In no other department have the Liberals veered farther from their expectations than in foreign policy. Trudeau went to great lengths to distance himself from his predecessor during the campaign. Among other things, he promised he would end the combat mission in Iraq. Upon being elected, he said he would restore Canada’s “compassionate and constructive voice in the world.” Many were led to believe that Harper’s divisive foreign policy had come to an end. But it is unlikely that this was ever Trudeau’s intention.
Despite being an icon for many liberals and an anathema to the Republican right, former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s positions on the Middle East have more closely resembled those of the latter than the former. Her hawkish views go well beyond her strident support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and subsequent occupation and counter-insurgency war. From Afghanistan to Western Sahara, she has advocated for military solutions to complex political problems, backed authoritarian allies and occupying armies, dismissed war crimes, and opposed political involvement by the United Nations and its agencies. TIME magazine’s Michael Crowley aptly summed up her State Department record in 2014:
As Secretary of State, Clinton backed a bold escalation of the Afghanistan war. She pressed Obama to arm the Syrian rebels, and later endorsed airstrikes against the Assad regime. She backed intervention in Libya, and her State Department helped enable Obama’s expansion of lethal drone strikes. In fact, Clinton may have been the administration’s most reliable advocate for military action. On at least three crucial issues—Afghanistan, Libya, and the bin Laden raid—Clinton took a more aggressive line than [Secretary of Defense Robert] Gates, a Bush-appointed Republican.
Her even more hawkish record during her eight years in the Senate, when she was not constrained by President Barack Obama’s more cautious foreign policy, led to strong criticism from progressive Democrats and played a major role in her unexpected defeat in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries.
After stepping down from the helm of the State Department in early 2013, she made a concerted effort to distance herself from Obama’s Middle East policies, which—despite including the bombing of no less than seven countries in the greater region—she argues have not been aggressive enough. It is not surprising, therefore, that the prominent neoconservative Robert Kagan, in examining the prospects of her becoming commander-in-chief, exclaimed to the New York Times in 2014, “I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy.” He elaborated by noting that “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.” The same New York Times article noted how neoconservatives are “aligning themselves with Hillary Rodham Clinton and her nascent presidential campaign, in a bid to return to the driver’s seat of American foreign policy.”
If Clinton wins the American presidency in 2016, she will be confronted with the same momentous regional issues she handled without distinction as Obama’s first secretary of state: among them, the civil war and regional proxy war in Syria; the Syrian conflict’s massive refugee crisis; civil conflict in Yemen and Libya; political fragility in Iraq and Afghanistan; Iran’s regional ambitions; the Israel-Palestine conflict; and deteriorating relations with longstanding allies Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. There are disagreements as to whether Clinton truly embraces a neoconservative or other strong ideological commitment to hardline policies or whether it is part of a political calculation to protect herself from criticism from Republicans who hold positions even further to the right. But considering that the Democratic Party base is shifting more to the left, that she represented the relatively liberal state of New York in the Senate, and that her 2008 presidential hopes were derailed in large part by her support for the Iraq war, it would probably be a mistake to assume her positions have been based primarily on political expediency. Regardless of her motivations, however, a look at the positions she has taken on a number of the key Middle East policy issues suggest that her presidency would shift America to a still more militaristic and interventionist policy that further marginalizes concerns for human rights or international law.
Voting for War in Iraq
Hillary Clinton was among the minority of congressional Democrats who supported Republican President George W. Bush’s request for authorization to invade and occupy Iraq, a vote she says she cast “with conviction.”As arms control specialists, former United Nations weapons inspectors, investigative journalists, and others began raising questions regarding the Bush administration’s claims about Iraq having reconstituted its chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs and its chemical and biological weapons arsenals, Clinton sought to discredit those questioning the administration’s alarmist rhetoric by insisting that Iraq’s possession of such weapons and weapons programs were not in doubt. She said that “if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons.” She insisted that there was a risk that, despite the absence of the necessary delivery systems, Saddam Hussein would somehow, according to the 2002 resolution, “employ those weapons to launch a surprise attack against the United States,” which therefore justifies “action by the United States to defend itself” through invading and occupying the country.
As a number of prominent arms control analysts had informed her beforehand, absolutely none of those charges were true. The pattern continued when then-Secretary of State Colin Powell in a widely ridiculed speech told the United Nations that Iraq had close ties with Al-Qaeda, still had major stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and active nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs. Powell himself later admitted his speech was misleading and filled with errors, yet Clinton insisted that it was nevertheless “compelling.”
In an apparent effort to convince her New York constituents, still stung by the September 11 attack thirteen months earlier, of the necessity of war, she was the only Democratic U.S. senator who made the false claim that Saddam Hussein had “given aid, comfort, and sanctuary” to Al-Qaeda, an accusation that even many fervent supporters of the invasion recognized as ludicrous. Indeed, top strategic analysts had informed her that there were no apparent links between Saddam Hussein’s secular nationalist regime and the radical jihadist Al-Qaeda. Indeed, doubts over such claims appeared in the U.S. National Intelligence Estimates made available to her and in a definitive report by the Department of Defense after the invasion. These reports not only confirmed that no such link existed, but that no such link could have been reasonably suggested based upon the evidence available at that time.
Clinton’s defenders insist she was misled by faulty intelligence. She admitted that she did not review the National Intelligence Estimate that was made available to members of Congress prior to the vote that was far more nuanced in their assessments than the Bush administration claimed. (She claimed that the authors of the report, including officials from the State Department, Central Intelligence Agency, and Department of Defense, had briefed her: “I felt very well briefed.”) She also apparently ignored the plethora of information provided by academics, independent strategic analysts, former UN inspectors, and others, which challenged the Bush administration’s claims and correctly noted that Iraq had likely achieved at least qualitative disarmament. Furthermore, even if Iraq had been one of the dozens of countries in the world that still had stockpiles of chemical and/or biological weapons and/or a nuclear program, the invasion was still illegal under the UN Charter, according to a consensus of international law experts as well as then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan; it was also arguably unnecessary, given the deterrence capability of the United States and well-armed Middle Eastern states.
Despite wording in the Congressional resolution providing Bush with an open-ended authority to invade Iraq, Clinton later insisted that she voted for the resolution simply because “we needed to put inspectors in.” In reality, at the time of vote, the Iraqis had already agreed in principle to a return of the weapons inspectors and were negotiating with the United Nations Monitoring and Verification Commission on the details which were formally institutionalized a few weeks later. (Indeed, it would have likely been resolved earlier had the United States not repeatedly postponed the UN Security Council resolution in the hopes of inserting language which would have allowed the United States to unilaterally interpret the level of compliance.) In addition, she voted against the substitute amendment by Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, which would have also granted President Bush authority to use force, but only if Iraq defied subsequent UN demands regarding the inspections process. Instead, Clinton voted for the Republican-sponsored resolution to give President Bush the authority to invade Iraq at the time and circumstances of his own choosing regardless of whether inspectors returned. Unfettered large-scale weapons inspections had been going on in Iraq for nearly four months with no signs of any proscribed weapons or weapons facilities at the time the Bush administration launched the March 2003 attack, yet she still argued that the invasion was necessary and lawful. Despite warnings by scholars, retired diplomats, and others familiar with the region that a U.S. invasion of Iraq would prove harmful to the United States, she insisted that at U.S.-led takeover of Iraq was “in the best interests of our nation.”
Rather than being a misguided overreaction to the 9/11 tragedy driven by the trauma that America had experienced, Clinton’s militaristic stance on Iraq predated her support for Bush’s invasion. For example, in defending her husband President Bill Clinton’s four-day bombing campaign against Iraq in December 1998, she claimed that “the so-called presidential palaces … in reality were huge compounds well suited to hold weapons labs, stocks, and records which Saddam Hussein was required by the UN to turn over. When Saddam blocked the inspection process, the inspectors left.” In reality, there were no weapons labs, stocks of weapons, or missing records in these presidential palaces. In addition, Saddam was still allowing for virtually all inspections to go forward. The inspectors were ordered to depart by her husband a couple days beforehand to avoid being harmed in the incipient bombings. Ironically, in justifying her support for invading Iraq years later, she would claim that it was Saddam who had “thrown out” the UN inspectors. She also bragged that it was during her husband’s administration that the United States “changed its underlying policy toward Iraq from containment to regime change.”
What distinguishes Clinton from some of the other Democrats who crossed the aisle to support the Republican administration’s war plans is that she continued to defend her vote even when the rationales behind it had been disproven. For example, in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York in December 2003, in which she underscored her support for a “tough-minded, muscular foreign and defense policy,” she declared, “I was one who supported giving President Bush the authority, if necessary, to use force against Saddam Hussein. I believe that that was the right vote” and was one that “I stand by.” Similarly, in an interview on CNN’s Larry King Live in April 2004, when asked about her vote in favor of war authorization, she said, “I don’t regret giving the president authority.”
As it became increasingly apparent that her rationales for supporting the war were false, U.S. casualties mounted, the United States was dragged into a long counter-insurgency war, and the ongoing U.S. military presence was exacerbating sectarian violence and the threat from extremists rather than curbing it, Clinton came under increasing pressure from her constituents to call for a withdrawal of U.S. forces. She initially rejected these demands, however, insisting U.S. troops were needed to keep fighting in order to suppress the insurgency, terrorism, and sectarian divisions the invasion had spawned, urging “patience” and expressing her concern about the lack of will among some Americans “to stay the course.” She insisted that “failure is not an option” in Iraq, so therefore, “We have no option but to stay involved and committed.” In 2005, she insisted that it “would be a mistake” to withdraw U.S. troops soon or simply set a timetable for withdrawal. She argued that the prospects for a “failed state” made possible by the invasion she supported made it in the “national security interest” of the United States to remain fighting in that country. When Democratic Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania made his first call for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq in November of that year, she denounced his effort, calling it a “a big mistake” and declared, “I reject a rigid timetable that the terrorists can exploit.” Using a similar rationale as was used in the latter years of the Vietnam War, she declared, “My bottom line is that I don’t want their sons to die in vain,” insisting that, “I don’t think it’s the right time to withdraw” and that, “I don’t believe it’s smart to set a date for withdrawal.” In 2006, when Democratic Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts (her eventual successor as secretary of state) sponsored an amendment that would have required the redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq by the middle of 2007 in order to advance a political solution to the growing sectarian strife, she voted against it. Similarly, on Meet the Press in 2005, she emphasized, “We don’t want to send a signal to insurgents, to the terrorists, that we are going to be out of here at some, you know, date certain.”
Two years after the invasion, as the consensus was growing that the situation in Iraq was rapidly deteriorating, Clinton still defended the war effort. When she visited Iraq in February 2005 as a U.S. senator, the security situation had gotten so bad that the four-lane divided highway on flat open terrain connecting the airport with the capital could not be secured at the time of her arrival, requiring a helicopter to transport her to the Green Zone, but she nevertheless insisted that the U.S. occupation was “functioning quite well.” When fifty-five Iraqis and one American soldier were killed during her twenty-four-hour visit, she insisted that the rise in suicide bombings was somehow evidence that the insurgency was failing. As the chaos worsened in subsequent months, she continued to defend the invasion, insisting, “We have given the Iraqis the precious gift of freedom,” claiming that whatever problems they were subsequently experiencing was their fault, since, “The Iraqis have not stepped up and taken responsibility, as we had hoped.”
Clinton finally began calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops when she became a candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, but she was critical of her rival Barack Obama’s longstanding antiwar stance. Even though Obama in 2002 (then a state senator in Illinois) had explicitly supported the ongoing international strategy of enforcing sanctions, maintaining an international force as a military deterrent, and returning UN inspectors to Iraq, Clinton charged in a nationally televised interview on Meet the Press on January 14, 2008, that “his judgment was that, at the time in 2002, we didn’t need to make any efforts” to deal with the alleged Iraqi “threat”—essentially repeating President Bush’s argument that anything short of supporting an invasion meant acquiescence to Saddam’s regime. She also criticized Obama’s withdrawal plan.
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates writes in his book Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War that Clinton stated in his presence that her opposition to President Bush’s decision in 2007 to reject the bipartisan call of the Iraq Study Group to begin a osased withdrawal of U.S. troops and to instead escalate the number of American combat forces was largely political, given the growing opposition to the war among Democratic voters. Indeed, long before President Bush announced his “surge,” Clinton had called for the United States to send more troops.
Unlike former U.S. Senators John Kerry, Tom Harkin, John Edwards, and other Democratic supporters of the Iraq war resolution, Clinton has never apologized for her vote to authorize force. She has, however, said that she now “regrets” her vote, which she refers to as a “mistake.” Yet, arguments against the Iraq war authorization, virtually all of which have turned out to have been accurate, had been clearly articulated for months leading up to the congressional vote. She and her staff met with knowledgeable people who made a strong case against supporting President Bush’s request, including its illegality under the United Nations Charter, providing her with extensive documentation challenging the administration’s arguments, and warning her of the likely repercussions of a U.S. invasion and occupation.
“All Options on the Table”
Saddam’s Iraq is not the only oil-rich country towards which Clinton has threatened war over its alleged ties to terrorists and Weapons of Mass Destruction. She long insisted that the United States should keep “all options on the table”—clearly an implied threat of unilateral military force—in response to Iran’s nuclear program despite the illegality under the UN Charter of launching such a unilateral attack. Her hawkish stance toward Iran, which is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has disavowed any intention of developing nuclear weapons, stands in contrast with her attitude toward countries such as Israel, Pakistan, and India which are not NPT signatories and have already constructed nuclear weapons. She has shown little regard for the danger of the proliferation by countries allied with the United States, opposing the enforcement of UN Security Council resolutions challenging the programs of Israel, Pakistan, and India, supporting the delivery of nuclear-capable missiles and jet fighters to these countries, and voting to end restrictions on U.S. nuclear cooperation with countries that have not signed on to the NPT.
Clinton has nonetheless insisted that the prospect of Iran developing nuclear weapons “must be unacceptable to the entire world”—challenging the nuclear monopoly of the United States and its allies in the region would somehow “shake the foundation of global security to its very core,” in her view. In 2006, she accused the Bush administration of failing to take the threat of a nuclear Iran seriously enough, criticized the administration for allowing European nations to lead diplomatic efforts, and insisted that the United States should make it clear that military options were still being actively considered. Similarly, during the 2008 presidential campaign, she accused Obama of being “naïve” and “irresponsible” for wanting to engage with Iran diplomatically. Not only did she promise to “obliterate” Iran if it used its nonexistent nuclear weapons to attack Israel, she refused to rule out a U.S. nuclear first strike on that country, saying, “I don’t believe that any president should make any blanket statements with respect to the use or non-use of nuclear weapons.”
As with Iraq, she has made a number of alarmist statements regarding Iran, such as falsely claiming in 2007 that Iran had a nuclear weapons program, even though International Atomic Energy Agency and independent arms control specialists, as well as a subsequent National Intelligence Estimate, indicated that Iran’s nuclear program at that time had no military component. Clinton supported the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment calling on President Bush to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group, which the Bush administration correctly recognized as an irresponsibly sweeping characterization of an organization that also controls major civilian administration, business, and educational institutions. The amendment declared that “it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence … of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” language which many feared could be used as a de facto authorization for war.
Her hawkish stance towards Iran continued after she became Obama’s first secretary of state in 2009. In Michael Crowley’s 2014 story in TIME, Obama administration officials noted how she was “skeptical of diplomacy with Iran, and firmly opposed to talk of a ‘containment’ policy that would be an alternative to military action should negotiations with Tehran fail.” Clinton disapproved of the opposition expressed by Pentagon officials regarding a possible U.S. attack on Iran because she insisted “the Iranians had to believe we would use force if diplomacy failed.” In an August 2014 interview with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, when she was no longer in the administration, she took a much harder line on Iranian nuclear enrichment than the United States and its negotiating partners recognized was realistic, leading some to suspect she was actually pushing for military intervention.
Clinton, by then an announced candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, did end up endorsing the 2015 nuclear agreement. Opposing a major foreign policy initiative of a sitting Democratic president, especially one with strong Democratic support, would have been politically untenable. Yet, Clinton’s hardline views toward the Islamic Republic remain palpable. For example, in a speech in September 2015 at the Brookings Institution, she claimed that Iran’s leaders “talk about wiping Israel off the face of the map”—a gross distortion routinely parroted by hardliners in Washington. The original statement was uttered by revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini a quarter century earlier and quoted in 2005 by then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who left office in 2013). Moreover, there is no such idiom in Farsi for “wiping off the map.” Khomeini’s statement was in a passive tense and asserted his belief that Israel should no longer be a Jewish nation state, not that the country’s inhabitants should be annihilated. Yet, during her speech, Clinton kept repeating for emphasis, “They vowed to destroy Israel. And that’s worth saying again. They vowed to destroy Israel.”
Clinton often seems oblivious to the contradictions in her views and rhetoric. For example, to challenge Iran, an authoritarian theocratic regime which backs extremist Islamist groups, she has pledged to “sustain a robust military presence in the region” and “increase security cooperation with our Gulf allies”—namely, other authoritarian theocratic regimes like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, which also back extremist Islamist groups.
She has also repeated neoconservative talking points on alleged Iranian interference in various Middle Eastern conflicts. For example, she has decried Iran’s “involvement in and influence over Iraq,” an ironic complaint for someone who voted to authorize the overthrow of the anti-Iranian secular government of Saddam Hussein despite his widely predicted replacement by pro-Iranian Shiite fundamentalist parties. As a U.S. senator, she went on record repeating a whole series of false, exaggerated, and unproven charges by Bush administration officials regarding Iranian support for the Iraqi insurgency, even though the vast majority of foreign support for the insurgency was coming from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries and that the majority of the insurgents attacking U.S. occupation forces were fanatically anti-Iranian and anti-Shiite.
She has also gone on record holding “Iran responsible for the acts of aggression carried out by Hezbollah and Hamas against Israel.” Presumably since she realizes that relations between Iran and Hamas—who are supporting opposing sides in the Syrian civil war—are actually quite limited, she has not called for specific actions regarding this alleged link. But she has pledged to make it a priority as president to cut off Iran’s ability to fund and arm Hezbollah, including calling on U.S. allies to somehow block Iranian planes from entering Syria. In addition, notwithstanding the provisions in the nuclear agreement to drop sanctions against Iran, she has called on Congress to “close any gaps” in the existing sanctions on non-nuclear issues.
When Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, her principal rival for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, suggested taking steps to eventually normalize diplomatic relations with Iran, the Clinton campaign attacked him as being irresponsible and naïve. Despite the fact that the vast majority of U.S. allies already have diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic, a campaign spokesperson insisted it would somehow “cause very real consternation among our allies and partners.”
Dictators and Democrats
Though bringing democracy to Iraq was one of the rationales Hillary Clinton gave for supporting the invasion of that country, she has not been as supportive of democratic movements struggling against American allies. During the first two weeks of protests in Tunisia against the dictatorial regime of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in December 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed her concern over the impact of the “unrest and instability” on the “very positive aspects of our relationship with Tunisia.” She insisted that the United States was “not taking sides” in the struggle between the corrupt authoritarian government and the pro-democracy demonstrators, and that she would “wait and see” before communicating directly with Ben Ali or his ministers. Nearly four weeks after the outbreak of protests, she finally acknowledged some of the grievances of the demonstrators, saying “one of my biggest concerns in this entire region are the many young people without economic opportunities in their home countries.” Rather than calling for a more democratic and accountable government in Tunisia, however, her suggestion for resolving the crisis was calling for the economies of Tunisia and other North African states “to be more open.” Ironically, Tunisia under the Ben Ali regime—more than almost any country in the region—had been following the dictates of Washington and the International Monetary Fund in instituting “structural adjustment programs” privatizing much of its economy and allowing for an unprecedented level of “free trade.”
Just two days after the interview in which she appeared to back the Ben Ali regime, as the protests escalated further, Clinton took a more proactive stance at a meeting in Qatar, where she noted that “people have grown tired of corrupt institutions and a stagnant political order” and called for “political reforms that will create the space young people are demanding, to participate in public affairs and have a meaningful role in the decisions that shape their lives.” By this point, however, Tunisians were making clear they were not interested in simply “political reforms” but the downfall of the regime, which took place the following day.
Clinton took a similarly cautious approach regarding the Egyptian uprising, which began a week and a half later on January 25. In the initial days of the protests, despite the government’s brutal crackdown, she refused to do more than encourage the regime to allow for peaceable assembly. Despite appearances to the contrary, Clinton insisted that “the country was stable” and that the Mubarak government was “looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people,” despite the failure of the regime in its nearly thirty years in power to do so. As protests continued, she issued a statement simply calling on the regime to reform from within rather than supporting the movement’s demand for the downfall of the dictatorship.
After two weeks of protests, Clinton pressed vigorously for restraint by security forces and finally called for an “orderly, peaceful transition” to a “real democracy” in Egypt, but still refused to demand that Mubarak had to step down, insisting that “it’s not a question of who retains power. That should not be the issue. It’s how are we going to respond to the legitimate needs and grievances expressed by the Egyptian people and chart a new path.” On the one hand, she recognized that whether Mubarak would remain in power “is going to be up to the Egyptian people.” On the other hand, she continued to speak in terms of reforms coming from within the regime, stating that U.S. policy was to “help clear the air so that those who remain in power, starting with President Mubarak, with his new vice president, with the new prime minister, will begin a process of reaching out, of creating a dialogue that will bring in peaceful activists and representatives of civil society to … plan a way forward that will meet the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people.” As the repression continued to worsen and demands for suspending U.S. military assistance to the regime increased, she insisted “there is no discussion of cutting off aid.” As late as February 6, when Mubarak’s fall appeared imminent, Clinton was publicly advocating a leadership role for Mubarak’s newly named vice president. That was General Omar Suleiman, the longtime head of Egypt’s feared general intelligence agency, who among other things had played a key role in the Central Intelligence Agency’s covert rendition program under which suspected terrorists were handed over to third-party governments to be interrogated and in some cases were tortured. In discussions within the Obama administration, she pushed for the idea of encouraging Mubarak to initiate a gradual transition of power, disagreeing with Obama’s eventual recognition that the U.S.-backed dictator had to step down immediately. In her book Hard Choices, a memoir of her tenure as secretary of state written three years later, Clinton noted, “I was concerned that we not be seen as pushing a longtime partner out the door.”
After Saudi Arabian forces joined those of the Bahraini monarchy in brutally repressing nonviolent pro-democracy demonstrators the following month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Clinton had emerged as one of the “leading voices inside the administration urging greater U.S. support for the Bahraini king.” In Yemen, while she eventually called for authoritarian President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down, she backed the Saudi initiative to have him replaced by his vice president, General Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, rather than support the demands of the pro-democracy movement to allow a broad coalition of opposition activists to form a transition government and prepare for democratic multiparty elections.
Clinton proved an enthusiastic supporter of regime change when it came to dictatorships opposed by the United States, however. While there has been debate regarding the appropriateness and extent of U.S. intervention in Libya and Syria, she consistently allied herself with those advocating U.S. military involvement. She pushed hard and eventually successfully for U.S. intervention in support for rebel forces in Libya, over the objections of key Obama administration officials, including the normally hawkish Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. While the Arab League had requested and the United Nations had authorized the enforcement of a no-fly zone to protect civilians from attack by the forces of dictator Muammar Gadhafi, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces—with Clinton’s encouragement—dramatically expanded their role to essentially become the air force of the rebels. Following the extra-judicial killing of Gadhafi by rebel soldiers, she joked, “We came, we saw, he died,” which some took as an effective endorsement of crimes committed by armed allies against designated enemy leaders.
During the Benghazi hearings in October 2015, when she was asked about that comment, she said it “was an expression of relief that the military mission undertaken by NATO and our other partners had achieved its end.” However, in justifying U.S. military intervention, the Obama administration initially insisted that the goal was “to protect the Libyan people from immediate danger, and to establish a no-fly zone,” not regime change or assassination, underscoring Clinton’s apparent role in dramatically expanding the mission of U.S. forces. The chaos that resulted from the seizure of power by a number of armed militia groups, including Islamist extremists, created a situation where militiamen numbered nearly a quarter million in a country of some six million people. While there appears to be little merit in the Republican accusations against Clinton in regard to her conduct regarding the killing of the U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi by Islamist extremists in September 2012, her role in helping to create the situation that gave rise to such extremists raises more serious questions.
As a U.S. senator, and well before the 2011 uprising in Syria, Clinton was a strong supporter of Republican-led efforts to punish and isolate the Bashar Al-Assad regime. She was a co-sponsor of the 2004 Syrian Accountability Act, demanding that—under threat of tough economic sanctions—Syria unilaterally disarm various weapons systems (similar to those possessed by hostile neighbors), abide by a UN Security Council resolution calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Lebanon (which had also been occupied by Israel for twenty-two years without U.S. objection), and return to peace talks with Israel (despite Israel’s categorical refusal to withdraw from the occupied Golan Heights). Her resolution also claimed that the Syrian government was responsible for the deaths of Americans in Iraq and threatened to hold Syria accountable in language that other senators feared could be used by the Bush administration for military strikes.
Not long after the initially nonviolent uprising in Syria turned into a bloody civil war with heavy foreign intervention, the New York Times reported that Clinton pushed hard for the Obama administration to become directly involved militarily in support for Syrian rebels. Irritated that NATO had gone well beyond its mandate in Libya, Russia and China blocked UN action on Syria. Obama eventually agreed with Clinton to begin training and arming some rebels, but despite the half billion dollars invested in the project, only a few dozen rebels made it into the field and they were quickly overrun by rival Islamist rebels of the Al-Nusra Front. Clinton has subsequently insisted that the disorganized and factious nature of the armed secular Syrian opposition notwithstanding, the failure to topple the Syrian regime or contain the rise of Islamist extremists was that the United States did not arm the rebels earlier and more heavily. Indeed, she has essentially blamed Obama for the dramatic rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, saying his failure “to help build up a credible fighting force … left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.” She has also expressed disappointment that the Obama administration backed down from its threats in 2013 to bomb Syria following the Al-Assad regime’s launch of a deadly sarin gas attack on residential areas near Damascus, even after the government agreed to disarm its chemical weapons.
“Friend” of Israel
During and after her term as a U.S. senator, Hillary Clinton has developed a reputation as one of the most rightwing Democrats on the Israel-Palestine conflict. She has repeatedly sided with Likud-led governments against Israeli progressives and moderates. She has not only condemned Hamas and other Palestinian extremists, but has been critical of the Palestinian Authority (PA) as well. That has bolstered the Israeli right’s contention that there are no moderate Palestinians with which to negotiate.
As a U.S. senator, Clinton defended Israel’s colonization efforts in the occupied West Bank and was highly critical of UN efforts to uphold international humanitarian law that forbids transferring civilian populations into territories under foreign belligerent occupation, taking the time to visit a major Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank in a show of support in 2005. She moderated that stance somewhat as secretary of state in expressing concerns over how the rightwing Israeli government’s settlement policies harmed the overall climate of the peace process, but she has refused to acknowledge the illegality of the settlements or demand that Israel abide by international demands to stop building additional settlements. Subsequently, she has argued that the Obama administration pushed too hard in the early years of the administration to get Israel to suspend settlement construction. In 2011, Clinton successfully argued for a U.S. veto of a UN Security Council resolution reiterating the illegality of the settlements and calling for a construction freeze. On this issue, that fit a pattern of Clinton’s disregard for the UN Security Council, which was established precisely to be a vehicle for enforcing international law such as in matters of belligerent foreign occupation. “We have consistently over many years said that the United Nations Security Council—and resolutions that would come before the Security Council—is not the right vehicle to advance the goal,” Clinton has said.
The favoritism toward Israel is all the more glaring given America’s failure or unwillingness to stop Israel’s colonization on its own. When the government of Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reneged on an earlier promise of a temporary and limited freeze and announced massive subsidies for the construction of new settlements on the eve of Clinton’s 2011 visit to Israel, she spoke only of the need for peace talks to resume. She equated the PA’s pursuit of its legal right to have Palestine statehood recognized by the United Nations with Israel’s illegal settlements policy as factors undermining the peace process.
While rejecting Palestinian demands that Israel live up to its previous commitments to freeze settlements on the grounds there should be no pre-conditions to talks, Clinton has at times demanded pre-conditions for Arab participation. For example, in response to President Bush’s invitation for Arab states to attend the Annapolis peace conference in 2007, then-Senator Clinton went on record insisting that Arab states wishing to attend should unilaterally “recognize Israel’s right to exist and not use such recognition as a bargaining chip for future Israel concessions” and “end the Arab League economic boycott of Israel in all its forms.” The letter made no mention of the establishment of a Palestinian state, an end to the Israeli occupation, the withdrawal of illegal Israeli settlements, or any other Israeli obligations. As James Zogby of the Arab American Institute put it at the time, “if the goal is for Arab states not to participate in the upcoming conference, this would be the way to go.” The Bush administration rejected her demands for such pre-conditions.
Another example of Clinton’s double standards has been in her pledge as a presidential candidate to increase U.S. military aid and diplomatic support for Israel’s rightwing government. This is a government that includes ministers from far right parties who support violent settler militia that have repeatedly attacked Palestinian civilians, oppose recognition of a Palestinian state, and reject the Oslo Accords and subsequent agreements by the Israeli government. However, Clinton insists, “We will not deal with nor in any way fund a Palestinian government that includes Hamas unless and until Hamas has renounced violence, recognized Israel, and agreed to follow the previous obligations of the Palestinian Authority.”
More recently, Clinton has been making a series of excuses as to why Israel cannot make peace despite the Palestine Authority’s acquiescence to virtually all the demands of the Obama administration. For example, the Washington Post noted how she “appeared to blame the collapse of direct Israel-Palestinian talks on the wave of Mideast revolutions and unrest during the 2011 Arab Spring, although talks had broken off the previous year.” Clinton has also said that Israelis cannot be expected to make peace until they “know what happens in Syria and whether Jordan will remain stable,” which most observers recognize will take a very long time; that line of thinking enables Israel to further colonize the West Bank to the point where the establishment of a viable Palestinian state is impossible. What kind of peace settlement she envisions has not been made clear, but she did endorse then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s 2004 “Convergence Plan,” which would have allowed Israel to annex large areas of Palestinian territory conquered by Israeli forces in the 1967 war, despite the longstanding principle in international law against any country expanding its territory by force and the fact that the plan divides any future Palestinian state into a series of small, non-contiguous cantons surrounded by Israel.
As a U.S. senator, Clinton co-sponsored a resolution which, had it passed, would have established a precedent by referring to the West Bank not as an occupied territory but as a “disputed” territory. This distinction is important for two reasons. The word “disputed” implies that the claims of the West Bank’s Israeli conquerors are as legitimate as the claims of Palestinians who have lived on that land for centuries. And disputed territories—unlike occupied territories—are not covered by the Fourth Geneva Convention and many other international legal statutes. As a lawyer, Clinton must have recognized that such wording had the effect of legitimizing the expansion of a country’s territory by force, a clear violation of the UN Charter.
Clinton has challenged the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In 2004, the world court ruled by a 14-1 vote (with only the U.S. judge dissenting, largely on a technicality) that Israel, like every country, is obliged to abide by provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the Laws of War, and that the international community—as in any other case in which ongoing violations are taking place—is obliged to ensure that international humanitarian law is enforced. At issue was the Israeli government’s ongoing construction of a separation barrier deep inside the occupied Palestinian West Bank, which the World Court recognized—as does the broad consensus of international legal scholarship—as a violation of international humanitarian law. The ICJ ruled that Israel, like any country, had the right to build the barrier along its internationally recognized border for self-defense, but did not have the right to build it inside another country as a means of effectively annexing Palestinian land. In an unprecedented congressional action, Senator Clinton immediately introduced a resolution to put the U.S. Senate on record “supporting the construction by Israel of a security fence” and “condemning the decision of the International Court of Justice on the legality of the security fence.” In an effort to render the UN impotent in its enforcement of international law, her resolution (which the Republican-controlled Senate failed to pass as being too extreme) attempted to put the Senate on record “urging no further action by the United Nations to delay or prevent the construction of the security fence.”
Clinton’s claim that “it makes no sense for the United Nations to vehemently oppose a fence which is a nonviolent response to terrorism rather than opposing terrorism itself” was false in that the UN and the world court were only objecting to the barrier being built beyond Israel’s borders. Indeed, in her resolution and elsewhere, she appeared to be deliberately misrepresenting the ICJ’s published opinion, claiming that opposition to the plan of building a barrier in a serpentine fashion deep inside the West Bank as part of an effort to effectively annex large swathes of the occupied territory into Israel was denying Israel its right to self-defense and therefore was proof of an “anti-Israel” bias. In a series of statements and in her resolution, she made no distinction between Israel’s legal right to defend its borders, which the world court upheld, and the land grab to which the court objected.
Clinton has also been an outspoken defender of Israeli military actions, even when the United Nations and reputable international and Israeli human rights groups have documented violations of international humanitarian law. While appropriately condemning terrorism and other attacks on civilian targets by Hamas, Hezbollah, and other extremist groups, she has consistently rejected evidence that Israel has committed war crimes on an even greater scale. For example, since becoming a U.S. senator in early 2001, she has publicly condemned the vast majority of the 135 killings of Israeli children, but not once has she criticized any of the more than 2,000 deaths of Palestinian children.
In the face of widespread criticism by reputable human rights organizations over Israel’s systematic assaults against civilian targets in its April 2002 offensive in the West Bank, Senator Clinton co-sponsored a resolution defending the Israeli actions that claimed they were “necessary steps to provide security to its people by dismantling the terrorist infrastructure in the Palestinian areas.” She opposed UN efforts to investigate alleged war crimes by Israeli occupation forces and criticized President Bush for calling on Israel to pull back from its violent reconquest of Palestinian cities in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
She has vigorously defended Israel’s wars on Gaza. As secretary of state, she took the lead in attempting to block any action by the United Nations in response to a 2009 report by the UN Human Rights Council—headed by the distinguished South African jurist Richard Goldstone (a Zionist Jew)—which documented war crimes by both Israel and Hamas. She claims that the report denied Israel’s right to self-defense, when it in fact explicitly recognized Israel’s right to do so. Since the report’s only objections to Israeli conduct were in regard to attacks on civilian targets, not its military actions against extremist militias lobbing rockets into Israel, it appears that either she was deliberately misrepresenting the report, never bothered to read it before attacking it, or believes killing civilians can constitute legitimate self-defense.
When Israeli forces attacked a UN school housing refugees in the Gaza Strip in July of 2014, killing dozens of civilians, the Obama administration issued a statement saying it was “appalled” by the “disgraceful” shelling. By contrast, Clinton—when pressed about it in her interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic—refused to criticize the massacre, saying that “it’s impossible to know what happens in the fog of war.” Though investigators found no evidence of Hamas equipment or military activity anywhere near the school, Clinton falsely alleged that they were firing rockets from an annex to the school. In any case, she argued, when Palestinian civilians die from Israeli attacks, “the ultimate responsibility has to rest on Hamas and the decisions it made.”
Clinton’s defense of Israeli war crimes is not restricted to Palestinian-populated areas, but includes those that take place in countries with historically close relations with the United States. During the thirty-four-day conflict between Israeli and Hezbollah forces in 2006, which resulted in the deaths of more than eight hundred Lebanese civilians, she responded to the widespread international criticism of the Israeli attacks on civilian infrastructure and the high civilian casualties by co-sponsoring a resolution unconditionally endorsing Israel’s war on Lebanon. Failing to distinguish between Israel’s right to self-defense and the large-scale bombing of civilian targets far from any Hezbollah military activity, Clinton asked, “If extremist terrorists were launching rocket attacks across the Mexican or Canadian border, would we stand by or would we defend America against these attacks from extremists?” During and after the fighting, Clinton failed to recognize that most critics of the Israeli actions never questioned Israel’s right to self-defense against Hezbollah, but—in the words of a Human Rights Watch report—the “systematic failure by the IDF to distinguish between combatants and civilians” and the way in which “Israeli forces have consistently launched artillery and air attacks with limited or dubious military gain but excessive civilian cost.” The report, echoing a similar report by Amnesty International and other human rights groups, noted how “in dozens of attacks, Israeli forces struck an area with no apparent military target. In some cases, the timing and intensity of the attack, the absence of a military target, as well as return strikes on rescuers, suggest that Israeli forces deliberately targeted civilians.” While tens of thousands of Israelis protested the Lebanon war—which the Israeli government later acknowledged was unnecessary and harmful for Israel—Clinton emerged as one of its biggest cheerleaders. While diplomats at the United Nations were desperately working to end the fighting, Clinton spoke at a rally by rightwing groups outside the UN headquarters in New York City where she praised Israel’s efforts to “send a message to Hamas, Hezbollah, to the Syrians, [and] to the Iranians,” because, in her words, they oppose the United States and Israel’s commitment to “life and freedom.”
Clinton has opposed humanitarian efforts supportive of the Palestinians, criticizing a flotilla scheduled to bring relief supplies to the besieged Gaza Strip in 2011, claiming it would “provoke actions by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves.” Not only did she fail to explain how ships with no weapons or weapons components on board (the only cargo on the U.S. ship were letters of solidarity to the Palestinians in that besieged enclave), she also failed to explain why she considered the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of the port of Gaza to be “Israeli waters” when the entire international community recognizes Israeli territorial waters as being well to the northeast of the ships’ intended route. Clinton’s State Department issued a public statement designed to discourage Americans from taking part in the flotilla to Gaza because they might be attacked by Israeli forces, yet it never issued a public statement demanding that Israel not attack Americans legally traveling in international waters. The flotilla never went forward, however, after she successfully convinced the Greek government to deny the organizers the right to sail from Greek ports.
A focus of Clinton has been her insistence that the PA was responsible for publishing textbooks promoting “anti-Semitism,” “violence,” and “dehumanizing rhetoric.” The only source she has cited to uphold these charges, however, has been a rightwing Israeli group that calls itself the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP). The group, whose board includes Daniel Pipes and other prominent American neoconservatives, was founded to undermine the peace process following the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. CMIP’s claims have long since been refuted, for example in a detailed report released in March 2003 by the Jerusalem-based Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. The center reviewed Palestinian textbooks and tolerance education programs, and concluded that while the textbooks do not openly or adequately reflect the multiethnic, multicultural, and multireligious history of the region, “the overall orientation of the curriculum is peaceful.” The report said the Palestinian textbooks “do not openly incite against Israel and the Jews and do not openly incite hatred and violence.” The report goes on to observe how religious and political tolerance is emphasized in the textbooks. Similar conclusions have been reached in published reports by the Adam Institute, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, and Nathan Brown, a political science professor at George Washington University and senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. (The books Clinton cited were apparently old Egyptian and Jordanian texts found on some library shelves; they were not currently being used as textbooks nor were they supported by the PA.) Yet Clinton has continued to make these charges, emphasizing that the PA’s “incitement,” which she insists is creating a “new generation of terrorists,” more than Israel’s occupation, repression, and settlements, is the driver of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Here, as in forming her support for the Iraq war, Clinton often seems to rely more on rightwing advocacy groups than she does scholarly research.
The Moroccan Connection
Israel is not the only occupying power in the region supported by Clinton. She has been a strong backer of Morocco’s ongoing occupation of Western Sahara, working with the autocratic Moroccan kingdom to block the long-scheduled referendum on self-determination that would almost certainly lead to a vote for independence. As a recognized self-governing territory (a colony), international law requires that the Sahrawis be given the option of independence, along with other alternatives. Clinton instead has called for international acceptance of Morocco’s dubious “autonomy” plan and for “mediation” between the monarchy and the exiled nationalist Polisario Front, a process that would not offer the people of the territory a say in their future.
Rather than joining Amnesty International and other human rights groups in condemning the increase in the already-severe repression in the Western Sahara, Clinton—in a visit to Morocco in November 2009—instead chose to offer unconditional praise for the Moroccan government’s human rights record. Just days before her arrival, Moroccan authorities arrested seven nonviolent activists from Western Sahara on trumped-up charges of high treason, whom Amnesty International had declared as prisoners of conscience and demanded their unconditional release. Clinton decided to ignore the plight of these and other political prisoners held in Moroccan jails. Not long after Clinton praised the monarchy’s human rights record, the regime illegally expelled Aminatou Haidar, known as the Saharan Gandhi, for her leadership in the nonviolent resistance struggle in Western Sahara. Haidar—a winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and other honors for her nonviolent activism—spent years in Moroccan prisons, where she was repeatedly tortured. She went on a month-long hunger strike that almost killed her before Morocco relented to international pressure and allowed her to return to her country.
The Office Chérifien des Phosphates (OCP), a Moroccan government-owned mining company that controls one of the world’s largest phosphate mines in the occupied Western Sahara, was the primary donor to the Clinton Global Initiative conference in Marrakech in May 2015. Exploitation of nonrenewable resources in non-self-governing territories, such as the OCP mining operations, is normally recognized as a violation of international law. This and other support provided to the Clinton Foundation by OCP—now totaling as much as $5 million—has raised some eyebrows, given Hillary Clinton’s efforts as secretary of state to push the Obama administration to take a more pro-Moroccan position. Since leaving office, she has continued her outspoken support for the monarchy. When she announced the Marrakech meeting in the fall of 2014, she praised Morocco as a “vital hub for economic and cultural exchange,” thanking the regime “for welcoming us and for its hospitality.”
President Hillary Clinton?
Increasing numbers of Americans, particularly those who identify with the Democratic Party, are taking a critical view of the militaristic aspects of U.S. policies in the Middle East. It would therefore be somewhat ironic that at a time when polls indicate that a majority of Democrats are increasingly critical of U.S. military intervention in the Middle East and of U.S. support for dictatorial regimes and occupation armies, the party would nominate a candidate who comes from the more hawkish wing of the party. Moreover, should she win the Democratic nomination for president, her Republican opponent in the November election will likely be advocating an even more hawkish policy in the Middle East. In such a scenario, regardless of who becomes president, Americans may end up providing their next president with a mandate for a more militaristic and interventionist policy for a region in the throes of historic upheaval.
As the news broke on March 7, 2016, that US drone strikes had killed 150 people in Somalia, the White House announced it will reveal, for the first time, the number of people killed by drones and manned airstrikes “outside areas of active hostilities” since 2009. The tallies will include civilian deaths. This is a critical first step toward much-needed transparency. But it will not go far enough.
The Obama administration has been lying for years about how many deaths result from its drone strikes and manned bombings. In 2011, John Brennan, the former counterterrorism adviser, now CIA director, falsely claimed that no civilians had been killed in drone strikes in nearly a year.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and other nongovernmental organizations that calculate drone deaths put the lie to Brennan’s claim. It is believed that of the estimated 5,000 people killed on Obama’s watch, approximately 1,000 were civilians. But the administration has never released complete casualty figures.
Plus, the numbers by themselves are not sufficient. Even if the White House makes good on its promise to publicize death tallies, it must also publish the Presidential Policy Guidance, which has provided the legal justification for the US targeted killing program.
In May 2013, responding to international criticism about his drone policy, Obama delivered a speech at the National Defense University. He proclaimed, “America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists — our preference is always to detain, interrogate and prosecute them.” Then why has Obama added only one man to the Guantánamo roster?
As he gave his 2013 speech, the White House released a fact sheet that purported to contain preconditions for the use of lethal force “outside areas of active hostilities.” But the Presidential Policy Guidance, on which the fact sheet was based, remains classified.
Here is a quick summary of the fact sheet’s main points, including some direct quotations from it:
– There must be a “legal basis” for the use of lethal force. It does not define whether “legal basis” means complying with ratified treaties. They include the UN Charter, which prohibits the use of military force except in self-defense or when approved by the UN Security Council; the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit the targeting of civilians; and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees due process and the right to life.
– The target must pose a “continuing, imminent threat to US persons.” The fact sheet does not define “continuing” or “imminent.” But a US Department of Justice white paper leaked in 2013 says that a US citizen can be killed even when there is no “clear evidence that a specific attack on US persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.” Presumably the administration sets an even lower bar for non-citizens.
– There must be “near certainty that the terrorist target is present.” The fact sheet does not address “signature strikes” (known as crowd killings), which don’t target individuals but rather areas of suspicious activity.
– There must be “near certainty that noncombatants will not be injured or killed.” But the administration defines combatants as all men of military age in a strike zone “unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.”
– There must be “an assessment that capture is not feasible at the time of the operation.” It is unclear what feasibility means. It was feasible to capture Osama bin Laden, as none of the men at the compound were armed at the time the US military assassinated him.
– There must be “an assessment that relevant governmental authorities in the country where action is contemplated cannot or will not effectively address the threat to US persons,” which is left undefined.
– There must be “an assessment that no other reasonable alternatives exist to address the threat to US persons,” also left undefined.
Finally, the fact sheet would excuse those preconditions when the president takes action “in extraordinary circumstances,” which are “both lawful and necessary to protect the United States or its allies.” There is no definition of “extraordinary circumstances” or what would be “lawful.”
Releasing the Presidential Policy Guidance would clarify the gaps in the guidelines for the use of lethal force listed in the fact sheet.
In February 2016, the bipartisan Stimson Task Force on US Drone Policy gave the Obama administration an “F” in three areas the task force had flagged for improvement in its June 2014 report. The first area is focused on progress in releasing information on drone strikes. The second involves explaining the legal basis under US and international law for the drone program. The third is about developing more robust oversight and accountability mechanisms for targeted strikes outside of traditional battlefields.
Regarding the first area (about releasing information), Stimson concluded the administration has made almost no information public about the approximate number, location or death tolls of lethal drone attacks, which agency is responsible for what strikes, the organizational affiliation of people known to have been killed by strikes, and the number and identities of civilians who are known to have been killed.
Speaking about the second area of focus (about the legal basis for the drone program), Stimson mentioned that a few official government documents have been made public that relate to the US lethal drone program, primarily through court orders. One was a redacted memo from the Department of Justice about the legality of the 2011 targeted killing of US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki “without due process of law,” following a successful ACLU-New York Times Freedom of Information Act request. The only other released document was the Department of Defense’s Law of War Manual, with three short sections on the use of “remotely piloted aircraft” in war. The only qualifications it contained was that the weapons cannot be “inherently indiscriminate” or “calculated to cause superfluous injury.” But the Geneva Conventions prohibit the targeting of civilians in all instances.
Regarding the third area (about oversight and accountability), Stimson said the administration continues to oppose the release of any public information on the lethal drone program, which has obstructed mechanisms for greater oversight and accountability. “The lack of action reinforces the culture of secrecy surrounding the use of armed drones,” according to the report.
The Stimson report noted that the administration has “as a rule, been reluctant to publicly acknowledge the use of lethal force by unmanned aerial vehicles in foreign countries.” Stimson identified one “notable exception,” however. After the discovery that two Western civilians held by al-Qaeda were killed by a US drone strike in January 2015, the administration admitted the deaths, but provided few specific details.
Lethal drone strikes have been reported in Yemen, Pakistan, Libya, Afghanistan and Somalia, and against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Stimson also identified 12 countries believed to host US drone bases: Afghanistan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kuwait, Niger, the Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
Former CIA director Michael Hayden mounted a full-throated defense of the US drone program in a February 2016 New York Times op-ed. He claimed, “The targeted killing program has been the most precise and effective application of firepower in the history of armed conflict,” annihilating the ranks of al-Qaeda. But his claims are impossible to verify without documentation.
Hayden has also said, “We kill people based on metadata.” But Ars Technica recently revealed that the National Security Agency’s (NSA) SKYNET program, which uses an algorithm to gather metadata in order to identify and target terrorist suspects in Pakistan, Somalia and Afghanistan, would result in 99,000 false positives.
The Obama administration has resisted transparency. We will see what it publicizes in the coming period. Regardless of the data the administration releases, we must demand full disclosure in order to attain real accountability.
Aggression is arguably the highest form of terrorism as it invariably includes the frightening of the target populations and their leaders as well as killing and destruction on a large scale. The U.S. invaders of Iraq in 2003 proudly announced a “shock and awe” purpose in their opening assault, clearly designed to instill fear; that is, to terrorize the victim population along with the target security forces. And millions of Iraqis suffered in this massive enterprise. Benjamin Netanyahu himself defined terrorism as “the deliberate and systematic murder, maiming and menacing of the innocent to inspire fear for political ends.” This would seem to make both the Iraq war (2003 onward) and the serial Israeli wars on Gaza (2008-2009; 2012; 2014) cases of serious terrorism.
How do the responsible U.S. and Israeli leaders escape this designation? One trick is the disclaiming of any “deliberateness” in the killing of civilians. It is “collateral damage” in the pursuit of proper targets (Iraqi soldiers, Hamas, etc.) This is a factual lie, as there is overwhelming evidence that in both the Iraq and Gaza wars the killing of civilians was on a large scale and often not comprehensible in terms of genuine military objectives. (I give many illustrations in “’They kill reporters, don’t they?” Yes–as Part of a System of Information Control That Will Allow the Mass Killing of Civilians,” Z Magazine, December 2004. That this goes back a long way is well documented in Nick Turse’s Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam [Metropolitan, 2014]).
But even if the killings were only collateral damage, the regular failure to avoid killing civilians, including a built-in carelessness and/or reliance on undependable sources of information, is both a war crime and terrorism. Recall that the Geneva Conventions state that combatants “shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and, accordingly, shall direct their operations only against military objectives” (Part IV, Chap. 1, Article 48). Also, if civilian casualties are extremely likely in bombing attacks against purported military targets, even if the specific civilians killed were not intended victims, their deaths—some deaths—were predictable, hence in an important sense deliberate. Michael Mandel, while dismantling the claim of non-deliberateness in the usual collateral damage killing of civilians, points out that even in Texas a man who shoots someone dead while aiming at somebody else is guilty of murder (How America Gets Away With Murder [Pluto, 2004, 46-56]).
A second line of defense of U.S. and Israeli killing of civilians, only occasionally made explicit, is that the civilians killed are helping out the enemy armed forces–they are the sea in which the terrorist fish swim—so this makes them legitimate targets. This opens up vast possibilities for ruthless attacks and the mass killing of civilians, notorious in the Vietnam war, but also applicable in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza. Civilian killings are sometimes admitted to be an objective by official sources, but not often, and the subject is not focused on by the mainstream media. This rationale may placate the home population but it does not satisfy international law or widely held moral rules.
The same is true of the retaliation defence. The United States and Israel are always allegedly retaliating for prior aggressive acts of their targets. Deadly actions by the target military or their supporters, even if they clearly follow some deadly action by the United States or Israel, are never deemed retaliatory and thus justifiable. It has long been a claimed feature of the Israeli ethnic cleansing project that Israel only retaliates, the Palestinians provoke and virtually compel an Israeli response. In fact, the Israelis have long taken advantage of this bias in Western reporting at strategic moments by attacking just enough to induce a Palestinian response, that justifies a larger scale “retaliatory” action by Israel.
Of course all of these tricks work only because an array of Western institutions, including but not confined to the media, follow the demands of Western (and mainly U.S.) interests. For example, although the Nuremberg judgment against the Nazis features aggression as “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole,” because the United States is virtually in the full-time business of committing aggression (attacking across borders without Security Council approval), the UN and “international community” (i.e., Western and even many non-Western leaders, not publics) do nothing when the United States engages in aggression. The brazen 2003 invasion of Iraq called forth no UN condemnation or sanctions against the U.S. aggression, and the UN quickly began to cooperate with the invader-occupiers. The word aggression is rarely applied to that massive and hugely destructive attack either in the media or learned discourse, but it is applied with regularity to the Russian occupation of Crimea which entailed no casualties and could be regarded as a defensive response to the U.S.-sponsored February 2014 coup d’etat in Ukraine. The U.S. invasion of Iraq was surely not defensive, and was rationalized at the time on the basis of what were eventually acknowleged to be plain lies. (For an exception to the establishment’s villainization of Russia in the Ukraine conflict, see John Mearsheimer, “The Ukraine Crisis is the West’s Fault,” Foreign Affairs, Sept.-Oct. 2014)
Perhaps the most murderous aggression and ultra-terrorism of the last 40 years, involving millions of civilian deaths, has been the Rwanda-Uganda invasion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), beginning in 1996 and still ongoing. But the invasion’s leaders, Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni, were (and still are) U.S. clients, hence they have been subject to no international tribunal nor threat from the Security Council or International Criminal Court, and there has been no media featuring of the vast crimes carried out in this area. You have to be a U.S. target to get that kind of attention, as with Iran, Syria and Russia.
These rules also apply to the major human rights groups. Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have a rule that they will not focus on the origins of a conflict but will attend only to how the conflict is carried out. This is wonderfully convenient to a country that commits aggression on a regular basis, but it flies in the face of logic or the UN Charter’s foundational idea that aggression is the supreme international crime that the world must prevent and punish Thus, neither HRW nor AI condemned the United States for invading Iraq or bombing Serbia, but confined their attention to the war crimes of both the aggressor and target, but mainly the target. HRW is especially notorious for its huge bias in featuring the war crimes of U.S. targets, underplaying the criminality of the aggressor, and calling for international action against the victim (see Herman, Peterson and Szamuely, “Human Rights Watch in the Service of the War Party,” Electric Politics, February 26, 2007.). During the period leading up to the U.S.-UK attack on Iraq, HRW head Kenneth Roth had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Indict Saddam” (March 22, 2002). Thus beyond failing to oppose the imminent war of aggression, this human rights group leader was providing a public relations cover for the “supreme international crime.” His organization also failed to report on and condemn the “sanctions of mass destruction” against Iraq that had devastating health effects on Iraqi civilians, accounting for hundreds of thousands of deaths. For HRW these were “unworthy victims.”
In the case of the Rwandan Patriotic Front’s invasion and massacres of 1990-1994, HRW and its associates (notably Alison Des Forges) played an important role in focusing on and condemning the defensive responses of the Rwanda government to the military and subversive advances of the U.S.-supported invading army of Tutsi from Uganda, thereby making a positive contribution to the mass killings in Rwanda and later in the DRC. (See Herman and Peterson, Enduring Lies: The Rwandan Genocide in the Propaganda System, 20 Years Later [Real News Books, 2014], 66-70.)
Similarly the ad hoc international tribunals established in the last several decades have always been designed to exclude aggression and to focus on war crimes and “genocide.” And they are directed at U.S. targets (Serbia, the Hutu of Rwanda) whol are actually the victims of aggression, who are then subjected to a quasi-judicial process that is fraudulent and a perversion of justice. (On the Yugoslavia tribunal, see John Laughland, Travesty [Pluto, 2007; on Rwanda, Sebastien Chartrand and John Philpot, Justice Belied: The Unbalanced Scale of International Criminal Justice.[Baraka Books, 2014]). The International Criminal Court (ICC) was also organized with ”aggression” excluded from its remit, in deference to the demands of the Great Aggressor, who still refused to join because there remained the theoretical possibility that a U.S. citizen might be brought before the court! The ICC still made itself useful to the Great Aggressor by indicting Gadaffi in preparation for the U.S.-NATO war of aggression against Libya.
In short, terrorism thrives. That is, state terrorism, as in the serial U.S. wars—direct, joint and proxy– against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya and Syria—and the still more wide-ranging drone assassination attacks. In the devastating wars in the DRC by Kagame and Museveni. And in Israel’s wars on Gaza and Lebanon and ordinary pacification efforts in Gaza and the West Bank. And in Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen and Turkey’s proxy war in Syria and war against the Kurds.
All of these wars have evoked mainly retail terrorist responses to the invading, bombing, and occupying forces of the United States and its allies, responses that have been shocking and deadly, but on a much smaller scale than the state terrorism that has evoked them. But in the Western propaganda systems it is only the responsive terrorism that surprises and angers politicians, pundits and the public and is called “terrorism.” There is no recognition of the true flow of initiating violence and response, no recognition of the fact that the “global war on terrorism” is really a “global war OF terrorism.” The propaganda system is in fact a constituent of the permanent war system, hence a reliable supporter of wholesale terrorism.
Terrorism has many forms and many faces, but the most terrible of them is cold cruelty.
We are asked to believe that terrorists consist of dirty lunatics, running around with bombs, machine guns and explosive belts. That’s how we are told to imagine them.
Many of them are bearded; almost all are “foreign looking”, non-white, non-Western. In summary they are wife beaters, child rapists and Greek and Roman statue destroyers.
Actually, during the Cold War, there were some white looking “terrorists” – the left-wingers belonging to several revolutionary cells, in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. But only now we are learning that the terrorist acts attributed to them were actually committed by the Empire, by several European right-wing governments and intelligence services. You remember, the NATO countries were blowing up those trains inside the tunnels, or bombing entire train stations…
It “had to be done”, in order to discredit the Left, just to make sure that people would not become so irresponsible as to vote for the Communists or true Socialists.
There were also several Latin American ‘terror’ groups – the revolutionary movements fighting for freedom and against oppression, mainly against Western colonialism. They had to be contained, liquidated, and if they held power, overthrown.
But terrorists became really popular in the West only after the Soviet Union and the Communist Block were destroyed through thousands of economic, military and propaganda means, and the West suddenly felt too exposed, so alone without anyone to fight. Somehow it felt that it needed to justify its monstrous oppressive acts in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia.
It needed a new “mighty”, really mighty, enemy to rationalize its astronomical military and intelligence budgets. It was not good enough to face a few hundred ‘freaks’ somewhere inside the Colombian jungle or in Northern Ireland or Corsica. There had to be something really huge, something matching that ‘evil’ Soviet “threat”.
Oh how missed that threat was, suddenly! Just a threat of course; not the danger of egalitarian and internationalist ideals…
And so the West linked terrorism with Islam, which is one of the greatest cultures on earth, with 1.6 billion followers. Islam is big and mighty enough, to scare the shit out of the middle class housewives in some Western suburb! And on top of that, it had to be contained anyway, as it was essentially too socialist and too peaceful.
At that time in history, all great secular and socialist leaders of Muslim countries, (like in Iran, Indonesia and Egypt), were overthrown by the West, their legacy spat on, or they were simply banned.
But that was not enough for the West!
In order to make Islam a worthy enemy, the Empire had to first radicalize and pervert countless Muslim movements and organizations, then create the new ones, consequently training, arming and financing them, so they could really look frightening enough.
There is of course one more important reason why “terrorism”, particularly Muslim “terrorism”, is so essential for the survival of Western doctrines, exceptionalism and global dictatorship: it justifies the West’s notion of absolute cultural and moral superiority.
This is how it works:
For centuries, the West has been behaving like a mad bloodthirsty monster. Despite the self-glorifying propaganda being spread by Western media outlets all over the world, it was becoming common knowledge that the Empire was raping, murdering and plundering in virtually all corners of the Globe. A few more decades and the world would see the West exclusively as a sinister and toxic disease. Such a scenario had to be prevented by all means!
And so the ideologues and propagandists of the Empire came up with a new and brilliant formula: Let’s create something that looks and behaves even worse than we do, and then we could trumpet that we are still actually the most reasonable and tolerant culture on earth!
And let’s make a real pirouette: let’s fight our own creation – let’s fight it in the name of freedom and democracy!”
This is how the new generation; the new breed of “terrorist” was born. And it lives! It is alive and well! It is multiplying like Capek’s Salamanders.
Western terrorism is not really discussed, although its most extreme and violent forms are battering the world relentlessly and have for a long time, with hundreds of millions of victims piling up everywhere.
Even the legionnaires and gladiators of the Empire, like the Mujaheddin, Al-Qaida, or ISIS, can never come close to the savagery that has been demonstrated time and again by their British, French, Belgian, German or US masters. Of course they are trying very hard to match their gurus and bread-givers, but they are just not capable of their violence and brutality.
It takes “Western culture” to butcher some 10 million people in just one single geographic area, in almost one go!
So what is real terrorism, and how could ISIS and others follow its lead? They say that ISIS is decapitating their victims. Bad enough. But who is their teacher?
For centuries, the empires of Europe were murdering, torturing, raping and mutilating people on all continents of the world. Those who were not doing so directly, were “investing” into colonialist expeditions, or sending its people to join genocidal battalions.
King Leopold II and his cohorts managed to exterminate around 10 million people of Western and Central Africa, in what is now known as the Congo. He was hunting people down like animals, forcing them to work on his rubber plantations. If he thought that they were not filling up his coffers fast enough, he did not hesitate to chop off their hands, or burn entire village populations inside their huts, alive.
10 million victims vanished. 10 million! And it did not take place in some distant past, in the “dark ages”, but in the 20th century, under the rule of so-called constitutional monarchy, and self-proclaimed democracy. How does it compare with the terrorism that is ruling over the territories occupied by ISIS? Let’s compare numbers and brutality level!
And the Democratic Republic of Congo has, since 1995, lost again close to 10 million people in a horrid orgy of terror, unleashed by the West’s proxies, Rwanda and Uganda (see the trailer to my film “Rwanda Gambit”).
Germans performed holocausts in South-Western Africa, in what is now Namibia. The Herero tribe was exterminated, or at least close to 90% of it was. People were first kicked out from their land and from their homes, and driven into the desert. If they survived, the German pre-Nazi expeditions followed, using bullets and other forms of mass killing. Medical experiments on humans were performed, to prove the superiority of the Germanic nation and the white race.
These were just innocent civilians; people whose only crime was that they were not white, and were sitting on land occupied and violated by the Europeans.
The Taliban never came close to this, or even ISIS!
To this day, the Namibian government is demanding the return of countless heads severed from its people: heads that were cut off and then sent to the University of Freiburg and several hospitals in Berlin, for medical experiments.
Just imagine, ISIS chopping thousands of European heads, in order to perform medical experiments aiming to demonstrate the superiority of the Arab race. It would be absolutely unthinkable!
Local people were terrorized in virtually all colonies grabbed by Europe, something that I have described in detail in my latest 840-page book “Exposing Lies of the Empire”.
What about the Brits and their famines, which they were using as population control and intimidation tactics in India! In Bengal at least 5 million died in 1943 alone, 5.5 million in 1876-78, 5 million in 1896-97, to name just a few terrorist acts committed by the British Empire against a defenseless population forced to live under its horrid and oppressive terrorist regime!
What I have mentioned above are just 3 short chapters from the long history of Western terrorism. An entire encyclopedia could be compiled on the topic.
But all this sits far from Western consciousness. European and North American masses prefer not to know anything about the past and the present. As far as they are concerned, they rule the world because they are free, bright and hard working. Not because for centuries their countries have plundered and murdered, and above all terrorized the world forcing it into submission.
The elites know everything, of course. And the more they know, the more they put that knowledge to work.
Terrorist trade and experience are passed on from Western masters to their new Muslim recruits.
The Mujahideen, Al-Qaida, ISIS – on closer examination, their tactics of intimidation and terrorization are not original at all. They are built on imperialist and colonialist practices of the West.
News about this, or even about the terror that has been inflicted on the Planet by the West, is meticulously censored. You would never see them on the programs broadcast by the BBC, or read about them in mainstream newspapers and magazines.
On the other hand, the violence and ruthlessness of the client terrorist organizations are constantly highlighted. They are covered in their tiniest detail, repeated, and “analyzed”.
Everybody is furious, horrified! The UN is “deeply concerned”, Western governments are “outraged”, and the Western public “has had enough – it does not want immigrants from those terrible countries that are breeding terrorism and violence”.
The West “simply has to get involved”. And here comes the War on Terror.
It is a war against the West’s own Frankenstein. It is a war that is never meant to be won. Because if it is won, god forbid, there would have to be peace, and peace means cutting defense budgets and also dealing with the real problems of our Planet.
Peace would mean the West looking at its own past. It would mean thinking about justice and rearranging the entire power structures of the Planet. And that can never be allowed.
And so the West is “playing” war games; it is “fighting” its own recruits (or pretending to fight them), while innocent people are dying.
No part of the world, except the West, would be able to invent and unleash something so vile and barbaric as ISIS or Al-Nusra!
Look closer at the strategy of these group-implants: it has no roots in Muslim culture whatsoever. But it is fully inspired by the Western philosophy of colonialist terrorism: “If you don’t fully embrace our dogmas and religion, then we will cut off your head, slash your throat, rape your entire family or burn your village or city to the ground. We will destroy your grand cultural heritage as we did in South America 500 years ago, and in so many other places.”
And so on and so on! It would really require great discipline not to see the connections!
In 2006 I was visiting my friend, a former President of Indonesia, and a great progressive Muslim leader, Abdurrahman Wahid, (known in Indonesia as “Gus Dur”). Our meeting was held at the headquarters of his massive Muslim body Nahdlatul Ulama (NU). At that time the NU was the biggest Muslim organization in the world.
We were discussing capitalism and how it was destroying and corrupting Indonesia. Gus Dur was a “closet socialist”, and that was one of the main reasons why the servile pro-Western Indonesian “elites” and the military deposed him out of the Presidency in 2001.
When we touched on the topic of “terrorism”, he suddenly declared in his typically soft, hardly audible voice: “I know who blew up the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta. It was done by our own intelligence services, in order to justify the increase in their budget, as well as aid that they have been receiving from abroad.”
Of course, the Indonesian army, intelligence services and police consist of a special breed of humans. For several decades, since 1965, they have been brutally terrorizing their own population, when the pro-Western coup toppled the progressive President Sukarno and brought to power a fascist military clique, backed by the predominantly Christian business gang. This terror took between 2-3 million lives in Indonesia itself, as well as in East Timor and (until now) in occupied and thoroughly plundered Papua.
3 genocides in only 5 decades!
The Indonesian coup was one of the greatest terrorist acts in the history of mankind. The rivers were clogged with corpses and changed their color to red.
Why? So that capitalism would survive and Western mining companies could have their booty, at the expense of a completely ruined Indonesian nation. So the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) would not be able to win elections, democratically.
But in the West, those 1965 intensive massacres planned by the Empire were never described as “terrorism”. Blowing up a hotel or a pub always is however, especially if they are frequented by Western clientele.
Now Indonesia has its own groups of “terrorists”. They returned from Afghanistan where they fought on behalf of the West against the Soviet Union. They are returning from the Middle East now. The recent attacks in Jakarta could be just a foreplay, a well-planned beginning of something much bigger, maybe an opening of the new “front” of toy soldiers of the Empire in Southeast Asia.
For the West and its planners – the more chaos the better.
Had Abdurrahman Wahid been allowed to stay as the President of Indonesia, there would, most likely, have been no terrorism. His country would have undergone socialist reforms, instituted social justice, rehabilitated Communists and embraced secularism.
In socially balanced societies, terrorism does not thrive.
That would be unacceptable to the Empire. That would mean – back to Sukarno’s day! The most populous Muslim nation on earth cannot be allowed to go its own way, to aim for socialism, and to annihilate terrorist cells.
It has to be at the edge. It has to be ready to be used as a pawn. It has to be scared and scary! And so it is.
The games the West is playing are complex and elaborate. They are murky and nihilist. They are so destructive and brutal that even the sharpest analysts are often questioning their own eyes and judgments: “Could all this be really happening?”
The brief answer is: “Yes it can. Yes it is, for many long decades and centuries.”
Historically, terrorism is a native Western weapon. It was utilized freely by people like Lloyd George, a British PM, who refused to sign the agreement banning aerial bombardment of civilians, using unshakeable British logic: “We reserve the right to bomb those niggers.” Or Winston Churchill who was in favor of gassing the ‘lower grade’ of races, like Kurds and Arabs.
That is why, when some outsider, a country like Russia, gets involved, launching its genuine war against terrorist groups, the entire West is consumed by panic. Russia is spoiling their entire game! It is ruining a beautifully crafted neo-colonialist equilibrium.
Just look how lovely everything is: after killing hundreds of millions all over the Globe, the West is now standing as the self-proclaimed champion of human rights and freedom. It is still terrorizing the world, plundering it, fully controlling it – but it is being accepted as the supreme leader, a benevolent advisor, and the only trustworthy part of the world.
And almost nobody is laughing.
Because everyone is scared!
Its brutal legions in the Middle East and Africa are destabilizing entire countries, their origins are easily traceable, but almost no one is daring to do such tracing. Some of those who have tried – died.
The more frightening these invented, manufactured and implanted terrorist monsters, the more beautiful the West looks. It is all gimmicks. It has roots in advertisement, and in hundreds of years of propaganda apparatus.
The West then pretends to fight those deep forces of darkness. It uses powerful, “righteous” language, which has clear bases in Christian fundamentalist dogma.
An entire mythology is unleashed; it feels like Wagner’s “Ring”.
The terrorists represent evil, not the enormous expenditure from the coffers of the US State Department, the European Union and NATO. They are more evil than the Devil himself!
And the West, riding on the white horse, slightly pissed on wine but always in good humor, is portrayed as both a victim and the main adversary of those satanic terrorist groups.
It is one incredible show. It is one terrible farce. Look underneath the horseman’s mask: look at those exposed teeth; that deadly grin! Look at his red eyes, full of greed, lust and cruelty.
And let us never forget: colonialism and imperialism are two most deadly forms of terrorism. And these are still the two main weapons of that horseman who is choking the world!
Image Source: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/01/22/how-the-west-creates-terrorism/
U.S. Air Force officials has begun to hire private companies to fly drone aircraft operating over Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The unprecedented move is in response to demands from the Obama administration to dramatically expand the drone war just as the Pentagon faces a critical shortage of military pilots.
As a result, civilian pilots will directly participate in military operations for the first time since the drone wars began about a decade ago. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Air Force signed contracts with two private companies in 2015 to provide enough pilots to fly two “combat air patrols” or 24-hour surveillance flights that would involve as many as eight MQ-9 Reaper drones per day. The Air Force plans to eventually expand its fleet of privately piloted drones to 40 over the next four years.
Of the two companies, one, Aviation Unmanned, is a small, veteran-owned outfit operating out of Dallas, Texas, which was awarded a contract on August 24. The second is General Atomics, a large San Diego, California-based military contractor that builds both the Reaper and Predator drones and has been paid at least $700 million over the last two years for a variety of drone support services. Their contract was awarded April 15.
This is not the first time that private contractors have played a role in the drone wars. Companies such as Booz AllenHamilton, General Dynamics and SAIC have long held contracts to analyze surveillance data gathered by drones flying over war zones.
While Reaper drones are designed to be able to carry multiple Hellfire and Sidewinder missiles, the Pentagon insists that these privately operated Reapers will simply do reconnaissance and not carry weapons, nor will the pilots have clearance to fire missiles.
Nonetheless, these contracts mark a dramatic uptick in the direct involvement of private companies in military actions, which has drawn criticism even from within the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s office who say that such involvement may be a violation of international law. “Military services should be vigilant to avoid contracted intelligence activities where civilians may exert a significant amount of influence or control over targeting and weapons release decisions,” wrote Major Keric Clanahan, a legal advisor to the U.S. Special Forces, in a recent article in Air Force Law Review. “It is imperative that contractors not get too close to the tip of the spear.”
The decision to deploy private drone pilots stems from a longstanding crisis inside the U.S. military In early 2015, the Air Force operated 65 combat air patrols, or up to 260 drones patrolling war zones around the world, but was under pressure from the Pentagon to expand the number of drones in the air to 360. But pilots, overwhelmed by the complexity of the work and the grueling schedule, began to vote with their feet and quit.
At an October conference of military contractors and government officials, General Robert Otto, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, summed up the problem. “Those crews have been stressed about to the limit,” Otto said. “Over time, pulling twelve hour shifts, six days a week, year after year, and the only light at the end of the tunnel is their Form DV-214, which their, you know, separation from service. And many of the pilots have decided to take that option.”
This summer, the Air Force was forced to reduce the number of combat air patrols from 65 to 60, in order to keep its remaining pilots from retiring at the end of their contracts. Nonetheless, the Air Force projects that it will be 400 pilots short of the roughly 1,200 it needs to keep the drone program running at current capacity.
Officials hope that the private contractors, along with additional support from Army drone pilots, will fill the gap in the short term. But over the long term, the problem of keeping a fleet of pilots in the service is expected to get substantially worse.
According to a separate Los Angeles Times article, the Air Force recently announced plans to radically expand its global drone operation, adding 65 new Reapers to its fleet, doubling the number of pilots, and building new drone operations centers at Air Force bases around the U.S. The plan is expected to cost roughly $3.5 billion, and the service will have to get Congressional approval before conducting the expansion. Even if lawmakers go along, training new pilots and building the new drone centers will take years. It will be a long time before the service’s current pilots see any relief, so the contractors may well be called upon again to fill an ever-widening gap.
Source: Corp Watch
The widely circulated photo of Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy whose body was found on a beach in Turkey and whose family was “making a final, desperate attempt to flee to relatives in Canada even though their asylum application had been rejected” by the Harper Government, has caused widespread outrage and forced Western leaders to acknowledge that there is a “refugee crisis”.
In Canada, the leaders of the Liberal and New Democratic parties have used the news of Kurdi’s tragic death, along with the deaths of his five-year-old brother and his mother, to criticize the Harper Government’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis. Trudeau and Mulcair have called on Canada to accept more Syrian refugees, while the Harper Government, with its lust for military action, insists on more illegal bombing raids in Syria and Iraq as the solution to the surge of Syrian refugees.
The real tragedy is the refusal of Western leaders to acknowledge the cause of the refugee crisis – Western imperialism’s genocidal and never ending wars on the people of the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa.
There are now more refugees than at any time since World War 2, and the number of refugees has increased markedly since the start of the “Global War on Terror”. Wherever the U.S. and its imperialist allies have intervened, whether through direct military action or indirect proxy wars, economic sabotage, and coups, in the name of “democracy”, the “War on Terror”, or the “responsibility to protect”, death and despair have been forced upon millions of innocent people, who have been left no other choice than to abandon their native lands to embark on a dangerous future of desperate struggle.
In Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Mali, Korea, Vietnam, East Timor, Sudan, Ukraine, and elsewhere the livelihoods of millions have been destroyed by the forces of U.S. and Western imperialism.
In the 1980s, Afghanistan had a “genuinely popular government”, according to John Ryan, retired professor from the University of Winnipeg, that was implementing widespread reforms (Parenti, Michael. “The Terrorism Trap”. Page 56. City Lights Books, San Fransisco, 2002). Labour unions were legalized, a minimum wage was established, hundreds of thousands of Afghans were enrolled in educational facilities, and women were freed from age-old tribal bondage and able to earn an independent income. U.S. and Western imperialism, fearful of that kind of equitable distribution of wealth, supported the feudal landlords and fundamentalist mullahs to sow chaos across the country, bringing rise to elements that later formed al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The Afghan people were once more dealt a severe punishment by the forces of Western imperialism following 9/11, despite a lack of conclusive evidence linking either the Taliban or al-Qaeda to the attacks. 30 years of U.S. intervention in Afghanistan have left the people of Afghanistan impoverished, traumatized, and desperate.
The conflicts in Libya and Syria are eerily similar to the Western destabilization of Afghanistan. In 2011, when the Arab Spring protests swept across the Middle East and North Africa, Western imperialism hijacked legitimate grievances of the masses as a pretext for intervention in the name of the “responsibility to protect” and “democracy promotion”.
Prior to the 2011 U.S./NATO intervention, Libya was among the wealthiest and most stable countries in Africa, with the continent’s highest standard of living. Housing was enshrined as a human right, education and healthcare services were free for all citizens, and the country was pushing to establish an African currency linked to gold to help end the endless cycle of debt and impoverishment of the African masses by Western imperialism. Under the cloak of the United Nations, Western imperialism, using the pretext of protecting the people of Libya from Gaddafi’s murderous rule, launched airstrikes on Libya and allied themselves with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other Libyan extremists. NATO airstrikes killed hundreds of civilians and forced Libya back into the Stone Age; Gaddafi was mercilessly tortured and murdered by the rebels. Thousands have been killed as rival tribal and extremist factions, some now allied with ISIS, battling for control of the country.
The conflict in Syria has frequently been referred to as “Libya 2.0”. U.S. imperialism with the support of Israel, Turkey, and the Persian Gulf States, trained and financed “moderate” rebels to overthrow the secular and popularly supported government of Bashar al-Assad. The “Free Syrian Army”, i.e., the “moderate” rebels, has been virtually eliminated in the conflict despite millions of dollars in aid from the U.S. and its regional allies. FSA fighters have deserted to the ranks of ISIS en masse, itself a product of the illegal U.S. occupation of Iraq that killed 1 million Iraqis. There is overwhelming evidence that the U.S. and its allies have been actively training and supporting ISIS elements since the start of the proxy war in Syria. It wasn’t until ISIS invaded Iraq with its new Toyota technicals, curtesy of U.S. imperialism, that ISIS was declared a threat to the world. Western imperialism changed its tactic from supporting ISIS to airstrikes on Iraq and Syria, with the support of other Western imperialist states, Turkey (which is also conveniently bombing anti-ISIS Kurdish fighters), Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf States, but without consultation with the Syrian government, Iran, or Hezbollah that have been fighting ISIS and al-Qaeda elements since the start of the conflict. Hundreds of thousands have died in the West’s proxy war against the Syrian government.
From Libya to Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan and Somalia, U.S. and Western imperialist interventions, coups, and sanctions have displaced and killed millions of people. Physicians for Social Responsibility estimates that in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan alone Western imperialist interventions have caused the deaths of 1.3 million people. It is no wonder then that hundreds of thousands seek asylum elsewhere; however, after traveling huge distances overland and on water, refugees find themselves abused, discriminated against, held in detention, or rejected from Europe, Canada, the U.S., and Australia.
More than 2, 500 have died this year trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe, while the International Organization for Migration estimates that 30, 000 could die by the end of 2015.
Refugees attempting to enter Europe, even if they are granted asylum in a mainland European country such as Germany, have been met with police violence in Greece, Italy, and other countries on the Mediterranean that are the first landing points for boats sailing from North Africa and Turkey.
Greek riot police have beaten refugees protesting the failure of local governments to process their applications. Conditions are so poor for refugees that while waiting for processing newborn babies have died in Greece.
On the Macedonia-Greece border, where more than a thousand refugees are crossing daily, refugees that broke through the barbed wire fences were shot at with stun grenades, and the Macedonian police have treated refugees as rioters, according to Amnesty International.
Italian police forcibly removed African refugees camping out at the French border after France refused to grant them asylum. Hungary is building a fortified wall, similar to the barbaric wall that divides the U.S.-Mexico border, to stop refugees from crossing the border.
The thousands of refugees that seek asylum in Australia are detained in Australia’s detention facilities in Papua New Guinea and the small island nation of Nauru, dubbed the “Guantanamo Bay of the Pacific”. Refugees can be detained for several years in these facilities, where social workers have observed “profound damage” to those detained through “prolonged deprivation of freedom, abuse of power, confinement in an extremely harsh environment, uncertainty of future, disempowerment, loss of privacy and autonomy and inadequate health and protection services”. An Australian Senate investigation received reports of guards raping women on tape and sexually exploiting children as young as 2-years-old. Just as Britain refuses to assist drowning refugees in the Mediterranean out of fear that it will encourage more migrants to seek asylum, the unannounced policy of Australian authorities is to make refugees suffer abuse and inhumane living conditions to deter them from seeking asylum in Australia, as if Australian imperialism hasn’t inflicted enough suffering on the people of the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia.
U.S. and Western imperialism is the root cause of the “refugee crisis”. Everyday men, women, and children are killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, U.S. and Western-backed militias in Afghanistan, Syria, and Somalia, European and North American mining and oil conglomerates in Central and Western Africa, or are starved to death in Yemen by the U.S.-backed Arab blockade of the country. Until the genocidal aims of U.S. imperialism, with the support of Canada, Australia, the European Union, and regional allies, are defeated, the “War on Terror” will continue to make life too unbearable for working people in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East to remain in their home countries.
From Liberation News
The U.S. government and other western imperialist powers are trying to deflect blame from a growing number of migrant and human rights organizations for their role in what is being labeled “the European refugee crisis,” which has become a growing humanitarian disaster.
According to new figures by the International Organization for Migration, over 332,000 refugees have crossed the Mediterranean Sea this year alone in an attempt to reach Europe—nearly a 40 percent increase over the year before, which was already a record year for immigration into Europe.
Most of the refugees are coming from countries—like Syria—that are currently being militarily targeted by the United States and its allies, or from countries feeling the aftereffects of U.S. military intervention such as Afghanistan and Libya. Others come from countries that have not been militarily targeted by imperialism but suffer from the devastating effects of Western-imposed trade and economic conditions that have led to underdevelopment and poverty.
The IOM states that at least 2,636 people have died attempting to migrate to Europe, but these numbers could be much higher.
The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva said Friday that “200,000 migrants have landed in Greece alone,” making it the largest point of entry for migrants into Europe.
Just this past Monday, Greece’s coast guard reported that it had found 2,492 refugees at sea off the eastern islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Agathonissi, Farmakonissi, Kos and Symi in only three days.
According to the Associated Press, the vast majority of those arriving in Greece are Syrian and Afghan refugees who are not looking to make Greece their new home but instead see Greece as a first step in a long journey into more prosperous European countries like Germany or Austria. Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary have seen tens of thousands of refugees traveling through their countries.
The tragic shooting in Paris of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which published caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in 2011, that left 12 people dead is a direct consequence of Western imperialism’s interventions in the Middle East.
The U.S. and its Western imperialist allies have continuously violated the national sovereignty and the right to self-determination of every country in the Middle East and North Africa in the last 50 years. Attacks such as the shooting in Paris, the September 11th attacks on New York (if we are to believe the dubious official story of the U.S. government), the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the attempted attack on the Eiffel Tower by Algerian hijackers in 1994, the London bombings of 2005, the Sydney Hostage Crisis, all are an inevitable consequence of the Western imperialism’s policies towards the people of the Greater Middle East and North Africa. From the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, the overthrow of Iran’s democratic leadership in 1953, to more recently supporting some of the world’s most reactionary and undemocratic monarchies and funding Islamic paramilitaries in Syria and Libya, the people of the Greater Middle East and North Africa have had their human and political rights subordinated to the interests of Western imperialism for decades.
Last month President Obama dispatched a formal letter to the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, listing a series of countries where US troops were or have been engaged in military operations during 2014. The preamble explains that the document is “consistent with the War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93-148), as part of my efforts to keep the Congress informed about deployments of U.S. Armed Forces equipped for combat.”
The War Powers Resolution was enacted by Congress in 1973, in the aftermath of the US withdrawal from Vietnam, and over the veto of President Richard Nixon, to require the president to keep the legislative branch regularly appraised of military operations that were being conducted without a congressional declaration of war.
Obama’s letter outlines a series of military operations in 2014, some completed, some ongoing, that go far beyond what is generally reported in the American media, which is generally limited to news of Afghanistan, the Iraq-Syria conflict (albeit very little) and occasional reports of drone missile strikes.
Not a single major US newspaper reported the issuance of the letter, titled, “Six Month Consolidated War Powers Resolution Report,” although it was released by the White House Press Office December 11 and is available on the White House web site.
If one combines the operations reported in this letter with published reports about the deployment of US troops in supposed noncombat situations, as well as joint military exercises with NATO countries and other US allies, it is possible to present a picture of the vast worldwide scope of US military activities in the course of last year.
The map presented here shows the countries where US forces are deployed in four of the six regional theaters of operations for the US military (all but the Northern and Southern Commands, which cover the Western hemisphere).
The White House letter to Congress declares that as part of operations against Al Qaeda and associated forces, “the United States has deployed combat-equipped forces to a number of locations in the U.S. Central, Pacific, European, Southern, and Africa Command areas of operation.”
The Obama administration thus maintains in full the pretext for global deployment of US military power, the “war on terror” first declared by George W. Bush in 2001. There is, of course, no acknowledgement that in several countries, notably Libya and Syria, Al Qaeda is not the enemy but a key ally in US efforts to overthrow the regimes of Muammar Gaddafi (murdered in 2011) and Bashar al-Assad (who would face a similar fate in the event of victory of the US-backed “rebels”).
The Obama letter continues: “It is not possible to know at this time the precise scope or the duration of the deployments of US Armed Forces necessary to counter this terrorist threat to the United States.” In other words, the Obama administration, like its predecessor, has declared war on the world, reserving the right to send US military forces anywhere, anytime, regardless of any decision by Congress, let alone the wishes of the American people.
The letter devotes its main focus to the areas of responsibility of the US Central Command and US Africa Command, the first comprising the Middle East and Central Asia from Israel to Pakistan, the second comprising the entire African continent.