Will Peace Find a 2016 Advocate?

Exclusive: Campaign 2016 has offered few useful ideas about worsening global crises. On the Republican side, it’s been mostly the same-old tough talk while Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have said little. Is there a way to break through the frozen thinking about world conflicts, asks Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

At least since the 1980s when Ronald Reagan made war seem like fun again and the modern mainstream media took shape the Democratic Party has lacked a coherent foreign policy, highlighted today by the fact that its top 2016 presidential candidates have largely evaded the topic in favor almost exclusively of domestic issues.

Part of the problem is that Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has a record of pandering to the neoconservatives during her time as a U.S. senator from New York and as Secretary of State. She voted for the Iraq War in 2002 and, while President Barack Obama’s top diplomat, supported what some call “liberal interventionism,” which is barely distinguishable from neoconservatism.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies before Congress on Jan. 23, 2013, about the fatal attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11. 2012. (Photo from C-SPAN coverage)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies before Congress on Jan. 23, 2013, about the fatal attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11. 2012. (Photo from C-SPAN coverage)

Indeed, arch-neocon Robert Kagan, a co-founder of the infamous Project for the New American Century, said in his praise of Clinton’s aggressive foreign policy that he was ready to jettison the term “neoconservative” in favor of the phrase “liberal interventionist.”

Kagan, who was made an adviser to Clinton’s State Department, said in 2014: “If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.” [For more, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Is Hillary Clinton a Neocon-Lite?”]

So, it’s understandable why Hillary Clinton’s campaign has downplayed the details of how she would conduct foreign policy. Many Democrats, who opposed the Iraq War and are uncomfortable with the hawkishness that Clinton displayed as Secretary of State, would recoil at the prospect of her being a Trojan Horse for Kagan and the neocons to sneak inside another Democratic administration to continue their bloody strategies.

Though Sen. Bernie Sanders, her principal challenger, also has chosen to downplay foreign policy issues in favor of economic ones, the Vermont “democratic socialist” can at least point to his prescient opposition to the Iraq War in 2002.

In a Senate floor speech, Sanders cited five reasons for voting against President George W. Bush’s war resolution: the death and destruction that would result, the dangerous precedent of “a unilateral invasion,” the damage to the war on terror, the “extremely expensive” price tag of “a war and a long-term American occupation,” and the “unintended consequences.”

On the last point, Sanders asked: “Who will govern Iraq when Saddam Hussein is removed and what role will the U.S. play in [an] ensuing civil war that could develop in that country? Will moderate governments in the region who have large Islamic fundamentalist populations be overthrown and replaced by extremists? Will the bloody conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority be exacerbated? And these are just a few of the questions that remain unanswered.”

Back-burner Issues

Though right about Iraq, Sanders is unwilling to put forward a comprehensive strategy for dealing with today’s Mideast chaos and other international tensions, including the Ukraine crisis which was partly fomented by Kagan’s neocon wife, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who rose to prominence under the protective wing of Secretary of State Clinton.

When Sanders has spoken about the Mideast, he has framed his comments in ways that make them acceptable to Official Washington but that ultimately make little sense. For instance, in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Sanders suggested that Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich sheikdoms replace the United States as the region’s policeman in the fight against Sunni terrorists in the Islamic State (also called ISIS).

“Saudi Arabia is the third largest military budget in the world,” Sanders said. “They’re going to have to get their hands dirty in this fight. We should be supporting, but at the end of the day this is fight over what Islam is about, the soul of Islam, we should support those countries taking on ISIS.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Sanders’s Screwy Mideast Strategy.”]

Frankly, it’s hard to believe that Sanders is that naive. A core reality of the Mideast crisis is that Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Sunni Gulf states have been the principal funders and ideological supporters of the Sunni extremists who have organized into violent jihadist movements, including Al Qaeda, its Syrian affiliate Al Nusra Front, and a hyper-violent spinoff, the Islamic State.

Vice President Joe Biden blurted out this reality at Harvard’s Kennedy School last October, when he said: “Our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria the Saudis, the emirates, etc., what were they doing? They were so determined to take down [President Bashar al-] Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of military 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.” [Quote at 53:20 of clip.]

Biden had confirmed something that was well-known in the region and inside the U.S. intelligence community, that many of these terrorist groups were supported, directly and indirectly, by elements of Saudi Arabia’s royal family and by oil-rich sheiks around the Persian Gulf who see themselves fighting a sectarian war against Iran and the Shiites. The Vice President later apologized for speaking the truth, but the cat was out of the bag. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Why Islamic State Is Winning.”]

Saudi Arabia’s Dirty Hands

The Saudi role in this regional chaos dates back to its financing of fundamentalist Wahabbi teachings and its encouragement of Iraq’s invasion of Iran in 1980. Later that decade, the Saudis co-sponsored with the CIA the Afghan mujahedeen who fought a Soviet-backed secular government in Kabul. The Afghan conflict poured billions of dollars in weapons into the hands of Islamic extremists, including a Saudi named Osama bin Laden, and created the basis for an international jihadist terror movement called Al Qaeda.

Even after Al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks, U.S. officials shielded the Saudis from the wrath of the American people. After consulting with Saudi Ambassador Bandar bin-Sultan, Bush agreed to let bin Laden’s family members in the United States board the first planes let back into the air, with only perfunctory FBI questioning. Later, Bush suppressed a 28-page section of the congressional 9/11 report about Saudi support for the 19 hijackers, 15 of whom were identified as Saudi nationals. (Obama has continued to withhold those 28 pages.)

But the Saudis were not always happy with Bush’s actions. In 2003, when Bush’s invasion of Iraq had the unintended consequence of replacing a Sunni autocrat, Saddam Hussein, with Shiite autocrats, the Saudis saw the regional balance of power tilt toward Shiite-ruled Iran, which suddenly had allies in power in Baghdad.

In response, the Saudis stepped up their support of Sunni militant movements in Iraq and then Syria with the goal of frustrating Iraq’s government and removing Syria’s Assad, an Alawite (a Shiite spinoff sect), and replacing him with a Sunni.

As Saudi Arabia intervened more aggressively in this regional fight against Iran, the Saudi royals reached out to Israel, which shared Riyadh’s hostility toward Iran. Israel also favored “regime change” in Syria and saw the war there as a way also to undermine Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, a Shiite force on Israel’s northern border. This de facto Saudi-Israeli alliance guaranteed strong support within the U.S. government and media for the effort to remove Assad from power. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Did Money Seal Israeli-Saudi Alliance?”]

The Gulf states also recognized that the most effective fighters against Assad were the Sunni jihadists, especially Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and the Islamic State. Thus, much of the Gulf money and weapons flowed in those directions, as Biden revealed.

So, in regards to Sanders’s lament about the need for the super-rich Saudis to “get their hands dirty,” the truth is that the Saudis have long been getting their hands not only dirty but bloody.

A Looming Genocide

The Sunni terror groups operating in Iraq and Syria have served essentially as Saudi Arabia’s irregular forces fighting a sectarian war against the Shiites. In Syria, these Sunni extremists also have targeted the Christians, Alawites and other minorities for possible extermination if Assad’s military collapses.

Besides these proxy forces, the Saudis have intervened directly in Yemen with an indiscriminate bombing campaign against Houthi rebels who follow a version of Shiite Islam. The Saudi attacks have not only killed thousands of civilians but created a humanitarian crisis in the poverty-stricken country on Saudi Arabia’s southern border.

Thus, Sanders’s idea that just because the Saudis are rich they should expand their military operations throughout the region is as dangerous as it is ludicrous. It would guarantee a major escalation of the bloodletting and the chaos. The proposal only serves to underscore how bereft the Democrats are when it comes to expressing a coherent alternative foreign policy as a challenge to the dominance of the neocons and their liberal-interventionist cohorts.

So, what could be an alternative that would allow Democratic candidates to make sense and avoid being dismissed as unrealistic pacifists or foolhardy isolationists? And no progressive should underestimate the political risk that goes with any deviation from the “tough-guy/gal-ism” of Official Washington. The easiest attack line against anyone advocating restraint and negotiations is a reference to Neville Chamberlain’s “appeasement” of Adolf Hitler at Munich before World War II.

But there are politically savvy ways to counter the power of the neocons and the liberal hawks:

–Stand for transparency in foreign policy. Instead of letting neocons and liberal hawks shape the narratives of foreign crises by demonizing foes and hiding inconvenient truths, demand as much disclosure as possible especially regarding pivotal events. Over the past several decades, the neocons and liberal hawks have monopolized the information flows, allowing them to exaggerate threats beyond what the actual intelligence supports. We have seen this pattern in every crisis, from Iraq’s bogus WMD threat in 2003 to the mystery of who shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine in 2014. American voters would not punish a candidate for insisting that more information be shared with the people.

–On a related point, repudiate the notion that information should be shaped into a strategic weapon of propaganda warfare. It is now a trendy concept inside the State Department and Washington think tanks that clever propaganda can be used as a “soft power” weapon to weaken an adversary. Some liberal interventionists think this “soft power” manipulation of facts is preferable to “hard power” military action, but that misses the point, since deceiving the public, which must include the American people as well as a foreign target audience, is an assault on democracy. Also, as we have seen, propaganda can be a gateway drug to full-scale war.

No Entangling Alliances

–Remind voters about the wisdom of the early U.S. presidents who warned repeatedly against foreign entangling alliances. Endless warfare against exaggerated bogeymen around the world may sound tough during a debate or a talking-head moment on TV but such belligerence inevitably destroys the Republic. A more recent example of how foolhardy hasty interventionism can be is the Iraq War, which was embraced by not only neocons but many liberals who fancied themselves as doves until they realized that their careers might suffer so they reinvented themselves as hawks. As an opponent of the Iraq War, Sanders, in particular, is in a very strong position to hammer away at the “geniuses” who gave us the disastrous Iraq War.

–This is harder but be prepared to stand in the way of the next propaganda-driven stampede against some demonized foreign “enemy.” To do so requires some political courage. You will surely be called a “(fill-in-the-blank) apologist,” but respond by noting the much greater danger of another “group think.” Remind people how other Orwellian “five minutes hate” sessions against various foreign leaders led the United States into terrible mistakes and bloody misjudgments.

–Sometimes, non-governmental organizations with labels asserting their commitment to “human rights” or “democracy promotion” can be very successful in focusing attention on some offensive act in a target country (while ignoring similar or worse offenses in “friendly” countries). Remember, this is how propaganda works by using selective outrage. Not all NGOs are fair-minded observers. Some are fronts for governments and special interests.

–Stress the value of “realism” in foreign policy, i.e., the concept of weighing the cons as well as the pros of some intervention. Just because taking action at some passion-filled moment may feel good, it doesn’t necessarily do good.

–Reflect on how America does best, both economically and geopolitically, when countries are at relative peace and have achieved some prosperity. America’s greatest “soft power” is its ability to sell its products to the world and to benefit from the symbiosis that comes when people around the world appreciate U.S. inventiveness and innovation. By destabilizing entire regions and promiscuously imposing economic sanctions, the U.S. government disrupts these positive relationships. Perhaps a new slogan could be: “Make money, not war.”

Just as police domestically should work on conflict resolution rather than pulling out their tasers and guns, U.S. diplomats should concentrate on deescalating crises rather than swaggering in with harsh rhetoric, sanction threats and “regime change” strategies.

–Though this point is risky, suggest that America might benefit from rearranging its alliances in the Middle East, confronting Saudi Arabia over its covert support of terrorism and demanding that Israel finally resolve its disruptive conflict with the Palestinians. As part of this shift, the United States could encourage Iran to play a stabilizing role in Iraq and Syria and push both governments to share power more equitably with Sunnis, thus undercutting jihadist violence. Russia, with its influence in Iran and Syria, could be helpful, too.

What’s Possible?

But can an alternative foreign policy really be built around truth-telling, resistance to “perception management” and respectful diplomacy even toward adversarial governments? Obviously, a big problem is the U.S. news media which tends to hype whatever propaganda is being spread about some designated villain and then berates anyone who dares suggest that there might be two sides to the story.

Building a more independent and fair-minded media will be a long-term project. Right now, challenges to the latest “group think” are confined mostly to some Internet sites and small-audience radio shows. And there’s the additional confusion because some hip Internet sites are simply the latest fad in propaganda, essentially fronts for the same misinformation that gets spread by the mainstream media except operating behind the façade of “civic journalism” or some innocent-sounding goals like “fighting corruption” and “protecting human rights.”

Yet, despite all the difficulties that a politician would confront if he or she chose to strike out in a more peaceful and more truthful direction, there is urgency to undertake this mission.

For one, continued U.S. confusion over the civil war in Syria whether it be Hillary Clinton’s fanciful notions about arming the non-existent “moderate” rebels or Bernie Sanders’s silly idea about demanding that Saudi Arabia subdue the Mideast by force could lead to a genuine catastrophe if the black flag of Al Qaeda and/or the Islamic State is raised over Damascus.

Between Al Qaeda plotting new terror attacks on the West and the Islamic State chopping off the heads of Christians, Alawites, Shiites and other “heretics,” there might be little choice for the U.S. president whoever he or she is to intervene on a massive scale, launching a new hopeless war that could well be the final death blow to the American Republic.

Even more dangerous is the showdown with nuclear-armed Russia over Ukraine. Since February 2014 when Assistant Secretary of State Nuland plotted “regime change” in Kiev, the American public has been fed a steady diet of anti-Russian propaganda with the special demonization of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Though a resolution to the Ukrainian civil war should have been relatively simple autonomy for ethnic Russians in the east and respect for Crimea’s secession referendum from Ukraine the extreme rhetoric about “Russian aggression” and the West’s imposition of economically disruptive sanctions have ratcheted up tensions and raised the possibility of a nuclear war.

Though all might hope that cooler heads will prevail before the nuclear codes come out, the West’s “tough-guy/gal-ism” over Ukraine already has contributed to less existential though still serious problems, including the risk of another global financial meltdown because the sanctions have helped stall Europe’s already sluggish recovery from the Wall Street crash of 2008.

At this moment when the world’s economy needs more commerce and more consumer buying power, the Ukraine crisis has contributed to less business and less spending, dragging down the economies of China and the United States as well as Europe.

Meanwhile, the neocon-liberal-hawk-driven chaos of the Middle East has added to Europe’s budgetary and political pressures by flooding the Continent with refugees and migrants from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Africa. Not only is this humanitarian crisis deepening Europe’s economic woes, it is threatening to splinter the Continent’s fragile unity with many countries refusing to open their borders to these waves of humanity.

Given these cascading dangers, it is well past time for American politicians of both parties to get serious about practical ways to ease geopolitical tensions, not exacerbate them. Instead, pretty much all we’re getting from Republicans and Democrats is more unrealistic tough talk.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). 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.

35 comments for “Will Peace Find a 2016 Advocate?

  1. August 29, 2015 at 17:04


    Hillary Clinton doesn’t “pander” to the neocons. Rather, she’s an advocate for their worldview and policies because these policies are as every bit organic to her worldview as any neocon. She is a neocon – right down to her bones. Making much between liberal interventionist and neocon is a distraction.

    Eric Dubin
    Managing Editor,
    The News Doctors

  2. OH
    August 29, 2015 at 14:32

    Hillary has something to hide. Why not just admit what your policy is for example on the necessary and appropriate nuclear negotiations with the Iranians.

  3. Bill Bodden
    August 29, 2015 at 01:09

    Einstein considered repeating the same thing again and again and expecting a different result was a sign of insanity. Following the policies of the neocons has proved to be a way of creating one catastrophe after the other. We should, therefor, question the sanity of anyone who believes continuance of neocon policies will bring peace or some form of civil society.

    • Mortimer
      August 29, 2015 at 08:23

      Bill, after reading your comment my mind flashed back to the 1980’s and that Peggy Lee song, “Is That All There Is?” — The refrain says, — ‘is that all there is to a fire’ (house burns down)–
      she sings ‘if that’s all there is then lets keep dancing and break out the booze and have a ball, if that’s all there is’
      This seems to fit perfectly the war mongers’ mentality… .

      The U.S. and Syria’s Rebels – Reality

      Among the publicly-reported details of that role:

      January 2012: According to the New York Times, three and a half months before the administration first announced “nonlethal aid” to the opposition, a secret CIA-assisted airlift of arms to the rebels began, which by March 2013 would comprise 160 flights and “an estimated 3,500 tons of military equipment.” The CIA helped “Arab governments shop for weapons,” and “vetted rebel commanders and groups to determine who should receive the weapons as they arrive.”
      June 2012: The New York Times reported that the CIA was in Turkey helping U.S. allies in the region decide which Syrian rebel groups should receive “automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons,” which were “being funneled mostly across the Turkish border by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.”
      August 2012: Reuters reported that the CIA was helping to “direct vital military and communications support to Assad’s opponents” from Turkey, under the authority of an intelligence finding from the president earlier in 2012, which “broadly permits the CIA and other U.S. agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust Assad.”
      In January 2013, Scott Stewart, an analyst at the private intelligence firm Stratfor, concluded based on an examination of weapons seen in opposition-released videos that “the current level of external intervention in Syria is similar to the level exercised against the Soviet Union and its communist proxies following the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan.”

      All of this predates the announcement of John Kerry’s “significant policy shift” to provide “food and medical supplies” to the opposition. It also predates the State Department’s April 2013 affirmation that, “We do not believe that it is in…the Syrian people’s best interest to provide lethal support to the Syrian opposition.”

      The scale of the material aid reportedly delivered to the armed Syrian opposition by the U.S. and its allies through these operations dwarfs anything discussed in the government’s public statements. In February 2014, the Abu Dhabi daily The National reported that Gulf states, with logistical help from American intelligence, had delivered $1.2 billion in weapons and supplies to rebels in Syria since July 2013 alone:

      “That amount is set to rise to as much as $2bn, with Saudi Arabia, which oversees the fund according to rebels, seeking to put in between $400m and $800m in additional money over coming months.”

      All such numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt, but the scale of Syria’s insurgency makes the figure credible.

      In addition, while the U.S. loudly trumpeted its worries about inadvertently supporting “extremists” in Syria, its coordination with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey in this period – now well-known – belies this commitment. At one point, the U.S. publicly suspended its “nonlethal aid” program to “moderate rebels” after their warehouses in northern Syria were seized by “extremists.” The demonstration would have been more convincing if the “extremists” in question had not been from a group known as the Islamic Front, widely acknowledged to be bankrolled by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. A December 2013 report from the Brookings Institute looking at funding from Gulf countries for extremist groups in Syria claimed that “The U.S. Treasury is aware of this activity…but Western diplomats’ and officials’ general response has been a collective shrug.”

      These reports of U.S. involvement in facilitating the arming of the opposition have never been refuted, or even denied. They are simply ignored, and lost in the confusion created by the landslide of contradictory public statements. The fact that leading newspapers and public figures now reprimand the Obama administration for not arming the rebels demonstrates the success of this apparent public information strategy.

      The New Plan — http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/how-to-understand-those-60-trainees/

    • OH
      August 29, 2015 at 14:35

      Hillary = ISIS even bigger
      Hillary = more support for Turkey and the Saudis, and of course that all goes straight to ISIS

      One day we have to have non-contradictory foreign policies before these dynasty aristos get us all killed by their stupid “strategies”

  4. Abe
    August 28, 2015 at 13:20

    After eight years of the calamitous smirking chimp, President Hope had a mandate to sweep the neocon filth from power.

    Not only did Obama shelter the neocons, he elevated them.

    There is no truly independent mass political movement in the United States, as there should have been after the 2000 presidential election, as unquestionably there should have been after the 2014 midterm elections.

    Occupy (2011-2012) was a tactic, not a populist political movement. It had no organized political party function. Occupy was immediately co-opted, if not instigated, by corporate power.

    The peace, environmentalist, and civil libertarian movements should immediately unite as a populist Constitutional Party movement.

    A populist Constitutional Party movement must unequivocally reject the Democratic, Republican, and faux-independent right and left libertarian parties that have helped solidify the vicious kleptocracy that currently rules the United States. And it must refuse corporate money from all channels.

    A populist Constitutional Party platform could be established in ten days. An energized national mass political movement could be active in four to six months. By the spring of 2016 it could determine the election.

    But not if we sit around with our thumbs up our asses, listening to progressive saints mutter about the end of the world.

    The typical progressive response:

    Inverted totalitarianism, which thrives on war, is over if you truly want it.

  5. Abe
    August 28, 2015 at 12:58

    The increasing power of the state and the declining power of institutions intended to control it has been in the making for some time. The party system is a notorious example. The Republicans have emerged as a unique phenomenon in American history of a fervently doctrinal party, zealous, ruthless, antidemocratic and boasting a near majority. As Republicans have become more ideologically intolerant, the Democrats have shrugged off the liberal label and their critical reform-minded constituencies to embrace centrism and footnote the end of ideology. In ceasing to be a genuine opposition party the Democrats have smoothed the road to power of a party more than eager to use it to promote empire abroad and corporate power at home. Bear in mind that a ruthless, ideologically driven party with a mass base was a crucial element in all of the twentieth-century regimes seeking total power.

    Representative institutions no longer represent voters. Instead, they have been short-circuited, steadily corrupted by an institutionalized system of bribery that renders them responsive to powerful interest groups whose constituencies are the major corporations and wealthiest Americans. The courts, in turn, when they are not increasingly handmaidens of corporate power, are consistently deferential to the claims of national security. Elections have become heavily subsidized non-events that typically attract at best merely half of an electorate whose information about foreign and domestic politics is filtered through corporate-dominated media. Citizens are manipulated into a nervous state by the media’s reports of rampant crime and terrorist networks, by thinly veiled threats of the Attorney General and by their own fears about unemployment. What is crucially important here is not only the expansion of governmental power but the inevitable discrediting of constitutional limitations and institutional processes that discourages the citizenry and leaves them politically apathetic.

    Inverted Totalitarianism
    By Sheldon Wolin

    • Abe
      August 28, 2015 at 13:31

      Do we live in a Democracy?

      A political philosopher and critic on contemporary American politics., Wolin is known for coining the term inverted totalitarianism.

      Wolin is currently Professor of Politics, Emeritus, at Princeton University, where he taught from 1973 to 1987. During a teaching career which spanned over forty years, he taught at Oxford University, Oberlin College, Cornell University, UCLA, University of California, Berkeley, and University of California, Santa Cruz.

      Wolin’s most famous work is Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought, expanded ed. (1960; Princeton University Press, 2004).

      He is the author of Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism (Princeton University Press, 2008).

  6. Gregory Kruse
    August 28, 2015 at 12:34

    Sanders’ position on Saudi Arabia and the Middle East is as absurd as Trump’s position on undocumented immigrants.

    • OH
      August 29, 2015 at 14:37

      Sanders speaks his opposition to the bi-partisan consensus support of ISIS’s supporters and war against ISIS’s credible enemies – in fucking code – at best – if Sanders cryptic statement is not indeed a cryptic call for more money to ISIS.

  7. D5-5
    August 28, 2015 at 11:46

    More troubling to me than Sanders’ incomplete views of the middle east swamp is the left progressive press’s eagerness to leap all over the man at this stage of his candidacy. I hope Consortium News will not do what Counterpunch is doing, with its three to five negative Sanders articles a week, if not a day. It’s also possible that this muddled world we have created is beyond any of our notions of how to fix it, with all due respect to Mr. Parry’s suggestions above. We are currently heading toward extinction, and part of that problem is our inability to organize effective leadership. That a Trump, Clinton, repeat Bush could be at the top of the pack is appalling. I’ll take a limited humanist in Sanders over any of that. But it seems to me he needs help versus this continuing withering criticism of his inadequacies.

    • Bill Bodden
      August 29, 2015 at 01:15

      Unfortunately, if Sanders is elected to be our next president he will most assuredly be boxed in by the oligarchs of both parties and held hostage as was Jimmy Carter.

    • OH
      August 29, 2015 at 14:43

      ISIS and Al Qaida would detonate a nuclear bomb on a US city if they could.

      Sanders is knuckling under, if he is not pro-ISIS like the rest of the bi-partisan consensus.

  8. August 28, 2015 at 09:16

    As a Sanders supporter, I’d like to think he’s well aware of the Saudis’ history and actions, and that calling on them to ‘get their hands dirty’ is his way of exposing just how dirty Saudi hands already are. It’s a minefield he’s tiptoeing through, and he’s got a well-thought-out plan for just how to do that—at least that’s my hope. But perhaps he is as naive about the Middle East as you suggest. We’ll see. I do think he’s our best hope in any case, on many fronts.

    Thanks for the excellent thinking, Mr. Parry.

    • OH
      August 29, 2015 at 14:38

      Saudi Arabia = ISIS and Al Qaida

      Sanders = mush

  9. Brad Owen
    August 28, 2015 at 06:06

    Excellent article and sound advice, Mr. Parry. One thing that really jumped out at me was VP Biden’s truth-telling moment…and then he apparently felt compelled to apologize for it. WHO compelled the V.P. for apologizing? The Prez? WHO compelled HIM to demand an apology? I smell a story there. As far as truth-telling goes, if Ms. Clinton told the truth about Benghazi(ruining her chance at being Prez, which she won’t get anyway), Obama could be removed from office in fairly rapid order (25th Amendment) (E.I.R’s strategy), and we would have care-taker-Prez Biden in place to tell as much truth as he dared. If we like what we hear, we could have Prez Biden ’til 2024. Although he does come from Delaware, the one state that has mid-wifed the modern, unchained Corporation (they were more like Public Utilities until then). That may be a good thing, as the Corps will feel he’ll only give them a “haircut”, NOT cut their throats.

  10. Curious
    August 28, 2015 at 05:13

    Thank you for that well written article Mr Parry. It is encouraging to have someone attempt to solve some big problems in a rational way, and even try to create some alternatives to the standard ‘tough guy/gal” knee-jerk reactions in Washington that supposedly represent a policy.

    I don’t know how someone could attempt to quiet our war machine, or war mentality but I like the idea that truth could become fashionable. There are so many lies out there already that someone would have to eat some major crow to tell the truth to the people. One can only hope.

  11. Peter Loeb
    August 28, 2015 at 04:59


    The result of policy, say, an intervention, are occasionally an
    issue in US politics only as a result of tangible results
    to Americans, such as the return of American bodies from
    Vietnam or elsewhere. [There is never much concern about
    anyone else’s bodies.]

    Foreign policy continues but US voters are rarely if ever
    interested in “policy”. American foreign policy had relied
    to a great extent upon John Forster Dulles under
    Harry Truman. His successor, Dwight Eisenhower, appointed
    John Foster Dulles as Secretary of State.

    The observations of Robert Parry are helpful. However,
    there should never be an expectation that candidates
    for President should or could or would detail an
    actual POLICY.

    Briefly stated, there is no candidate who can be
    expected to come out for peace in the Middle East.
    One should not expect that one will show up.

    If an American chooses to support a candidate
    who it is thought will work for any of the goals of
    world peace and human decency which he holds
    sacred, he/she is will be under an illusion. The same
    can be said for a Presidentisl candidate who opposes
    continued warmongering abroad.

    Campaign issues will no doubt focus on areas
    closer to home and closer to the “homes” of
    the wealthy 1 per cent. (Note that proxy warriors
    such as in the Mideast make excellent consumers
    of weapons, thus increasing the profits of weapons
    manufacturers—and designers etc— and
    saving the “jobs” of those in those industries.)

    —-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

    • OH
      August 29, 2015 at 14:40

      This is a non-campaign issue on which the default bi-partisan consensus track IS GOING TO get all of us Americans killed so it should be an exception.

  12. Pat
    August 28, 2015 at 02:19

    Bob, I think it’s too early to expect a senator with no foreign policy assignments to have a “comprehensive strategy,” especially when he never expected to get this far. His campaign is flying by the seat of their pants, and because he’s not taking corporation donations or PAC money, he can’t hire more staff than he needs just to get through New Hampshire and Iowa. Last I read, he had 65 paid staff members, to Hillary’s 300.


    There will be debates, and it’s a safe bet that he will have to debate foreign policy with HRC and with Biden, should he run. But he’s got to get that far first, and foreign policy isn’t what’s going to get out the vote in the numbers he needs to overcome a serious disadvantage.

    I suppose it’s possible that Sanders really is that naïve about Saudi Arabia, although my read is that he simply doesn’t want any more U.S. troops sacrificed for problems that aren’t ours – unless, of course, you think our military should be used to support Big Oil and other corporate interests abroad, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t. I recently listened to his speech on the Senate floor in August 2013, when Obama was ready to bomb Syria. He made some pretty clear arguments, although some of his views were the prevailing Washington beliefs. It’s hard to know why, when he has always been a critique of the mainstream media. At some point, someone needs to introduce him to Consortium News.

    Rather than complaining about his lack of knowledge and experience, I wish people would contact him with letters of concern. Send him links to Consortium News and other respected alternative sites. It’s hard getting through to the campaign right now, because they are on overload, but they do have a press office and presumably would respond to reporters. Bob, couldn’t you contact them, explain that you were among the journalists who broke the story about Saudi-Israeli complicity, and ask him to clarify what he really means when he suggests that the Saudis should be doing more? Even if foreign policy isn’t their first priority right now, it will become more of one as the campaign progresses.

    One more reason to think about why this man deserves serious consideration (old article, but still one of the best I’ve read):

    • Brad Benson
      August 28, 2015 at 11:43

      Actually, I think Bernie’s support is precisely because he has claimed to be against our wars and many people have not actually checked into his record, which includes funding all those wars that he votes against. He has also refused to condemn Israeli War Crimes, which is a serious problem for most clear thinking Progressives.

      That being said, Hillary Clinton is a sociopathic War Criminal, with on-the-job experience. Bernie, no matter how bad, has not pledged a “more aggressive foreign policy” than Obama, who has blessed us with five new wars since the celebrated departure of the previous War Criminal.

      As a result, we cannot expect either Bernie or Hillary to willingly launch into a thorough discussion of foreign policy, unless pressed. Moreover, the Corporate MSM runs the debates, so foreign policy questions will either be muted or fashioned in such a way as to give every candidate, Republican or Democrat, no other alternative but to respond with the “right” answer or risk attack from all sides (i.e., How would you address Putin’s Aggression? or, What is the best way to effect regime change in Syria?).

      I’m supporting Bernie because Hillary is a War Criminal and no reasonable person could ever vote for a Republican. However, I’m doing so while holding my nose—and…with my eyes wide-open, since I am aware of Bernie’s previous history and spotty voting record in regard to Israel and US Interventions in the Middle East.

      Also, having voted in every election since 1969 and seen Government from the inside as both a Federal Manager and whistleblower, I lost my belief in the system a long time ago. But I still want to believe! …And that is why I’m supporting Bernie for now—in the hope that he might be pushed to the left and really take a stand against our wars.

      Bernie is not dumb and I’m sure he recognizes that the only thing that truly separates him from Hillary, who lately sounds like Elizabeth Warren on domestic policy, is because people are sick of the wars and they believe him to be less of a hawk. This was also the basis for Rand Paul’s support a few months ago but, once he modified his stances to meet the requirements of the lunatic right wing base, he dropped off of the radar.

      In fact, PEACE NOW is the elephant in the room that no Republican would even want to talk about, Hillary can’t talk about with a straight face, and Bernie is reticent to talk about because his record so far has not been littered with inconsistencies and perhaps hypocrisy. Still, only one candidate right now that could legitimately seize the moment, grab that elephant, and run with it and, now that Rand Paul has thrown away his chances, that candidate is Bernie.

      Bernie already knows that this is the only true path for him to win the election. However, his positions thus far, especially as they relate to Israel, are wrongheaded if they are heartfelt. Therefore, it will require a major attitude adjustment in regard to Israel and US Hegemony if Bernie is really serious about becoming President. The Progressives on the left and the libertarians on the right all want an end to these wars and Bernie is currently the last man standing that could make this an issue and not only get away with it, but win elections.

      So what can we do? To begin with, your suggestions in regard to contacting Bernie’s Campaign are good ones. We all have to pressure him to change his views on our wars, which I also do not believe are as confused as Mr. Parry thinks. Just as the “Black Lives Matter” People got his attention, the peace lobby now needs to go after him and either make him change his mind or acknowledge that he’s just another phony.

      To your well-constructed suggestions regarding Bernie’s Press Office, I would add that, despite the small size of his staff, his press people are reading online articles about their candidate–especially ones in which the candidate participated in an interview and there is an open thread like this one.

      In these cases, as i did once after the Guardian posted a very favorable article about Sander’s Candidacy, I suggest posting an “Open Letter to Bernie Sanders” in which the candidate should be apprised that we are aware of his past support for Israeli War Crimes and US Wars of Intervention and that we are prepared to support him if he is prepared to change,

      If Bernie doesn’t make this change soon, he won’t even be a footnote to this election. If he makes it now, he might become the next President of the United States with an election majority that cannot be changed by computer manipulation or a right wing Supreme Court.

      • Brad Benson
        August 28, 2015 at 11:58

        Sorry for the typo’s and the editing errors that remain in my post above. After having spent so much time constructing it, I got lazy at the end and didn’t do one last proofread.

      • JWalters
        August 29, 2015 at 17:35

        Bernie was the first Senator to announce he was boycotting Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, and was an early supporter of Obama’s Iran peace deal. There may be more to his thinking than yet meets the eye. Some people may be trying to move forward cautiously, to avoid JFK’s fate.

      • Pat
        August 29, 2015 at 18:18

        Brad, I’m actually glad to read thoughtful, intelligent comments like yours. As much as I support Bernie, the “Sandernistas” and those sucked into the cult of personality scare me. And they are exactly what he preaches against. It’s not enough to elect our president and representatives and then go back to sleep for four years. Writing comments on blogs is one thing, but we need to be more engaged. The phenomenon of mass public disapproval of Obama’s plan to bomb Syria is a good example.

        Whether he’s playing it safe on Israel or is a true believer, it’s hard to know, but I suspect the former. It’s a fact that he was one of a handful of senators who DID NOT SIGN S. Res. 498, the resolution granting unwavering support to Israel in its assault on Gaza in July 2014. If he is that pro-Israel or “Zionist,” as some call him, why didn’t he join 79 of his colleagues in giving Israel a free pass?

        But what about that “unanimous consent?” you might ask. I wanted to know more about that, so I did some research. “Unanimous consent” isn’t what it sounds like. It’s a means of conducting business in the Senate that does not involve a vote or even a debate. That’s right. No one voted on S. Res. 498 or any of the other Senate resolutions concerning Israel’s attack on Gaza in July 2014. “Unanimous consent” doesn’t even require that anyone be present, other than the presiding officers. As best I can tell, that’s often the case. When there’s no vote or no debate scheduled, members are off doing something else. “Unanimous consent” typically is used for simple resolutions (resolutions in the Senate that don’t involved the House), which are symbolic in nature and carry no force of the law. Moreover, “unanimous consent” is presumed by lack of objection. Since it often is requested before an empty chamber, there’s one there to object.

        S. Res. 498, which passed on July 17, 2014, was a simple resolution. So was S. Res. 526, which passed on July 29. On the morning of July 17, there were some speeches on the Senate floor, all of them extremely pro-Israel. We know that Sanders wasn’t there, because he was chairing a committee meeting. Although the speeches referred to H. Res. 498, it wasn’t brought up for up for approval until four minutes before the Senate adjourned that day for a three-day weekend. The entire proceeding took less than one minute. And while we have no official list of who was present, you can see the empty seats in the front rows on the C-SPAN video (link below). You also can find some details in the Congressional Record (p. S4626, middle column).

        H.J. Res. 76 was a slightly different matter, because it provided “emergency” funding for Israel. However, it received “unanimous consent” much in the same manner, the big difference being that there was a heated debate on amendments proposing funding for non-related activities. Again, there was NO VOTE in the Senate. Conversely, there was a vote in the House, which overwhelmingly passed it. Incidentally, Vermont’s lone representative voted against it.

        I suppose you could argue that if Sanders felt that strongly, he could have hung around after everyone left and raised an objection, but what would that have accomplished? He registered his objection by not signing a symbolic statement that contained the signatures of more than three-fourths of the Senate in an extremely pro-Israel moment in Congress. A statement also appeared on his website criticizing Israel. Although it’s not the strong condemnation that some want to hear, it’s more than anyone else did. How on earth can that remotely be considered “pro-Israel?” Somehow it’s all over the Internet that Bernie sided with Israel when he was one of the few who didn’t.

        If you haven’t listened to Bernie’s speech on bombing Syria (link in previous comment), check it out. It’s 19 minutes long but worth the time. His arguments for not going to war are practical ones that apply not just to the situation in Syria but to war in general. In a nutshell, he argued that people are tired of perpetual war, they’re tired of the government spending trillions of dollars to invade foreign countries while cutting back on basic necessities for our own citizens. He’s on the Veteran’s Committee and talks about the physical and mental damage of returning troops – those who actually do return. The part I wasn’t crazy about was his contention that “Assad did it,” despite evidence to the contrary. As Bob notes, there’s an “official Washington” view, and it’s risky to step outside of it. One can only hope, as you suggest, that his staff (and Bernie himself) do read news outside the mainstream.

        I like the idea of an open letter, but I wonder whether it would be more effective to do a letter-writing campaign. We could send letters to his campaign office or to his Senate office. It seems to me the latter is fair game, given that the positions to which we’re objecting aren’t new. He has held them all along.

        I hope that by the time we have to vote in the primaries (or caucuses, depending on your state), you will be able to unblock at least one nostril.

        P.S. I posted an earlier version of this comment, but it didn’t get posted. If it eventually shows up, apologies for the duplication.

  13. Charlie
    August 27, 2015 at 22:07

    Good for you, Robert Parry! Let’s give peace a chance.

  14. Secret Agent
    August 27, 2015 at 21:47

    In order for peace to become fashionable you need to take a huge shitkicking, followed by the execution of the war party like in Japan or Germany. The whooping the U.S. Took in Vietnam slowed things down a bit but war is a classic. It’s always fashionable. Get used to it.

  15. Jay
    August 27, 2015 at 20:38

    Sure if Sander’s is really proposing wider Saudi wars, that’s a bad idea.

    However Sanders voted against the Libya fiasco, where was Ms Clinton on that? Oh, never mind.

    The equation of Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy with that of Sanders is getting tiresome.

    • Brad Benson
      August 28, 2015 at 09:11

      There is no “equation” here between the policies of Bernie and Hillary. Mr. Parry has noted that the Republicans are all espousing an aggressive foreign policy, while Democratic Candidates have mostly been avoiding foreign policy issues like the plague. Moreover, when they are questioned about it, their answers are confusing at best. Whether intentional or not, If anything, the author has cut both of these horribly flawed candidates a break.

      On the one hand, he alluded to some of Hillary’s War Crimes without acknowledging them as such, and, on the other, he failed to note Bernie Sander’s extremely troubling positions in regard to Israeli Land Seizures; the Gaza War Crimes; funding for most, if not all of the wars and military actions that he verbally opposed; and his support for the F-35 Boondoggle.

      I am opposed to Hillary Clinton under any and all circumstances. She is no different than the Republicans and is a War Criminal. During the primaries, I will support Sanders and I’ve even bought two t-shirts—mostly as a joke, but I will wear them. I’ve also sent him a small check, which is really unusual for me to do for any politician running for anything. As noted by Mr. Parry, we should all press for a more peaceful foreign policy and I think Bernie is the only candidate that might potentially move in the right direction, if the people put the pressure on him.

      Whatever happens in regard to the elections, the shadow government remains in the form of embedded bureaucrats that have discovered, as did J. Edgar Hoover some years back, that they can outlast several administrations. These ideological plants, left over from past right wing administrations, sit within the bureaucracy and undermine the best intentions of any President and the problem is particularly acute in the Pentagon and our so-called “intelligence” agencies.

      Other parts of this shadow government issue policy “recommendations” from right-wing “Think Tanks” that proliferate around the beltway. Contractors, whose contracts are renewed every year, have become quasi-government permanent fixtures with their own agendas. All of this is overseen by the Wall Street Speculators and Multi-National Corporations that have bought the people’s representatives.

      No elected President has ever managed to control the shadow government and the last one to really try was John F. Kennedy. Subsequent Presidents have always known that they can be removed if they don’t go along and, if anything, the pressure on them has increased since 9/11. As a result, Presidents have basically become figureheads who actually have less control over the things done in our names than one would think.

      Therefore, don’t waste your passion in an argument over a Sanders or a Clinton and whether this or that author is treating them fairly. Elections matter little these days and they are rigged in any case, since we have a one-party system with two right wings in which we have a multitude of clown candidates from which to choose. To really change things, it is too late for a revolution. The people will have to vote with their dollars. A national boycott on any and all companies that provide products for the wars might be a beginning, but that’s just my own pipedream!

      • Jay
        August 29, 2015 at 10:47


        If “elections matter little” you’re deluded. This “thinking” got us GWBush instead of Gore–and there was a huge difference.

        Just imagine John McCain winning the presidential election in 2008.

        Then I’ll remind you of the midterm elections in 2010 and 2014.

        There’s a big difference between Sanders and Clinton, and Sanders can point to voting against the fiasco in Libya.

        Sure Sanders should note how he’d cut the military budget, but the Air Force is still going to get a modern replacement for the 30 year old F16–this will NOT change, no matter who is elected. The F35 is an expensive fiasco since it’s also a Navy and Marine aircraft. Perhaps those non-Air Force versions should be cancelled, but those aren’t what Senator Sanders is supporting.

        The implication that Sanders’ positions regarding Israel are akin to those of the Likud party are just plain false.

        The sitting corporate democratic governor of New York State nearly lost the democratic primary to someone with zero money. The governor lost New York City in this primary.

  16. John
    August 27, 2015 at 20:22

    We all know the neocon agenda in the middle east and possibly Russia….Crush anything that stands in the way of the neocon policy…..what we are not seeing is the USA and China are as we speak engaged in war ! The sudden drop in China’s market is due to neocon shorting the market in a massive fashion…In return we know about the devaluation of China’s currency…..Now China is dumping US treasuries at an alarming rate….but this website hasn’t touched on this subject……I’m sure they will delete this post…..So folks get ready and be ready……

    • Brad Benson
      August 28, 2015 at 07:53

      Why in the world do you think that this site would delete your post? You’re not posting on Salon or the Guardian here.

  17. Bob Van Noy
    August 27, 2015 at 19:31

    “Even more dangerous is the showdown with nuclear-armed Russia over Ukraine. Since February 2014 when Assistant Secretary of State Nuland plotted “regime change” in Kiev, the American public has been fed a steady diet of anti-Russian propaganda with the special demonization of Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

    I agree Mr. Parry as I usually do. Recently I followed a link to a discussion with Professor Stephen Cohen where he (Cohen) explained that this began as “unwise policy” and has become ” breaking Russia”. If the Obama administration really thinks it can break Russia, then they’ve certainly lost it. Cohen then mentioned that Henry Kissinger in an interview, felt that a solution would be a Russian, American Marshall Plan where Ukraine would be a “non aligned power.” I am no fan of Henry Kissinger, but I like this idea.

    Professor Cohen further speculated, on Putin’s motivation, accurately, I think.


  18. August 27, 2015 at 19:12

    Prior to the implementation of George W. Bush’s SATANICALLY INSPIRED policy of waging a NEVER-ENDING worldwide preemptive “War on Terror”, it was a common practice to deploy UN Peacekeeping Forces to “hot spots” throughout the world to calm things down, help protect the innocent, and establish a lasting peace in that area. For the most part, those UN Peacekeeping forces succeeded in accomplishing those objectives.

    But President Obama and Hillary Clinton elected to CONTINUE Bush’s policy of waging a NEVER-ENDING worldwide preemptive “War on Terror” (to the great delight of our military contractors) although honored G. W. Bush’s timeline for removing US troops from Iraq. As we can now see, Obama’s decision to continue Bush’s preemptive war strategy has created far greater problems than it has solved.

    Obama also screwed up when he sponsored the 2009 coup de tat to overthrow the democratically elected Head of State in Honduras which produced disastrous (bloody) consequences for Honduras and a flood of Honduran refugees into the United States. And then in 2013 he sponsored a coup de tat to overthrow the democratically elected Head of State of the Ukraine which immediately ignited a very bloody civil war that is still be fought more than two year later.

    So President Obama’s SATANICALLY INSPIRED foreign policies have pretty much failed (predictably). His only real success has been the nuclear agreement he worked out with Iran and the fact that the honored President Bush’s timeline for getting US troops out of Iraq (thereby saving a lot of American lives).

    And now, Obama is attempting to implement even MORE SATANIC polices with his dishonestly promoted (and treasonous) TPP, TTIP, and TiSA rigged “trade agreements” which will override all three levels of our government AND all three branches of our government in order to serve the (often MASSIVELY DEADLY) financial interests of corporate CEOs at the expense of everyone else!

    What we REALLY need to do is to KILL those TTP, TTIP, and TiSA initiatives and DEMAND that the UN Peace Keeping Force solution be implemented in the Iraq/Syrian region and in Yemen. Such a solution may end up requiring the division of Iraq/Syria into four or five separate countries. If so, then so be it.

    P.S. Don’t be afraid to refer to those TPP, TTIP, and TiSA rigged “trade agreements” as “treasonous”, because they ARE IN FACT TREASONOUS!

    • Mortimer
      August 28, 2015 at 09:03

      Those UN Peacekeeping forces became obsolete after US stimulation and build up of NATO, which act erased the stigma of US “sole superpower Bully-ish hostility. The euphemistic “Coalition-of-the-Willing suddenly grew Fangs… .

      ‘Islamic State’ Pretense And The Upcoming Wars In Libya
      By Ramzy Baroud

      27 August, 2015


      Another war is in the making in Libya: the questions are ‘how’ and ‘when’? While the prospect of another military showdown is unlikely to deliver Libya from its current security upheaval and political conflict, it is likely to change the very nature of conflict in that rich, but divided, Arab country.

      But another war is being plotted elsewhere, this time involving NATO’s usual suspects. The Western scheming, however, is far more involved than Al-Thinni’s political designs. The London Times reported on August 1st that “hundreds of British troops are being lined up to go to Libya as part of a major new international mission,” which will also include “military personnel from Italy, France, Spain, Germany and the United States … in an operation that looks set to be activated once the rival warring factions inside Libya agree to form a single government of national unity.”

      Those involved in the operation which, according to a UK Government source, could be actualized “towards the end of August”, are countries with vested economic interests and are the same parties behind the war in Libya in 2011.

      Commenting on the report, Jean Shaoul wrote, “Italy, the former colonial power in Libya, is expected to provide the largest contingent of ground troops. France has colonial and commercial ties with Libya’s neighbours, Tunisia, Mali and Algeria. Spain retains outposts in northern Morocco and the other major power involved, Germany, is once again seeking to gain access to Africa’s resources and markets.”

      It is becoming clearer that Libya, once a sovereign and relatively wealthy nation, is becoming a mere playground for a massive geopolitical game and large economic interests and ambitions.

  19. fosforos
    August 27, 2015 at 17:54

    Oxymoron alert! You write “replacing a Sunni autocrat…with Shiite autocrats” By definition an autocrat is a unique ruler. In an autocracy there can never be multiple autocrats (and in post-invasion Iraq the most important political figure has been–and is–Ayatollah Sistani who has nothing whatsoever of the autocrat about him)!

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