Will We Miss President Obama?

Exclusive: President Obama doesn’t take on Official Washington’s powerful neocons head-on, but he does drag his heels on some of their crazy schemes, which is better than America can expect from Hillary Clinton, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

From a “realist” perspective, there are plenty of reasons to criticize President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, particularly his timidity in facing down Official Washington’s dominant neoconservatives and liberal interventionists on Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine and even Syria – but he also has done more to steer the country away from additional military disasters than other establishment politicians would have.

That is especially true as the Democratic Party prepares to nominate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as its choice to replace Obama. Throughout her public life, Clinton has demonstrated a pedestrian understanding of foreign policy and has consistently bowed to neocon/liberal-hawk orthodoxy, seeming to learn nothing from the Iraq War and other failures of military interventions.

President Barack Obama talks with Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice in the Oval Office on March 19, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama talks with Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice in the Oval Office on March 19, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In a recent interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Clinton scolded him for “conflating” her support for the catastrophic “regime change” war in Iraq with her insistence on the disastrous “regime change” war in Libya. In effect, she was saying that just because both decisions led to significant loss of life, failed states and terrorist control of large swaths of territory, the wars shouldn’t be viewed as her failure to apply the lessons of Iraq to a similar situation in Libya. No “conflating” allowed.

By contrast, at several key moments, Obama has risen to the occasion, challenging some of the most dangerous “group thinks” of the foreign policy establishment, such as when he resisted the rush to judgment blaming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack outside Damascus. Obama rejected neocon/liberal-hawk demands for a punitive military assault on Assad’s troops for supposedly crossing Obama’s “red line.”

Nearly all the Smart People of Washington wanted that bombing campaign even though the U.S. intelligence community did not have the evidence of Assad’s guilt. The “group think” was that even if it wasn’t clear that Assad and his military were responsible – even if the attack was a provocation by jihadist rebels trying to trick the United States into joining the war on their side – Obama should have hit Assad’s forces anyway to maintain U.S. “credibility.”

Bashing Obama

This know-nothingism of the Smart People – this disdain for empiricism and realism – was expressed on Friday by New York Times columnist Roger Cohen who castigated Obama for failing to launch U.S. airstrikes against the Syrian military in August 2013. Citing a series of interviews that Obama gave The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, Cohen suggested that nearly every bad thing since then can be blamed on Obama’s inaction in Syria:

“Above all, did his decision in August 2013 not to uphold with force his ‘red line’ on the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons sound the death knell of American credibility, consolidate President Bashar al-Assad and empower [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin? ‘I’m very proud of this moment,’ Obama insists. Proud?

“It is possible to believe that the situation in Syria would be worse if Obama had followed through with punitive strikes. It is possible to believe that ISIS would have emerged, seized vast territory, beheaded Americans, rattled Paris and struck through sympathizers in San Bernardino anyway. It is possible to believe that Putin would have annexed Crimea anyway. It is possible to believe that Putin would have started a war in eastern Ukraine anyway. It is possible to believe that Assad would be stronger as a result of Russia’s military intervention anyway. It is possible to believe that Saudi ‘Obama-is-a-Shiite-in-the-pocket-of-Iran’ derangement syndrome and Saudi war in Yemen would have occurred anyway. It is possible to believe that more than a million Syrian refugees would have shaken Europe anyway.

“It is possible to believe the moon is a balloon.”

Columnist Roger Cohen

Columnist Roger Cohen

Ha-ha! “The moon is a balloon!” How clever! In other words, Cohen, someone so esteemed that he is awarded regular space on The New York Times op-ed page, someone who has suffered not one iota for supporting the Iraq War which arguably contributed much more to the world’s disorders than anything Obama has or hasn’t done, is pretending that all would have been set right if only Obama had ordered airstrikes on the Syrian military despite the lack of U.S. evidence that Assad and his forces were actually guilty.

Cohen must have missed – or ignored – the section of Goldberg’s article citing how Obama was told by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper that the U.S. intelligence community lacked “slam dunk” evidence confirming Assad’s guilt, with Clapper choosing the phrase “slam dunk” to remind Obama of CIA Director George Tenet’s “slam dunk” assurance to President George W. Bush that the intelligence community could back up his claims about Iraq’s WMD, which, of course, turned out not to exist.

In other words, Clapper told Obama that the U.S. intelligence community didn’t know who had carried out the sarin attack – and subsequent evidence has pointed to a “false-flag” operation by rebel jihadists – but the Smart People of Washington all wanted to launch a military strike anyway. It doesn’t even matter to them that we now know that Obama’s destruction of Assad’s military could have opened the gates of Damascus to the forces of Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and/or the Islamic State.

And now that Obama says he is “proud” of his decision not to bomb first and get the facts later – or as the President put it, to break with the “Washington playbook” of always relying on military force – Cohen and other members of the foreign policy elite berate and ridicule him.

An Insane Asylum?

Based on their cavalier view that facts don’t matter even on life-and-death issues like war or peace, one might argue that people like Cohen should be dispatched to the International Criminal Court or committed to an insane asylum instead of being treated as “Wise Men” and “Wise Women” whose pearls of wisdom fill the pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post and other establishment publications – and are thus read by millions of Americans.

Has it reached the point that mainstream journalists and policymakers in Washington care not one hoot for the truth? Do they simply push propaganda to enforce public support for their ideological fantasies, the bloodier the better? Or do they actually believe their own propaganda and have crossed over into complete madness?

This disdain for empirical evidence has become a hallmark of the American political-media establishment, most notoriously displayed in the overwhelming support for the WMD lies that justified the invasion of Iraq but now present in almost every major international crisis, such as the unsupported charges that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi planned genocide in 2011 and the wildly one-sided coverage of Ukraine, which ignores the U.S. hand in the 2014 coup that ousted an elected president.

Regarding Syria, Cohen is far from alone in reporting as flat fact that Assad crossed Obama’s “red line” against using chemical weapons and that the “feckless” Obama blinked – just as in 2002-03, many of the same Smart People reported as flat fact that Iraq was hiding stockpiles of WMD. In neither case are these brilliant know-nothings punished for getting the facts wrong, even if lots of people die.

In “the old days,” when I was working at The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1970s and 1980s, there was much more professional pride among journalists about getting the facts right, even if that meant challenging the spin coming from the White House and State Department.

Sure, back then, there were already signs of the profession’s decline but it was nothing like it is today when the most “esteemed” journalists and columnists are contemptuous of anyone who shows skepticism toward the official line or the conventional wisdom. Today’s goal for the Smart People is to establish your “credibility” by writing what Everyone Knows to Be True.

Goldberg’s Contradiction

Goldberg’s opus is schizophrenic in its own right because it makes no effort to reconcile Clapper’s warning to Obama about the lack of evidence against Assad and Goldberg’s matter-of-fact acceptance of Assad’s guilt. Goldberg, a neocon himself who supported the Iraq War, simply can’t break from the “group think” even when it conflicts with his own reporting.

Shouldn’t Goldberg, Cohen and others first try to determine what the reality actually was or at least acknowledge the evidence raising doubts about the conventional wisdom?  Since August 2013, there has been substantial investigative work showing that the sarin attack was most likely carried out by radical jihadists possibly with the support of Turkish intelligence, including reporting by legendary investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. [See Consortiumnews.com’s  “Was Turkey Behind Syrian Sarin Attack.”]

In addition, the only rocket that United Nations inspectors recovered, which was found to carry sarin, was a home-made contraption that aeronautical experts calculated could travel only about two kilometers, not the nine kilometers that the “bomb-bomb-bomb Assad” advocates were citing as the Syrian military’s launch point for the attack.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

It also had made no sense for Assad to have launched the sarin attack outside Damascus just as U.N. inspectors were unpacking their bags at a Damascus hotel to begin investigating chemical attacks that Assad was blaming on the rebels. Assad would have known that a chemical attack would have diverted the inspectors (as it did) and would force President Obama to declare that his “red line” had been crossed, possibly prompting a massive U.S. retaliatory strike (as it almost did). [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case.”]

But facts and logic no longer matter to Official Washington’s foreign-policy elite. What matters is what the latest “group think” is and – since Assad has been so thoroughly demonized – virtually no one dares contradict the “group think” because to do so you would risk being deemed an “Assad apologist.”

However, to Obama’s credit, he pulled back at the last minute after hearing from the U.S. intelligence community that the case against Assad was dubious at best. Inside the U.S. foreign-policy establishment, Obama was almost alone in resisting demands for “action.”

Chickening Out

As for Goldberg, he conveniently forgot what he had just reported about Clapper’s “no slam dunk” warning to Obama. Instead, Goldberg simply reverted to the “group think,” which holds that Assad did it and that Obama chickened out.

Goldberg wrote, “The moment Obama decided not to enforce his red line and bomb Syria, he broke with what he calls, derisively, ‘the Washington playbook.’ This was his liberation day.”

Goldberg’s cognitive dissonance can’t seem to reconcile that there was no reason “to enforce his red line and bomb Syria” if Assad’s forces didn’t cross the red line in the first place. You might think that a political leader who demands facts before going to war and killing lots of possibly innocent people would be praised, not treated like a coward and a pariah.

But that is the core contradiction within today’s Official Washington where truth has become fully subordinated to ideological goals of the neocons and their “liberal interventionist” sidekicks. “Facts” are only valued if they can be twisted into generating public support for the neocons’ “regime change” agendas.

To the neocons and liberal hawks, it really didn’t matter that Iraq didn’t possess WMD, nor that Iraq wasn’t sharing its non-existent WMD with Al Qaeda. What mattered was that all the Smart People of Washington had decided that these fantasies were true or at least were needed to scare the American people into line.

If you cared about your career, you ran with the stampeding herd, knowing that there really is safety in numbers. Since all the Smart People were wrong, that meant that almost no one would be punished. The ultimate price for the cowardly journalism about Iraq’s WMD would be paid by the people of Iraq and the U.S. soldiers dispatched to kill and be killed.

In Jeffrey Goldberg’s case, he even got rewarded with extraordinary access to President Obama and his inner circle. Roger Cohen, Thomas Friedman, David Ignatius, Fred Hiatt, Charles Krauthammer and a long list of other Iraq War cheerleaders got to pontificate on and on in elite publications as if nothing untoward had happened.

Although Obama deserves credit for resisting “the Washington playbook” on bombing Syria, he can fairly be criticized for ceding to other neocon/liberal-hawk schemes, such as escalating the Afghan War in 2009, recklessly supporting “regime change” in Libya in 2011, and turning another “regime change” in Ukraine in 2014 into the start of a new Cold War with Russia.

Accepting Disinformation

Obama also has allowed neocon/liberal-hawk disinformation to continue cycling and recycling through the American political belief system without challenge. For instance, even though he was told by U.S. intelligence analysts that the Syria-sarin case was weak or bogus, he didn’t share that information with the American people.

If he had, Obama could have underscored the dangerous delusions of the neocons and liberal hawks. Obama could have enlisted the American people on his side by arming them with facts. But there is something in Obama’s personality that prevents him from engaging in that kind of democratic populism.

As either an elitist himself or a guy who wants approval of the elites, Obama acts as if he must protect the secrets even when his own interests – as well as the public interest – would be served by sharing the facts with the people.

Similarly, Obama knows how distorted much of the case against Russia is regarding Ukraine. He knows the reality about the U.S.-backed coup overthrowing Ukraine’s elected government; he knows that the infamous sniper attacks on Feb. 20, 2014, leading to the putsch two days later were probably a provocation by extremist anti-government operatives; he knows that the Crimean referendum on leaving Ukraine and rejoining Russia was a legitimate expression of popular will, not the “sham” that his foreign policy officials still assert; he received intelligence briefings on who was really at fault for the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014; and he knows about the pervasive corruption and the neo-Nazi taint inside the U.S.-backed post-coup regime.

But Obama won’t share those facts with the American people, either. Despite his early promises of running a transparent administration, he has instead operated one of the most opaque and propagandistic in modern times. What is particularly strange is that he does so often to his own disadvantage. By hiding the reality, he plays into the hands of neocons and liberal hawks who rely on propaganda to manipulate the public – as they make him appear “feckless.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

If the Smart People had had their way in Syria – and if Obama had ordered a severe bombing campaign against Assad’s military – it would have possibly and perhaps probably cleared the path for an Al Qaeda and/or Islamic State victory, since they represented the most effective elements of the Syrian rebel movement.

Similarly, if Obama had followed Official Washington’s “group think” about establishing the sweet-sounding “no-fly zones” or “safe zones” inside Syria, the U.S. military would have had to destroy Syria’s air force and air defenses, again creating a security vacuum that Al Qaeda and/or the Islamic State could have filled.

It should be noted that Hillary Clinton has been a top advocate for these neocon/liberal-hawk “regime change” schemes, as she was in pushing Obama into the military intervention in Libya in 2011, overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi’s regime and leaving behind a failed state where the Islamic State now operates, including its mass beheading of Coptic Christians.

But none of this ugly reality impacts the Smart People of Washington. Instead, the likes of Roger Cohen blame everything on Obama’s failure to bomb Assad.

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).

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52 comments for “Will We Miss President Obama?

  1. incontinent reader
    March 19, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    I miss (and will continue to miss) Martin Dempsey.

  2. Bill Bodden
    March 19, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    There’s an old saw about cheering up because things could be worse. So, whatever cheer we can find we should enjoy it, because with Clinton, Trump and Cruz on the horizon things will certainly be worse regardless of which defiles the office of president of the United States.

    • Skip Edwards
      March 19, 2016 at 4:44 pm

      Clinton has not been nominated nor has she been elected. Over half the delegates are yet to be determined. Senator Bernie Sanders has a lot of momentum going and many, many people working for him and the leadership he will provide as President of the United States. Clinton, both of them, carries a lot of baggage that is slowly weighing her down.

  3. bfearn
    March 19, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    Many USA created disasters would have been avoided if the main stream media were honest. That now appears to be too much to expect from a country that has killed millions of innocents since WW2. Killing people to ‘solve’ problems is often the first American response and Mr. Parry may be correct when he suggests that things will be worse with Clinton.

    Unfortunate that America has to choose between presidents who will kill many and one that may kill more.

  4. Phil Dennany
    March 19, 2016 at 3:54 pm

    My hope is that Bernie Sanders in the White House will get the Federal U.S. back to repairing and updating our infrastructure and again taking care of our own..

    • Bill Bodden
      March 19, 2016 at 9:06 pm

      We should all hope that Bernie Sanders will become our next president, but the chances of that are slim. If he beats the odds when it comes to being elected he will find more formidable barriers erected by the Republican Party and Democratic Party oligarchs who will be out to render him politically impotent. The best we could hope from from a Sanders presidency is that he will successfully veto whatever insanity comes out of Congress. We could also benefit from Sanders using the bully pulpit to encourage some sense in the American people, but our squalid mainstream media will probably join the Republican-Democratic posse and render him virtually mute.

      • dahoit
        March 20, 2016 at 11:33 am

        Why?Sanders says good things domestically,but foreign policy wise he has a head full of ziomush.
        From Russia to Palestine he has prejudices not matched by reality.

        • Bill Bodden
          March 20, 2016 at 7:10 pm

          Of the final five candidates – Trump, Clinton, Sanders, Cruz, Kasich – which would you prefer? Sanders may come up short in one of the two major areas – domestic and foreign policies, but when people are hungry half a loaf is better than being kicked in the teeth.

  5. Pablo Diablo
    March 19, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    Facts/truth doesn’t matter. Gotta keep the war machine well fed so it can buy politicians who vote for war. i.e.Hillary.

  6. Lin Cleveland
    March 19, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    “But Obama won’t share those facts with the American people, either. Despite his early promises of running a transparent administration, he has instead operated one of the most opaque and propagandistic in modern times. What is particularly strange is that he does so often to his own disadvantage. By hiding the reality, he plays into the hands of neocons and liberal hawks who rely on propaganda to manipulate the public – as they make him appear “feckless”.”—Robert Parry

    You know what, Robert? I think Barry Obama is a very intelligent and politically savvy guy. I’d bet that when he “plays into the hands of neocons and liberal hawks” Obama sees (seize?) advantages and opportunities we know little about.

    • Skip Edwards
      March 19, 2016 at 4:48 pm

      How true. Just wait and follow the money trail right back to its source.

    • dahoit
      March 20, 2016 at 11:43 am

      Obama might be the most teflon POTUS in American history.
      Point to one critical report in the MSM re his reign?Only naked partisan outlets critique him,or open sites like here.
      Not one iota of blame for Syria,Libya,Afghanistan,Iraq or Ukraine,the expanding war in Africa,the Philippines,Somalia,Central Africa,China and the encroachment of the US on them,N Korea still estranged,and not a word.
      Iran is still under the microscope of Zionist opprobrium,and his support for the agreement has been eroded since by stupid American excursions and rhetoric,again all BS.
      Cuba is his only real accomplishment,but who knows,if the hell bitch gets in,heaven forbid,the goldwater girl will probably abrogate it.

  7. Joseph A. Haran, Jr.
    March 19, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    As usual, Mr. Parry makes a convincing case for his point of view; and, although my opinion doesn’t matter one iota in the overall scheme of things, I agree with him–as far as his analysis went. However, he makes no mention of either capitalism–the driving force behind that infamous military-industrial (“legislative” having been dropped from Eisenhower’s speech at the last minute) complex–or the State of Israel.

    Money from corporations and individual billionaires is what drives “our elected representatives” who’ve offices inside the Beltway; and it drives neo-conservatives and “liberal” interventionists as well, as they’ve earned those platinum parachutes corporate America will give them at the first sign of trouble (so long as they dutifully tow the line). Trump-wise, it’s safe to say he’ll defend capitalism’s overarching status quo ante; but, if he gets elected, he might make a few policy gestures aimed at mollifying poor and working-class people.

    Obama is the only President in decades to push back, however slightly, against the ongoing Palestinian genocide; whereas Clinton should be given honorary Israeli citizenship for her unqualified love of everything racist despots like Netanyahu and his deranged thugs-in-arms do. Regarding Trump’s attitude toward Israel, who knows? It’s federal-government actions and inactions which count; and Trump hasn’t been in a position to authorize either. We shall see … if he gets elected.

    I voted for Obama twice, was sorely disappointed twice as he routinely fumbled the progressive ball and I fear for the future of this nation–and of our planet in general. Does it even make sense to vote, when there’s no ethical and moral candidate for whom to vote? Let’s not forget that idiotic star chamber the Electoral College, a tool of power elites if ever there was one: It can put people in the White House who didn’t win the popular vote! Where’s our supposed “democracy” then? Why, it’s back in the hands of barbarians and “we the people” can do nothing about it.

    • dahoit
      March 20, 2016 at 11:46 am

      His pushback?I haven’t seen any,he has been almost invisible re I-P,as if he doesn’t care,and he supported PE and Cast Lead,2 of the most barbaric assaults in modern history on an almost defenseless people,locked in a f*cking cage,no less.
      Good riddance to bad rubbish.

  8. tateishi
    March 19, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    The defects of this article are ignoring the Russia’s roles in preventing all the provocations by the US and the EU neocons such as Merkel and Holland. President Putin came out nowhere in a way to make Russia stronger than the US in terms of newer military hardware. Also Syria has been supported by Russia and even the US and EU neocons could have no bombed out Syria, unlike the case of Libya at that time the president of Russia was Medivedev, not Putin who immediately crtisized Med., who was greatly influenced by the propaganda of the West. People in the know blame Med. for the demise of Libya, which was the most developed and richest north African country under Gaddafi, who had a great idea to make Africa much more independent from the West. So I always say, “Hands of Med. are stained with the blood.”

  9. Drew Hunkins
    March 19, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    Excellent piece by Mr. Parry. As always Mr. Parry is insightful and illuminating, something astute readers have come to expect with his trenchant missives.

  10. David Otness
    March 19, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    Thank you Robert Parry.
    You have provided a gem here which I intend to share widely.
    A very comprehensive piece that covers the bases and fills in the blanks the msm conveniently leaves out of the larger foreign policy narrative.
    I truly appreciate your work and believe many more should.
    Again, thank you.
    Best regards, sir, David Otness Cordova, Alaska

  11. Brad Benson
    March 19, 2016 at 6:11 pm

    In answer to the question in the headline, the answer is NO! I will not miss Obama one iota. He is a War Criminal, as is Hillary Clinton. After Bernie is forced out, I will vote for Trump with gusto.

    He has promised to be “neutral in regard to Israel, end our “stupid wars” and, doG forbid, talk to Putin and cooperate with Russia in areas of mutual interest. If he defuses that New Cold War, how will the Neo-Con’s justify that new multi-year, $30 B upgrade to our nuclear arsenal?

    I am waiting to read the transcript of Trump’s Speech to AIPAC on Tuesday, but I suspect that, after Hillary kisses their collective asses, he might just tear them a new one. If he does, he will assure my vote after “The Bern” burns out.

    • dahoit
      March 20, 2016 at 11:48 am

      Hopefully Trump will say,if you want peace I’m your man.Put the ball in their court.If they reject him,we’ll know they don’t want peace.
      Go Trump.

    • Bob Gardner
      March 23, 2016 at 3:46 pm

      Any other predictions, Brad?

  12. Erik
    March 19, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    Good article on the paradox of Obama and the worse indications of Hillary. I have spent far too long inventing explanations for them, other than their personal weakness, and have found that good deeds are not done very secretly. If I misjudge them as incompetent or corrupt, few have suffered misjudgment, and they have given me no choice. We have no shortage of able people and certainly don’t need their kind in public office.

    Had either of them any courage or principle, they would have denounced and eliminated any process preventing a sane foreign policy, downsized the military and security agencies and put them back in their place, and investigated Congress and the judiciary for economic influence, thrown the guilty in prison, and held new elections. Clearly they are both incompetent or corrupt.

    Their only advantage over the Repubs is that we have only to listen to lies rather than insanity.

  13. John XYZ
    March 19, 2016 at 7:20 pm

    This fascinating notion of “credibility” seems not to have anything to do with being connected with objective reality (i.e. the way you’d normally associate the word credibility), and seems to have a lot to do with being able to exclude those who know better. The Washington group thinkers devise some powerful machinery for burying their own heads in the sand.

  14. Abe
    March 19, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    The Wise Men and Wise Women “know” that the Syrians used chemical weapons the same way they “know” that Russia is responsible for MH-17.

    How do they “know”?

    Because they rely on the same disinformation source: Eliot Higgins, aka Brown Moses and Bellingcat.

  15. Z54
    March 19, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    If you are looking to be one of the really stupid people, you can continue to read the paper with a police record, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Washington Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, or the Los Angeles Times. It’s all reading for the person with a Kindergarten reading level or lower. The pictures are generally pretty good though!
    As for Mr. Cohen, he should try using his brain, instead of sitting on it for a change!

    • Fred
      March 19, 2016 at 9:50 pm

      Unfortunately he was using his brain, however small.

  16. Joe Tedesky
    March 19, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    Often when voting for a presidential candidate it is worthwhile to see who the newly elected may usher in to the various post to be filled. After Obama won in 2008 it was a more than a sad affair to see who Obama put in the many important places that were left open for the new president to allocate a position of power to. Disappointingly he picked people like Rahm Emanual, Tim Geithner and Larry Summers, Hillary Clinton, and those were the good guy Democrate’s. Leaving Gates as Secretary of Defense almost made some sense, but did it? Weren’t we suppose to be moving away from the Bush policies? Appointing General David Petraeus to head up the Afghan Surge said it all, and after that elevating him to Director of the CIA, well what more is there to say? Now, after seven years we are coming to realize how Obama just may have been a spoiler of many a Neocon/R2P plan. Picturing Hillary in Obama’s position is certainly terrifying, and leaves one to contemplate just how dangerous she may end up being, once placing herself in the Oval Office. If Washington D.C. were to ever hold anyone accountable for their failures, then maybe, and by that I mean just maybe we people of this planet could hold out for some hope of there being a better world, for our children and grandchildren to grow up in.

    • dahoit
      March 20, 2016 at 11:58 am

      Spoiler Obomba?For a guy promising hope and change he sure spoiled a lot of hopes and dreams,the creep.
      I can’t find the right words to cheer him at all.
      And I voted for him in 08 also.

  17. Fred
    March 19, 2016 at 9:47 pm

    “This know-nothingism of the Smart People – this disdain for empiricism and realism – was expressed on Friday by New York Times columnist Roger Cohen who castigated Obama for failing to launch U.S. airstrikes against the Syrian military in August 2013”

    I do not castigate Obama for this matter, I castigate him for a general lack of courage and integrity. I consider him a wimp on all fronts.

  18. Dosamuno
    March 19, 2016 at 11:31 pm

    Uh, let’s see: Timothy Geithner, Arnie Duncan, Rahm Emanuel, Samantha Power, Victoria Nuland, Hillary Clinton.
    The bailout, charter schools, quantitative easing, the sequester,
    The Affordable Care Act, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
    The TPP.
    Elena Kagen and Merrick Garland.

    Can things be worse? Yup. And they probably will be.

    Will I miss Obama?

    Nope. I won’t miss the son of a bitch.

    • dahoit
      March 20, 2016 at 12:04 pm

      Garland;Is this guy Obomba that tone deaf,or that inculcated in the myth of Jewish judging,going back to Solomon?I see nothing from Jewish judging in America but prejudice and forgone conclusions.How the hell did a judge blame Iran for 9-11 and make them pay?The most absurd ruling in American judicial history,and not a word from the MSM.Same with Garland;He has an expanded definition of crime,and is deferential to the govt.Wow.
      4 out of nine;They only need one other traitor to call BDS and anti-Zionist talk Unconstitutional.
      What a wanker,Obomba.

      • Dosamuno
        March 20, 2016 at 8:09 pm

        Dahoit,

        Jews like Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky–to mention just two, would share your disgust with Israel.

        Zionism has nothing to do with the Holocaust and everything to do with imperialism and The Rapture. Christian Zionists hope for the return of all Jews to Israel, their conversion to Christianity, and the return of Jesus Christ– although I doubt he ever was here in the first place.

        Israel gets a lot of its political muscle from the 70 million or more Christian Zionists in the United States. Ghada Karmi writes about the roots of Jewish and Christian Zionism in MARRIED TO ANOTHER MAN, but there are many good books and articles about this plague.

        I was annoyed when the Prime Minister of Israel came to this country to speak to our legislature without an invitation.

        I was more annoyed with our milksop President for not having the criminal arrested and sent to Guantanamo.

        • dahoit
          March 23, 2016 at 11:44 am

          Yes.
          But even Finklestein and Chomsky cannot shake the Zionist within,and actually be totally truthful on I_P.
          And yes,the propensity of evangelicals to vote for traitors over American patriots is alarming.
          Moonie Loonies gone national,heretics all.

  19. Zachary Smith
    March 20, 2016 at 1:21 am

    Exclusive: President Obama doesn’t take on Official Washington’s powerful neocons head-on, but he does drag his heels on some of their crazy schemes, which is better than America can expect from Hillary Clinton, writes Robert Parry.

    I’ve known since 2008 that BHO was a better choice than HRC, and that hasn’t changed. But even though Hillary is worse, that doesn’t mean Obama isn’t very, very bad.

    The man seems to be incapable of learning. (or perhaps in this case, of telling the truth).

    Why, at this late date is the fellow permitting “another try” at training Rebels to fight in Syria.

    https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/03/18/pentagon-wasted-500-million-syrian-rebels/

    If, as ‘they’ claim, the aim is to fight ISIS, the obvious thing is to do what the Russians did – assist Assad’s military. But that’s clearly not what ‘they’ want, so ‘they’ whip up another lie.

    No matter who moves into the White House next year, I’m not going to regret it when Obama packs up and leaves. The man was and remains a disaster for both the US and the world. Yes, he could have been even worse, but that he has been a D- rather than an F isn’t anything to rejoice about.

    • Zachary Smith
      March 20, 2016 at 1:24 am

      Once again, I made my post without seeing any of the others here. Only after I hit the “Post Comment” button did they appear.

  20. FCS
    March 20, 2016 at 2:44 am

    Hello! Anybody Home? Obama walked away from an Iraq SOFA agreement in 2011 by obstructing it, an agreement that had the best long-term chance for ensuring stability and relative peace in the region for decades to come. On January 20, 2009 and even until Dec 31, 2011, the security situation in the Middle East (and North Africa for that matter) was the most stable and secure that it had been since 1979 when Jimmy Carter failed to support the Shah of Iran, whose fall precipitated a security imbalance that Saddam ‘Insane’ took advantage of, starting 2 major theater wars of World War I horrific proportions (invading 3 neighboring countries while lobbing ballistic missiles into 5 neighboring countries in the process, including Israel). The only thing nearly as bad was the rise to power of the Iranian religious nutcase, Khomeini.

    Saddam didn’t ‘kill terrorists’ as Trump moronically maintains, he paid the families of Palestinian suicide bombers $20,000 (ironically USD) a pop for blowing up themselves and Israeli civilians, harbored Abul Nidal a wanted international terrorist, slaughtered 80,000 Kurds in the late-1980s for the fun of it, produced and used chemical weapons, possessed a nuclear weapons program until Israel bombed it, had a mature biological weapons program until discovered in 1995 years after the UN WMD Inspections had been in place, then kicked out UN WMD Inspectors in 1998. Oh, and he tried to assassinate a former US President and after 9/11 ‘mocked’ the US request to assist in the fight again AQ, instead calling the US ‘cowboys’ and announcing that he was overjoyed that 9/11 happened.

    Yes, Saddam was someone Obama and Clinton and now Trump ‘could have done business with.’ Yet, we are led to believe Gaddafi and Assad (both of whom agreed to cooperate with the US to fight AQ after 9/11) are now such a horrible threat to America and the world in the mind of Obama that one is dead and the other a pariah….bizarre and quite pathetic logic actually.

    No amount of your revisionist nonsense will change the fact that your hero Obama was and still is a DISMAL FAILURE. The world is literally on fire and even good old President Xi “Mao” Jinping has ZERO respect for Obama and is having his way with him in the South China Sea. You will be one of the few who misses Obama…even Hillary would be better…and just typing those words makes me feel ill.

    • dahoit
      March 20, 2016 at 12:34 pm

      Your second paragraph reveals zionist BS.Saddam paid the families of dead suicide bombers so they could rebuild their homes after the Israelis destroyed them as collective punishment,an evil evil act.
      Are suicide bombers evil?Depends on the perspective, as the evil of zionist hegemony that drives them is far more.
      I find Shillary just as repulsive as the current occupant of the WH.
      The South China Sea,kind of says it all re China and US.

    • David Otness
      March 20, 2016 at 8:42 pm

      Just who are you screaming at?

  21. JS
    March 20, 2016 at 2:56 am

    Please write about Obama, Hillary, and the apparent rogue foreign policy operation she was running out of her private server? It has been said that the NSA had to “see” the communication in real time. Some of those communications are alleged to have text copied nearly word-for-word from NSA communiques and were sent within hours of the NSA internal communications. What the heck is going on? Obama must be furious whether he knew this long ago or just learned of it.

    Thank you for all you do in the interest of truth.

  22. onno
    March 20, 2016 at 6:02 am

    American people especially Blue collar workers and the Middle Class will miss Obama like a toothache because he didn’t do ANYTHING for them on the contrary he reduced their employments and especially their incomes.
    In domestic and foreign policies Obama was a ZERO and his so-called Obama-Care was only a sales promotion trip to assure his re-election in 2012.

  23. Gary in Ottawa
    March 20, 2016 at 10:31 am

    Mr. Parry,

    Thank you and also thanks to your contributors, analysts & reporters. Consortium News is an excellent alternative media source and is amongst several that I browse each day.

    Let us thank everyone’s ‘God’ that the internet allows us to search for the truth, to separate fact from fiction and to begin an understanding of the corruption, hate and betrayals that our governments have bestowed on the 7.5 billion inhabitants of this planet.

    Your piece today is again truthful and accurate but again, as with many of Consortium’s articles of late, I find that your contributors are cautiously nibbling at the edges. Spoken as plainly as I can, President Obama is also nibbling at the edges. One man cannot row the Titanic around the iceberg.

    Is “Obama afraid of the CIA and NSA” as Ray McGovern recently opined ?

    Please allow me to cut directly to the bottom line. The ‘political gridlock’ in Washington is a misnomer that the American public are beginning to understand but time is now our enemy. Can the American public identify the ‘ideological gridlock’ in time?

    I am extremely concerned about the U.S. election process. In about 8 months, Americans will vote for a new President, where, at this moment, a suitable candidate doesn’t exist.

    Can you imagine a presidential debate featuring Trump and Clinton ? Will Trump expose Hillary? Will Trump be shot? Will there be fistfights in the audience and gunfights in the streets? This is turning into a colossal mess that gets worse day-by-day.

    Therefore, I ask you and your contributors, associates and all alternate media colleagues to be bold. Much bolder than ‘nibbling at the edges’, Please take a big bite into the meat of the matter.

    Expose 9/11, MH17 and the ISIS/Syria/Iraq fiasco. Throw the “Risk’ board on the floor and flip the table(s). Explain the neocon/Zionist ideology in terms that ordinary American (and international) citizens can understand.

    You (plural) are doing an excellent job waking up the world but time is now of the essence !!

    Thank you.

    • Daniel
      March 21, 2016 at 9:20 am

      Well said. We’re ready for the truth (a lot of which Consortium News already delivers, thankfully), and could be achieving meaningful things in the world were we to start hearing it regularly. Thank you for your tireless work, Mr. Parry.

  24. agnus
    March 20, 2016 at 11:22 am

    lupus et agnus ad rivum eundem

  25. Bob Van Noy
    March 20, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    “Has it reached the point that mainstream journalists and policymakers in Washington care not one hoot for the truth? Do they simply push propaganda to enforce public support for their ideological fantasies, the bloodier the better? Or do they actually believe their own propaganda and have crossed over into complete madness?”

    In a word Mr.Parry, Yes. Another wonderful analysis Robert Parry. I always must thank you because out here in the hinterland, there seems to be no truth. Thank goodness for Consortium News. I hope to live to see the day that the Obama administration is fully explained, but one thing seems certain, he doesn’t deserve a “Profile in Courage” award…

  26. David Smith
    March 20, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    The strength of The Big Lie is precisely it’s irrationality and alienation from reality, it is therefore impervious to facts and impervious to valid argument. This is the downside the human mind’s ability to conceive things outside our senses and time: it gives us accurate prescience of the future as well as imbecilic delusion. Small, practical things are difficult to lie about, large abstract things are easy to lie about, hence the strength of religion or insisting “global warming is a hoax”. The absurdity of our present historical epoch is that the big things it is easy to lie about can destroy human civilization.

  27. tpmco
    March 20, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    Great article here. It reinforces my own thinking about what Obama knows, and what Hillary Clinton knows, concerning Libya, Ukraine, Syria, and Iraq. The one thing you could have tied together better at the conclusion would be to return to Mathews’ interview with Clinton, and the “conflation” factor. All of these foreign policy situations are indeed conflatable at some level.

  28. Andrew
    March 20, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    I agree with many things said here and wonder what the dynamics between Obama and Hillary was when the latter was the secretary of state. From the very beginning, Obama’s choices for his cabinet members were questionable and he seems to have tied his hands himself. Perhaps, he made too many promises during the election.

  29. alexander gianis
    March 20, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    Dear Mr Parry,

    I share your sense of moral shock having experienced the putrid smugness expressed by these Neocon journalists as typified by our “wise ” Mr Goldberg in his “Obama Doctrine” interview.

    This level of Neocon temerity is truly beyond belief.

    The gall…..Mr Parry….the sheer gall of it …….. is mind bending.

    Is Mr Goldberg even aware there are now nearly “60 million” refugees wandering the earth, from these Neocon created “Perpetual Wars” ?

    A heartbreaking fact to any with a shred of decency coursing through their soul.

    Is he willing to assume his rightful post in federal prison or Guantanamo Bay for defrauding millions of Americans out of tens of trillions of dollars to destroy the lives of tens of millions of innocent people in the middle east ?.

    Does he even give a hoot how many people (millions) he and his ilk have “conned” our great nation into murdering ?

    Or does he assume these tragedies, (given the full horror of his heinous Iraq war), would have been avoided had we only put “boots on the ground” in Syria ?

    Please.

    There should be boots on the ground,….. and they should be his.

    As a matter of fact,

    Mr Goldberg and his entire coterie of Neocon belligerents should be the ones dropped into Syria with nothing BUT their boots on…..and left to wander the wastelands of their own pernicious destruction for the rest of their lives.

    Then perhaps they would be forced to swallow some of the arrogance in which they express their belligerent, uncaring views.

    Unbelievable.

  30. Evangelista
    March 20, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    A review of the recent Saudi reaction to the reported Obama interview regarding his legacy, as a companion piece with the Goldberg and Cohen definitions and perspectives, is useful to adjust the mind to a real realistic perspective, which is necessary to define the situation Obama has operated in and from that to understand what Obama has done, and not done, and weigh his accomplishments.

    Also, it is necessary to define, and differentiate, starting-points when judging individual performances, and when comparing. This is equivalent to defining swimmers’ performances differently depending if one is an Olympics class swimmer, or a beginner. Of course, if a beginning swimmer is fify years old and has lived around water, but never learned to swim, it is legitimate to judge that; but it is a separate category; such a one can be admired for having learnt, but be deprecated for having taken so long to recognize the need.

    This is the way it is with Obama. He has done extremely well for what he has been, and, in waffling when he faced a dilemma whether his ‘red line’ had been crossed or not, since the evidences indicated it might not have been, despite the neo-cons’ vociferous assurances, he hit the moon — for what he was. The Saudi response indicates the Saudi King was infuriated by Obama’s waffling, assertedly declaring emphatically, “No more red-lines…!”, meaning no more ‘niceties’ to hand up on.

    The neo-cons, and the Saudis (as Salafists, né Wahabi) both have agendas. The neo-cons want to destroy civil order in the Middle-East that they see posing a threat to Israel and Israeli hegemony, and the Saudis want to bring Islam “back” to what they see to be its true form, that they, the “Kalifah” who hold the original centers and primary shrines of Original Islam, feel they have vestiture and authoritarian rights to determine, and impose. The two agendae dovetail, with the neo-cons glad to have the compliant Saudis sitting on the Muslim-Arab population, and the Saudis glad to have the Israeli (and American) assistance they need to effect their “Islamic Purification”, or “purification of Islam”.

    Thus, the ‘narrative’ of the neo-cons is not self-delusion, it is fore-writing of history. What Goldberg and Cohen and the rest write as “Truth” they damn well intend to make damn well become the Truth.

    Judaism was counter-culture for millennia. In fact, Western culture today is, hisotrically, the first time Judaism has been mainstream. Even in the era of Judea and Israel as states, or kingdoms, both were subordinate ones, not mainstream. Before, during and after the states around them, Egyptian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Christian, were dominant, and so wrote, and rewrote their own histories, as often as not making what was before them ‘disappear’. Jewish intellectuals have noted the unreliabilities of ‘histories’, and the bulk being made up, in Henry Ford’s word, “Bunk”. The non-intellectual, e.g., the neo-con, have mis-interpreted the scholars’ deprecations of histories as made up to mean that history can be made up. Thus, the neo-cons of today believe that they can, by agreeing to a ‘Historical narrative’ and gaining control of media and then using their control to force their narrative to be the history of now and the narrative-defined situation. This is not self-delusion, it is revisionism.

    The opposition the neo-con revisionists run aginst, and try to bulldoze down or shunt aside is historical review. Reviewers of history include such figures as Robert Parry and his stable of Consortium News writers, who bring contradicting facts forward, again and again, each time they review a neo-con pronouncement, and Sergei Lavrov, who reviews history to establish foundation for the positions he puts forward.

    National executives, such as Dubya Bush, Obama, Hollande, Merkel, Poroshenko, Erdogan, et al, are tools to the neo-cons. The neo-cons assign them directions and give them jusitifications and they are supposed to go forward. Dubya Bush was a great neo-con tool. Obama, Hollande and Merkel have been more difficult. None of the three are worth a damn as actual leaders, but all of them must be credited for showing some recognitions and putting up some resistance to just following orders.

    Obama, like Dubya, was made President of the United States by the neo-con ‘machine’. Obama would never have achieved the presidency were he not what he is and how he is, meaning a good dog, one who does what he is told to do. Of course he has not been a natural, as Dubya was, but, with shepherding and mentoring in his first term by Rahm Immanuel, he did ‘just fine’. Let go on his own in his second term he did ‘well’, except for a few ‘errors’, such as waffling on his ‘red-line’ and then jumping on the wagon Putin and Assad trolled past, to dodge becoming responsible for making a Libya of Syria. For Obama that was a magnificent show and great maneuvering. For a President with more guts and gumption it would have been a “Huh?” instead of a “Bravo!” performance.

    That the result was good, and so the performance deserves to be appreciated, we can read from the expressions of irritation and outrage vented by the neo-cons, the Saudis, Erdogan and others whose ‘histories-to-be’ were hobbled, hindered or derailed by the result, and by aid it might have given to other factors, such as the Russian Syrian-aid campaign.

    So, while I don’t think much of Obama as a United States President, I have to admire that for a neo-con dog he was able to balk and waffle and demonstrate some nagging of some kind of a conscience, and show some small flashes of resistance and independence.

    Think where we could be if he hadn’t.

  31. David G
    March 20, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    Robert Parry writes that “to Obama’s credit, he pulled back at the last minute after hearing from the U.S. intelligence community that the case against Assad was dubious at best”.

    In various pieces on this site, Parry has consistently maintained that it was some core of sense and strength in Obama’s character that caused him to pull back from launching an air war against the Syrian state in 2013—a core that, as Parry notes above, was not in evidence with respect to Afghanistan, Libya, and Ukraine.

    But perhaps the difference in the case of Syria 2013 was not deep inside Obama’s soul, but rather in the visible, outside world where the UK parliament finally slipped the leash and refused to participate in such a foreordained disaster, thus denying the US the quickest route to its customary “coalition” fig leaf, and also where Sergei Lavrov stunningly channeled his boss’s judo skills to turn Kerry’s sarcastic remarks about how war could of course be avoided if only Assad surrendered his chemical weapons back against the Washington war machine, setting in motion the peaceful chemical disarmament that has in fact occurred (virtually ignored by the US media).

    I would have more confidence in Parry’s analysis if he explained why these factors were secondary to a random flare-up of statesmanship from Obama’s inner self, but instead he simply omits them from the narrative.

    To me, Obama’s significant departures from orthodox US belligerence are all closely tied to very concrete pressures applied by other countries. Other examples: support for Iran sanctions from—and compliance with them by—the rest of the non-Israel world was going to start falling away dramatically if the US refused a reasonable nuclear deal (in contrast, since broader progress on US-Iran relations was not similarly demanded by other powers, there hasn’t been any); and the US was about to find itself diplomatically isolated by Latin America if it didn’t make progress on Cuba, a complete reversal of the hegemonic status quo Washington was accustomed to. When such outside pressure has *not* been forthcoming, Obama has generally not departed from the Beltway main line in any important respects, limiting himself to meaningless, self-defeating compromises like Solomonically splitting the Afghanistan baby in 2009 when he took a middle route between those of his advisers who were counseling withdrawal and those who wanted major escalation (the resulting, halfway escalation lacked any political or military logic of its own), and entering into a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia on one hand, while appeasing the M-I complex at home by commencing a vast and destabilizing “modernization” of the US nuclear arsenal, which is ongoing.

    If I were to lengthen this comment even more outrageously, I’d also point out how the US’s “policy” (hardly merits being called that) in Syria beyond the 2013 chemical weapons crisis fits in the same pattern: as long as other powers were passive about Washington’s characteristically murderous incoherence (or actively encouraged aspects of it, as did Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and France), we saw no accommodation to reality, or decency, by Obama. Only after Russia’s decisive intervention last year did his administration begin to adapt, and again, no more than it felt it absolutely had to.

    That said, if you set the bar low enough, Obama can be said to have cleared it a number of times (as, in all fairness, did Bush Jr. in resisting military escalation against Iran once his confidence in Cheney and other hardline advisers had been shaken by the crappy outcome in Iraq). To a large extent, he and his administration (after the notable departure of Secretary Hillary Clinton) have accommodated the foreign pressures in a constructive way, and diplomatic progress has resulted. With President Hillary Clinton already redecorating the Oval Office in her mind, we may soon look back wistfully on a time when at least that bare minimum prevailed.

    • Daniel
      March 21, 2016 at 9:29 am

      Good points all.

  32. Silly Me
    March 21, 2016 at 7:35 am

    Obama did try to create a no-fly zone and all of his 30 missiles were taken out by a Russian ship nearby. A single Russian plane paralyzed the operation of a US ship on the Black Sea, after which 24 sailors retired.

  33. Oz
    March 21, 2016 at 10:15 am

    Obama is particularly dangerous because of his gift for dressing up his wars in a smokescreen of liberal rhetoric and faux reticence. The result has been the spectacle of liberal America defending a series of neo-con wars because “it would be worse if the Republicans were in power.”

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