Special Report: Despite neocon-instigated chaos and bloodshed across the Mideast (and now into Europe), Hillary Clinton continues to advocate more “regime change” wars with almost no fear from a marginalized anti-war movement, writes Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry
In Campaign 2016, the American people have shown little stomach for more foreign wars. The Republican candidates who advocated neoconservative warmongering crashed and burned, losing to Donald Trump who sold himself to GOP voters as the anti-neocon, daring even to trash George W. Bush’s Iraq War to an aghast field of Republican rivals.
Sen. Bernie Sanders went even further, daring to mildly criticize Israel’s repression of Palestinians, yet still ran a surprisingly strong race against the hawkish former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And, if Libertarian and Green anti-imperial candidates are counted in general election polls along with Trump, the trio makes up a majority of voters (54 percent in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll).
Only Hillary Clinton (who comes in at 39 percent) is carrying the neocon banner proudly in the general election, advocating a U.S. “regime change” invasion of Syria – dressed up as “no-fly zones” and “safe zones” – while she also cheers on more hostilities toward nuclear-armed Russia.
In Russia, the neocons dream about their ultimate “regime change,” dragging Vladimir Putin from the Kremlin and seeing him butchered much as happened to Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, their grisly deaths representing two of the “highlights” of neocon domination of U.S. foreign policy in recent decades.
But very few of Clinton’s backers seem to support her because they want more neocon-style imperialism abroad. They usually express their desire to see a woman president (“it’s her turn”) or praise her pragmatic approach to domestic issues (“she can get things done”).
While some followers like the fact that she has traveled the world and has dealt with many leaders as First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, that doesn’t mean these Democrats like that she voted for the Iraq War, pushed President Obama into the Libyan disaster, and wants to escalate the costly and dangerous new Cold War with Russia.
Indeed, if there were an effective peace movement in the United States – along the lines of the 1960s civil rights movement – many Clinton supporters might join the peace leaders in demanding face-to-face meetings with her and threaten to withhold their backing if she doesn’t repudiate her neoconservative war policies.
That no such peace movement exists reflects the failure of anti-war advocates to penetrate the world of practical politics the way that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. did in working with President Lyndon Johnson to end racial segregation. But that’s not really the fault of peace advocates since they have been shut out of the mainstream media to a far greater degree than the civil rights movement was in the 1960s.
Like the South’s Segregationist Media
To extend the comparison, it’s as if today’s New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC were behaving like the dominant white Southern newspapers of the 1960s, turning their collective backs toward those who favored racial integration.
Just like the white Southern press tried to pretend the civil rights movement wasn’t happening, today’s U.S. mainstream media ignores voices opposed to America’s imperial wars, no matter how credentialed those citizens are. Consider, for instance, how the major media won’t publish anything from the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, a group that reflects the views of such international figures as Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern.
Ironically, as much as U.S. officialdom and its mainstream media castigate RT and other Russian news outlets as “propaganda” fronts, RT and the like are playing the role that the Northern press did during the civil rights era by carrying important stories about U.S. peace protests while the NYT, WPost, CNN and MSNBC behave like the South’s segregationist media did in the 1960s, dismissing or ignoring the dissent. [See, for instance, Consortiumnews.com’s “When Silencing Dissent Isn’t News.”]
If it weren’t for today’s biased and imbalanced U.S. media, there would be daily, front-page, primetime, network news attention to the dangers of perpetual war and a critical examination of Hillary Clinton’s role in wasting trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives.
There would surely be a serious and thorough debate about the wisdom of Clinton’s continued hunger for an expanded war in Syria. Yet, today’s mainstream “debates” are limited to slight deviations between Official Washington’s dominant neocons and their understudies, the “liberal interventionists,” who only differ regarding which excuses to use in justifying an invasion of Syria.
Both the neocons and the liberal hawks favor airstrikes to kill young Syrian soldiers who have been at the forefront of a nasty war to stop Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and the Islamic State from seizing and holding Syrian territory. Yet, both the neocons and the liberal hawks favor a bigger U.S. military intervention against the Syrian army but dress up the rationale for the invasion differently, either as neocon “democracy promotion” or liberal-hawk “humanitarian war.”
A Revealing Email
Publicly, Hillary Clinton has toyed with both the democracy and humanitarian arguments but one of her official emails – released by the State Department – explains that the underlying reason for the Syrian “regime change” war was the Israeli government’s desire to remove Syria as the link in the supply chain between Iran and Israel’s foe, Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Though undated and unsigned, the Clinton email reflected the thinking of the then-Secretary of State and her inner circle as of late April 2012 (when it appears to have been sent), about one year into the Syrian civil war. (The position paper appears to have been drafted by Clinton’s former adviser James Rubin but then was passed along by Clinton to other recipients with the author’s name deleted.)
The email explains the need for “regime change” in Damascus as important to Israel, which wanted to blunt Iranian regional influence and protect Israel’s “nuclear monopoly,” which is acknowledged quite frankly although Israel’s status as a rogue nuclear state is still considered a state secret by the U.S. government.
“The best way to help Israel deal with Iran’s growing nuclear capability is to help the people of Syria overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad,” the email states, brushing aside President Obama’s (eventually successful) negotiations to restrict Iran’s nuclear program.
“Negotiations to limit Iran’s nuclear program will not solve Israel’s security dilemma,” the Clinton email says. “Nor will they stop Iran from improving the crucial part of any nuclear weapons program — the capability to enrich uranium. At best, the talks between the world’s major powers and Iran that began in Istanbul this April and will continue in Baghdad in May will enable Israel to postpone by a few months a decision whether to launch an attack on Iran that could provoke a major Mideast war.”
The email explains: “Iran’s nuclear program and Syria’s civil war may seem unconnected, but they are. For Israeli leaders, the real threat from a nuclear-armed Iran is not the prospect of an insane Iranian leader launching an unprovoked Iranian nuclear attack on Israel that would lead to the annihilation of both countries. What Israeli military leaders really worry about — but cannot talk about — is losing their nuclear monopoly. …
“The result would be a precarious nuclear balance in which Israel could not respond to provocations with conventional military strikes on Syria and Lebanon, as it can today. If Iran were to reach the threshold of a nuclear weapons state, Tehran would find it much easier to call on its allies in Syria and Hezbollah to strike Israel, knowing that its nuclear weapons would serve as a deterrent to Israel responding against Iran itself.”
Israel’s Strategic Goal
In other words, all the “humanitarian” talk about “safe zones” and other excuses for Syrian “regime change” was only the camouflage for a desire to protect Israel’s “nuclear monopoly” and the freedom to mount what Israel has called “trimming the grass” operations, periodically mowing down Arabs in Lebanon, Gaza and elsewhere.
Removing the Assad regime in Damascus – with its heavy Alawite (a branch of Shia Islam) influence – was therefore an Israeli strategic goal to weaken the power of Shia-ruled Iran and to cut the supply lines to Lebanon’s Hezbollah, another Shia movement.
That is why Washington’s Sunni-led regional allies – Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar – have aided Sunni jihadists, including from Al Qaeda and the Islamic State which regard Shiites as “apostates” to be slaughtered. The Sunni jihadists are considered the most effective and fanatical enemies of Shia Islam, thus serving a purpose in seeking to destroy Iranian regional influence, in part, by ousting Syria’s Alawite-led government.
“Back to Syria,” the email continues. “It is the strategic relationship between Iran and the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria that makes it possible for Iran to undermine Israel’s security — not through a direct attack, which in the thirty years of hostility between Iran and Israel has never occurred, but through its proxies in Lebanon, like Hezbollah, that are sustained, armed and trained by Iran via Syria.
“The end of the Assad regime would end this dangerous alliance. Israel’s leadership understands well why defeating Assad is now in its interests. Speaking on CNN’s Amanpour show last week, Defense Minister Ehud Barak argued that ‘the toppling down of Assad will be a major blow to the radical axis, major blow to Iran. … It’s the only kind of outpost of the Iranian influence in the Arab world … and it will weaken dramatically both Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.’
“Bringing down Assad would not only be a massive boon to Israel’s security, it would also ease Israel’s understandable fear of losing its nuclear monopoly. Then, Israel and the United States might be able to develop a common view of when the Iranian program is so dangerous that military action could be warranted.
“Right now, it is the combination of Iran’s strategic alliance with Syria and the steady progress in Iran’s nuclear enrichment program that has led Israeli leaders to contemplate a surprise attack — if necessary over the objections of Washington.
“With Assad gone, and Iran no longer able to threaten Israel through its, proxies, it is possible that the United States and Israel can agree on red lines for when Iran’s program has crossed an unacceptable threshold. In short, the White House can ease the tension that has developed with Israel over Iran by doing the right thing in Syria.”
So, based on the logic expressed in the email, Clinton’s goal of “regime change” in Syria was driven in large part by Israel’s perception of its strategic interests, and she was ready to do to Assad and possibly his family what was done to Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein – and to members of their families – to kill or imprison them.
Recall that on Oct. 20, 2011, when Gaddafi was captured, sodomized with a knife and then murdered, Secretary Clinton gleefully declared, “We came, we saw, he died,” and clapped her hands. The email about Syria was written six months later.
In regards to Assad submitting to U.S. and Israeli “regime change” desires, the spring 2012 email said, “With his life and his family at risk, only the threat or use of force will change the Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s mind.”
At the time, Clinton was still basking in the presumed glory of the Libyan “regime change.”
“Libya was an easier case,” the email explained. “But other than the laudable purpose of saving Libyan civilians from likely attacks by Qaddafi’s regime, the Libyan operation had no long-lasting consequences for the region. Syria is harder.” Note that Clinton’s propagandistic wartime claims about Gaddafi’s “genocide” had faded, in the email, to “likely attacks” (although during Campaign 2016, she has again elevated Gaddafi to “genocidal.”)
The email continues: “But success in Syria would be a transformative event for the Middle East. Not only would another ruthless dictator succumb to mass opposition on the streets, but the region would be changed for the better as Iran would no longer have a foothold in the Middle East from which to threaten Israel and undermine stability in the region.”
The email also recognized that the U.S. role in Syria would have to be even more significant than it was in Libya: “Unlike in Libya, a successful intervention in Syria would require substantial diplomatic and military leadership from the United States. Washington should start by expressing its willingness to work with regional allies like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar to organize, train and arm Syrian rebel forces. …
“Then, using territory in Turkey and possibly Jordan, U.S. diplomats and Pentagon officials can start strengthening the opposition. It will take time. But the rebellion is going to go on for a long time, with or without U.S. involvement.”
Helping the Terrorists
By 2012, those Turkish-Saudi-Qatari-backed rebels already included Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and “Al Qaeda in Iraq,” which would soon spin off into the Islamic State.
The email continues: “The second step is to develop international support for a coalition air operation. Russia will never support such a mission, so there is no point operating through the UN Security Council. Some argue that U.S. involvement risks a wider war with Russia. But the Kosovo example shows otherwise.
“In that case, Russia had genuine ethnic and political ties to the Serbs, which don’t exist between Russia and Syria, and even then Russia did little more than complain. Russian officials have already acknowledged they won’t stand in the way if intervention comes.
“Arming the Syrian rebels and using western air power to ground Syrian helicopters and airplanes is a low-cost high payoff approach. As long as Washington’s political leaders stay firm that no U.S. ground troops will be deployed, as they did in both Kosovo and Libya, the costs to the United States will be limited.
“Victory may not come quickly or easily, but it will come. And the payoff will be substantial. Iran would be strategically isolated, unable to exert its influence in the Middle East. …
“For Israel, the rationale for a bolt from the blue attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be eased. And a new Syrian regime might well be open to early action on the frozen peace talks with Israel. Hezbollah in Lebanon would be cut off from its Iranian sponsor since Syria would no longer be a transit point for Iranian training, assistance and missiles. …
“With the veil of fear lifted from the Syrian people, they seem determine to fight for their freedom. America can and should help them — and by doing so help Israel and help reduce the risk of a wider war.”
Although some mainstream commentary on the email has insisted that Clinton’s war plans for Syria were not implemented, they actually were, to a significant degree. Although President Obama was a reluctant warrior regarding Syria, he did adopt Clinton’s plan for training and arming rebel forces in Turkey and Jordan to fight in Syria.
The supposedly “moderate” rebels never materialized as a significant fighting force, but the assistance from the United States and its Mideast allies, including Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, fueled a bloody civil war driven by Sunni jihadists, led by the Islamic State, Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and Nusra’s close ally, Ahrar al-Sham.
Armed with sophisticated weapons such as U.S.-manufactured TOW anti-tank missiles, the Islamist forces achieved dramatic gains in early 2015, including the Islamic State’s capture and partial destruction of the ancient ruins of Palmyra. Only Russia’s decision to support the Syrian military with air power turned the tide of the war in fall 2015, including the liberation of Palmyra this spring.
Beheading the Apostates
If Clinton’s larger scheme of orchestrating Syrian “regime change” were to succeed, the likely outcome would be horrific, with the powerful Islamist groups as the almost certain winners, benefiting from Clinton’s proposed aerial devastation of the Syrian military, which would be conducted under the “humanitarian” cover of creating “safe zones” and “no-fly zones.”With Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front or the Islamic State marching into Damascus, the situation for Syria would be cataclysmic, even worse than now. Millions of Syrians – Alawites, Shiites, Christians, secularists and other “infidels” – would have to flee the beheading swords of the terror groups and would pour into Europe in greater numbers. That might well force a full-scale U.S. and European invasion of Syria with the bloody outcome probably similar to the disastrous Iraq War.
But Clinton and her neocon/liberal-hawk advisers never seem to anticipate events not turning out as they dream them up.
Since the April 2012 email, the situation in Libya deteriorated, too. On Sept. 11, 2012, Islamic terrorists attacked the U.S. consulate and CIA annex in Benghazi, killing Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. personnel. Later, the U.S. and other Western embassies in Tripoli were abandoned as Libya descended into a failed state with the Islamic State seizing territory and carrying out its characteristic brutality, such as the beheadings of Coptic Christians.
Despite these bloody setbacks, Clinton’s views apparently have changed little. During the 2016 presidential campaign, she has announced her intention to follow Israel’s strategic lead in the region, vowing to take the relationship to “the next level.” She still views the chaos in Libya through rose-colored glasses and can’t wait to broaden the U.S. invasion of Syria into “no-fly zones” and “safe zones,” again ignoring the risks of a violent clash with Russian forces.
If there were any doubts that Clinton is a committed neocon (or “liberal interventionist” since there is very little real difference between the two), she dashed them once she seized firm control of the Democratic presidential nominating race this spring.
With her dominance in unelected “superdelegates” giving her an insurmountable lead over Sanders, Clinton expressed her obeisance to Israel in a speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and in her last debate against Sanders. She was pivoting to what the mainstream media calls “the center,” signaling to neocon Republicans that she should be their choice for president. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Yes, Hillary Clinton Is a Neocon.”]
In a normal world, Clinton’s reiteration of her plans for invading Syria should have sparked a firestorm of controversy and debate – since her ideas are completely illegal under international and U.S. law as well as operationally dangerous – but her statements passed largely unnoticed since Official Washington’s foreign-policy establishment and mainstream media are so firmly in the neocon camp.
Despite 15 years of “perpetual war,” no effective anti-war movement has emerged in the West and – to the degree that prominent citizens do object – their serious arguments of dissent are rarely allowed inside the major media. As the world staggers toward what could be a nuclear abyss, the silence is deafening.
[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Israeli-Saudi Alliance Slips into View”; “What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis”; “Would a Clinton Win Mean More Wars?’”; and “Trading Places: Neocons and Cockroaches.”]
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).