Hidden in Plain View in Belgrade

Why did NATO attack Yugoslavia in 1999, killing perhaps as many as 2,500 civilians? Here are some possible answers as Vladimir Golstein reflects back on that ugly episode.

By Vladimir Golstein
in Belgrade
Special to Consortium News

Right across the street from my hotel, tucked behind tall office buildings, is the rather large Church of St. Mark. Hidden in St. Mark’s shadows is a tiny Russian Orthodox church. The Church of the Holy Trinity, known simply as the Russian Church, is famous for holding the remains of Baron Pyotr Nikolayevich Wrangel, the Russian Civil War leader of the Whites. It is hard to find, but luckily, a friend took me there.

As we were looking around the church, not particularly interested in Wrangel, a couple of Russians asked me to take their picture in front of his tomb. Trying to find a proper angle for the picture, I noticed a small plaque on a wall nearby. It listed the names of Russians who died fighting for Yugoslav Serbs during the conflict with separatist Albanians in Kosovo and the subsequent NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999.

As we left the church, we took a small path toward the top of the park. There we observed another brutal sign of that war: a destroyed building next to the TV center. It too had a plaque. It screamed, “Zashto” (For What? Why?). Below it were the names of all the TV people NATO killed during that attack. In all, as many as 2,500 civilians may have been killed by NATO, according to the then Yugoslav government, though the real number may never be known. 

On the one hand, the question Zashto is both idle and provocative. It implies a laceration of wounds, a refusal to forget and to start anew. On the other, there is an obvious need to find an answer to this question simply to prevent future destruction and senseless murders. 

We won’t find answers to this question in the official narratives, which tell us that the noble Clinton administration decided to stop flagrant violations of human rights in the extremely complex situation in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo by bombing the Serbs into respecting minorities both on its own and on neighboring territories. (In fact the large exodus of Kosovo Albanians to Albania proper only began after NATO bombs started to fall.)

Testing the Limits

Behind these official stories, a much sadder picture emerges. Why did these people die? Why did this NATO operation go ahead without UN Security Council authorization nor proof of self-defense, requirements of the UN Charter? Was it to satisfy the lust for power of U.S. and NATO leaders, of liberal interventionists like Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton, and Susan Rice? To assuage the Clinton administration’s guilt over its failure to respond to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda? Was it to set up America’s largest military base in Europe since the Vietnam War, Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo? For American access to Kosovo’s vast mineral wealth and other business opportunities, including for Ms. Albright? Or was it to finally kill off a rather successful Yugoslav experiment in the “third way” between the West and the Soviet Union?

It seems these people had to die for all those reasons and to put into practice the doctrines of responsibility to protect (R2P) and full spectrum dominance, doctrines cooked up by liberal interventionists and neocons in Washington. Those who died were essentially guinea pigs of a New World Order experiment to see how far the world could be pushed to implement R2P, a policy that could be used to mask imperial ambitions.

And it worked. Yugoslavia was unable to stand up to the power of NATO operating outside the mandate of its obsolete charter: namely to defend Western Europe against an alleged Soviet threat. Indeed one could argue that with the Cold War over, another motive for the attack on Yugoslavia was to provide NATO with a justification to exist. (It would later go even further afield outside its legal theater of operation, into Afghanistan and then Libya.)

Russia could do little to help the Serbs. Then the Chinese Embassy was hit as well, as a test it seems, though The New York Times said it was a mistake. The Chinese did nothing.

Thus was R2P implemented—with no protection for Yugoslav Serbs. They had to die in the experiment to explore the limits of U.S. power and the limits of its resistance.

Vladimir Golstein, a former associate professor at Yale University, manages the Department of Slavic Studies at Brown University and is a commentator on Russian affairs.

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Ignoring Today’s ‘Great Hungers’

The U.S. government presents itself as the beneficent superpower, but the reality of Washington’s endless wars and lavish spending on bombs – while millions face starvation and disease – suggest a different reality, as Kathy Kelly notes.

By Kathy Kelly

Earlier this year, the Sisters of St. Brigid invited me to speak at their Feile Bride celebration in Kildare, Ireland. The theme of the gathering was: “Allow the Voice of the Suffering to Speak.”

The Sisters have embraced numerous projects to protect the environment, welcome refugees, and nonviolently resist wars. I felt grateful to reconnect with people who so vigorously opposed any Irish support for U.S. military wars in Iraq. They had also campaigned to end the economic sanctions against Iraq, knowing that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children suffered and died for lack of food, medicine and clean water.

This year, the Sisters asked me to first meet with local teenagers who would commemorate another time of starvation imposed by an imperial power. Joe Murray, who heads Action from Ireland (Afri), arranged for a class from Dublin’s Beneavin De La Salle College to join an Irish historian in a field adjacent to the Dunshaughlin work house on the outskirts of Dublin.

Such workhouses dot the landscape of Ireland and England. In the mid-Nineteenth Century, during the famine years, they were dreaded places. People who went there knew they were near the brink of death due to hunger, disease, and dire poverty. Ominously, behind the workhouse lay the graveyard.

The young men couldn’t help poking a bit of fun, at first; what in the world were they doing out in a field next to an imposing building, their feet already soaked in the wet grass as a light rain fell? They soon became quite attentive.

We learned that the Dunshaughlin workhouse had opened in May of 1841. It could accommodate 400 inmates. During the famine years, many hundreds of people were crowded in the stone building in dreadful conditions.

An estimated one million people died during a famine that began because of blighted potato crops but became an “artificial famine” because Ireland’s British occupiers lacked the political will to justly distribute resources and food. Approximately one million Irish people who could no longer feed themselves and subsist on the land emigrated to places like the U.S. But seeking refuge wasn’t an option for those who couldn’t afford the passage.

Evicted by landowners, desperate people arrived at workhouses like the one we were visiting. Our guide read us the names of people from the surrounding area who had been buried in a mass grave behind the workhouse, their bodies unidentified. They were victims of what the Irish call “Greta Mor”—”The Great Hunger.” It was recently, as I tried to better understand the migration of desperate and starving people now crossing from East Africa into Yemen, that I began to realize how great the hunger was.

A Global Holocaust

During that same period as the Irish famine — in the latter half of the Nineteenth Century — there were 30 million people, possibly 50 million, dying of famine in northern China, India, Brazil and the Maghreb. The terrible suffering of these unknown people, whose plight never made it into the history books, was a sharp reminder to me of Western exceptionalism.

As researched and described in Mike Davis’s book, The Late Victorian Holocaust, El Nino and La Nina climate changes caused massive crop failures. What food could be harvested was often sent abroad. Railroad infrastructure could have been used to send food to people dying of hunger, but wealthier people chose to ignore the plight of the starving. The Great Hunger, fueled by bigotry and greed, had been greater than any of its victims knew.

And now, few in the prosperous West are aware of the terror faced by people in South Sudan, Somalia, northeast Nigeria, northern Kenya and Yemen. Millions of people cannot feed themselves or find potable water.

Countries in Africa, which the U.S. has helped destabilize such as Somalia, are convulsed in fighting which exacerbates effects of drought and drives helpless civilians toward points of hoped-for refuge. Many have chosen a path of escape through the famine-torn country of Yemen.

But the U.S. has been helping a Saudi-led coalition to blockade and bomb Yemen since March of 2015. Sudanese fighters aligned with Saudi Arabia have been taking over cities along the Yemeni coast, heading northward. People trying to escape famine find themselves trapped amid vicious air and ground attacks.

In March 2017, Stephen O’Brien, head of the United Nation’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, traveled to Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Northern Kenya. Since that trip, he has repeatedly begged the U.N. Security Council to help end the fighting and prevent conflict-driven famine conditions.

Regarding Yemen, he wrote, in a July 12, 2017 statement to the U.N. Security Council that: “Seven million people, including 2.3 million malnourished (500,000 severely malnourished) children under the age of five, are on the cusp of famine, vulnerable to disease and ultimately at risk of a slow and painful death. Nearly 16 million people do not have access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene, and more than 320,000 suspected cholera cases have been reported in all of the country’s governorates bar one.” This number has since risen to 850,000.

Spreading Famine

Ben Ehrenreich describes famine conditions along what the Israeli theorist Eyal Weizman calls the “conflict shoreline,” an expanding band of climate change-induced desertification that stretches through the Sahel and across the African continent before leaping the Gulf of Aden to Yemen. He notes that this vast territory, once the site of fierce resistance to colonial incursions, is now paying the heaviest price, in disastrous climate conditions, for the wealth of the industrialized north. As the deserts spread south, ever more dire conflicts can be expected to erupt, causing more people to flee.

Of a drought-stricken area of Somaliland, Ehrenreich writes: “People were calling this drought sima, ‘the leveller,’ because it affected all of the clans stretching across Somaliland and into Ethiopia to the west and Kenya to the south.”

“The women’s stories were almost all the same,” writes Ehrenreich, “differing only in the age and number of children sick, the number of animals they had lost and the number that survived. Hodan Ismail had lost everything. She left her husband’s village to bring her children here, where her mother lived, ‘to save them,’ she said. ‘When I got there, I saw that she had nothing either.’ The river and streams, their usual source of drinking water, had gone dry and they had no option but to drink from a shallow well at the edge of town. The water was making all the children sick.”

In 1993, at the Rio de Janeiro “Earth Summit,” delegates conveying the views of then-President George H.W. Bush, voiced a refrain of the statement, “the American lifestyle is not up for negotiation.” U.S. demands of the summit incalculably restricted the changes to which it might have led.

Representing President Bill Clinton six years later, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright defended planned bombardment of Iraq, saying “If we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future, and we see the danger here to all of us.”

A Downward Spiral

There is danger that must be recognized. The danger is real and the danger is spreading. Violence spreads the famine, and the famine will spread violence.

I find myself repulsed by assertions voicing U.S. exceptionalism, yet my own study and focus often omits histories and present realities which simply must be understood if we are to recognize the traumas our world faces.

In relation to conflict-driven famines, it becomes even more imperative to resist the U.S. government’s allocation of $700 billion to the Department of Defense. In the U.S., our violence, and our delusions of being indispensable stem from accepting a belief that our “way of life” is non-negotiable.

Growing inequality, protected by menacing arsenals, paves a path to the graveyard: It is not a “way of life.” We still could acquire a great hunger: a transforming hunger to share justice with our planetary neighbors. We could shed familiar privileges and search for communal tools to preserve us from indifferent wealth and voracious imperial power.

We could embrace the theme of the Irish sisters at their Feile Bride gathering: “Allow the Voice of the Suffering to Speak” and then choose action-based initiatives to share our abundance and lay aside, forever, the futility of war.

Kathy Kelly (kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org)

 




Hillary Clinton’s Gender Argument

Exclusive: Hillary Clinton calls on women to support her to be the first female President, but all Americans should look carefully at her record advocating bloody, neocon “regime change” wars, says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern

Not race nor gender — nor any other innate characteristic — should be the touchstone in voting for President of the United States. Yet, as I have traveled the country these past several years, I have been amazed at how many Americans have no qualms in stating that their support for President Barack Obama is based solely – or mostly – on his being black. Equally amazing is the unabashedly indiscriminate support I hear voiced by highly educated women for Hillary Clinton – “because she is a woman and it’s our turn,” as they put it.

Five years ago in Atlanta, I sat down with Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery, then 90 and a legendary leader of the African-American-church-led struggle for human rights in the South. We met in an historic building used 50 years before by the courageous young leaders of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.

I had been a longtime admirer of Dr. Lowery, who acted very much in the tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., when Lowery chose the occasion of Coretta Scott King’s funeral (Feb. 7, 2006) to admonish a captive audience that included Presidents Bush-41, Bush-43, Carter and Clinton.

“We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there [in Iraq]. But Coretta knew and we know that there are weapons of misdirection right down here,” Dr. Lowery said. “Poverty abounds. For war billions more but no more for the poor!”

So I was pleased to meet with Dr. Lowery in early May 2011 and felt comfortable enough to voice disappointment at how Barack Obama, despite his rhetoric, seemed to be pursuing the pro-war/pro-Wall-Street policies of his predecessor. But I was brought up short when Lowery reacted quite strongly.

“Obama is one of us,” he said. “We will support him no matter what!”

Sensitive Topic

I am aware of the delicacy involved in saying these things and the criticism one can expect. Granted, I carry the proverbial knapsack of white/male privilege. I do make a constant effort to reflect on the very real implications of that reality, rather than give it mere lip service. I have been working at a black-led nonprofit in inner-city Washington for the past 18 years; I worship at a predominantly African-American church, and just this week I was “Best Man” at the marriage of black friends.

If that sounds a little like “some of my best friends are black,” well, they are. I do try hard to divest myself of the knapsack of white/male privilege that is mine by accident of birth.  Recognizing that unearned privilege will always be part of my DNA, I feel all the more conscience bound to put those unmerited gifts to good use. Often this means risking opprobrium attached to telling it like it is – or, admittedly, like I think it is.

Twenty-five years ago I earned the epithet “radical feminist” (not a good thing in Catholic circles) to which I proudly plead guilty. Rather than take the chance that our three daughters end up with the idea that they were second-class citizens, and not having any better idea, I stood up in silence in the middle of my parish congregation for the entire Sunday Mass for almost five years. It was a witness to the reality that the Catholic liturgy itself is flawed with fundamental injustice when women are barred from presiding. From time to time other “radical feminists,” women and men parishioners, joined me.

But for many it was a most unwelcome reminder — a disruption. I was treated like a leper by some of my most “progressive” co-parishioners, until I left the parish after those five years (1991-96) of standing. (Catholics in Crisis, a book by Jim Naughton centers on the bitter controversy sparked by what came to be known as “The Standing.”)

Gender and Justice

In the midst of such witness, there seemed to be signs of some progress – at least in the secular world. In 1993, I rejoiced that our country was getting a “two-for” with Hillary Clinton as a new kind of First Lady, essentially a partner in governance with her husband. And just four years later, another breakthrough, Madeleine Albright became the first female Secretary of State and the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government.

But, alas: as U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Albright had justified the brutal effects of the sanctions imposed on Iraq (later branded “unconscionable” by the U.S. Catholic bishops). When asked in May 1996 about the U.N. finding that the sanctions had taken the lives of 500,000 Iraqi children, Albright told CBS’s Leslie Stahl, “We think the price is worth it.” Albright displayed not only callousness, but entitlement.

In February of this year, while on the campaign trail in New Hampshire for former Secretary of State Clinton, Albright condescendingly chided and challenged women, especially the young who were rallying to Sen. Bernie Sanders: “You have to help. Hillary Clinton will always be there for you. And just remember, there’s a special place in Hell for women who don’t help each other.”

Hillary Clinton is clearly expecting the votes of many women who believe she is entitled to become President because “it is time.” While I agree that it is well past time for a woman to be President, I disagree that it should be Hillary Clinton. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., reminded us that people should not be judged by external factors (whether the color of their skin or, in this case, their gender) “but by the content of their character.”

Hillary Clinton’s record as Secretary of State makes it unmistakably clear that – like her hawkish predecessor Albright – she lacks the level-headedness, vision, and, yes, compassion without which the country’s top diplomat or (even more importantly) the commander in chief can be outright dangerous.

If there is a Hell, I could visualize a special place for both men and women who operate with the cold-blooded, unfeeling cruelty toward victims of American power. What brought this to mind was the way Clinton exulted shortly after getting word that Muammar Gaddafi had been killed.

The Libyan leader had been flushed out of a culvert hiding place, tortured, sodomized with a bayonet and murdered. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chose to rejoice with undisguised glee, using a riff on words attributed to Julius Caesar, “I came; I saw; I conquered.”  Hillary said: “We came; we saw; he died!”

Chaos now reigns in Libya and, according to Colin Powell’s “Pottery Barn” rule, Clinton broke it, so she now owns it. And Obama has just conceded publicly that if he could get a do-over, it would be Libya. He recently expressed open regret over the aftermath of the U.S. military involvement championed by Secretary of State Clinton, calling it the “worst mistake” of his presidency.

In Lock-Step With Neocons

Frankly, it is hard to distinguish Clinton’s foreign policy from the neocons’ “regime change” obsession. Like the neocons, Clinton expresses full support for whatever Israel does and applies the same step-by-step approach toward dragging the United States into more “regime change” wars against governments and political movements that don’t toe Washington’s line.

Currently, she’s pushing for the U.S. military to impose a “safe zone” or “no-fly zone” in Syria, nice-sounding phrases that mean in reality a direct U.S. invasion of Syria, requiring the violent destruction of Syria’s air force and air defenses. It is the same ploy that Clinton used in beginning the disastrous “regime change” in Libya: start with sweet phrases like “responsibility to protect” and “no-fly zones” and then escalate to another “regime change.”

President George W. Bush and his neocon advisers pulled a similar stunt in drawing the United States into the Iraq War. Bush insisted that he simply needed the authority to use force to pressure Saddam Hussein to surrender his WMD; then U.S. troops were deployed to the region to show that the U.S. meant business; then, U.S. “credibility” would be impaired if the troops simply had to wait around until the U.N. weapons inspectors searched for the WMD, so the invasion began.

Clinton has consistently been onboard such neocon bandwagons, famously voting for and supporting the Iraq War as a U.S. senator. She also has favored coups and wars to remove troublesome leaders whom she demonizes much as the neocons do, understanding the importance of propaganda and “perception management” to bring a sometimes reluctant U.S. population along for the blood-soaked ride.

As Secretary of State, Clinton supported the 2009 coup in Honduras that ousted a relatively progressive president who had offended powerful corporate and oligarchic interests. Also in 2009, she joined hawkish Republican holdovers inside the Obama administration to push for what turned out to be a pointless but bloody “counterinsurgency” escalation in Afghanistan.

In 2011, Clinton tipped the balance in convincing Obama to support the Western invasion of Libya. And in seeking another “regime change” in Syria, she advocated arming Syrian rebels, even though many fought side-by-side with Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front.

Clinton also has voiced excessive hostility toward Iran, heightening the confrontation during her years as Secretary of State and threatening to renew it if she becomes President. With Iranian hardliners already questioning the value of Iran’s accepting extraordinary constraints on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief (when much of that relief has not materialized), it’s not hard to imagine how a President Clinton-45 might push Iran into renouncing the deal, thus reopening the “bomb-bomb-bomb-Iran” option favored by the neocons.

Only the blindest supporters of Secretary Clinton could fail to acknowledge that there is little or no daylight between her and the neocons.

Full Disclosure

I should note that five years ago as Secretary Clinton began a major speech at George Washington University on the imperative of respecting dissent (in Iran), she did not miss a syllable as “security” officers brutally assaulted me and hauled me away directly in front of her. My crime? Standing silently with my back to her.

Clinton’s confidant Sidney Blumenthal sent her a quick email, telling her that I was well known in the U.S. intelligence community, where I had long served as a CIA analyst, though since then I had “become a Christian antiwar leftist who goes around bearing witness.” He added, “Whatever his views, he’s harmless.”

Harmless or not, I ended up with cuts and bruises, far less than the slaughter and maiming of the millions of victims of Clinton’s misbegotten policies. Her gender does not excuse her for that suffering nor does it mean that we should ignore her judgment when deciding whether she should be elevated to the most powerful office on earth.

Ray McGovern is a former Army officer and CIA analyst. He prepared the President’s Daily Brief for Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan, and conducted the morning briefings, one-on-one, of Reagan’s most senior advisers. He is a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).




Hillary Clinton and the Dogs of War

Former Secretary of State Clinton grudgingly admits her Iraq War vote was a “mistake,” but it was not a one-off misjudgment. Clinton has consistently stood for a war-like U.S. foreign policy that ignores international law and relies on brinkmanship and military force, writes Nicolas J S Davies.

By Nicolas J S Davies

A poll taken in Iowa before the presidential caucus found that 70 percent of Democrats surveyed trusted Hillary Clinton on foreign policy more than Bernie Sanders. But her record as Secretary of State was very different from that of her successor, John Kerry, who has overseen groundbreaking diplomatic breakthroughs with Iran, Cuba and, in a more limited context, even with Russia and Syria.

In fact, Clinton’s use of the term “diplomacy” in talking about her own record is idiosyncratic in that it refers almost entirely to assembling “coalitions” to support U.S. threats, wars and sanctions against other countries, rather than to peacefully resolving international disputes without the threat or use of force, as normally understood by the word “diplomacy” and as required by the UN Charter.

There is another term for what Clinton means when she says “diplomacy,” and that is “brinksmanship,” which means threatening war to back up demands on other governments. In the real world, brinksmanship frequently leads to war when neither side will back down, at which point its only value or purpose is to provide a political narrative to justify aggression.

The two main “diplomatic” achievements Clinton gives herself credit for are: assembling the coalition of NATO and the Arab monarchies that bombed Libya into endless, intractable chaos; and imposing painful sanctions on the people of Iran over what U.S. intelligence agencies concluded by 2007 was a peaceful civilian nuclear program.

Clinton’s claim that her brinksmanship “brought Iran to the table” over its “nuclear weapons program” is particularly deceptive.  It was in fact Secretary Clinton and President Obama who refused to take “Yes” for an answer in 2010, after Iran agreed to what was originally a U.S. proposal relayed by Turkey and Brazil. Clinton and Obama chose instead to keep ratcheting up sanctions and U.S. and Israeli threats. This was a textbook case of dangerous brinksmanship that was finally resolved by real diplomacy (and real diplomats like Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif) before it led to war.

That Clinton can peddle such deceptive rhetoric to national prime-time television audiences and yet still be considered trustworthy on foreign policy by many Americans is a sad indictment of the U.S. corporate media’s coverage of foreign policy, including a willful failure to distinguish between diplomacy and brinksmanship.

But Michael Crowley, now the senior foreign affairs correspondent for Politico, formerly with Time and the New Republic, has analyzed Clinton’s foreign policy record over the course of her career, and his research has shed light on her Iraq War vote, her personal influences and her underlying views of U.S. foreign policy, all of which deserve serious scrutiny from American voters.

The results of Crowley’s research reveal that Clinton believes firmly in the post-Cold War ambition to establish the U.S. threat or use of force as the ultimate arbiter of international affairs. She does not believe that the U.S. should be constrained by the UN Charter or other rules of international law from threatening or attacking other countries when it can make persuasive political arguments for doing so.

This places Clinton squarely in the “humanitarian interventionist” camp with her close friend and confidante Madeleine Albright, but also in underlying if unspoken agreement with the “neocons” who brought us the Iraq War and the self-fulfilling and ever-expanding “war on terror.”

Neoconservatism and humanitarian interventionism emerged in the 1990s as parallel ways to exploit the post-Cold War “power dividend,” each with its own approach to overcoming legal, diplomatic and political obstacles to the unbridled expansion of U.S. military power. In general, Democratic power brokers favored the humanitarian interventionist approach, while Republicans embraced neoconservatism, but their underlying goals were the same: to politically legitimize U.S. hegemony in the post-Cold War era.

The most self-serving ideologues, like Robert Kagan and his wife Victoria Nuland, soon mastered the nuances of both ideologies and have moved smoothly between administrations of both parties. Victoria Nuland, Dick Cheney’s deputy foreign policy adviser, became Secretary Clinton’s spokesperson and went on to plan the 2014 coup in Ukraine. Robert Kagan, who co-founded the neocon Project for the New American Century with William Kristol in 1997, was appointed by Clinton to the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board in 2011.

Kagan wrote of Clinton in 2014, “I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy. If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue, it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.”

In the Clinton White House

In her husband’s White House in the 1990s, Hillary Clinton was not an outsider to the foreign policy debates that laid the groundwork for these new ideologies of U.S. power, which have since unleashed such bloody and intractable conflicts across the world.

In 1993, at a meeting between Clinton’s transition team and Bush’s National Security Council, Madeleine Albright challenged then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell on his “Powell Doctrine” of limited war. Albright asked him, “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”

Hillary Clinton found common ground with Albright, and has likewise derided the Powell doctrine for limiting U.S. military action to “splendid little wars” like the invasions of Grenada, Panama and Kuwait, apparently forgetting that these are the only wars the U.S. has actually won since 1945.

Hillary Clinton reportedly “insist(ed) on Albright’s nomination as Secretary of State in December 1996, and they met regularly at the State Department during Bill Clinton’s second term for in-depth foreign policy discussions aided by White House and State Department staff. Albright called their relationship “an unprecedented partnership.”

With Defense Secretary William Cohen, Albright oversaw the crystallization of America’s aggressive post-Cold War foreign policy in the late 1990s. As UN Ambassador, she maintained and justified sanctions on Iraq, even as they killed hundreds of thousands of children. As Secretary of State, she led the push for the illegal U.S. assault on Yugoslavia in 1999, which set the fateful precedent for further U.S. violations of the U.N. Charter in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Syria.

James Rubin, Albright’s State Department spokesman, remembers strained phone calls between Albright and U.K. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook during the planning for the bombing of Yugoslavia. Cook told Albright the U.K. government was having problems “with its lawyers” because attacking Yugoslavia without authorization by the U.N. Security Council would violate the UN Charter. Albright told him the U.K. should “get new lawyers.”

Like Secretary Albright, Hillary Clinton strongly supported NATO’s illegal aggression against Yugoslavia. In fact, she later told Talk magazine that she called her husband from Africa to plead with him to order the use of force. “I urged him to bomb,” she said, “You cannot let this go on at the end of a century that has seen the major holocaust of our time. What do we have NATO for if not to defend our way of life?”

After the U.S.-U.K. bombing and invasion, the NATO protectorate of Kosovo quickly descended into chaos and organized crime. Hashim Thaci, the gangster who the U.S. installed as its first prime minister, now faces indictment for the very war crimes that U.S. bombing enabled and supported in 1999, including credible allegations that he organized the extrajudicial execution of Serbs to harvest and sell their internal organs.

On Clinton’s holocaust reference, the U.S. and U.K. did carpet-bomb Germany at the height of the Nazi Holocaust, but bombing could not stop the genocide of European Jews any more than it can have a “humanitarian” impact today. The Western allies’ decision to rely mainly on bombing throughout 1942 and 1943 while the Red Army’s “boots on the ground” and the civilians in the concentration camps died in their millions cast a long shadow on today’s policy debates over Syria, Iraq and Libya.

War is always an atrocity and a crime, but relying on bombing and drones to avoid putting “boots on the ground” is uniquely dangerous because it gives politicians the illusion that they can wage war without political risk. In the longer term, from London in the Blitz to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to Islamic State and drone victims today, bombing has always been the surest way to provoke righteous anger, stiffen resistance and reap a whirlwind of blowback.

The 140,000 bombs and missiles the U.S. and its allies have rained down on at least seven countries since 2001 are the poisonous seeds of a harvest of intractable conflict that is still gathering strength after 14 years of war.

The Clinton administration formalized its illegal doctrine of unilateral military force in its 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review, declaring, “When the interests at stake are vital we should do whatever it takes to defend them, including, when necessary, the unilateral use of military power. U.S. vital national interests include preventing the emergence of a hostile regional coalition (and) ensuring uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies and strategic resources.”

Arguments based on “vital interests” are dangerous precisely because they are politically persuasive to the citizens of any country. But this is precisely the justification for war that the U.N. Charter was designed to prohibit, as the U.K.’s senior legal adviser, Sir Gerald Fitzmaurice, explained to his government during the Suez crisis in 1956. He wrote, “The plea of vital interest, which has been one of the main justifications for wars in the past, is indeed the very one which the U.N. Charter was intended to exclude.”

Senator Clinton’s Iraq War Vote 

Sixteen years after the bombing of Yugoslavia, bombing to “prevent holocausts” and wars to “defend” ill-defined and virtually unlimited U.S. interests have succeeded only in launching a new holocaust that has killed at least 1.6 million people and plunged a dozen countries into intractable chaos.

As Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee wrote of his colleagues who voted to authorize war on Iraq in 2002, “Helping a rogue President start an unnecessary war should be a career-ending lapse of judgment…”

As the results of that decision keep spinning farther out of control, it seems increasingly remarkable that U.S. officials who authorized a war based on lies with millions of lives in the balance still have careers in public policy. If it costs Clinton another presidential nomination, that is a small price to pay when weighed against the holocaust she helped to unleash on tens of millions of people.

But what if her vote for an illegal and devastating war was not a momentary “lapse of judgment”, but was in fact consistent with her views then and her views now?

As the Bush administration lobbied senators to support the Iraq AUMF in 2002, Senator Clinton had several private chats with Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, an old friend from Yale Law School. An unnamed Bush official, possibly Hadley, told Michael Crowley, “I was kind of pleasantly surprised by her attitude.”

But Albright’s former assistant James Rubin was not surprised by Clinton’s vote on Iraq. He found it consistent with the position of the Clinton administration and Albright’s State Department that U.S. “diplomacy” must be backed up by the threat of military force.

“I think there is a connection to her vote,” Rubin told Michael Crowley, “which is recognizing that the right combination of force and diplomacy (sic) can achieve America’s objectives. Sometimes, to get things done – like getting inspectors back into Iraq –  you do have to be prepared to threaten force.”

But this evades the critical question of U.S. obligations under the U.N. Charter, which prohibits the threat and use of force. Senator Levin introduced an amendment to the Iraq AUMF bill that would have only authorized the use of force if it was approved by the U.N. Security Council. Senator Clinton voted against that amendment, making it clear that she supported the threat and use of force against Iraq whether it was legal or not.

Clinton has defended her vote on the basis of providing a credible threat of force to back up the call for inspections, in keeping with her long-standing preference for threats and brinksmanship over diplomacy. But the problem with threats of force is that they often lead to the use of force, as we have now seen repeatedly since the U.S. has embraced this aggressive and illegal approach to international affairs.

This is exactly why the U.N. Charter prohibits the threat as well as the use of force. The absolute priority of world leaders in 1945 was peace, and so the U.N. Charter prohibited both the threat and use of force, based on bitter experience of how the one so easily leads to the other.

The fundamental shift in U.S. foreign policy since the 1980s has been to renounce peace as an overriding priority and to politically legitimize U.S. war-making. The U.S. has therefore, without public debate, abandoned FDR’s post-WWII “permanent structure of peace” based on the U.N. Charter. The U.S. also withdrew from the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, after it found the U.S. guilty of aggression against Nicaragua in 1986, and it likewise rejects the jurisdiction of the new International Criminal Court.

U.S. government lawyers now pass off political arguments as legal cover for aggression, torture, killing civilians and other war crimes, secure in the knowledge that they will never be forced to defend their legally indefensible opinions in impartial courts.

When President George W. Bush unveiled his illegal “doctrine of preemption” in 2002, Sen. Edward Kennedy called it, “a call for Twenty-first Century American imperialism that no other nation can or should accept.”

But the same must be said of this entire decades-long effort by the Clintons, Bushes, Albright, Cheney and others to liberate the U.S. military industrial complex from the restraints placed upon it by the rule of international law.

Secretary of State – Iraq and Afghanistan

Hillary Clinton’s actions as Secretary of State were consistent with her role working with her husband and Madeleine Albright in the 1990s, and in the Senate with the Bush administration, to fundamentally corrupt U.S. foreign policy.

Robert Gates’s book, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, has provided revealing insights into Clinton’s personal contributions to White House foreign policy debates on the vital issues of Obama’s first term, in which she was always the most hawkish of Obama’s senior advisers, more hawkish than his Republican Secretary of Defense.

gates-dutyAt Clinton’s first “town hall” with foreign service officers at the State Department, Steve Kashkett of the American Foreign Service Association asked Clinton how soon the State Department’s deployment of 1,200 staff to the massive U.S. occupation headquarters in Baghdad would be reduced “to that of a normal diplomatic mission” to ease critical understaffing at other U.S. embassies all over the world.

Clinton instead launched a “civilian surge,” doubling the already overweight State Department deployment in Baghdad to 2,400. When the Iraqi government refused to allow 3,000 U.S. troops to remain in Iraq to protect the embassy staff – and Clinton had wanted even more than that – she hired 7,000 heavily-armed mercenaries to do the job instead.

As Clinton doubled down on the failed U.S. effort to control a puppet government in Iraq whose courageous people’s resistance had already made U.S. military occupation unsustainable, she was also keen to put the lives of more U.S. troops on the line in the even longer-running quagmire in Afghanistan.

When President Obama took office, there were 34,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but only 645 had been killed in seven years of combat. A Pew poll found that only 18 percent of Afghans surveyed wanted more U.S. troops in their country.

Secretary Clinton backed Obama’s first decision to commit an additional 30,000 troops to the war. Then, in mid-2009, General Stanley McChrystal submitted a request for a second increase of 40,000 troops. He also submitted a classified assessment that a genuine campaign to defeat the Taliban and its allies would require 500,000 U.S. troops for five years, acknowledging that neither 65,000 nor 105,000 troops could possibly achieve that.

Clinton supported McChrystal’s request and was eager to match it with a State Department “civilian surge” like the one in Iraq. Among Obama’s other advisers, Vice President Joe Biden opposed any further escalation, while Secretary Gates recommended a smaller increase of 30,000 troops, which was what Obama ultimately approved.

When Obama and his aides debated the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, Clinton was again the most hawkish, arguing for no reduction in troop strength until 2013.  In a typically arbitrary political compromise, Obama split the difference between Clinton and the doves and ordered the first withdrawals to begin in September 2012.

By the time the U.S. “combat mission” ended in 2014, 2,356 U.S. troops had met their deaths in the “graveyard of empires.” In 2016, the Taliban and its allies control more of Afghanistan than at any time since 2001, as they fight to expel the 10,000 U.S. troops still deployed there.

A complete withdrawal of foreign troops has always been the Taliban’s first precondition for opening serious peace talks with the government, so the 2009-10 escalations, which Clinton backed to the hilt, served only to kill 1,711 more Americans and tens of thousands of Afghans, prolonging the war and undermining diplomacy in the futile hope of saving a corrupt regime of U.S.-backed warlords and drug-lords.

President Obama’s latest plan, to keep at least 5,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan indefinitely, ensures that the war will continue into the next administration, even as Islamic State begins to move into another failed state already devastated by more than 60,000 U.S. bombs and missiles.

Secretary of State – Libya and Syria

President Obama’s advisers were even more divided over launching a new war to overthrow the government of Libya. Despite Secretary Gates telling a Congressional hearing that the first phase of a “no-fly zone” would be a bombing campaign to destroy Libyan air defenses, a Pew poll found that, while 44 percent of the public supported a “no-fly zone,” only 16 percent supported “bombing Libyan air defenses.” Even after being caught with its pants down over Iraq, the U.S. corporate media has not lost its talent for confusing Americans into war.

Secretary Gates wrote in Duty that he was so opposed to U.S. intervention in Libya that he considered resigning.  President Obama was so undecided that he called his final decision a “51-49 call.”  The other advocates for bombing were U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and National Security Council staffers Ben Rhodes and Samantha Power, so Secretary Clinton was the most senior, and almost certainly the decisive voice in sealing the fate of Muammar Gaddafi and the people of Libya.

Despite a U.N. resolution that authorized military force only to “protect civilians,” the U.S. and its allies intervened to support forces who were explicitly fighting to overthrow the Libyan government. NATO and its Arab monarchist allies conducted 7,700 air strikes in seven months, while NATO warships shelled coastal cities. The rebel forces on the ground, including Islamist fundamentalists, were trained and led on the ground by Qatari, British, French and Jordanian special forces.

In their short-sighted triumphalism over Libya, NATO and Arab monarchist leaders thought they had finally found a model for regime change that worked. Seduced by the blood-drenched mirage in the Libyan desert, they made the cynical decision to double down on what they knew very well would be a longer, more complicated and bloodier proxy war in Syria.

Only a few months after a gleeful Secretary Clinton hailed the sodomy and assassination of Gaddafi, unmarked NATO planes were flying fighters and weapons from Libya to the “Free Syrian Army” training base at Iskenderum in Turkey, where British and French special forces provided more training and the CIA and JSOC infiltrated them into Syria.

Residents of Aleppo were shocked to find their city invaded, not by Syrian rebels, but by Islamist fighters from Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Egypt. Despite the already brutal repression of the Syrian government, a Qatari-funded YouGov poll in December 2011 found that 55 percent of Syrians still supported their government, understanding that the alternative could be much worse.

Secretary Clinton and French President Nicolas Sarkozy assembled the Orwellian “Friends of Syria” coalition that undermined Kofi Annan’s 2012 peace plan by committing more funding, arms and support to their proxy forces instead of pressuring them to honor Annan’s April 10th ceasefire and begin negotiations for a political transition.

When Annan finally got all the countries involved to sign on to the Geneva communique on June 30, 2012, providing for a new ceasefire and a political transition, he received assurances that it would quickly be formalized in a new U.N. Security Council resolution. Instead, Clinton and her allies revived their precondition that President Assad must resign before any transition could begin, the critical precondition they had set aside in Geneva. With no possibility of agreement in the Security Council, Annan resigned in despair.

Almost four years later, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed in an ever more convoluted and dangerous war, now involving the armed forces of 16 countries, each with their own interests and their own relationships with different proxy forces on the ground. In many areas, the U.S. supports and arms both sides.

Turkey, a NATO member and major U.S. arms buyer, is attacking the YPG Kurdish forces who have been the U.S.’s most effective ally on the ground against Islamic State.  And the sectarian government to whom the U.S. handed over the ruins of Iraq is sending U.S.-armed militias to fight U.S.-armed rebels in Syria.

Obama’s and Clinton’s doctrine of covert and proxy war, by which they still tout drone strikes, JSOC death squads, CIA coups and local proxy forces as politically safe “tools” to project U.S. power across the world without the deployment of U.S. “boots on the ground,” has destroyed Libya, Yemen, Syria and Ukraine, and left U.S. foreign policy in an unprecedented crisis.

Hanging over this escalating, out-of-control crisis is the existential danger of war between the U.S. and Russia, who together possess 14,700 nuclear weapons with the destructive power to end life on Earth as we know it.  With her demonstrated, deeply-held belief in the superiority of threats, brinksmanship and war over diplomacy and the rule of law, surely the last thing the world needs now is Hillary Clinton playing chicken with the Russians while the fate of life on Earth hangs in the balance.

Based on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ record in Congress, his prescient floor speech during the Iraq War debate in 2002 and his campaign’s position statement on “War and Peace”, he at least understands the most obvious lesson of U.S. foreign policy in the post-Cold War era, that it is easier to unleash the dogs of war than to call them off once they have tasted blood. Incredibly, this makes him almost unique among U.S. leaders of this generation.

But there are real flaws in Sanders’s position statement. He cites “vital strategic interests” as a justification for war, dodging the thorny problem that international disputes typically involve “vital strategic interests” on both sides, which the U.N. Charter addresses by requiring them to be resolved peacefully without the threat or use of force.

And instead of pointing out that Clinton’s brinksmanship with Iran risked a second war in 10 years over non-existent WMDs, he repeats the canard that Iran was “developing nuclear weapons” before the signing of the JCPOA in 2015.

Sen. Sanders has launched an unprecedented campaign to challenge the way powerful vested interests have corrupted our elections, our political system and our economy. But the same interests have also corrupted our foreign policy, squandering our national wealth on weapons and war, killing millions of people and plunging country after country into war, ruin and chaos.

To succeed, the Sanders “revolution” must restore integrity to our country’s role in the world as well as to our political and economic system.

Nicolas J S Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.  He also wrote the chapters on “Obama at War” in Grading the 44th President: a Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.




The Game of Demonizing Putin

Official Washington influences the opinions of the American people about world affairs by demonizing certain foreign leaders, making them objects of both revulsion and ridicule, thus justifying “regime change” strategies, a particularly dangerous game when played against nuclear-armed Russia, as John Ivens explains.

By John Ivens

On the morning of Jan. 16 at Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters in Clinton, Iowa, I met Madeleine Albright. She looked different than I remembered her as the first woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State during Bill Clinton’s second term. She looked less imposing than before, more like a little barn owl seeking refuge from a bitterly cold Iowa winter.

Secretary Albright was acting as a surrogate for Hillary’s campaign. That Saturday, she was motivating volunteers to canvas and make phone calls for Hillary. I sensed that Secretary Albright came to Clinton, Iowa, to energize older folks on the same weekend Chelsea Clinton was in Davenport appealing to voters of younger generations.

But I thought Secretary Albright might be a good source of insight into Hillary’s perspectives on foreign policy. In Clinton’s 2014 memoir, Hard Choices, Hillary identified Albright as her “longtime friend and partner in promoting rights and opportunities for women.”

I asked Secretary Albright how she would advise Hillary Clinton when negotiating with Russian President Vladimir Putin. She replied that we should keep talking to Putin, but we should be wary that he expands Russian influence at every opportunity. Secretary Albright said we should “draw the line” when “little green men” invade other countries (a reference to events in Crimea in 2014, I presume).

Secretary Albright told about when she accompanied Bill Clinton to a summit in June 2000 with Putin. She wore a button showing three monkeys, “Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.” Putin asked why she was wearing this button: “We always watch what pins Secretary Albright wears. Why are you wearing those monkeys?”

And Albright said, “because of your evil Chechnya policy.” Putin was not amused. He protested, “You shouldn’t be dealing with the Chechens.” President Bill Clinton gave Albright this look like “Are you out of your mind? You have just screwed up the summit.”

In retrospect, the monkey pin incident might be thought of as a humorous aside, but perhaps Secretary Albright besmirched both nonhuman primates and Russians, a dubious example of tact and diplomacy in one of Bill Clinton’s first summits with the new Russian President.

The fighting on both sides of the Chechnyan conflict deserves a great deal of scrutiny by a war crime tribunal; nonetheless, Putin was fighting an insurgency of violent Islamic jihadists in league with Osama bin Laden. This is why Putin was among the first national leaders to express support and sympathy for the United States after 9/11. That is the sad irony of Madeleine Albright’s monkey button.

At a $1,500/plate fundraiser in March 2014 during the early phase of the crisis in Ukraine (after a U.S.-backed putsch had overthrown elected President Viktor Yanukovych and as ethnic Russians in Ukraine’s south and east were under attack from the new regime and seeking protection from Russia), Hillary was quoted in regards to Putin’s response: “Now if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the 30s. All the Germans that were … the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they’re not being treated right. I must go and protect my people and that’s what’s gotten everybody so nervous.”

In 2014, Bill Clinton was quoted, “Putin wants to re-establish Russian greatness, not in Cold War terms, in Nineteenth Century -empire terms.”

In Hard Choices, Hillary devotes an entire chapter titled “Russia, Reset and Regression,” dealing with her issues with Putin. She narrates her awkward experiences negotiating with Putin, and she seems frustrated about her working relationship with Putin as a negotiating partner. But oddly enough, she makes no such comparisons of Putin to Hitler anywhere in this chapter. Instead, she recommends a “pause” button instead of a “reset” button, adding:

“But we should hit the pause button on new efforts. Don’t appear too eager to work together. Don’t flatter Putin with high level attention. And make it clear that Russian intransigence wouldn’t stop us from pursuing our interests and policies regarding Europe, Central Asia, Syria and other hotspots. Strength and resolve were the only language that Putin would understand.”

I thought, “Enough Already! Enough dark arts of demonizing leaders of other countries! Enough references to ‘He who’s name must not be spoken, the dark lord Vladimir.’“

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, despite his notoriety, is an accomplished negotiator. He has recently advised that such demonization reveals a failure in foreign policy.

As Americans, we don’t get to vote for a Russian president. That particular right to vote belongs to Russians who live in the largest nation on the planet, spanning ten time zones and possessing an arsenal of nuclear weapons comparable in numbers to ours.

Russian national history begins four centuries before American natives had their first encounter with Columbus. Russians are as well educated and typically speak more languages than Americans. There are three nations that need to join together in agreements to address urgent climate change problems in the Arctic: the United States, Canada and Russia.

What Americans can do, is to vote for a president who can make peace with Russian leaders. More questions about peacemaking and diplomacy need to be asked and answered in the 2016 election cycle.

John Ivens is a retired psychology professor and now peace activist, living in DeWitt, Iowa. As a member of Veterans for Peace, he recently helped to organize a speaking tour, “Barnstorming in Iowa” – Sept. 24-30, 2015, by Ray McGovern and Coleen Rowley. During the Vietnam War John was an Air Force pilot, flying C-141 jet transports on global airlift missions.




America’s Short-sighted ‘Grand Strategy’

“Tough-guy/gal-ism” remains the dominant rhetorical approach to foreign policy emanating from Official Washington, which may protect the political and media careers of the tough-talkers, but it is doing grave damage to America’s strategic standing in the world, as military analyst Franklin Spinney explains.

By Franklin Spinney

The contemporary theory and practice of grand strategy by the United States can be summarized in the sound byte uttered in 2001 by President George W. Bush shortly after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, “You are either with us or you are with the terrorists.”

Bush did not invent this conception of grand strategy. His sound byte was simply a variation of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s triumphalist theory that America had become the world’s “essential power” with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is now clear that Bush’s assertion of unilateral prerogative blew back on itself to create all sorts of problems at home and abroad. It is also clear that, notwithstanding the blowback, his coercive grand strategic outlook became more entrenched and ossified during the Presidential tenure of Barack Obama.

This is evident in Obama’s unilateral escalation of drone attacks; his fatally flawed Afghan “surge” decision (click here and here); the foreign and domestic spying by the NSA, which included tapping the cell phones of close allies like German Prime Minister Angela Merkel; his administration’s aggressive meddling in Ukraine, together with the demonization of Vladimir Putin that is now well on the way to starting an unnecessary new cold war with Russia; and Mr. Obama’s so-called strategic pivot to the East China Sea to contain China.

Surely, the art of grand strategy is more subtle than a bipartisan theory of coercive diplomacy grounded on an assertion of a unilateral military prerogative. Surely, there is  more to the art of grand strategy than the notion of coercion embodied in the question Secretary of State Albright’s posed to General Colin Powell during a debate over whether or not to intervene in the Balkans, “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”

 

America’s descent into a state of perpetual war ought to suggest it is time to rethink our approach to grand strategy.

What Is Grand Strategy?

So, how do we define grand strategy? More to the point of this essay, what considerations make up  a constructive grand strategy?

The late American strategist, Col. John R. Boyd (USAF Ret see bio), evolved five criteria for synthesizing and evaluating a nation’s grand strategy. Boyd’s brilliant theories of conflict are contained in his collections of briefings entitled a “Discourse on Winning and Losing” (which can be downloaded at his link here). I will briefly introduce the reader to what I will call Boyd’s criteria for shaping a sensible grand strategy.

Boyd argued that any country should shape the domestic policies, foreign policies, and military strategies used to pursue its national goals (our national goal can be found in the Preamble to the Constitution) in a way that a nation’s decisions and actions work to:

–Strengthen that nation’s resolve and increase its political cohesion or solidarity;

–Drain away the resolve of its adversaries and weaken their internal cohesion;

–Reinforce the commitments of its allies to its cause and make them empathetic to its success;

–Attract the uncommitted to its cause or makes them empathetic to its success;

–And most importantly, end conflicts on favorable terms that do not sow the seeds of future conflicts.

These common sense criteria should not be thought of as a checklist, but as being general guidelines for evaluating the wisdom of specific policies or actions, say, for example, of President Bush’s response to 9/11 or Obama’s meddling in Ukraine (which I will leave to the reader for evaluation).

Obviously, it is difficult to construct policies that conform to or reinforce all these criteria at the same time. This challenge is particularly difficult in the case of the unilateral military strategies and the coercive foreign policies so popular with the foreign policy elites on both sides of the political aisle in the United States. Military operations and political coercion are usually destructive in the short term, and their destructive strategic effects can be in natural tension with the aims of grand strategy, which should be constructive over the long term. History is littered with failures to reconcile the natural tension between military strategy and grand strategy.

Moreover, the more powerful a country becomes, the harder it is to combine these often conflicting criteria into a sensible grand strategy. The possession of overwhelming power breeds hubris and arrogance that tempts leaders to use their power coercively and excessively. But lording over or dictating one’s will to others breeds lasting resentment. Thus, paradoxically, the possession of overwhelming power increases the danger of going astray grand strategically over the long term.

That danger becomes particularly acute and difficult to control when aggressive external actions, policies, and rhetoric are used to prop up or increase internal cohesion for domestic political reasons, such as the goal of winning an election.

Very often, the effects of military strategies or coercive foreign policies that are perceived as to be useful in terms of strengthening domestic political cohesion backfire at the grand-strategic level, because they strengthen our adversaries’ will to resist, push our allies into a neutral or even an adversarial corner, and/or drive away the uncommitted which, taken together, can set the stage for growing isolation and continuing conflict, which eventually blows back on itself to erode cohesion at home.

Case Study: Wilhelmine Germany, 1914

The German invasion of France through neutral Belgium in 1914 provides a classic example of how a policy shaped by inwardly focused strategic considerations (in this case, Germany’s well-founded fear of isolation and a two-front war) can induce a well-trained, professional strategic leadership elite into perpetrating a grand-strategic blunder on a colossal scale for the most “rational” of reasons.

Germany was not trying to conquer and permanently occupy Belgium or France at the beginning of World War I. But in the ten years leading up to WWI, the German general staff became obsessed with the idea that it was strategically necessary to attack and defeat the French army very quickly in order to knock France out of the coming war, before France’s Russian ally could mobilize in the East.

Germany’s operational-level problem was that the Franco-German frontier was heavily fortified, so the German military leadership convinced itself of the strategic need to avoid these fortifications by invading small neutral Belgium, which had much weaker defenses.

While the German plan was grounded in logical military considerations (i.e., it appeared to be the quickest way to penetrate French defenses), the German obsession with military strategy blinded its military planners and the Kaiser to the grand-strategic implications of such an invasion, especially if that invasion failed to produce a quick, clean victory.

Germany’s military strategists understood that violating Belgian neutrality would likely bring Great Britain into the war. But they did not appreciate how the civilized world would react to their invasion of a small neutral country, whose independence and neutrality had been guaranteed since 1839 by the Treaty of London (whose signatories included the German Confederation led by Prussia) , a treaty the German Empire recognized when it absorbed Prussia’s treaty obligations.

In 1914, the German Foreign Minister (who had no say in shaping the German army’s determination of the invasion strategy) arrogantly dismissed the likelihood of Britain’s entry into the war by characterizing the Treaty of London as a “scrap of paper.” However, the Treaty of London turned out to be more than a scrap of paper.

The German invasion of neutral Belgium and then France brought Britain into the war and enraged the civilized world. Then, the German invasion was stopped at the First Battle of the Marne (September 1914), only one month after they invaded Belgium. The Marne established the conditions for a lengthy stalemate and a bloody war of attrition. The spillage of blood increased the determination of each side to prevail. More importantly, at the grand strategic level of conflict, the Germans effectively handed the British a propaganda windfall that the Brits milked brilliantly for the rest of the war.

Over the next four years, the British successfully constructed an image of Germany as a force of unmitigated evil (which was not the case at the beginning of World War I). The successful propaganda operation was reinforced by continued grand-strategic blundering on the part of German leadership (e.g., the Zimmermann Telegram, unrestricted submarine warfare, etc.). These self-inflicted wounds served to morally isolate Germany at the decisive grand strategic level of the war. (See my essay The M&M Strategy for a general description of Boyd’s powerful theory of moral isolation, which applies to any form of conflict.)

Germany’s moral isolation also created a psychological asymmetry that increased the freedom of action of her adversaries: to wit, the British were able to avoid criticism, while they conducted a ruthless blockade of Germany that resulted in far greater indiscriminate death and suffering to civilians than the damage and death caused by Germany’s submarines.

Indeed, in an ominous foreshadowing of U.S. policy in Iraq in the 1990s, the propagandized sense that Germany was an unmitigated evil became so effective that Britain was able to maintain its murderous blockade of Germany (particularly the restriction on food imports) after the Nov. 11, 1918 armistice, until July 1919, without any outcry by its allies or neutral countries.

The ominous parallel of Britain’s WWI blockading policy applies to the U.S. sanctions policy in Iraq during the Bush-41 and Clinton Administrations: Painting Saddam Hussein as an unmitigated evil after he invaded Kuwait freed up US “strategists” to persuade the world to impose sanctions on Iraq from August 1990 until May 2003.

No one knows how many innocent Iraqis died from the combined effects of the blockade and Saddam’s ruthless countermoves, but estimates made in mortality studies now run from 500,000 to a million. Asked in May 1996 about the deaths of Iraqi children by Leslie Stahl on “60 Minutes,” then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright infamously replied: “we think the price is worth it.” Nevertheless, her claim that these deaths being “worth it,” did not prevent the United States from using false claims to justify an unprovoked invasion of Iraq in 2003.

In World War I, even America, with its large German population and widespread anti-British sentiment (something now forgotten), rejected its long tradition of neutrality and joined Germany’s enemies and thereby provided the injection of enough fresh troops and resources to break the stalemate and make the German defeat inevitable

No doubt the British grand strategic success in isolating Germany morally during the war also worked to fuel the arrogance that led to the excessively vindictive terms imposed on Germany at the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919. That these onerous terms “ended” the conflict on terms that helped to sow the seeds of future conflict is now self evident.

By deviating from the criteria of sensible grand strategy in victory, Britain, together with the connivance of Italy and France and President Woodrow Wilson’s inability or refusal to impose moderation in the peace terms, inadvertently helped to pave the way for the emergence of a truly pathological state in the form of Nazi Germany.

It is revealing that today, American politicians and warmongers love to raise the specter of Hitler and Munich but never refer to the cause of Hitler’s rise to power, the Vengeance of Versailles.

Today, a 101 years after the start of World War I, the world is still paying a price for Germany’s grand-strategic blunder in 1914 and the Allies ruthless exploitation of that blunder at the Versailles Peace Conference, the problems in the Balkans, the Middle East, the Russian heartland, and the Caucasus, to name a few, have roots reaching back to destruction of world order that flowed from the invasion of 1914, the vengeance of 1919, and the violent aftermath of that vengeance.

So, the important lesson of this German case study is this: It is very dangerous to allow military strategy to trump grand strategy. Whenever a great power fails to adequately consider the criteria shaping a sensible grand strategy, painful unintended consequences can metastasize and then linger for a very long time.

Emphasis on ‘Toughness’

Today America’s central foreign policy problem and the problem of American militarism can be simply stated: Military strategy is trumping grand strategy. The result is not only a state of perpetual war, but as the emerging Ukraine and China policies show, it is one of an expanding confrontation that can lead to even more war and more blowback.

That, in a nut shell, is why it is time to do a grand-strategic evaluation of the coercive unilateralism that is evident in America’s ever-mutating war on terror, its meddling in Ukraine, and its so-called strategic pivot into China’s backyard to threaten China’s exceeding vulnerable sea lines of communication and “contain” China, whatever that means. The time is ripe for a substantive political debate on a real issue.

The Presidential campaign will move into high gear on the day after Labor Day. But as it now stands, the American people are about to be inundated with speeches and debating points over why it is time to rebuild America’s defenses, with most of the candidates beating their breasts in an effort to out-tough each other.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if at least one candidate stopped beating his or her breasts and spoke thoughtfully to the importance of moving our country onto a pathway away from blind militarism toward a more sensible grand strategy.

Unfortunately, that probably won’t happen; in America, as elsewhere, all foreign policy is local in the sense that it is shaped by domestic politics. And in our country, too many people in the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex on both sides of the aisle are becoming rich and powerful by feeding off America’s self-referencing politics of unilateralism, fear, and perpetual war.

Franklin “Chuck” Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. [This article appeared previously in Counterpunch.]




Growing Doubts About Susan Rice

Exclusive: Republicans have blasted U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice for her TV comments about the fatal attack in Benghazi, Libya, but her real unfitness to be Secretary of State rests in her excessive careerism and insufficient compassion, says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern

Ten days ago in “Why to Say No to Susan Rice,” I tried to delve beneath the political posturing to show that President Barack Obama would be making another avoidable personnel mistake if he nominates Susan Rice, presently U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, to be Secretary of State.

Yet, to avoid one more of these unforced personnel errors, Obama must overcome his pathological need to surround himself with advisers of thoroughbred Establishment pedigree. He might instead try the novel approach of picking someone possessing integrity and courage. Of course, that would disqualify pretty much everyone with Establishment pedigrees since very few individuals have displayed honorable qualities over the past few decades, spoken truth to power and kept their inside-the-Beltway credentials.

Integrity and courage in opposing such bloody misadventures as the invasion and occupation of Iraq would have cost you dearly in the corridors of Washington power and left you outside looking in for a “senior fellowship” at many of the most prestigious think tanks in the capital. Even center-left ones like the Brookings Institution and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace sought to maintain their “credibility” in the last decade or so by recruiting war hawks (e.g. Michael O’Hanlon at Brookings and Robert Kagan at Carnegie).

For her part, Susan Rice could be a case study in how an ambitious foreign policy expert maneuvers within the boundaries of Washington’s permissible thought, no matter how wrongheaded the conventional wisdom might be. Through her careful positioning on Iraq and other war policies, she maintained her Establishment credentials but didn’t distinguish herself as a Profile in Courage.

True, Rice is not alone in this craven behavior. If she were to become Secretary of State, she would be following the well-worn path of her immediate predecessors, the likes of Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, et al.

Hillary Clinton not only voted for the Iraq War a decade ago but keeps hyping the “threat” from Iran today. Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell were lead singers in the chorus of lies and deceptions that serenaded us into the Iraq invasion. Madeleine Albright famously judged that economic sanctions killing some 500,000 young Iraqi children were “worth it.” In scouring Susan Rice’s public record, it is hard to find examples of her publicly challenging these Establishment views no matter how misguided, immoral, criminal or dishonest.

Indeed, at no time in my 50 years in Washington has lying been more accepted as de rigueur, not just tolerated as some necessary evil but embraced as a prerequisite for ascending the ladder of success and “esteem.” When in recent years has shaving the truth or outright lying done real harm to the reputation of an American diplomat or Secretary of State?

Mark Twain’s old observation could be applied to this modern reality in spades. He described diplomacy as “the art of nearly deceiving all your friends, but not quite deceiving all your enemies.”

Republican Vendetta

Yet, rather than challenging Susan Rice’s dubious record on the war in Iraq and other real tests of her judgment, Republicans have gone after Susan Rice for her recitation of inaccurate CIA “talking points” when she appeared on the Sunday talk shows after the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. That assault left Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead.

Responding to the intense Republican criticism of Rice’s TV performance, Obama accused Republican senators of trying to “besmirch” Rice’s reputation. However, when it comes to Susan Rice, Republicans had no need to gin up a scandal about her clueless presentation on the Sunday talk shows.

She has done an excellent job of besmirching herself by what she did and did not do during her work in the White House and as Assistant Secretary of State for Africa under President Bill Clinton, during her sojourn in the private sector when George W. Bush was president, and at the U.N. under Obama.

Rice has an unenviable record, especially in what has been her specialty, African affairs. Like the secretaries of state she hopes to follow, Rice suffers from Compassion Deficit Disorder (CDD), especially it seems in places like Rwanda, Ethiopia and Congo.

After I was asked late Tuesday evening to appear early Wednesday on Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now!, I felt a need to dig deeper into Rice’s record. A half-hour of Googling yielded the realization (surprise, surprise) that if one relies on the Establishment media, it is difficult to know much about the role she has played in very significant events especially in U.S. policy toward Africa. I didn’t know the half of it.

Instead of critical examinations into her role as a reliable foot soldier in recent marches of folly, the mainstream media has mostly defended Susan Rice with her supporters jumping to the conclusion that her travails are the result of sexism and/or racism. Also afoot has been the proverbial “damning with faint praise.”

The Washington Post editorial section on Nov. 23 echoed President Obama’s claim nine days earlier that Rice “had nothing to do with Benghazi,” which might be true in the narrow sense regarding the events of last Sept. 11. The larger truth, however, is that by virtually all accounts she was in the forefront of those misguided policymakers advocating last year’s excellent adventure in Libya which has left chaos and a strengthened “affiliate” of al-Qaeda in its wake.

In a trivial but nonetheless instructive example of the Post’s determination to leave no stone unturned, the editors on Nov. 27 ran a letter of recommendation from Rice’s high-school history teacher at Washington’s elite National Cathedral School. The letter made it sound like Susan Rice were applying to Stanford all over again. The teacher, John Wood, gave her high marks for “superb essays” and excellent performance in an Advanced Placement course, and added that her “social skills” were exemplary.

Perhaps one of the Post’s purposes in publishing the letter was to allay fears that, at least in high school, she was inclined to flip the bird at those annoying her. Precisely this she is reported to have done literally as well as figuratively to the late Washington Establishment diplomatic fixture, Richard Holbrooke, well after her privileged education.

The story of her extended middle finger has been making the rounds again in recent weeks. Less known is her reported effort to keep Holbrooke out of Obama’s inner circle. According to an account widely circulating before Holbrooke’s death, Rice arranged a “peace breakfast” with Holbrooke, after which the highly touted diplomat gave her his private cell number and was crestfallen when she did not reciprocate. The don’t-call-me-we’ll-maybe-call-you brush-off was seen as a token of Rice’s determination to keep Holbrooke away from Obama, since she saw her own ambitions reflected in the ambitious Holbrooke and felt threatened.

Like Rice’s old history teacher, Obama laid it on a little too thick in publicly extolling her virtues on Nov. 14, insisting that Rice “has done exemplary work … with skill and professionalism, and toughness and grace.” All the more embarrassment for the President, should he deem a Senate confirmation game not worth the candle and decide to drop his apparent plan to nominate her for Secretary of State.

Rice and Africa

The more that comes to light about Susan Rice’s career, the harder it will be for the President, or anyone else, to carry the fight on her behalf. Even the Washington Post may eventually join the New York Times in spreading the kind of truth that puts huge dents into Rice’s Teflon armor. Last Sunday, the Times ran a damaging op-ed titled “Susan Rice and Africa’s Despots,” exposing how she has carried water for dictators in Africa.

Some Americans are already familiar with her caving in to President Clinton’s reluctance to label “genocide” the slaughter of 800,000 Rwandans in 1994. Less known is her coddling of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, who came into power in Rwanda after the massacre and has supported more violence across the border in Congo.

As Times reporter Helene Cooper noted Monday in “U.N. Ambassador Questioned on U.S. Role in Congo Violence,” more than three million people have died in Congo in more than a decade of fighting there. Rwandan President Kagame is widely regarded as the main culprit because of his support for a rebel group known as M23. Diplomats at the U.N. say Rice has taken the lead in trying to shield the Rwandan government and Kagame himself.

Cooper reports, for example, that France’s U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud met with Rice and their British counterpart two months ago to discuss Rwanda’s support for the M23 rebel group. According to a Western diplomat with knowledge of the meeting, Ambassador Rice strongly objected to Araud’s proposal for “naming and shaming” President Kagame and the Rwandan government and for considering sanctions to press Kagame to stop stoking the conflict in Congo.

Rice’s reply reportedly was dismissive. According to the diplomat quoted by Cooper in the Times, Rice replied: “Listen Gerard, this is the D. R. C. (Democratic Republic of the Congo). If it weren’t the M23 doing this, it would be some other group.” Yet, Ambassador Rice has continued to water down U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning Rwanda’s support for M23.

Why so much violence in Congo? Since Congo is not in the news very much, it is easy to forget that what was once (1908 1960) the Belgian Congo is incredibly rich in natural resources (cobalt, copper, industrial diamonds, for example), while its 66 million citizens remain among the poorest in the world.  The Congolese economy has been the antithesis of “trickle down.”

An account of what has been going on in Congo can be found in a piece titled “Kagame’s Hidden War in the Congo” by Columbia University Professor (and former New York Times correspondent) Howard French in the Sept. 24, 2009, issue of the New York Review of Books. French recently noted that Susan Rice has played an influential role in adding a new generation of dictators in Africa.

It also turns out that Rwandan President Paul Kagame was a major client of Susan Rice at the “security analysis” firm Intellibridge, where Rice was a Managing Director from 2001 to 2002. Intellibridge is noted for its jobs program for former Clinton administration officials, providing them with out-of-government employment. But this kind of work can also create a clear conflict-of-interest over the longer term. (Rice moved on to the Brookings Institution for the rest of Bush’s term.)

As ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar recently noted: “Consulting firms whose shingles feature former senior officials who recently left office are selling influence and access at least as much as they are selling expert advice. Relationships that are ones of advocacy, trust, and taking action on behalf of the client’s interests are not relationships that can be turned on and off like a light switch.”

The Children’s Future

I sit here Wednesday evening, having just snuggled and story-read the two youngest of our eight grandchildren into bed. As I left the two precious little girls, I found myself even more saddened and concerned for their future.

My thoughts turned to the Obama administration’s abnegation of responsibility at the recent U.N. conference on climate change in Doha and more to the point here the prospect that Obama may cave in to the corporations and banks expecting to reap huge profits from the Keystone XL pipeline.

And I found myself wondering if, 20 years from now, our two beautiful granddaughters will be forced to think long and hard about bringing new children into the world on a planet on life support. How painful to even think about the tortured decisions that await them! What overarching pain!

Hillary Clinton’s successor as Secretary of State will have a key role to play in decisions on the Keystone XL pipeline and other global environmental issues determining how soon the planet may run out of clean water to drink, clean air to breathe, arable land to raise crops, and dry land to live on.

In the pipeline issue, multi-millionaire Susan Rice has a substantial financial conflict of interest. According to the Washington Post, she and her Canadian husband, with net worth of between $24 million and $44 million, own substantial stock in each of three companies involved in projects to extract oil from Canada’s oil sands region. They also own a stake in the Canadian railway that runs to that region, as well as shares in Canadian banks said to be involved in financing the pipeline project.

Thus, should Rice follow Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, these investments in corporations and banks expecting to reap huge profits from the Keystone XL pipeline project pose a real (not apparent) conflict of interest.

This places in jeopardy the chance of a decent life for future generations and should ring alarm bells for those of us who care about the ability of our planet to support our children’s children. There has been no suggestion that Rice would divest from those companies; nor has she said she would recuse herself from the fateful decision on Keystone.

There is such a thing as “too late,” as Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., warned us in relation to other social evils that our country belatedly mustered the energy and compassion to confront. Climate change, arguably, is an even more transcendent, all-embracing problem.

As was written centuries ago, “without vision the people perish.” Surely, President Obama can find an experienced, competent candidate with vision as well as courage and integrity someone not so deeply beholden to the One Percent and not afflicted with Compassion Deficit Disorder to nominate for Secretary of State.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He served as a CIA analyst for 27 years, during which he had ample opportunity for insight into the office of secretary of state and its daunting power for good or ill.




Reflecting on Mother’s Day and War

The original idea of Mother’s Day was to promote peace so mothers would not have to suffer the grief that many American moms faced after the slaughter of the Civil War. But some of today’s most powerful women, including moms, are war advocates, writes ex-FBI agent Coleen Rowley.

By Coleen Rowley

Recall that Mother’s Day was originated by Julia Ward Howe not to fill restaurants or boost the stock of Hallmark cards but as an anti-militarism effort, to further the cause of peace.

In her 1870 Proclamation, Howe, after witnessing the suffering and horrors of the Civil War, laid the foundation for the theory that women as the more “tender” sex and better teachers of charity, mercy and patience, would naturally, if they gained power, put an end to the senselessness of wars.

However 142 years later, we see that the five most powerful women thus far in U.S. history, at a time when the United States has climbed to “military superpower” status in the world, are: Madeleine Albright, Condi Rice, Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and Samantha Power. All are mothers (except Condi Rice), and all are proving Howe’s theory completely wrong with their pronounced attitudes, actions and instigation of wars during the last two decades.

The war-hawkishness (and some would add ruthless cruelty) of the first three female Secretaries of State and the two on Obama’s short list to become next Secretary of State (but who are already powerful, as advisors on Obama’s National Security Council, his UN Ambassador and chair of his new “humanitarian war” program) would probably make the founder of “Mothers Day for Peace” turn over in her grave.

In fact, defining aspects of these five most powerful women’s career stances and orientation towards military power jump out of their Wikipedia bios to vie with Henry Kissinger’s cold calculated Machiavellianism.(If you already know their backgrounds, you can skip the following brief highlights.)

Madeleine Albright: Although Albright would probably prefer to be remembered for her grandiose plan and statements about bringing democracy to other countries, her real legacy will probably lie in her unguarded 1996 response as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations made on “60 Minutes” when she defended UN sanctions against Iraq after Lesley Stahl asked her, “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?”

Albright replied, “we think the price is worth it.” Albright later criticized Stahl’s segment as “amount[ing] to Iraqi propaganda”; complained it was a loaded question; wrote “I had fallen into a trap and said something I did not mean”; and regretted coming “across as cold-blooded and cruel.” But the “60 Minutes” interview won an Emmy.

Albright later took office in 1997 as the first female U.S. Secretary of State and the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government where she supported the U.S.-NATO bombing campaign in the Balkans. According to Albright’s memoirs, she once argued with Colin Powell for the use of military force by asking, “What’s the point of you saving this superb military for, Colin, if we can’t use it?”

Condoleezza Rice: A much better summary of Condi’s life and career can be gained — thanks to the first-hand accounts of people who knew her and through her many well-known, solid biographers in this fascinating (87 minute) documentary, “American Faust: From Condi to Neo Condi” by Sebastian Doggart.

What will people remember most about Condi Rice? If it’s not the visual of the impeccably coiffed and tailored business suit sinisterly threatening a “mushroom cloud” which she used to help George Bush “catapult the propaganda” for war on Iraq, it may be the key role she played in ordering torture even before John Yoo attempted to fully “legalize” it.

There is probably some psychological significance in the fact that Condi Rice, the woman who gave up marriage and children to climb the ladder, reportedly used the words: “It’s your baby, go do it” to convey approval to CIA Director George Tenet in July 2002 from the Bush White House Principals (the group that formulated and authorized torture tactics) to go ahead and conduct water-boarding on certain captured suspects. Condi’s “baby” thus became torture.

Hillary Rodham Clinton: Among her consistently pro-war stances, Sen. Hillary Clinton voted to give George Bush the power to launch war on Iraq when she knew that country posed no threat to the U.S. and had no tie to 9/11 or WMD.

As Obama’s Secretary of State, Clinton jumped into the formidable task of using the “Arab Spring” to back some U.S.-friendly dictators while supporting protesters against other regimes the U.S. did not like.

She joined Samantha Power and Susan Rice and pulled off an amazing power play. The “three harpies” (as one commentator named them) overcame internal opposition to U.S. military intervention in Libya from three higher positioned men: Defense Secretary Robert Gates, security advisor Thomas Donilon, and counterterrorism advisor John Brennan, and ended up playing key roles in support of the U.S.-NATO massive bombing of Libya in 2011. Hillary Clinton used U.S. allies as “convening power” to strengthen the Libyan rebels as they eventually overturned the Gaddafi regime.

After Gaddafi was brutally tortured, killed and his body put on display, Hillary laughed in triumph, “We came, we saw, he died.”

Susan Rice: As Wikipedia states, “(In her first year serving as Director for International Organizations and Peacekeeping on Clinton’s National Security Council), at the time of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, Susan Rice reportedly said, ‘If we use the word “genocide” and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional] election?’ …

“Rice supported the multinational force that invaded Zaire from Rwanda in 1996 and overthrew dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, saying privately that ‘Anything’s better than Mobutu.’ Others criticized the U.S. complicity in the violation of the Congo’s borders as destabilizing and dangerous. …

“On December 1, 2008, Rice was nominated by President-elect Obama to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, a position which he also upgraded to cabinet level. Rice is the second youngest and first African American woman U.S. Representative to the UN.

“In light of the 2011 Libyan civil war, Ambassador Rice gave a statement following a White House meeting with President Obama and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as the United States increased pressure on the Libyan leader to give up power. Rice made clear that the United States and the international community saw only one choice for Gaddafi and his aides: step down from power or face significant consequences. …

“On 17 March 2011 Rice voted for United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 which sanctioned a Libyan no-fly zone. … Rice and Clinton played major roles in getting the Security Council to approve this resolution; Clinton said that same day that establishing a no-fly zone over Libya would require the bombing of air defenses. …

“On March 29, 2011, Rice said that the Obama administration had not ruled out arming the rebels fighting to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. In an interview on ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ program, Rice said there was no indication that Gaddafi was prepared to leave power without continued pressure from the International community.

“Referring to reports that members of Gaddafi’s inner circle were reaching out to the West, she said: ‘We will be more persuaded by actions rather than prospects or feelers. … The message for Gaddafi and those closest to him is that history is not on their side. Time is not on their side. The pressure is mounting.’

“In January 2012 after the Russian and Chinese veto of a UNSC resolution, Rice strongly condemned both countries for vetoing a resolution calling on (Syria’s ruler) Bashar al-Assad to step down. ‘They put a stake in the heart of efforts to resolve this conflict peacefully,’ Rice said on CNN. ‘The tragedy is for the people of Syria. We the United States are standing with the people of Syria. Russia and China are obviously with Assad.’ She added that ‘Russia and China will, I think, come to regret this action.’ ‘They have … by their veto dramatically increased the risk of greater violence, and you’ve seen manifestations of that.’

“In her words, ‘the United States is disgusted that a couple of members of this Council continue to prevent us from fulfilling our sole purpose.’”

Samantha Power: Samantha Power is aptly named. As Special Assistant to President Obama running the Office of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights on the President’s National Security Council, she is the architect of the concept of “humanitarian war” and of the “Responsibility to Protect (R2P)” which she recently parlayed into being named the new chair of Obama’s “Atrocity Prevention Board.”

Power got her start as a journalist in the Yugoslav Wars, lamenting that U.S.-NATO bombing did not begin sooner. She became a fan of General Wesley Clark and worked on his subsequent presidential bid.

Afterward she became a “foreign policy fellow” for Sen. Obama and continued to work for his presidential campaign for a time as his senior foreign policy advisor.

Power is a fan of U.S. military intervention and General David Petraeus’ counter-insurgency manual. [See Chase Madar’s prescient (2009) description in “Samantha Power and the Weaponization of Human Rights“:

“Power’s faith in the therapeutic possibilities of military force was formed by her experience as a correspondent in the Balkans, whose wars throughout the ’90s she seems to view as the alpha and omega of ethnic conflict, indeed of all genocide. For her, NATO’s bombing of Belgrade in 1999 was a stunning success that ‘likely saved hundreds of thousands of lives’ in Kosovo.

“Yet this assertion seems to crumble a little more each year: estimates of the number of Kosovars slain by the province’s Serb minority have shrunk from 100,000 to at most 5,000. And it is far from clear whether NATO’s air strikes prevented more killing or intensified the bloodshed.

“Even so, it is the NATO attack on Belgrade — including civilian targets, which Amnesty International has recently, belatedly, deemed a war crime — that informs Power’s belief that the U.S. military possesses nearly unlimited capability to save civilians by means of aerial bombardment, and all we need is the courage to launch the sorties.”

Samantha Power is widely reported to “have Obama’s ear” and be the key figure (who along with Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton) overcame the objections of Defense Secretary Gates and other national security men, persuading  Obama to intervene militarily in Libya. For critiques at the time from the far left AND from the far right, see: Tom Hayden’s “Samantha Power Goes to War” and “Samantha Power’s Power” by Stanley Kurtz in the National Review.com.

Most Powerful Women Club

Just coincidentally (but it’s a whole ‘nother story), the only time I came close to rubbing elbows with some of these women, was when the three of us Time Magazine “whistleblowers” spoke at the (decadently lavish) “Most Powerful Women Conference” (now called the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit).

Just as good ole boys networks always played their role for men gaining and wielding power, it’s definitely a small world for these five most powerful women who all have significant ties to each other, beyond their State Department and foreign policy advisor status.

Condi Rice and Susan Rice only happen to share the same last name but are otherwise not related. But Madeleine Albright’s father, international relations Professor Josef Korbel, was Condi Rice’s academic mentor. Albright is a long-standing close friend of Clinton, endorsed her in her 2008 campaign for U.S. President and now serves as Clinton’s top informal advisor on foreign policy matters.

Albright has also been a longtime mentor and family friend to Susan Rice. Although Susan Rice was not the first choice of Congressional Black Caucus leaders, who considered her a member of “Washington’s assimilationist black elite,” Albright urged Clinton to appoint her as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in 1997.

In 2007, Albright declared in a press conference that she and former Clinton Defense Secretary William Cohen would co-chair a new “Genocide Prevention Task Force” created by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the American Academy of Diplomacy, and the United States Institute for Peace. Albright’s Task Force was what apparently led to the recent 2012 creation of the “Atrocity Prevention Board” now chaired by Samantha Power.

Feminizing War Does Work!

To sell it. Feminine faces and talk of noble humanitarian intentions prove useful as they serve to effectively soften and cover up the brutal bloodshed of U.S. wars and indiscriminate aerial and drone bombing that have killed countless civilians.

But this is not “soft power” or use of brains over brawn. The feminist war hawks don’t want to talk about the women and children victims of war — or even count them — any more than their male counterparts.

Perhaps due to naiveté or the sentiment expressed in Howe’s Peace Proclamation, many progressives and “liberal human rights” groups unfortunately are blindly swallowing, for instance, Power’s insidious but seductive “humanitarian war” theory which relies on sleight of hand utilitarianism and the concocting of a happy (but false or unprovable) outcome to divert attention away from unlawful, immoral, brutal means.

The female “humanitarian” warhawks’ insistence that NATO bombing of Libya “prevented another Rwandan massacre” works in much the same way as “ticking time bomb” utilitarians like Dick Cheney dupe their own base by claiming to have prevented another terrorist attack through water-boarding.

People generally so want to believe in happy endings that they don’t carefully look at the (wrongful) means being used.

In actuality, the U.S.-NATO bombing for regime change killed tens of thousands of Libyans and installed a puppet government that is still reportedly committing human rights abuses.  For a comprehensive refutation of “humanitarian military intervention” see “‘Responsibility to Protect” as Imperial Tool: the Case for a Non-Interventionist Foreign Policy” by Jean Bricmont (Feb, 2012) for an expose of how instituting harsh economic sanctions on Syria, said to be for “humanitarian purposes” actually encourage the very violence – if starvation and disease constitute violence – that their proponents claim to oppose.

Senator Jim Webb and Congressman Walter Jones have concerns about the ease of “humanitarian war” and are not so easily charmed or misled. They are to be praised for having introduced legislation to make it impossible for Obama to launch preventive military actions based merely on findings by Samantha Power’s Board without congressional approval per the Constitution.  Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has previously claimed this power.

When Mothers Need to Prove Their Toughness

Getting back to the issue of Mothers Day for Peace, were Julia Ward Howe’s notions (or hopes) about women just over-romantic? Or is there another explanation for why and how liberal expectations could be so off-base vis a vis the reality of the current crop of increasingly powerful feminist war hawks? (Feminist war-hawks who have overcome their male military colleagues’ reluctance to wage preventive war?!)

One possible explanation might lie in the kind of “Napoleonic Complex” that tends to force the first women pioneers entering a previously male-dominated profession or area to prove themselves as tough or tougher than the men. A broader expose of the “Hollow Women of the Hegemon” including those on the international scene (i.e.Thatcher, Bhutto, Golda Meir, and Aquino) was written in 2008 by Dr. June Scorza Terpstra.

I can anecdotally verify this pressure from my own experience in joining the FBI when there were few female FBI agents in the ranks.

One part of our new agents training at Quantico in early 1981 required us to box each other. If I remember right, we had to wear real boxing gloves and line up to spar with a classmate. The first round, I was really scared because my opponent was a guy several inches taller than myself who had actual boxing experience; but he didn’t try to hit me that hard. The FBI instructor blew a whistle after a few minutes for us to change opponents.

The second round, I got paired against an even bigger guy who had played college football but he also just kind of tapped me. I breathed a sigh of relief when the third and final round came and I finally found myself facing another female who was smaller and shorter than myself. (She was sweating but still quite pretty as she had worked as a stewardess before joining the FBI.)

But I’ll never forget what happened when they blew the whistle the third time and that former stewardess just started punching me in the head, non-stop as hard as she could and landing every punch, almost knocking me out.

Theoretically, Julia Ward Howe could still be right about the potential of a new women-inspired/initiated era for peace down the road. The need to prove “toughness” might lead the “weaker gender” to over-compensate for a time, but only until there are equal or greater numbers of women at the highest levels of governmental command. At the present time, sadly enough, I see only more female war-hawks knocking on the gates of power.

But let’s not give up hope this Mothers Day 2012! It might be worth the effort to look up their addresses and e-mails and send authentic Mother’s Day cards containing Juliet’s Peace Proclamation to all the current women in positions of military power.

Coleen Rowley, a FBI special agent for almost 24 years, was legal counsel to the FBI Field Office in Minneapolis from 1990 to 2003. She wrote a “whistleblower” memo in May 2002 and testified to the Senate Judiciary on some of the FBI’s pre 9-11 failures. She retired at the end of 2004, and now writes and speaks on ethical decision-making and balancing civil liberties with the need for effective investigation.