While Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, who is currently advising presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, famously said that the estimated 500,000 children who died as a result of U.S. sanctions on Iraq was “worth it.” It was, perhaps, a rare moment of candor from a politician, an admission that Washington is willing to support ostensibly non-lethal measures in such an all-encompassing fashion as to produce mass deaths of people who have no ability to influence the actions undertaken by their government. Sanctions are collective punishment, a blunt edged weapon used all too frequently by Washington to compel foreign governments to submit without having to go to war. There is nothing benign about them and Americans should regard them as potentially just as deadly as direct military intervention.
There are currently a number of countries that are subject to U.S. enforced sanctions but only three fall under the category of “state sponsors of terrorism.” They are Iran, Syria and Sudan. That status entails a number of U.S. Government sanctions including a ban on arms-related exports and sales; controls over exports of dual-use items; prohibitions on economic assistance; and imposition of miscellaneous financial and other restrictions. The financial measures require the United States to oppose loans by the World Bank or other international financial institutions and prohibit any U.S. person from engaging in a financial transaction with a terrorism-list government without a Treasury Department license issued by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). The license and other approvals are reported to be complicated and the process is extremely difficult to navigate, discouraging anyone from having business dealings with the targeted countries.
Other sanctions are not always directly related to terrorism. They sometimes target select individuals and organizations that are considered by the U.S. government to be focal points of some aberrant behavior. A number of Russian officials have been sanctioned over Ukraine and even over the functioning of the country’s judiciary while the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has been sanctioned both for its involvement with radical groups and its support of Tehran’s missile program. But the most devastating sanctions are those which are directed against a country and nearly everything that it does economically, which was the case with Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Currently, Sudan falls under that category.
I recently spent a week in Sudan as the guest of a NGO. The objective was to show a group of hopefully influential foreign visitors the devastating effect of sanctions on the local economy. We visitors were of course aware that we were being fed a line that was most favorable to the government position so we also spoke to other Sudanese who were not necessarily part of the program as well as to United States government officials working at the Embassy.
The status of state sponsor of terrorism was bestowed on Sudan back in 1993 after the Sudanese government invited Osama bin Laden to stay in the country. Subsequently it was also claimed that Khartoum was supporting radical groups in Africa and elsewhere, to include Boko Harum, Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army and Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Since that time the conditions that led to the designation have changed dramatically. Bin Laden was asked to leave and relations with a number of militant groups were severed. Sudan has even severed diplomatic relations with Iran.
The latest edition of the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism states that “Sudan remained a generally cooperative partner of the United States on counterterrorism. During the past year, the Government of Sudan continued to support counterterrorism operations to counter threats to U.S. interests and personnel in Sudan.” Beyond that, the Sudanese intelligence service has been active in sharing information on terrorists in neighboring countries, to include Yemen, Uganda, Eritrea, Somalia, Chad and Libya. The information has been of such value that in 2010 the United States intelligence community advocated decoupling intelligence sharing from restrictions imposed on bilateral contact due to concerns over developments in Darfur.
In 2010 John Kerry, then Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, pledged to the Sudanese government that the terrorism designation would be lifted but failed to follow through. Later, in 2013, as Secretary of State, he was reminded of his promise by his Sudanese counterpart but apparently was thwarted in taking any action by advisers around President Barack Obama, most notably Susan Rice and Samantha Power. Both had in part made their reputations by writing and speaking to condemn Sudan. They were among the first to describe the conflict in Darfur as a genocide and are correctly perceived as hostile to any change in Sudan’s status.
The other sanctions on Sudan, referred to as a “comprehensive trade embargo,” blend claims of terrorism support with alleged human rights violations. They were imposed by Bill Clinton in 1997 and supplemented under George W. Bush in 2006. The last of these were linked to what has been described as a civil war starting in 2003 pitting the mostly Arabic speaking north of the country against the mostly indigenous black African south and west. The western media depicted the conflict in a racial context as well as in terms of religion, with Muslim pitted against Christian and animist, but the reality was much more complex than that with groups also dividing along linguistic, tribal and even occupational lines, sometimes featuring nomadic herdsmen against farmers.
Most sources agree that the various wars in and around Sudan have cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Sudanese as well as between 14,000 and 200,000 who were reportedly “enslaved” in abductions carried out by both sides. The conflict in Darfur has been described as a genocide with a government supported militia known as Janjaweed and the rebels together having been accused of carrying out numerous atrocities. As a consequence, Sudan’s then-and-now president Omar Hassan al-Bashir has been on the receiving end of an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court.
Al-Bashir, it should be noted became president by virtue of a military coup, though he has now been elected to office three times, once in an uncontested election in 1996 and in 2010 in a multiparty election that was described as “highly chaotic, non-transparent and vulnerable to electoral manipulation.” The most recent election took place on April 2015 and was strongly criticized by the U.S., Britain and Norway, all of whom had sent observers. Al-Bashir heads the ruling National Congress Party, but in fact he rules largely by fiat. He is either very popular or very unpopular with the Sudanese people depending on whom one talks to.
Genuine moves towards Sudanese democracy through the mechanism of a currently ongoing National Discussion are promising but are likely to slowly evolve in reality. The country’s legal system is based on Sharia but there is general tolerance of other religions in practice if not in law. The National Museum has a section relating to Christianity in Sudan and there is a Christian hour on television every Sunday. The Roman Catholic cathedral is located near the government center and there is also an active Coptic community. Christian community leaders openly support the existing government, just as they do in Syria, perhaps recognizing that available alternatives might be much worse.
A cease fire with the southern states in Sudan in 2005 led to the involvement of a United Nations Mission and a referendum in 2011 resulted in secession from the north. South Sudan is now an independent country that is enduring its own birth pangs. There are some reports of continued violence possibly instigated by Khartoum as well as little noticed government repression in the southern Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, which have been largely closed to the media and foreign NGOs pending yet another referendum to determine their future status.
Darfur followed with its own peace agreement in 2006. It is relatively quiet though military operations against a final hold out group of rebels in the region continue. Humanitarian and UN affiliated groups are in Darfur to monitor the process of reconciliation and it is expected that there will be another referendum to determine the region’s final status. At least some of the continuing unrest has been attributed to the activity of radicals from Chad, who are able to freely cross the open 600 mile long border to enter Darfur.
Business leaders in Khartoum note that there has been considerable economic growth in Sudan in spite of sanctions, concentrated in the sectors of oil, agriculture and mining. Since 1997, Sudan has been working with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to initiate reforms and create sustainable growth. There is, however, considerable official corruption and across the board poverty, largely among those engaged in agriculture.
In spite of some positive developments, Washington’s sanctions have blocked almost all business with Sudan. Selling or buying anything to or from Sudan requires clearance by OFAC and is largely limited to agricultural, communications or medical products. The paperwork requires months to complete and the actual purchases have to be made through third parties, meaning that everything costs more and comes without warranties, service or support. This is because the United States has effectively shut down any banking transactions or extensions of credit with Sudan and when no one can get paid except by suitcases full of cash it becomes impossible to conduct business. Few foreign banks exist in Sudan and they are very careful about how they operate. Even the IMF is reportedly having difficulty in funding its own projects in country. It all means that Sudan cannot pay its bills through conventional correspondent banking arrangements as foreign banks are fearful of being fined by the United States. No one is willing to take that risk.
To be sure, part of Sudan’s economic woes come from its sustaining a war economy in response to the unrest in several regions. But beyond that no investment money coming in due to sanctions means no improvement in agricultural technology, which would benefit the poorest part of the population, or in health care or in education. Poverty has been increasing due to sanctions and attempts to evade the restrictions have resulted in smuggling, money laundering and an increase in unconventional banking to include hawala transfers that are not subject to normal bank controls. Because Sudan is currently not integrated into the international banking system its transactions cannot be monitored to prevent terrorist money transfers.
And there is also a human price to pay for inability to move money. Sudanese health care providers believe that many preventable deaths are attributable to persistent lack of medicinal supplies or diagnostic equipment due to sanctions. Even if the numbers are overstated, that is almost certainly true. In a recent case three patients in Darfur died for lack of renal dialysis solutions.
I oppose sanctions in principle because I believe they are a blunt instrument that punishes innocent civilians when broadly construed while having no effect at all when directly targeting the country’s relatively wealthy and unreachable government officials. If sanctions are to make any sense they should be designed to achieve a quantifiable result but that is rarely the case and they frequently serve no purpose whatsoever beyond dishing out punishment. It has been claimed that sanctions actually worked in Sudan because its government has moved to meet some of Washington’s demands over Darfur and South Sudan, but that is a simplistic explanation for rather more complex phenomena that were likely driven by multiple constituencies and interests.
More often than not, sanctions harden a government’s resolve to resist, as they did in Cuba, and even become useful to the regime as an excuse for government failures. The explanation provided by George W. Bush’s special envoy to Sudan, Andrew Natsios, that sanctions “send a message… to start behaving differently when they deal with their own people. That’s what this is all about,” is hubristic imperialism at its finest. It is reported in Sudan that many young Sudanese hate the United States and it is not difficult to understand why.
And there are good selfish reasons for the United States to lift sanctions and normalize relations with Khartoum. Sudan is an autocracy but no worse than American allies like Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Egypt. It is active in fighting alleged rebels but is far more restrained than the current Saudi military intervention in Yemen. And though Khartoum has had sometimes ambivalent relationships with Islamic radicals it has been far less engaged in that fashion than Pakistan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. So Sudan passes the smell test for being a disagreeable regime that is compatible with the United States’ broader interests.
And those broader interests are clear, including allowing American companies to participate in the future development of the country. U.S. sanctions have forced the Sudanese to turn to Moscow and Beijing for assistance. Russia is involved in gold mining and China is increasingly engaged in transportation, communications and energy projects. The Sudanese rail network and its international air carrier Sudan Air have collapsed due to lack of spare parts for their U.S. made hardware, an opportunity for American suppliers to quickly reenter the market. It is not in the U.S. national interest to create conditions favorable to competitors seeking to dominate the potentially large and developing Sudanese economy, ceding to them a significant foothold in East Africa by default.
Furthermore, Sudan is a bridge between Africa and the Arab world. It harbors no international terrorists and is a relative oasis of calm in a region in turmoil, well placed to monitor developments in neighboring Egypt, Chad, Libya, Somalia, Eritrea, Zaire, Central African Republic, Uganda and Yemen. It has made a significant contribution in counterterrorism and could do even better if properly motivated and provided with the tools needed, potentially playing a major role in the U.S. sponsored Partnership for Regional East Africa Counterterrorism. Normalizing relations with Sudan’s banks could, inter alia, stop money laundering and shut down possible terrorist money transfers.
There is, in short, no good reason to continue the status quo apart from the objections of two Obama advisers who have a personal stake in depicting Sudan in the most negative fashion. Unfortunately U.S. foreign policy has drifted away from supporting actual national interests and is mired in responding to various constituencies, in Obama’s case the “responsibility to protect” advocates. One can quite imagine that with something like a Marco Rubio it would revert to the mindless belligerency mode, but as both models seek to remake foreign governments they should equally be eschewed. Countries like Sudan and Iran should not be made to feel that they are permanently under the heel of the American jackboot. Nor should Washington feel compelled to play that role. Except in those rare situations where trade embargoes can inhibit flows of weapons to belligerents in a hot war, sanctions are useless, diminishing both those who apply the punishment and those who are on the receiving end. They should never be considered a serious instrument for foreign policy.
It’s really 19th century behavior in the 21st century, you just don’t invade another country on phony pretexts in order to assert your interests.
— Secretary of State, John Kerry, “Meet the Press”, March 2, 2014
Various professional psychology sites state succinctly: “Projection is a defense mechanism which involves taking our own unacceptable qualities or feelings and ascribing them to other people.”
Further: “Projection tends to come to the fore in normal people at times of crisis, personal or political, but is more commonly found in the neurotic or psychotic – in personalities functioning at a primitive level as in narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder”, opines Wiki.
With that in mind it is worth returning to the assault on Libya and the allegation by Susan Rice, then US Ambassador to the UN, in April 2011, that the Libyan government was issuing Viagra to its troops, instructing them to use rape as a weapon of terror.
However, reported Antiwar.com, MSNBC was told “by US military and intelligence officials that there is no basis for Rice’s claims. While rape has been reported as a ‘weapon’ in many conflicts, the US officials (said) they’ve seen no such reports out of Libya.”
Several diplomats also questioned Rice’s lack of evidence, suspecting she was attempting “to persuade doubters the conflict in Libya was not just a standard civil war but a much nastier fight in which Gaddafi is not afraid to order his troops to commit heinous acts.”
The story was reminiscent of the pack of lies which arguably sealed the 1991 US-led Iraq onslaught — of Iraqi troops leaving premature babies to die after stealing their incubators. The story, of course, was dreamt up by global public relations company, Hill and Knowlton Strategies, Inc., then described as the world’s largest PR company which had been retained by the Kuwait government.
A tearful hospital “volunteer”, Nayirah, gave “testimony” which reverberated around an appalled world. It transpired she was the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador to Washington and was neither a “volunteer”, “witness”, nor in Kuwait. Amnesty International obligingly backed up the fictional nonsense suffering lasting credibility damage. However, as with Libya two decades later, Iraq’s fate was sealed.
The US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice and Foreign Affairs advisor, Samantha Power are credited with helping persuade President Obama to intervene in Libya. By the end of April 2011, Rice was also pushing for intervention in Syria, claiming that President Assad was “seeking Iranian assistance in repressing Syria’s citizens …” In the light of all, she vowed: “The United States will continue to stand up for democracy and respect for human rights, the universal rights that all human beings deserve in Syria and around the world.” (Guardian, April 29, 2011)
Looking across the world at the apocalyptic ruins of lives and nations resultant from America’s continuance in uninvited “standing up” for “democracy”, “human rights” and “universal rights” there are surely few who could not only silently weep.
Amnesty, perhaps “once bitten” not only questioned the Libya Viagra nonsense but denied it in categorical terms. According to Donatella Rovera, their Senior Crisis Response Advisor, who spent three months in Libya from the start of the crisis: “We have not found any evidence or a single victim of rape or a doctor who knew about somebody being raped.”
Liesel Gerntholtz, heading Womens Rights at Human Rights Watch, which also investigated the mass rape allegations, stated: “We have not been able to find evidence.”
The then Secretary of State, Hillary “We came, we saw, he died” Clinton, was “deeply concerned” stating that: “Rape, physical intimidation, sexual harassment and even so-called ‘virginity tests’ “were taking place not only in Libya, but “throughout the region.” Presumably leaving the way open for further plundering throughout Africa in the guise of bestowing “democracy”, “human rights” etc.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court obediently weighed in, telling a Press Conference of: “ … information that there was a policy to rape in Libya those that were against the government. Apparently (Colonel Gaddafi) used it to punish people.” A bit of a blow for the impartiality and meticulous evidence of the ICC it might be thought.
A week after the bombing of Libya started in March 2011, Eman al-Obeidy burst in to a Tripoli hotel telling the international journalists there she had been raped. She was removed by Libyan security. Government spokespeople claimed she had mental health problems, was drunk, a thief, a prostitute and would be charged with slander. The world sneered.
By June 2011 Ms al-Obeidy had ended up in Boulder, Colorado, US, granted asylum with remarkable speed, with the help of Hillary Clinton, according to US news outlets.
In November 2014 al-Obeidy, now known as Eman Ali, was arrested for “violating conditions of her bail bond and probation.” It was her third arrest. Prosecutors allege that she tested positive for opiates and alcohol. The probation and bail bond relate to an alleged assault case in a Boulder bar with Ms al-Obeidy-Ali accused of pouring drink over a customer and then lobbing a glass at her. The trial is scheduled for 17th February with the possibility of her asylum status being rescinded.
However, back to projection. It transpires that the Pentagon has been supplying Viagra to US troops since 1998. That year it spent $50 million to keep troops, well, stiffened up. “The cost, roughly, of two Marine Corps Harrier jets or forty five Tomahawk cruise missiles …”
By 2014 the cost of extra-curricular military forces’ frolics had risen to an astonishing $504,816 of taxpayers money. An additional $17,000-plus was spent on two further erectile enhancing magic potions.
The Washington Free Beacon helpfully estimated: “that the amount of Viagra bought by the Pentagon last year could have supplied 80,770 hours, 33 minutes, and 36 seconds of sexual enhancement, assuming that erections don’t last longer than the 4 hour maximum advised by doctors.”
Surely coincidentally on February 14, St Valentine’s Day, Joachim Hagopian released an article: “Sexual Assault in the US Military – More Rapists Attend the Air Force Academy Than Any Other College in America.”
In a survey taken in 2012 “an unprecedented number” of over “26,000 incidents of unwanted sexual contact was reported by service men and women.” Further, weekly: “another high profile officer often in charge of reducing assaults was being investigated and charged himself.”
The US Air Force at Colorado Springs, writes Hagopian “has more rapists on Campus than any other college in the country.”
But then the US military planners would seem to be sex and bodily function obsessed. In 1994 they contemplated releasing pheromones (a hormonal stimulus) against enemy troops “to turn enemy soldiers into flaming love puppets whose objects of affection would be each other.”
“While enemy troops were preoccupied with making love instead of war …” America’s finest could blow them to bits. This bit of military dementia was dubbed the “gay bomb.”
Also dreamed up have been halitosis, flatulence and vomit-inducing chemicals to unleash on foes. Body function obsession clearly rules in the armed forces, officially and unofficially.
Projection: “ … is more commonly found … in personalities functioning at a primitive level.” Indeed. And to think both Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gaddafi were labeled mad by such as these.
Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist with special knowledge of Iraq. Author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of Baghdad in the Great City series for World Almanac books, she has also been Senior Researcher for two Award winning documentaries on Iraq, John Pilger’s Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq and Denis Halliday Returns for RTE (Ireland.)
In his March 6 Executive Order, “Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Ukraine,” Obama declares that support for Crimean self-determination constitutes “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.”
Obama and the lawyers who drafted his executive order did not notice that the way the order is drafted it applies to Obama, to the unelected coup government in Kiev, and to the Washington and EU regimes. The order says that any person “responsible for or complicit in, or to have engaged in, directly or indirectly … actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine” is subject to having his assets frozen.
Washington and the EU are the only two governments whose personnel have undermined democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine by overthrowing the elected government and imposing an unelected one.
Obama worshippers–yes there are still people that stupid–object when I call Obama the White House Fool. Yet, here is Obama or his lawyers proving that he is a fool by issuing an executive order that requires the property of Obama, Victoria Nuland, Samantha Powers, Susan Rice, the UK prime minister, the German chancellor, the French president, the EU Commission and any number of associated persons to be frozen by the US government.
Of course, Obama’s executive order will not be applied to those to whom it is applicable. It will be applied to those to whom it is not applicable–authorities who permitted the Crimean population to exercise democratic processes in order to determine their own fate.
Washington has stood democracy on its head. Overthrowing Ukraine’s democratic government and installing a puppet regime does not undermine democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine, but anything that allows self-determination to go forward in Crimea does undermine democratic processes.
Clearly, the West can no longer be associated with democracy.
Back in August, New York Times journalist Mark Landler wrote a gushing profile of Susan Rice, exploring the national security adviser’s alleged “idealism” when it comes to foreign policy and her increasingly influential role in the Obama administration. Landler documented how Rice, an “outspoken defender of human rights,” had managed to rein in her fervent humanitarian impulses and accept the need for “pragmatism” – after all, the United States cannot save everyone, everywhere. Sadly, our beneficence is constrained by practical realities.
Now we find Landler once again writing about Ms. Rice’s new realist approach to the Middle East and how it has impacted the president’s policy priorities in the region. In a piece published over the weekend, for which Rice provided an interview, Landler doesn’t even attempt to conceal his admiration for the brilliant strategist:
For Ms. Rice, 48, who previously served as ambassador to the United Nations, it is an uncharacteristic imprint. A self-confident foreign policy thinker and expert on Africa, she is known as a fierce defender of human rights, advocating military intervention, when necessary. She was among those who persuaded Mr. Obama to back a NATO air campaign in Libya to avert a slaughter of the rebels by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
First, this paragraph does not belong in the news section of the Times. Landler is clearly editorializing about a government official he likes and respects very much. This is not “reporting” as that term is defined by outlets like the New York Times.
Furthermore, consider the substance of this commentary about Rice, who, we are told, is “known as a fierce defender of human rights.” This raises some obvious questions. Where, exactly, is she “known” for her advocacy in this regard? Who are the people that purportedly view Rice as a champion of human rights? Not the people of Africa, one may assume, given that Rice, over the course of her career, has “shown an unsettling sympathy” for some of the continent’s most brutal tyrants.
In perhaps the most glaring example, Rice was able to suspend her “fierce” support for human rights long enough to strongly support Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, a violent and repressive ruler who died in 2012. Rice called him ”brilliant” and considered him a “true friend,” although she admitted to having some differences of opinion with the great man, over such trivial issues as democracy and human rights. But why let petty stuff like that come between friends?
Rice’s “self-confident foreign policy thinking” has never included any discernible consideration of the plight of the Palestinians, perhaps the most oppressed people on Earth. Her views have never strayed even an inch from the standard line that all “serious” U.S. officials must take when it comes to Israel.
Even a cursory view of Susan Rice’s career shows that her idea of “fiercely defending human rights” is essentially indistinguishable from that of virtually every other official in Washington: victims of human rights abuses are accorded dramatically different degrees of sympathy depending on the abusers’ standing with the U.S. Government. Imprisoned, suffering Gazans might as well not exist. Ditto for political prisoners in Ethiopia, or victims of terrorism in Colombia, or the countless families who have had loved ones killed by U.S. military interventions over the past few decades (all of which Rice has supported).
Mark Landler and the New York Times may genuinely not know about Rice’s flagrant hypocrisy, or they may simply be propagandizing for a particularly favored official. The latter is certainly more likely. Either way, calling a consistent advocate of military violence and repression a “fierce defender of human rights” is a clear – though unsurprising – failure of journalistic honesty. That label should only be applied to those who believe human rights are universal and are not dependent on the victims’ worthiness in the geopolitical perspective of the United States.
Justin Doolittle writes a political blog called Crimethink.
US President Barack Obama has failed to rally international support for conducting military strikes on Syria after two days of lobbying in Russia.
Obama, who arrived in St. Petersburg on Thursday to attend the Group of 20 summit, could not persuade foreign leaders to support his war plans as they urged him not to launch any attack without the United Nations’ permission.
During a long debate, Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir V. Putin each argued their positions on the issue.
Putin argued that a majority of the leaders, including the leaders of China, India, Indonesia, Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Germany and South Africa, oppose a military strike independent of the United Nations.
Not only did the Russian president oppose military action against Syria, but he also rejected Washington and its allies’ allegations that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in an attack last month.
“We hear each other and understand the arguments,” Putin said. “We simply don’t agree with them. I don’t agree with his arguments and he doesn’t agree with mine, but we hear and try to analyze.”
The only members of the Group of 20 nations which supported Obama were Canada, France, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, Putin added.
Nevertheless, Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, said Australia, Britain, Italy, Japan, Spain and South Korea could also be added to the list of US allies supporting an attack on Syria.
The US president’s failure to rally international support for his war plans against Syria will make it even more difficult for him to convince US lawmakers and voters to support a strike on Syria.
Obama himself said that he had a “hard sell” and that he might not succeed in winning over the US public which, according to polls, still opposes a strike.
Obama said that he would lay out his case during an address on Tuesday before Congress votes on a resolution authorizing his administration to attack Syria.
According to a whip count by Think Progress, an overwhelming majority of the members of the US House of Representatives are either undecided or likely to vote against a US attack on the Middle Eastern country.
- Obama rejects G20 calls to abandon Syria strike plan (timesofindia.indiatimes.com)
- Reuters: Obama ‘Appeared Isolated in St. Petersburg’ at G20 Summit (breitbart.com)
“Foreign policy is an explicitly amoral enterprise,” Samantha Power, 2003.
On 10 August, the newly appointed US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, addressed the Fourth Estate Leadership Summit, an event of Invisible Children. This was Ambassador Power’s first public address since she took her seat at the United Nations. Invisible Children is the campaign group that has been behind several iterations of the “Stop Kony” video, which went viral in 2012. Power praised the group for its “new kind of activism” whose “army of civilian activists” had pushed the Obama administration to tougher action against Joseph Kony, the head of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and whose example had helped Kenyans and Russians and most of all Arabs, who “barely knew democracy as recently as three years ago,” to use the Internet to hold governments accountable. Power is not naïve. She knows that the Internet is not sufficient, since it is simply “a means to an end. What matters is the real world scoreboard.” The “real world scoreboard” touts up the exertions of power by actors that Power sees as benign, such as the United States government. Internet activism can prod the US government to action, and when it does, then it is effective. World history can only happen when the US government’s snout pushes along the Dialectic; anything else is simply the passage of time.
What did the Stop Kony video achieve, according to Power? It pushed a US senator (John Kerry) to draft a bill to stiffen US action against Kony. This bill and its consequent law drew on two resources. First, since 1986 the United States had drawn up lists of narco-traffickers that it wished either arrested or killed, and to which end it provided a bounty on the heads of these people through the State Department’s Narcotics Rewards Program. Each reward was not to exceed five million dollars. Second, the State Department has used a similar rewards program for individuals who helped turn in war criminals sought by international tribunals and courts (for Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Yugoslavia). These international bodies had already drawn up their lists of criminals, for whose heads the United States provided rewards. The Kerry bill refashioned these programs into the Rewards Program Update and Technical Corrections Act of 2012, signed into law by Obama in January 2013. The new approach allows the US State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice to draw up its own lists and to offer rewards for the capture of criminals. John Kerry, now the Secretary of State, hastened to say that the new approach is “not a dead-or-alive bounty program. Information must lead to the secure arrest, transfer, or conviction of these people in a court of law. We want these men to look into the eyes of their victims and answer for their actions.”
Power, one of the champions of the new law and an advocate of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine for liberal interventionism, follows Susan Rice to the United Nations. Rice was equally adamant about the use of US-NATO force to enforce her perception of what counts as a human rights violation. During Rice’s tenure at the United Nations there was no use of the language of human rights and the R2P doctrine on behalf of the Palestinians (under occupation by the state of Israel), or the people of the Congo (under the yoke of neighbouring Rwanda through the M23 rebel group), or indeed of the people of Equatorial Guinea (whose ruthless president Obiang enjoyed a warm photo-op with the Obamas in 2012). US allies never felt the edge of Rice’s rhetoric, nor Obama’s sanctions. [Vijay Prashad, “The Agonies of Susan Rice: Gaza and the Negroponte Doctrine,” Jadaliyya, 15 November 2012] Dressed in sheep’s clothing, the ravenous wolves of the Global North defended their allies while they threatened their enemies. It didn’t help the latter that many of them are vicious and deserve to be caught and punished. But it did help the United States and its allies to concentrate the spotlight on them and allow their friends to sit in the shadows, smug in their impunity. It also allowed the United States and its allies to import armed forces into parts of the world (mainly Africa as it turns out) where it has interests to protect.
Kony, the Trojan Horse
Like so many post-colonial states, Uganda has not been able to settle its problems of political geography and political economy. A North-South divide in the country was exacerbated by British colonialism, which relied upon the South to provide it with recruits to the crucial King’s African Rifles and petty administrators for the region. When the South became the vanguard of the anti-colonial struggle, the British turned their recruitment efforts to the North, among the Acholi and West Nile groups, driving a wedge that endures. The South had been host to whatever economic development had been forged by colonialism, who brought in captive labor from the North. These fissures provided grist for the mill of post-colonial leaders such as Obote and Amin, both of whom used these divides to their venal ends. Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Army, rooted in the South, took on the Northern forces of Obote in the early 1980s that resulted in massacres of hundreds of thousands of people. Museveni came to power in 1986 through the National Resistance Movement, a thin veneer of difference from his army of previous years. It continues to rule Uganda, with Museveni crowned as one of the African Renaissance leaders by the Clinton administration.
A defeated and demoralized North came together behind two millenarian cults, first that of Alice Auma Lakwena (Holy Spirit Mobile Force) in 1987 and then second after her downfall, that of her kinsman Joseph Kony in the 1990s. Kony’s LRA became a dangerous cult, kidnapping children, using violence to sow fear in Acholiland, and fighting a war against the Ugandan government without a defined political strategy. No political dialogue emerged during the 1990s or the early 2000s, as Museveni sought a military solution against the LRA and as Kony floundered through the haze of anarchic violence. In 2005, the International Criminal Court framed arrest warrants for Kony and four of his lieutenants, and the US government placed the LRA on its terror list. Not long after this, Kony’s LRA had been severely degraded and his remaining forces (not more than 200) fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from where it is reported to have taken refuge in the Central African Republic. By 2012, the LRA was no longer the existential threat it was to Northern Uganda. It had become a criminal gang, poaching animals and stealing food, looking for survival rather than for political power. As the US State Department’s own Amanda Dory told Congress in April 2012, “The common assessment is that [Kony] has been significantly degraded and is in a survival and evasion mode at this point.” This sober assessment did not slow down the frenzy of the “Kony 2012” nor of the entry of US troops into the African continent. None of the grievances of the North that gave rise to Alice Auma or Kony have been settled. The fissures remain, even as Kony has been chased off.
Invisible Children, which made the Kony 2012 video that Powers praised, has its roots in evangelical Christian politics. It came to Kony only after its foray into Darfur had floundered (on the way in which the Darfur issue suited both US and Israeli state interests, see Mahmood Mamdani, Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics and the War on Terror, 2010). It sought an African mission to champion, an old colonial narrative of the white Christians who make their name by saving the black Africans. Their view of the conflict is simplified to the point of a cartoon: the more they demonize Kony, the more Museveni’s own dictatorial rule is minimized, and the more they validate the entry of US armed forces into the region (Obama sent one hundred military advisors to Uganda in 2010).
Obama’s administration sinks in the quicksand of its liberal ambitions –few of its liberal foreign policy objectives have been met; not the closing down of Guantanamo’s prison, nor the tethering of an out-of-control surveillance apparatus, nor even the War on Terror in general. In fact, Obama has intensified the drone warfare in Yemen and Pakistan, and tethered itself to a resurgent Saudi Arabia on the back of Qatari withdrawal. To polish its carapace, the Obama administration has become a latter-day believer in gay rights on the world stage. Power went on Jay Leno’s program to talk about global LGBT rights and held a Google hangout with human rights activists where the issue of LGBT rights was center-stage (later, on twitter, Power mourned the loss of “Eric Ohena Lembembe, a courageous Cameroonian activist tortured to death last month”). But, to stay on the Uganda story, Power did not raise the issue of LGBT rights and Uganda. In 2011, gay activist David Kato Kisule was murdered in Mukono, Uganda. Kato had been a leader in the struggle for gay rights in Uganda. Invisible Children’s financial links to the Discovery Institute complicates matters for Powers’ liberal interventionism–Discovery’s head Lou Engle was in Kampala, Uganda in May 2010 heading up an anti-gay rally in support of an anti-gay bill that has been championed by President Museveni. Ambassador Power’s claim to move a pro-LGBT agenda at the UN is at odds with her choosing to give her first speech at a forum that shares much with the anti-gay agenda of the Discovery Institute and Ugandan President Museveni. She did not make any remarks about this at her speech at the Fourth Estate Summit. In fact, Power did not raise the issue of LGBT rights at that Los Angeles gala. This is standard issue “pinkwashing,” a cavalier use of a real campaign to re-brand the sinking ship of US soft power.
Invisible Children’s “Kony 2012” helped shore up a new trend in US policy, to seek military solutions where much more complex policy options need to be considered. Forging military partnerships with Museveni’s Uganda will not help the people of the North, whose main issue is loss of land to investors, and loss of livelihood over the course of two generations. Nor will it solve the problems of a nascent people’s movement, which is being stamped down by the anti-protest Public Order Management Bill (passed by parliament on 6 August). Opposition leader Nandala Mafabi called this bill unconstitutional, but where will be the room to legally dispute it on the streets? None of this detained the human rights apparatus created by Rice and Power, and sanctified by Obama. Their human rights agenda is driven not by popular protests on the streets but by the cordite from an F-16.
“What matters,” said Ambassador Power at the Invisible Children gala, “are results – everything else is just noise.” But what matters are well is ideology and power – who gets to define what is a crisis and who gets to frame the actions necessary to solve the crisis? In 2005, through US pressure, the United Nations adopted the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine. One of its champions was Samantha Power. The R2P doctrine holds that a state has the legal responsibility to protect is people, and if this state fails to do so the international community must involve itself with “coercive measures” such as economic sanctions but with military intervention as “the last resort.” In other words, the R2P doctrine is endowed with the ability to conscript Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which forces the United Nations to use military force. But, as has become obvious over the past few decades, the idea of the “international community” is not as global as it seems–that term has come to reflect the views of the North Atlantic countries, whose military hegemony through the US armed forces and its tentacular base structure as well as NATO gives them the ultimate veto over the narrative of world affairs. What matters, then, is not suffering in general, but the suffering deemed by the North Atlantic states to be against their interests, to whose defence the bombers are set loose.
Last year, India’s former Ambassador to the United Nations, Hardeep Singh Puri, offered a robust criticism of the R2P doctrine from this general standpoint. Puri pointed out that the United Nations used the doctrine “selectively,” and when the United Nations selects a conflict for intervention, the armed phase is immediate rather than “calibrated and gradual”. The selectivity is a function of those who continue to exercise their power through the UN bodies, which is to say that the North Atlantic states set the agenda for the use of the R2P doctrine. Puri’s criticisms come in the wake of the Libyan intervention, which Obama, Rice, and Power use as the standard for the use of R2P. However, many powers, including the BRICS states, are wary of that usage. They argue that the United States misled the Council and then misused the UN Resolution 1973, a feint that forced UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to publically defend the NATO action in December 2011. It is because of the way the R2P was used in Libya that it the BRICS states have indicated that they will not allow such an open-ended R2P resolution, including for Syria. Power comes to the United Nations stepping over the rubble of R2P.
Tactically, it is smart of Power to go to Invisible Children, to pose as a grassroots activist who is going to be pushed by the people and be the people’s champion in the Security Council. It will shine Power’s reputation a bit, but not much. With the Bush administration walking away from the ICC and shredding the Kyoto agreement, Power wrote, “The United States [has come] to be seen less as it sees itself (the cop protecting the world from rogue nations) than as the very runaway state international law needs to contain.” In the Obama administration, Power did nothing to contain the “runaway state,” indeed she helped secure inside the United Nations a “law,” R2P, that gives the United States permission to be unrestrained. That is the Konyism of Samantha Power.
- Why Is Samantha Power Speaking to Invisible Children? (nationalinterest.org)
One consumes U.S. corporate media at the risk of one’s sanity. Schizophrenia, for example, appears to be the permanent mental state at the New York Times, which cannot figure out which global reality is operative on any given day. Last week, the Times almost simultaneously painted a picture of two different and contradictory worlds – or, at least, two very different Obama administrations. On Friday, June 5, in the wake of the military coup against Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, the Times depicted the Obama administration as totally unruffled by the turmoil in Cairo – as if the U.S. had little stake in the outcome. The Times headline proclaimed: “Egypt Crisis Finds Washington Largely Ambivalent and Aloof.” The newspaper of record gave the impression that Egypt was no longer a “strategic player” in the region and, therefore, the political complexion of its government was nothing for Washington to worry its last nerve about.
By Saturday, July 6, the article had been replaced by reporting on what the Obama administration had really been up to as the coup unfolded. It described President Morsi’s “last hours” in office, awaiting his fate at the hands of an Egyptian military that has been a United States asset for the last 40 years. An Arab foreign minister telephoned to ask if Morsi would accept the appointment of a new prime minister and cabinet, which would make Morsi a mere figurehead. The Arab foreign minister made it clear that he was acting as an emissary of Washington.
Morsi rejected the offer. His top foreign policy advisor stepped out of the room to call the U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson, and tell her so. But, when he came back, he said he’d been on the phone with Susan Rice, Obama’s national security advisor, in Washington, who advised him that the coup was about to begin.
So, of course, the U.S. was deeply involved in the events that were swirling in Cairo – it would have been bizarre beyond belief if the superpower had, indeed, been “ambivalent” or “aloof” about the fate of the Arab world’s most populous country. What is amazing, is the ability of an organization as large as the New York Times to accommodate two opposite realities within its own pages, and pass off both as the truth, without shame or even visible embarrassment.
The New York Times and its corporate colleagues are not in the business of providing reliable information, but of rationalizing and sanitizing the behavior of those in power. If there are contradictions in the narrative, they can always be papered over with more lies in the next edition.
However, the lies told by the Times and its ilk cannot alter the reality of U.S. decline; they can only make Americans oblivious to the facts. The United States will get the kind of civilian front men it wants in Egypt: international corporate citizens like economist el-Hazem Beblawy, as interim prime minister, and Mohamed ElBaradei, the darling of the global rich, as a vice president. But the U.S. is also now dependent on Muslim fundamentalists as the foot soldiers of imperialism in Syria and North Africa, even as it double-crossed its Muslim Brotherhood friend, former president Morsi. And the Arab royals of the Persian Gulf have their own plans for the region. The superpower isn’t as super as it used to be – but you won’t find out why in the New York Times.
Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
Conflicting news reports have been coming out on the death of Father Francois Murad. Initially it was reported by a number of sources, including a press release from the Vatican, that the priest had been beheaded. Today, however, reports are saying that no, this was incorrect, that he was only shot dead, and that the video purporting to show his beheading was an old video. Here is how The Telegraph is reporting the matter:
The footage, said to show Father Francois Murad, 49, as the victim in a brutal summary execution by foreign jihadists is likely to be an older video that bares no relation to the death of the Catholic priest.
Father Murad “died when he was shot inside his church” in the northern Syrian Christian village of Ghassaniyeh on June 23, three separate local sources, who did not wish to be named, told the Telegraph.
Claims that Father Murad was one of two men to be decapitated by a foreign jihadist group went viral, with outrage expressed in blogs and articles worldwide.
The story goes on to describe the contents of the video, noting that it is “too grainy to be able to confirm the identity of either of the victims as Father Francois,” while offering quotes of clarification from Human Rights Watch as well as Holy Land Custos Pierbattista Pizzabala. The latter is quoted as saying, “Islamists attacked the monastery, ransacking it and destroying everything. When Father Francois tried to resist, defending the nuns, rebels shot him.”
According to the HRW spokesperson, the video “looks like it may have been filmed” several months ago, well before Murad’s death, and that the confusion may have arisen due to its appearance “around the same time that the news came out that Father Francois had been killed.”
All of this quite naturally raises some questions. Descriptions of the video, found at both LiveLeak and YouTube, specifically said the two men shown being beheaded were Christians and that Murad was one of them. Who made this video available to the public and what was their motive?
The conflict in Syria is becoming more and more like a house of mirrors—something noted in a report by journalist Patrick Cockburn published Sunday in The Independent and headlined, “Foreign Media Portrayals of the Conflict in Syria are Dangerously Inaccurate.” Cockburn writes:
Every time I come to Syria I am struck by how different the situation is on the ground from the way it is pictured in the outside world. The foreign media reporting of the Syrian conflict is surely as inaccurate and misleading as anything we have seen since the start of the First World War. I can’t think of any other war or crisis I have covered in which propagandistic, biased or second-hand sources have been so readily accepted by journalists as providers of objective facts.
Slogans replace policies: the rebels are pictured as white hats and the government supporters as black hats; given more weapons, the opposition can supposedly win a decisive victory; put under enough military pressure, President Bashar al-Assad will agree to negotiations for which a pre-condition is capitulation by his side in the conflict. One of the many drawbacks of the demonising rhetoric indulged in by the incoming US National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and William Hague, is that it rules out serious negotiations and compromise with the powers-that-be in Damascus. And since Assad controls most of Syria, Rice and Hague have devised a recipe for endless war while pretending humanitarian concern for the Syrian people.
In the midst of all this confusion and pretense over humanitarian concerns comes a report from the Hudson Institute highlighting the horrendous toll the conflict has taken on Syria’s Christian population. The report documents, among other things, deaths of priests, though here again there is some suspicious timing. On June 25, two days after the murder of Father Murad, a pair of congressional subcommittees held a joint hearing on the issue of “Religious Minorities in Syria: Caught in the Middle.” This is the subject of the Hudson Institute’s report, or more specifically the report focuses on the testimony given at the hearing by one of the institute’s chief researchers on the plight of Syria’s Christians.
Such a report becomes all the more remarkable when you consider that the Hudson Institute basically could be thought of as a neocon think tank. Its senior vice president is Lewis “Scooter” Libby, while Douglas Feith is listed as a senior fellow. Is there not something strange about a report documenting rebel atrocities against Syrian Christians being released by such an organization? Doesn’t Israel want to see Assad overthrown, and haven’t the Zionist media been feeding us the spin of the rebels, as Cockburn puts it, wearing the “white hats”? What gives?
I’ll have more on this report in an upcoming post, hopefully in a day or two.
- Catholic Online Muddles Story of Priest’s Beheading (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Vatican confirms horror beheading of Catholic priest by Syrian rebels (independent.ie)
Barack Obama’s nominee for United Nations Ambassador is a very aggressive woman – militarily speaking. Susan Rice is “more bellicose” than George Bush when it comes to threatening Sudan over the plight of the people of Darfur, “while simultaneously backing a savage U.S.-Ethiopian assault that causes an even larger humanitarian calamity in Somalia.” One is forced to conclude that “Susan Rice’s brand of ‘humanitarian intervention’ is a farce, a pretext to justify military aggression under the guise of preventing human suffering.”
If you believe that Barack Obama will pursue a policy in the Horn of Africa that is substantially different than that of George Bush, you are in for a deep disappointment. Only weeks after Ethiopia’s U.S.-instigated invasion of Somalia almost two years ago, Susan Rice, Obama’s choice for Ambassador to the United Nations, endorsed the aggression – an atrocity that has resulted in the displacement of 1.5 million Somalis and impending starvation of 3.5 million more.
Rice is a proponent of so-called “humanitarian military intervention” – but supports a U.S. Somalia policy that created “Africa’s worst humanitarian crisis,” according to the United Nations.
There is every reason to believe she will counsel the next president to continue George Bush’s policies in the Horn of Africa. In January, 2007, while Ethiopian troops attempted to crush Islamists who had brought a brief period of relative peace and stability to Somalia, and U.S. air and sea forces pounded the countryside with missiles and bombs, Rice revealed herself to be an apostle of George Bush’s War on Somalia (and the so-called War on Terror in general). Rice told the PBS News Hour that U.S. collaboration with the Ethiopian invaders was justified by what she called America’s “counterterrorism imperatives,” which she said “really are real in the context of Somalia.” In Rice’s words, “We have to go after the terrorist cells where we find them.”
The Bush regime gave no estimate of how many persons with ties to Al Qaida were operating on Somali soil, but the number appears to have been very small. The main goal of the Americans and their Ethiopian allies was to crush the government that had been created by Somali Islamists. The Islamic Courts regime, as Abukar Arman writes in the journal Global Politician, operated “schools, hospitals, and for six months before the occupation removed every checkpoint in Mogadishu and brought a semblance of peace.” Two years after the invasion, the Islamists have retaken much of southern and central Somalia, and the Ethiopians appear poised to withdraw – after killing, starving and displacing millions in partnership with the United States.
The “humanitarian” component of Susan Rice’s militarism is quite selective.
She has long been a super-hawk on punishing Sudan for its behavior in Darfur. Back in October, 2006, Rice declared, “It’s time to get tough” with the government in Khartoum.” In a Washington Post column, she advised the Bush regime to give Sudan “an ultimatum: accept unconditional deployment of the U.N. force within one week or face military consequences.”
On Darfur, Rice is more bellicose than Bush. She sees no contradiction in calling for military action against Sudan, supposedly to end a “humanitarian crisis” in Darfur, while simultaneously backing a savage U.S.-Ethiopian assault that causes an even larger humanitarian calamity in Somalia. Rice claims to seek safety for civilians in Darfur, while supporting a total absence of security for Somali civilians. Darfur is a military/political convenience for “real-politic” operatives like Susan Rice. As Bruce Dixon wrote in his November 2007 BAR article, “If stopping genocide in Africa really was on the agenda, why the focus on Sudan with 200,000 to 400,000 dead rather than Congo with five million dead?”
Rice’s behavior in Africa has always been morally inconsistent. She was a member of Bill Clinton’s National Security Council during the 1994 Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi minority. Later, she “swore” she would go “down in flames” if necessary to prevent future genocides. But after her promotion to Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, she failed to publicly advocate action against U.S. allies Uganda and by then Tutsi-ruled Rwanda – the main perpetrators in an ongoing war that his killed millions
Susan Rice’s brand of “humanitarian intervention” is a farce, a pretext to justify military aggression under the guise of preventing human suffering. She has amply demonstrated that her sole concern is projection of U.S. power by any means – or pretext – that is available.
Rice embraces a policy that causes mass death and starvation in Somalia and ongoing genocide in Congo. Although she’s no blood relative of Condoleezza Rice, on African issues she seems headed in the same direction as the current Secretary of State.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com
- Susan Rice and American Evil (alethonews.wordpress.com)
President Barack Obama should ditch the idea of nominating U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice to be the next Secretary of State on substantive grounds, not because she may have – knowingly or not – fudged the truth about the attack on the poorly guarded CIA installation in Benghazi, Libya.
Rice’s biggest disqualification is the fact that she has shown little willingness to challenge the frequently wrongheaded conventional wisdom of Official Washington, including on the critical question of invading Iraq in 2003. At that pivotal moment, Rice essentially went with the flow, rather than standing up for the principles of international law or exposing the pro-war deceptions.
In fall 2002, as President George W. Bush and his administration were pounding the drums for war, Rice wasn’t exactly a profile in courage. A senior fellow at the centrist Brookings Institution, she echoed the neoconservative demands for “regime change” in Iraq and doubted the “need [for] a further [U.N. Security] Council resolution before we can enforce this and previous resolutions” on Iraq, according a compilation of her Iraq War comments by the Institute for Public Accuracy.
In an NPR interview on Dec. 20, 2002, Rice joined the bellicose chorus, declaring: “It’s clear that Iraq poses a major threat. It’s clear that its weapons of mass destruction need to be dealt with forcefully, and that’s the path we’re on. I think the question becomes whether we can keep the diplomatic balls in the air and not drop any, even as we move forward, as we must, on the military side.”
Rice also was wowed by Secretary of State Colin Powell’s deceptive speech to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003. The next day, again on NPR, Rice said, “I think he has proved that Iraq has these weapons and is hiding them, and I don’t think many informed people doubted that.”
After the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, Rice foresaw an open-ended U.S. occupation of Iraq. In a Washington Post online forum, she declared, “To maximize our likelihood of success, the US is going to have to remain committed to and focused on reconstruction and rehabilitation of Iraq for many years to come. This administration and future ones will need to demonstrate a longer attention span than we have in Afghanistan, and we will have to embrace rather than evade the essential tasks of peacekeeping and nation building.”
Only later, when the Iraq War began going badly and especially after she became an adviser to Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, did Rice take a less hawkish position. She opposed President Bush’s troop “surge” in 2007, a stance in line with Obama’s anti-Iraq War posture. During Campaign 2008, she also mocked one of Sen. John McCain’s trips to Baghdad as “strolling around the market in a flak jacket.”
The Ambitious Staffer
In other words, Rice fits the mold more of an ambitious staffer – ever mindful of the safe boundaries for permissible thought in Official Washington and eager to serve one’s political patron – than of a courageous foreign policy thinker who can see around the corners to spot the actual threats looming for the United States and the world.
Though Rice’s defenders might say there is nothing unusual in an aspiring foreign policy operative following the consensus or the instructions of a superior, there are plenty of troubling examples of innocent people getting killed when careerism overwhelmed wisdom and judgment. For instance, in 2003, CIA Director George Tenet, a malleable former congressional staffer, helped pave the way for the disastrous Iraq War.
Ironically, Rice’s eagerness to play the Washington game also landed her in the middle of the current “scandal” over her statements regarding the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi which left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
On Sept. 16, Rice appeared on five (count them) Sunday TV shows, adhering closely to the CIA-provided “talking points,” which cited the likelihood of a spontaneous protest preceding the violent assault but which alluded to the tenuousness of the evidence available at the time.
Blinded by the limelight, Rice seems to have blundered into the controversy, giving little thought to the possibility that she was being put out front by then-CIA Director David Petraeus and Obama’s counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan, who is the usual administration spokesman regarding terrorist attacks. Brennan immediately flew off to Libya on a fact-finding trip, leaving Rice in the unaccustomed role of ‘splaining the attack in Benghazi.
Rice also wasn’t overly curious as to why Secretary of State Hillary Clinton begged off on grounds she was “not going to offer any hypothetical explanations.”
Was Ambassador Rice too ambitious and/or too naïve? For her it is a cruel irony that by letting her vision be blurred by the allure of five sets of klieg lights in one day, and the opportunity to embellish her persona for the top job at State, she has imperiled her own candidacy.
Loyal functionaries like Rice, with a penchant for doing whatever they are told do not expect to be mouse-trapped by their colleagues. But, if you can’t see that kind of thing coming – particularly when folks like Brennan and Petraeus are involved – you should not expect to become Secretary of State.
It also might have been smart for Rice to have taken the trouble to learn what U.S. officials were doing in Benghazi. Did she know that, as House minority leader Nancy Pelosi has revealed, the word “consulate” in the draft “talking points” was carefully changed to “mission”?
A prospective Secretary of State should know the difference. A “mission” is a group of officials abroad normally headed by a diplomat while a consulate is headed by a consul who normally handles commercial interests, serves the needs of citizens abroad and issues visas.
The difference between consulate and mission is more than semantic. Consulates, understandably, perform consular duties. Missions can do whatever. As my former CIA analyst colleague, Melvin A. Goodman pointed out in “The Why Behind the Benghazi Attack,” the hidden reality in Benghazi was not the alleged deception by Rice or the inadequate security measures.
The key secret was that the U.S. government had transformed the Benghazi “mission” into an operational CIA base spying on and seeking to neutralize extremist militias operating in eastern Libya. Thus, the “mission” was an inviting target for attack. In a limited sense, one could say the primary security failure was in not adequately anticipating this risk.
The more significant point is that, because of the anger resulting from U.S. policy in the area and the CIA role in implementing it, there is great doubt that “missions” like the one in Benghazi can ever be protected from the kind of organized assault launched on Sept. 11, 2012. And that probably includes gigantic, fortified installations like the U.S. embassies in Baghdad and Kabul.
A month before the U.S. presidential election, House Government Affairs Committee chair Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, conducted a public hearing, in an attempt to prove that with adequate security measures the attack on the Benghazi “mission” could have been thwarted and American lives saved.
Issa’s star witness, State Department Regional Security Officer Eric Nordstrom, joined others in bemoaning State’s refusal to provide additional security (partly due to congressional refusal to appropriate all the requested funds).
But Nordstrom shot a wide hole in the notion that more security could have saved the day. A 14-year veteran of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, Nordstrom said the kind of attack mounted in Benghazi could not have been prevented.
“Having an extra foot of wall, or an extra half-dozen guards or agents would not have enabled us to respond to that kind of assault,” Nordstrom said. “The ferocity and intensity of the attack was nothing that we had seen in Libya, or that I had seen in my time in the Diplomatic Security Service.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Real Blame for Deaths in Libya.”]
Whether media pundits are conscious of this or not, the interminable focus on what Susan Rice said and when she said it, as well as the inadequate security, divert attention from what the CIA was doing in Benghazi. No Establishment figure or media pundit wants to focus on that. And, as Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, recently conceded, no politician wants to risk appearing reluctant to support covert action against “terrorism.”
But a source with excellent access, so to speak, to former CIA Director David Petraeus, his biographer/mistress Paula Broadwell, said publicly on Oct. 26 that the CIA was interrogating prisoners in Benghazi and that this may have been the reason the CIA base was so brutally attacked. More bizarre still, her comments were corroborated by Fox News!
If Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham were genuinely interested in what happened in Benghazi and why, would they not wish to look into that?
A C-Minus on Substance
President Obama has defended Rice against those who would “besmirch” her reputation, saying she “has done exemplary work. She has represented the United States and our interests in the United Nations with skill, professionalism, and toughness, and grace.”
Obama also said she had “nothing to do with Benghazi.” However, this does not appear to be entirely accurate. It is an open secret that Susan Rice, together with Hillary Clinton and Samantha Power, now ensconced at Obama’s National Security Council, were big promoters of the so-called “responsibility to protect” and thus acted as prime movers behind the U.S. excellent adventure in Libya.
The charitable explanation is that last year, with a thoroughly naïve “Gaddafi-bad-guys-vs.-maybe-good-guys” approach, blissfully unaware of which elements they might be “protecting” or “liberating” in Benghazi, and with little planning regarding who might replace Gaddafi, they made their mark on Libya.
Are we to believe that they gave not a thought to the imperative felt by key NATO partners to exploit the fledgling “Libyan Arab spring” to ensure the continuing flow of high-grade crude? And did none of them take any lessons from the excellent adventure of going into Iraq with no serious plan for what might come next?
As for Ambassador Rice, as some have suggested, her judgment may be compromised by well-deserved guilt at having done nothing to stop the killing of 800,000 Rwandans in 1994 when she was White House referent for African affairs at the NSC under President Bill Clinton and acquiesced in his reluctance to call genocide “genocide.”
This presumably was why, when President Bill Clinton nominated Susan Rice to be Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in 1997, the Congressional Black Caucus objected to the nomination, citing her membership in “Washington’s assimilationist black elite.”
The caucus got that right. Susan Rice has moved up the ladder by demonstrating an uncanny ability to ignore the interests of the oppressed – black or brown – whether in Rwanda or in Gaza. Her selective judgment on when to intervene in a foreign crisis normally follows the conventional wisdom of Official Washington, such as with Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011.
Ignoring Palestine’s Plight
Thus, her empathy for the “good guys” (whoever they may be) in Libya does not extend to the Palestinians. Like other myopic policymakers and spokespersons, Rice ignores the misery in Gaza and the West Bank because to do otherwise would cast her outside Official Washington’s perceived wisdom, which holds that no smart politician or pundit confronts Israel too directly or too frequently.
However, the fact that last Thursday the United States could muster only eight votes (beside its own), from the 193 member states of the General Assembly, to oppose giving Palestine the status of non-member observer state is surely a harbinger of defeats to come on this key issue.
Rice’s one-sided defense of Israel as it pummeled the defenseless Gazans last month was not only unconscionable, but in the long run counterproductive – not only for the U.S. but for Israel. Granted, Rice was speaking for the Obama administration but there are no indications that she has used her influence with the President to reshape U.S. policy significantly.
Her failure to dissent, which would surely undo her careful construction of a Washington career, continues even as Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yashai has acknowledged that Israel’s goal was to “send Gaza back to the Middle Ages” and other Israeli officials casually liken their periodic bloodletting in Gaza to “mowing the grass.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Likening Palestinians to Blades of Grass.”]
Washington’s public support for the carnage no doubt has left Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a sense of invulnerability even in the face of the stinging vote in the U.N. Thus, he retaliated for the U.N.’s affront by authoring 3,000 new homes for Jewish settlers and plans for thousands more in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
On Friday, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor replied lamely, “We reiterate our longstanding opposition to settlement activity and East Jerusalem construction and announcements.”
As the Biblical advice states: By their fruits shall you know them. So look at the fruits of Rice’s policy making, including her one-sided defense of Israel before a world audience increasingly aware of U.S. hypocrisy, particularly on the key issue of Palestine.
It can surely be assumed that Susan Rice is intelligent enough to understand the moral depravity of U.S. policy on Palestine. Then why does she fall so easily in with extreme pro-Israel hawks and neocons on such issues? Presumably, she understands that such positioning is how to get ahead.
In playing for support from her fellow hawks, Rice remains the ambitious staffer more than the wise diplomat. And like an ambitious staffer, she senses that hawkishness is usually a safer career path than thoughtful diplomacy. This is not the kind of person anyone should want as Secretary of State.
Ray McGovern served as an Army officer and then a CIA analyst for a total of 30 years and now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
- Susan Rice and American Evil (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Why does it matter if Susan Rice serves as secretary of state?
That is a trick question, because in fact, it doesn’t matter at all. American foreign policy will be unchanged regardless of who the next secretary may be. The full force of imperialism will be brought to bear against the people of the world under the Obama administration. The democratic president has made real the goals of the neo-con Project for a New American Century, a 21st century version of Manifest Destiny, the belief that the United States should rule the world and do so with a vengeance.
Rice’s nomination is a non-issue but is treated as an important one for many black people because of the words of right wing racists. The sight of the embittered sore loser John McCain calling Rice “unqualified” and “not very smart” reminds black people of the slights they are personally subjected to in their lives every day. It is especially galling for the insult to come from McCain, the quintessential entitlement baby. He was admitted to the U.S. Naval Academy because his father and grandfather were admirals. The legacy leg up didn’t help much because the mediocre young McCain still graduated at the bottom of his class. McCain’s insistence that the obviously sub-par Sarah Palin was a qualified vice presidential candidate makes the racist slaps at Rice all the more offensive.
The yearning to see a black face in one of the highest and most rarefied places is a very deep one and not to be easily dismissed, but it is crucial to note that Rice is no different from John McCain in her beliefs of how the United States should conduct itself in the world. The facts against Rice and her predecessors are obscured by a corporate media which hides all the atrocities committed by the United States government, making the Rice story appear like nothing more than that of a high achieving black woman being slandered by evil racists.
The case against Rice or whomever is nominated by the president should be a case made against United States foreign policy and all of the people who now or ever were in charge of carrying it out. The presidents, secretaries of state, United Nations ambassadors, national security advisers and their ilk are held up as paragons of virtue, intelligence and moral rectitude. They emerge from elite institutions and are held up as the “best and the brightest” the country has to offer.
A secretary of state not only has a prestigious position, but is considered an elder statesman or woman for life. Of course, he or she also can walk into positions of great wealth after their public service has ended. Corporate speeches, book deals and lucrative board positions await every living secretary of state from Henry Kissinger to Condoleezza Rice.
The true horror is that the people who hold these supposedly august positions are in fact no better than criminal enforcers in organized crime families. American secretaries of state have plotted invasions and assassinations, occupied countries, destroyed economies, fomented coups and in a myriad of other ways laid waste to sovereign nations. Countries which try to bring about their own democracies are thwarted if their plans are seen as a threat to American interests.
No secretary of state should be lionized and there is nothing wonderful about black people having the right to perform the evil acts which were once the reserve of whites.The Dulleses and Kissingers and their predecessors and successors made wars on huge swaths of the planet and did in fact crush attempts at democracy so that American businesses might be able to harvest bananas at cheap prices.
The appearance of Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice as part of the Bush administration foreign policy team ended the white monopoly on American state terror. Colin Powell went to the United Nations with his power point presentation full of lies in order to justify the invasion of Iraq. He also removed Jean Bertrand Aristide, Haiti’s democratically elected president, from office. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice covered up her own incompetence and the still murky facts which brought the September 11th terrorist attacks onto American soil.
It was during the Bush administration that the black face in the high place joined in committing the worst kinds of dirty work to be carried out by the United States around the globe. It was also the first time that black Americans began to look the other way and excuse their government’s inhumanity. Defending Colin and Condi became substitutes for analysis and the ideology that once made black Americans the group least supportive of their government’s acts of aggression.
The ascendancy of Barack Obama to the presidency accelerated this grotesque delusion of racial uplift. Not only are NDAA, kill lists, and naked imperialism to be overlooked, but the black man who destroyed Libya and Somalia and who is on the road to destroying Syria will have another terrorist of color by his side. In a perverse way this terrible duo will increase the joy of a people who a mere five years ago recoiled at the very behavior which Obama and Rice have exhibited toward the rest of the world.
America is and will continue to pose terrible threats to the rest of the world, whether the next secretary of state if Susan Rice or John Kerry or an unknown player to be named later. That should be the crux of any debates about who should serve in these positions. Anything else is just drama playing out while the world burns because the United States keeps lighting the match.
Margaret Kimberley can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.
- Susan “Genocide” Rice: Is Susan Rice “Bad for Congo” (disquietreservations.blogspot.com)
Russia accused the US on Wednesday of justifying terror in Syria, as it said that the West was spurring further bloodshed in the crisis-hit country.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that Washington’s failure to condemn the July 18 blast that killed top security officials meant it was justifying terror.
“This is quite an awful position, I cannot even find the words to make clear how we feel,” Lavrov said, adding: “This is directly justifying terrorism. How can this be understood?
Lavrov expressed bewilderment at calls on Russia to clarify its position on Syria, saying Moscow’s policy was crystal-clear and it was the West whose actions were contradictory.
He criticized the US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, saying she had argued that the attacks in Damascus meant the UN Security Council had to agree to a sanctions resolution against Syria last week that Russia later vetoed.
“In other words, to say it in plain Russian, this means ‘we (the United States) will continue to support such terrorist acts for as long as the UN Security Council has not done what we want’,” Lavrov said.
WEST SURRING BLOODSHED IN SYRIA
For his part, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said statements made by some Western leaders urging to end the conflict in Syria outside the UN Security Council framework were wrong and “a step aside from our common positions.”
During an interview with Itar-Tass news agency, Gatilov said: “We agreed that all foreign players will act in one direction – in the work with the government and with the opposition. We believe that viable decisions backing political settlement can be taken only in the UN Security Council.”
The international community would exert “proper influence” on both sides of the Syrian conflict only if it spoke with one voice and acted in coordination, Gatilov said, adding some Western partners’ intention to circumvent the UN would make no progress in the current difficult situation.
Meanwhile, Gatilov slammed those Western countries trying to spur “further bloodshed” from the opposition. “This upset us greatly, we take this as a step aside from the consensus obtained by the Geneva agreements,” the diplomat said.