Obama Taunts Putin over Syria

President Obama mocked Russian President Putin for not fixing Syria during the past month and chided him about Moscow’s Afghan quagmire in the 1980s, proving that Obama has either no self-awareness or no sense of irony given the U.S. misadventures in both countries, as Sam Husseini describes.

By Sam Husseini

President Barack Obama’s remarks about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intervention in the Syria conflict were remarkably ironic: “The Russians now have been there for several weeks, over a month, and I think fair-minded reporters who have looked at the situation would say that the situation hasn’t changed significantly.

“In the interim, Russia has lost a commercial passenger jet. You’ve seen another jet shot down. There have been losses in terms of Russian personnel. And I think Mr. Putin understands that with Afghanistan fresh in the memory, for him to simply get bogged down in an inconclusive and paralyzing civil conflict is not the outcome that he’s looking for.”

President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and other heads of state and delegations, observe a minute of silence for the Paris attack victims during the opening ceremony of the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), at the Parc des Expositions du Bourget in Le Bourget, Paris, France, Nov. 30, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and other heads of state and delegations, observe a minute of silence for the Paris attack victims during the opening ceremony of the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), at the Parc des Expositions du Bourget in Le Bourget, Paris, France, Nov. 30, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In those remarks on Tuesday in Paris, Obama scrutinized the hard effects of Russian foreign policy, but not his own. “With Afghanistan fresh in the memory,” said the U.S. President, presumably referring to the Russian intervention there that ended in 1989 — and not the 14-year U.S. intervention in the same country which is ongoing.

Obama can see the speck in Putin’s eye, but not the log in his own. To say nothing of the fact that the U.S. started the modern movement of Islamic jihadists in the 1980s by organizing, funding and arming the Afghan mujahedeen to make the Russians bleed.

Gore Vidal called the USA the “United States of Amnesia” — but it’s more like the USSA: The United States of Selective Amnesia.

The U.S. has been bombing the Mideast for decades now — not a month — and has yet to make a serious accounting of all the people killed, cities destroyed and hatred engendered. Would some “fair-minded” reporter look at the U.S. experience from Afghanistan since the 1980s to Iraq in the 1990s and 2000s to Libya and Syria this decade and judge that Washington has solved the problems  or made them markedly worse?

A few hours after Obama made his remarks, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the U.S. was again expanding its military actions in Iraq.

Why Terrorism?

While it rarely occurs to anyone to question that the stated goals of the U.S. government might not be the actual goals, it’s rarely thought to examine the stated goals of the 9/11 or Paris attackers. Many have rightly noted that the “terrorism” label is applied selectively, most recently regarding the shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, but beyond the use of the word “terrorism,” the notion of explicitly articulating an attacker’s motive is selective.

When talking about events like the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, “motive” doesn’t enter into it; indeed, talk of “terrorism” or “war” is partly a substitute for thinking through a motive. In the case of the Planned Parenthood attack, it’s seemingly taken for granted that someone can be opposed to abortion rights and be opposed to violent attacks on abortion clinics. But it’s not a point taken to heart when examining U.S. — or French, or British — foreign policy.

One nation seems to have come to grips with this contradiction, at least to an extent: On March 11, 2004, a series of nearly simultaneous bombs exploded on four commuter trains in Madrid. The blasts killed 191 people and wounded nearly 2,000.

That same day, the UN Security Council passed resolution 1530 that condemned in “the strongest terms the bomb attacks in Madrid, Spain, perpetrated by the terrorist group ETA.” Of course, it quickly became evident ETA — a Basque separatist group — had nothing to do with it.

This was a rare instance of officialdom not immediately trying to “blame the Muslims” after a bombing. And for good reason. The then right-wing ruling party in Spain, the inaptly named Peoples Party, had dragged the country into the Iraq War a year before and, with elections looming just three days later, there was fear that if the attack was shown to be Mideast-related, the public would be furious. In fact, the day of the election, Al Qaeda claimed responsibility.

Before the Madrid bombing, the Peoples Party led the polls by 5 percentage points, but the Socialist Party ended up winning by 5 percent. The victorious Socialist Party had called for the removal of Spanish troops from Iraq during the campaign.

Part of what was pivotal and crucial was that there were substantial protests in the immediate aftermath of the bombings. This included protests under the banner “No to Terrorism — No to War.” [See picture.]

The Socialist Party had promised to remove Spanish troops by June 30, 2004, and, after winning the election, the troops were withdrawn a month earlier than expected. I can’t find a record of any Mideast-related attacks in Spain since.

The story has been different with Great Britain and France, which took more prominent roles in interventions in their former colonies, Iraq and Syria, respectively. British Prime Minister Tony Blair was President George W. Bush’s principal sidekick during the invasion and occupation of Iraq, while French President Francois Hollande has joined Obama as leading voices in demanding “regime change” in Syria and in escalating war talk about the Islamic State.

There’s been much made in some circles about the French, who were derided in the U.S. for not supporting the 2003 Iraq invasion, now leading the fight in Syria and Hollande’s pro-war rhetoric. But Syria was a former French colony.

Yet, the fact that the interventionist dynamics line up with the imperial histories is damning to the Western powers by playing into the anti-Western narrative that today’s interventions are just modern versions of the Christian world’s war on and exploitation of the Muslim world dating back to the Crusades.

This Western imperial mindset toward the Mideast is evident, including the case of Israel’s active settler colonial project against the Palestinians. It’s also evident in the alliance between the U.S. establishment and the Western-installed monarchies of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other regimes.

And the mindset is even evident in the case of Iran, as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated after the nuclear agreement with Iran earlier this year at the Brookings Institution: “I don’t see Iran as the partner in this agreement, I see Iran as the subject of this agreement.”

The imperial legacy is shown in restrictions to domestic freedoms as well. There’s the rhetoric of “liberté” in France, but the state of emergency in France and prohibition of protests has its roots in laws enacted from France’s colonial war with Algeria. (Many in France also seem to be letting “the terrorists win” by abrogating their own freedoms.)

A Pressing Need

The proclaimed motives of those claiming responsibility for attacks like 9/11 were never meaningfully discussed. They should be now, especially given the widespread sense that ISIS is now adopting Al Qaeda’s tactic of striking at the West, rather than simply focusing on constructing its own Mideast caliphate.

Al Qaeda’s leader Osama bin Laden addressed the U.S. public just before the 2004 election thus: “Contrary to Bush’s claim that we hate freedom — if so, then let him explain to us why we don’t strike for example — Sweden? … But I am amazed at you. Even though we are in the fourth year after the events of September 11th, Bush is still engaged in distortion, deception and hiding from you the real causes. And thus, the reasons are still there for a repeat of what occurred.”

Around the same time, said bin Laden: “When I saw those destroyed towers in Lebanon it sparked in my mind that the oppressors should be punished in the same way and that we should destroy towers in America so that they can taste what we tasted and so they will stop killing our women and children.” (See my piece “U.S. Policy: ‘Putting out the fire with gasoline?” based on interviews with Lee Hamilton and Thomas Kean.)

This passage is almost never cited, and its context was outright falsified by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in his book, where he claims Bin Laden was “referring to the destruction of the Marine barracks and the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut.” Robin Wright correctly notes in her book the context was that bin Laden was referring to “Israeli’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon with American arms.”

Paris and London should be looking toward Madrid’s example in taking steps toward shedding their imperial mindsets in stopping their war-obsessed elites. You can either be an emissary of empire or a decent democracy, but not both.

Hollande is clearly escalating the bombing that France has been conducting in Syria for over a year — now calling for “merciless” bombing. British Prime Minister David Cameron is pushing for Britain to join the bombing in Syria — in effect adopting a U.S. style of ecumenical imperialism — and not just in Britain’s traditional domains like Iraq.

It doesn’t have to be this way. History can change. And the fact is that there is a great legacy of anti-imperialism in the U.S. that’s continually overlooked. Mark Twain the pen name of author Samuel Clemens is revered now, but what’s typically ignored is Twain’s opposition to the U.S. becoming a global imperial power.

In 1898, he helped found the Anti-Imperialist League and wrote in 1900: “I have read carefully the Treaty of Paris [between the United States and Spain], and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem. … And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.”

Of course, U.S. colonialism actually goes backs to its own roots as a settler colonial state against the native peoples of North America.

Though Spain is still a NATO member and gave NATO support during the 2011 bombing of Libya (which has led to a massive disaster there), Madrid at least took a step away from the abyss with some positive results. This is in contrast to “leaders” in Paris, London, Washington and elsewhere who are plunging headlong into it.

In 2013, a British soldier was killed in the English town of Woolwich, a southeast part of London. Michael Adebolajo, one of the killers, explained his aim in vivid terms — literally with blood and knives in hand:

“Remove your governments, they don’t care about you. You think David Cameron is going to get caught in the street when we start busting our guns? You think politicians are going to die? No, it’s going to be the average guy, like you and your children. So get rid of them. Tell them to bring our troops back so can all live in peace. So leave our lands and we can all live in peace. That’s all I have to say.” [transcript and video]

People should listen closely for motive to better understand the choices before us.

Sam Husseini is communications director for the Institute for Public Accuracy. Follow him on twitter: @samhusseiniResearch assistance: Michael Getzler. 

34 comments for “Obama Taunts Putin over Syria

  1. JP
    December 6, 2015 at 12:01

    Obama risks making himself irrelevant. Putin is accomplishing more in Syria and Iraq than America has ever done. America and Israel are an impediment to destroying IS. The Americans and Israelis created IS to steal the oil of Syria and Iraq. It is a strategy that will backfire.

    • Daniel
      December 8, 2015 at 21:46

      Agreed. Except that Obama has already made himself irrelevant.

  2. Ahmed Asgher
    December 6, 2015 at 00:37

    Obama should really check for early onset of Alzheimer.

  3. Post- Grad
    December 5, 2015 at 15:14

    So Obama taunts Putin for not fixing Syria after 30 days, when he has been there for nearly 360 days?

    HA! HA! HA!!!

  4. Dean
    December 4, 2015 at 14:22

    My concern is that with France and UK now bombing and Germany getting involved also, is that this is going to be the wedge NATO uses to get troops into Syria which will have a different objective than Russia. Theirs will be to interfere with the sealing of the Syrian Turkey border and the support of the anti Assad forces. I’m sure that is why Russia is establishing 2 or 3 new airbases and providing the SAA with T-90 tanks, etc. They need to move quickly to take as much territory as possible before NATO starts its move.

  5. Obama_Is_White
    December 3, 2015 at 10:30

    Obamas regime has a civilian to militant kill ratio of 50:1

    He shouldn’t be giving nobody advice on how to fight a war. Putin accomplished more in one month than Hussein has during his entire presidency.

  6. FlopSweatGagster
    December 3, 2015 at 00:13

    The USA will be to this century what Germany was to the previous century. Already an American accent has become a liability to travellers almost everywhere around the globe.
    Britain is widely regarded as a silly little fart of a nation spewing drunken ignoramuses where once it produced people of quality. This is a cycle (Saeculum) that has been repeated over and over throughout history, that it still works is testimony to the ignorance of the general populations of those nations. Perhaps Obama’s new expeditionary force will be under new orders from the ones of previous wars, that is to shoot more of the enemy and less of each other.

    • dahoit
      December 4, 2015 at 15:43

      I bet America killed as many innocent civilians in the 20th century as Germany.Probably more.
      Its all demonization propaganda by the same actors that gave us the cold war,Vietnam and now the unholy war of terror,and America is terrorized.OBL is laughing from the grave,wherever that might be?
      Is it the bottled water?Kills brain cells?They all drink it.

    • dahoit
      December 4, 2015 at 15:49

      How come in every one of these attacks,from Paris to NY to Pakistan,are the suspects not captured for their possible info?Every one is bumped off.
      And yeah,why aren’t the ringleaders of our terrorist gangs(neoclibcons)ever attacked?It’s always the people who pay.????

  7. Larry Burton
    December 2, 2015 at 17:48

    It is refreshing to see such true documentation after reading the propaganda US media feeds us.

  8. Bill Bodden
    December 2, 2015 at 17:10

    … and I think fair-minded reporters who have looked at the situation …

    Make that “reporters for the fawning corporate media.”

  9. Abe
    December 2, 2015 at 16:48

    Turkey is a mere vassal state, the eastern arm of NATO, which is the European arm of the Pentagon. The Pentagon already issued a denial — which, considering their spectacular record of strategic failures cannot be taken at face value. Plausibly, this might have been a power play by the neocon generals who run the Pentagon, allied with the neocon-infested Obama administration.

    The privileged scenario though is of a vassal Turkey led by Sultan Erdogan risking a suicide mission out of its own, current, desperation.

    Here’s Erdogan’s warped reasoning in a nutshell. The Paris tragedy was a huge setback. France started discussing close military collaboration not within NATO, but with Russia. Washington’s unstated aim was always to get NATO inside Syria. By having Turkey/NATO — clumsily, inside Syrian territory — attacking Russia, and provoking a harsh Russian response, Erdogan thought he could seduce NATO into Syria, under the pretext (Article 5) of defending Turkey.

    As Bay-of-Pigs dangerous as this may be, it has nothing to do with WWIII — as apocalyptic purveyors are braying. It revolves around whether a state which supports/finances/weaponizes the Salafi-jihadi nebulae is allowed to destroy the Russian jets that are turning its profitable assets into ashes.

    […] The European Commission (EC) has just given Erdogan the 3 billion euros. He starts getting the cash on January 1, 2016. The official spin is these funds are part of the “efforts to solve the migrant crisis.” European Commission First-Vice President Frans Timmermans glowingly framed the so-called Turkey Refugee Facility as “providing support to further improve the daily lives and socio-economic conditions of Syrians seeking refuge in Turkey.”

    Don’t expect the EC to monitor how the cash will vanish in the mobster maze — or will be used to further weaponize “moderate rebels”.

    Erdogan does not give a damn about refugees. What he wants is his “safe zone”, not in Turkey, but 35 km deep in northern Syria, out of bounds for the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), militias under Iranian command, Hezbollah forces and most of all the Russian Air Force. He wants his no-fly zone and he wants NATO to get it for him.

    Erdogan is on a mission from Allah — at least his version of Allah. The downing of the Su-24 is just the preamble. Get ready, because 2016 promises an even bigger bang.

    Sultan Erdogan’s War on…Russia
    By Pepe Escobar

  10. Brendan
    December 2, 2015 at 16:43

    Obama: “In the interim, Russia has lost a commercial passenger jet. ”

    It’s amazing that a public figure can talk about the murder of hundreds of innocent people as if it’s just a humiliating loss of hardware for Russia. I don’t remember any world leaders talking about the USA losing commercial passenger jets on 9/11.

  11. He never stops
    December 2, 2015 at 16:41

    Obama has absolutely no class whatsoever. He constantly taunts and talks trash like this is a street rumble between two gangs rather than a discourse between diplomats. Moreover, his hypocrisy, as others have noted, is stunning. He makes a fool of himself every time he makes a pronouncement on Russia or Putin, both of whom he and his MSM propaganda machine have demonized to the nth degree. Really, are there any vile remarks that he has left to make about Russia or Putin? We used to claim that Dubya was insane because of the nonsense he spewed. I am convinced that Obama is at least as crazy. For all his “mischief” at least Dubya didn’t take us to the brink of WWIII for no good reason except to vent his personal hatred for Russia and Putin. Dubya at least treated Pooty-Poot with some semblance of respect due a world leader. Perhaps Obama has lost his mind considering all the insults he has taken from the Republicans. If so, he should be removed from office rather than endangering the entire world with nuclear war.

    • Bart
      December 2, 2015 at 17:46

      He has become downright childish.

    • Bill Bodden
      December 2, 2015 at 19:47

      Perhaps Obama has lost his mind considering all the insults he has taken from the Republicans.

      And from Netanyahu.

  12. ltr
    December 2, 2015 at 15:41

    The disdain for President Putin, the disdain of Russia that we have cultivated is frightening and shames us and can only be strategically harmful. We are determined to begin a new Cold War, with no understanding of the cost even to us.

    • Paul
      December 2, 2015 at 16:44

      It is far worse. The US is run by criminal networks who also designed the 9/11-anthrax false flag attack and who strategically run “islamist” and other terrorists as secret armies to serve their goals of world domination. Those people are extremely dangerous and ruthless and they hold the world hostage.

      • Abbybwood
        December 2, 2015 at 19:18

        Russia has come out with hard evidence that NATO member Turkey has been aiding Daesh with illegal oil sales.

        If Russian intelligence figured this out, then U.S. intelligence has also figured this out.

        When will international sanctions against Turkey begin??!

    • Obama has no class
      December 2, 2015 at 19:38

      It IS already a major cold war. The Maniac in Chief seems to want to escalate it into a hot war by giving Russia ultimatums that no self-respecting country would accept.

      • AriusArmenian
        December 2, 2015 at 20:20

        Obama is just the current resident puppet in the White House. The US Deep State tells him what to do. Allen Dulles set up the Deep State machine that has undermined US democratic institutions to the present day.

  13. Abe
    December 2, 2015 at 14:20

    Obama’s taunt reflects the narrative advanced by Zbigniew Brzezinski, who is furious with Putin for thwarting “American assets” in Syria and Ukraine.

    In an October 4, 2015 Financial Times op-ed, Brzezinski urged “strategic boldness”, insisting that in “these rapidly unfolding circumstances the U.S. has only one real option if it is to protect its wider stakes in the region: to convey to Moscow the demand that it cease and desist from military actions that directly affect American assets”.

    Ignored by the mainstream media, Brzezinski’s statement is a direct acknowledgement that al-Qaeda forces in Syria, including both al-Nusra and ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, are “American assets”.

    The Russian passenger jet crash over the Sinai Peninsula and the downing of a Russian military aircraft by Turkey are “bold” responses to Brzezinski’s call for Putin to “pay a price” for interference with U.S./NATO actions in eastern Europe and the Middle East.

    • Abe
      December 2, 2015 at 14:59

      The crash of the Malaysian passenger jet flight MH-17 over eastern Ukraine is yet another example of “strategic boldness”, designed to make Putin “pay a price” for what Brzezinski called the “seizure” of Crimea by Russia.

      • David Smith
        December 2, 2015 at 23:36

        Abe, with all due respect, I disagree. The real target was not Russia, but Ukraine. One week before the shoot down, Poroshenko was quoted ” Next week the rebels will get a big surprise.” I read this in MSM, thought he was talking about an offensive. Foreknowledge of a crime is……USA has the Chocolate King by the short hairs. In all discussions of MH 17 this statement never surfaces, but it lurks in the archives, and ChocoKing knows it.

      • Abe
        December 3, 2015 at 17:17

        David, with all due respect, I disagree. The real targets were NATO lawmakers and electorates. Reichskommissar Porkoschenko remains a pompous tool.

        The United States and the EU used the escalating War in Donbass and the dramatic downing of MH-17 to justify a third round of sanctions against certain sectors of Russia’s economy. Canada, Japan, Australia, Norway, Switzerland and Ukraine also announced expanded sanctions against Russia.

        The Russian government responded in kind, with sanctions against some Canadian and American individuals and, in August 2014, with a total ban on food imports from the European Union, United States, Norway, Canada and Australia.

        Media attention on MH-17 waned as the sanctions regimes were implemented.

        On 3 October 2014, US Vice President Joe Biden said that “It was America’s leadership and the president of the United States insisting, oft times almost having to embarrass Europe to stand up and take economic hits to impose costs.”

        Europe is more than embarrassed. The EU sanctions against Russia have been particularly painful for Germany.

        • David Smith
          December 4, 2015 at 13:49

          Abe, everything in your reply to my comment is 100% correct.But there is more, the American Propertied Class runs multiple lines of benefit, and they are treacherous. They connived with Ukraine on MH17, are insulated themselves, but have all the intercepts and AWACS signals to prove Chocoking/Ukraine guilt. The hold it as blackmail. The cherry on top of a very evil plan. Publishing Chocoking’s ” big surprise next week” statement was meant as a warning to Ukraine of what could be done.

        • Abe
          December 4, 2015 at 18:26

          OK. Let’s be absolutely clear here: Ukrainian responsibility for MH-17 is US/NATO responsibility.

          The Kiev regime was installed through US/NATO aided and abetted acts of terror, and it has been a feast of terror from Odessa to Donetsk ever since.

          Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, appointed after the 2014 Maidan coup d’etat, labeled anti-Maidan protesters and pro-Russian federalists as “terrorists”.

          Avakov orchestrated efforts to crush popular opposition by means of mass killings carried out by the ultra-right. The first crackdown came after a secret April 12-13 visit to Kiev by CIA Director John Brennan.

          Avakov immediately issued a decree authorizing a new force of right-wing “patriotic” volunteer fighters directly armed by Ukraine’s Interior Ministry. These volunteer units are still shelling Donetsk.

          If Porkoschenko specifically knew that the “big surprise” was the downing of a commercial airliner, it was because he was told by those who were planning to perpetrate the act. With so much invested in the “regime change” project in Ukraine, there is no way the US would have permitted Porkoschenko to act in such a manner on his own. And if he had, he’d be a dead man right now.

          Blackmail helps sustain the zeal of a corrupt regime, to be sure. But these gangsters understand the real consequences of non-cooperation. There has been sufficient blood shed in Ukraine to make that issue abundantly clear.

        • William
          December 6, 2015 at 18:23

          Abe, I agree with you 100%, but I will use harsher terms to describe David Smith’s comment. Obama is a disaster for the U.S., and David is a moron.

    • ltr
      December 2, 2015 at 15:43

      In an October 4, 2015 Financial Times op-ed, Brzezinski urged “strategic boldness”, insisting that in “these rapidly unfolding circumstances the U.S. has only one real option if it is to protect its wider stakes in the region: to convey to Moscow the demand that it cease and desist from military actions that directly affect American assets”.

      [ Wow. ]

    • Peter Loeb
      December 3, 2015 at 07:39


      “In those remarks on Tuesday in Paris, Obama scrutinized the hard effects of Russian foreign policy, but not his own. “With Afghanistan fresh in the memory,” said the U.S. President, presumably referring to the Russian intervention there that ended in 1989 — and not the 14-year U.S. intervention in the same country which is ongoing.,,”

      In these words Sam Husseini makes the same point that I made in my
      reply to Robert Parry’s analysis, my reply is entitled ‘DULY NOTED”.( See last paragraph of my comment.)

      Only Huseini makes it better.

      —Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

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