCon-speak, where up is down, blue is red and good is actually bad.

    • Abe
      November 19, 2014 at 01:20

      A) Crimea was not an invasion. Russian troops were already stationed there and did not exceed the treaty agreement then in force.

      B) The anti-Kiev forces in eastern Ukraine have received support from Russia, but there has been no direct military invasion by Russia forces.

      If there had been a Russian invasion of Ukraine then you would know it, because Russians troops would be at the Polish border and Porkoschenko would be squealing very much louder than he has been.

  2. Abe
    November 18, 2014 at 15:09

    “Republicans are warmongers. There are no significant exceptions because they are all appealing to the same warmongering, bigoted, racist base. […] The Republicans win and within ten days, you’re back on the brink of war.”
    – Webster Tarpley

  3. WG
    November 18, 2014 at 04:49

    What’s the difference between George Bush and Barack Obama?

    While George Bush’s beliefs / opinions were wrong, he at least has them. At this point I don’t think Barack Obama actually has a strong opinion about anything, and somehow that might be worse.

  4. JWalters
    November 17, 2014 at 20:26

    No Russian leader would simply hand over their major naval base in Crimea. Trying to take the Sebastopol naval base was obviously EXTREMELY provocative.

    The Neocons have a war profiteering in their DNA.

  5. Alfredo
    November 17, 2014 at 19:25

    It seems that what Consortium does best is continually attack anything this country does. We all know it is a hotbed of Fascistic thought. But, to quote Henry Kissinger, the architect of
    perpetual war? I can’t remember when this website had anything positive to say. It has become the Fox News of the extreme left.

    • Zachary Smith
      November 17, 2014 at 19:55

      We all know…

      “We?” You’ve got a mouse in your pocket?

    • Abe
      November 17, 2014 at 20:15

      Librulz hate Amurka ’cause we got freedumb!

      If Americans begin to read Consortium News, the terrorists have won.

      • Lynne Gillooly
        November 17, 2014 at 21:57

        Thankfully, we have Consortium news whose contributors present the whole story with facts to support it.
        It will NEVER be anything close to Fox news.
        Criticizing and / or exposing the neocon agenda is Patriotic. You claim they are “attacking anything this Country does” when, in fact, are exposing what neocons have done.
        Do you believe in disciplining your children and telling them what they did was wrong and why? Does that mean you love them or are attacking them?
        Investigating and informing us of what “some people” have done in our
        name is done for the LOVE OF COUNTRY.
        What Fox does is for the love /reward of the Plutocrats that have tried to own this country and our government. HUGE difference.

    • Abe
      November 17, 2014 at 22:31

      Why do they hate us?
      Glen Greenwald

    • Abe
      November 17, 2014 at 22:32

      Why Do They Hate Us?
      Gore Vidal

    • Daniel Guyot
      November 18, 2014 at 05:09

      “Why do they hate us?”

      That’s a wrong question. Who is “us”, who are “they”?

      I don’t hate “you”, I hate American neocon policy. By reading consortium news, I feel reconciled with American people.

      • Ptaha
        November 18, 2014 at 18:57

        me too!!!

    • D505
      November 18, 2014 at 11:57

      Consortium = “a hotbed of fascistic thought”–totally idiotic applied to Consortium. Start with defining it, as with–“couldn’t put a cigarette paper between corporate power and government power”–John LeCarre

  6. Pablo Diablo
    November 17, 2014 at 18:44

    The neocons and their corporate sponsors make money off of war (lots of it). WE PAY. Get the neocons out of “our” government. And that includes Hillary and Jeb.

    • Zachary Smith
      November 17, 2014 at 19:52

      Get the neocons out of “our” government. And that includes Hillary and Jeb.

      It isn’t really “our” government anymore. Computerized and unverifiable voting is one factor, and unlimited billionaire money is another.

      Regarding a match between Hillary and Jeb, that would be an example of the neocons arranging matters so that the actual vote is irrelevant: Israel wins no matter who comes out on top.

      It’s my considered opinion that this sort of thing has happened at least once in the past. Recall the election of 1940. Roosevelt was trying for an unprecedented 3rd term; mostly because he feared the consequences if an Isolationist won. Britain was totally on the ropes, and desperately needed the US to be a combatant. But Isolationist sentiment was strong, and the risk of a Republican Ostrich getting elected wasn’t a trivial one. So right out of the blue, as if by a miracle, Wendell Wilkie became the Republican nominee.

      “A registered Democrat until the fall of 1939, he captured the Republican party’s nomination less than a year later.”

      Seriously, what are the chances of that happening by itself? A biography of Wilkie described the convention as an affair wide open for manipulation. And the clever application of unlimited money and other arm-twisting.

      No matter how the vote went, Britain won.

      Now I’m still of the opinion that 2016 will follow the 2008 and 2012 pattern of having the ‘designated’ winner opposed by somebody so ugly and vile that there will be no questioning the choice of Mr./Ms. Chosen One. 2012 was a bit more trouble than 2008, for BHO’s stock had fallen a lot. But at the time I was offering 10:1 odds to anybody who’d take them that he’d win again. Romney/Ryan!! Short of a pardoned pedophile or a documented stint in an insane asylum, how much worse could you get? The 2000 election was an outlier: the Power Elites really do want the vote outcome to be “plausible”, so it’s important that some discreet usage of the Diebold Machines be explainable in other terms.

      Since I’ve already sidetracked my own post, I’m currently predicting Hillary (or if her health fails some obvious throwaway like Biden) against a Respectable Republican who sort of comes out of the woodwork as did Wilkie. And the Respectable Republican to win, for I see 2016 as being ‘won’ by American Billionaires rather than the neocons.

      If Hillary wins then I was obviously wrong about neocon strength.

  7. Zachary Smith
    November 17, 2014 at 18:39

    And then what? Could the West tolerate a Syria, in the heart of the Middle East, controlled by Al-Qaeda or the even more extremist Islamic State? Plus, with the relatively secular government of Bashar al-Assad gone, one could bet that there would be horrendous accounts of massacres against Christians, Shiites, Alawites and other minorities that have supported Assad’s regime.

    No, a chaotic Syria controlled by ISIS would be an ugly thing. But the murders and massacres would be allowed to continue for a while. Recall how the WW2 army of the USSR drove right to Warsaw’s doorstep before halting. The Polish Resistance had been waiting for this, and began their Uprising/Revolt. Did the Reds help? Nope! And they denied the Western Allies landing fields so as to facilitate some serious airdrops. Since this was the same government which had previously murdered thousands of Polish officers at Katyn Forest, a person tends to suspect that the plan at Warsaw was to have the Nazis kill the troublesome rebels. They were bound to be in the way later anyhow.

    But back to the schemes of Holy Israel. Israel would watch the chaos for as long as possible, and probably discreetly encourage it. A great many Syrians would be killed, and many more would stream out as terrified refugees. When the time was right, Israeli forces would put on their Humanitarian White Suits and invade Syria to crush the evildoing ISIS. ISIS is such a pitiful outfit that even the out-of-shape civilian-murdering IDF ought to have no real trouble cleaning them out. Sad to say, the contest would be a bloody one, especially for the Muslims and Christians foolish enough to remain in a war zone. I’d betcha every single civilian concentration would require many large bombs to ensure there weren’t any ISIS fighters hiding among them.

    Hurrah! ISIS is driven into the wastes of Syria nobody wants. Israel gets what it came for; the soil and most important of all, the water. Lebanon is now totally isolated, and that plum will be picked when Holy Israel has gotten the digestion of Syria well under way. Will the refugees be allowed home? Now that IS a thigh-slapper. When have the Israelis EVER allowed anybody to return to the lands stolen from them? And the surviving Syrians would come to learn what it feels like to live under the Zionist apartheid regime. Gaza North!!

    Background reading:


  8. ltr
    November 17, 2014 at 15:34

    Especially fine column, discouraging but indispensable reading. This is what the finest of commentary is all about.

  9. Abe
    November 17, 2014 at 15:29

    In yet another example of how the actions of death squad terrorists in Syria conveniently seem to benefit the agenda of NATO and the United States, new reports suggesting that ISIS and the al-Nusra Front are now working together to defeat the elusive “moderate rebels” fighting against Assad are timed right alongside reports of Obama’s decision to refocus his Syria strategy to openly pursue the ouster of Assad as a part of his plan to “defeat ISIS.” These new reports will ultimately be used to justify NATO and America’s plan to openly overthrow Assad even while claiming to be fighting ISIS and extremists.

    [According to the American narrative,] in order to defeat ISIS, we must remove the person fighting ISIS so that we will be able to bring ISIS into power, all while stating our resolute opposition to ISIS.

    Such logic would be staggering in its stupidity if it were truly being applied.

    In the end, the claims surrounding the plight of the death squads presented to the American people as “moderates” against the death squads presented to the American people as extremists is nothing more than theatre, albeit mindboggling at times. The United States and NATO have funded, armed, trained, and directed the terrorists rampaging across Syria from the very beginning of the crisis and continue to do so today. We must not allow ourselves to be fooled by propaganda and false narratives designed to stampede us to war.

    ISIS Agrees To Work With Itself – US Calls For Panic, Attack On Assad
    By Brandon Turbeville

  10. Abe
    November 17, 2014 at 15:12

    At the APEC Summit in Beijing, Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott who is hosting this week’s G20 meetings in Brisbane, intimated in no uncertain terms, during a 15 minute encounter with Russian President Vladimir Putin, that Moscow was responsible for the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine.

    During the meeting, Mr Abbott is reported to have stated that “Russia had armed the rebels who shot down the aircraft and killed 38 Australians.” Mr Abbott said that “MH17 was destroyed by a missile from a launcher that had come out of Russia, was fired from inside Eastern Ukraine and then returned to Russia… [and that this] was a very serious matter.”

    […] The evidence and analysis not only dispels Prime Minister Abbott’s accusations, it points unequivocally to a false flag attack instigated by the US-NATO supported Kiev regime, as well as a coverup by the Australian and Dutch investigators.

    Lest we forget, the downing of MH17 was used as a pretext by Washington to impose economic sanctions on the Russian Federation.

    The Western media and governments have gone to arms length to suppress and distort the evidence which points to the downing of MH17 not by a Buk missile but by a Ukrainian military aircraft.


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