Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Haiti, Hillary Clinton, Honduras, Human Rights, Imperialism, Latin America.
Tags: Bolivia, Evo Morales, hillary clinton, Honduras, honduras coup, human rights, imperialism, lanny davis, manuel zelaya, matthew pulver, Politics News, roger hollander, U.S. imperialism
Roger’s note: this entry partners with another (http://wp.me/pjfja-3cN) that describes the Clintons’ destructive if not genocidal presence in Haiti. Hillary Clinton on foreign policy and military intervention is a super hawk, further to the right than some right-wing Republicans. She supported the Iraq invasion and every other illegal and counterproductive US military adventure. The notion of supporting her as the lesser of evil with respect to the Republican nominee I will not dignify with a response. I learned a lesson in 1964 when I worked to elect the “peace candidate” Lyndon Johnson, who proceeded to escalate the Vietnam War resulting in millions of deaths. Electing Democrats to the presidency has the ironic effect of destroying the peace movement. We see this in spades with Barack Obama.
Monday, Jun 8, 2015 11:58 AM -0500
Want to know why Clinton’s State Dept. failed to help an elected leader? Follow the money and stench of Lanny Davis
Riot police hit a truck after its occupants ran away as they protested the June coup against President Manuel Zalaya and today’s general elections in San Pedro Sula, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2009. With President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a military coup last June, still holed up in the Brazilian embassy, voters will choose a new president Sunday from the political establishment that has dominated Honduras for decades. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)
Hilllary hanging with the Honduran oligarch suits, including the illegally elected president: In this handout picture released by the Guatemalan Presidency, Hondura’s President Porfirio Lobo talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Guatemala City, Friday, March 5, 2010. Clinton is on a one-day official visit to Guatemala. (AP Photo/Guatemala Presidency/Handout)
Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, considered by some to be the only real threat to Hillary Clinton, has joined Sen. Bernie Sanders to be the only two challengers to the former secretary of state. Republicans, whose seemingly limitless field seems poised for a “Hunger Games”-esque cage match, worry that a Clinton cakewalk through the primaries will leave her relatively unscathed in the general election against a beaten and beleaguered GOP nominee whose every foible will have been exposed.
And yet for some reason, GOP candidates lob tired Benghazi charges at the presumptive Democratic nominee during the short breaks in infighting. The issue only really excites the GOP base, and it’s highly unlikely that after almost three years of pounding the issue the tactic will work. Plus, House Republicans’ own two-year investigation into the attack absolved Clinton’s State Department of the worst GOP allegations, giving her something of her own “please proceed, Governor” arrow in the quiver if she is attacked from that angle.
It’s the SCUD missile of political attacks when there are laser-guided Tomahawks in the arsenal.
Republicans really hit on something when they started making noise about the Clintons’ relationship with foreign governments, CEOs and corporations, following the lead set by Peter Schweizer’s bestselling “Clinton Cash.” Cross-ideological ears perked up to rumored quid pro quos arranged while Hillary was atop State and Bill was out glad-handing global elites. Even liberals and progressives paid attention when the discussion turned to the Clintons and international elites making backroom, under-the-table deals at what Schweizer calls “the ‘wild west’ fringe of the global economy.”
Though it’s less sexy than Benghazi, the crisis following a coup in Honduras in 2009 has Hillary Clinton’s fingerprints all over it, and her alleged cooperation with oligarchic elites during the affair does much to expose Clinton’s newfound, campaign-season progressive rhetoric as hollow. Moreover, the Honduran coup is something of a radioactive issue with fallout that touches many on Team Clinton, including husband Bill, once put into a full context.
In the 5 a.m. darkness of June 28, 2009, more than two hundred armed, masked soldiers stormed the house of Honduran president Manuel Zelaya. Within minutes Zelaya, still in his pajamas, was thrown into a van and taken to a military base used by the U.S., where he was flown out of the country.
It was a military coup, said the UN General Assembly and the Organization of American States (OAS). The entire EU recalled its countries’ ambassadors, as did Latin American nations. The United States did not, making it virtually the only nation of note to maintain diplomatic relations with the coup government. Though the White House and the Clinton State Department denounced only the second such coup in the Western Hemisphere since the Cold War, Washington hedged in a way that other governments did not. It began to feel like lip service being paid, not real concern.
Washington was dragging its feet, but even within the Obama administration a distinction was seen very early seen between the White House and Secretary Clinton’s State Department. Obama called Zelaya’s removal an illegal “coup” the next day, while Secretary Clinton’s response was described as “holding off on formally branding it a coup.” President Obama carefully avoided calling it a military coup, despite that being the international consensus, because the “military” modifier would have abruptly suspended US military aid to Honduras, an integral site for the US Southern Command, but Obama called for the reinstatementof the elected president of Honduras removed from his country by the military.
Clinton was far more circumspect, suspiciously so. In an evasive press corps appearance, Secretary Clinton responded with tortured answers on the situation in Honduras and said that State was “withholding any formal legal determination.” She did offer that the situation had “evolved into a coup,” as if an elected president removed in his pajamas at gunpoint and exiled to another country was not the subject of a coup at the moment armed soldiers enter his home.
It’s hard to see those early evasions by Clinton, though, as a Benghazi-like confusion in the fog of the moment. Nearly a month later, Secretary Clinton would call President Zelaya’s defiance of the coup government and return to Honduras “reckless” and damaging to “the broader effort to restore democratic and constitutional order in the Honduras crisis.” Thanks to Wikileaks, we now know from a cable from the Honduran embassy sent just the day prior how certain the State Department was that Zelaya’s removal was a cut-and-dried military coup: “The Embassy perspective is that there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch,” wrote Ambassador Hugo Llorens, reporting from on the ground in Tegucigalpa.
And even months later, with the increasingly violent and basic rights-denying coup government still in place, State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley would incredulously maintain, “We aren’t taking sides against the de facto regime versus Zelaya.”
It was becoming widely believed that the Clinton State Department, along with the right-wing in Washington, was working behind the scenes to make sure that President Zelaya would not return to office. This U.S. cabal was coordinating with those behind the coup, it was being rumored, to bring new elections to Honduras, conducted by an illegal coup government, which would effectively terminate the term of Zelaya, who was illegally deposed in the final year of his constitutionally mandated single term. All this as Honduras was “descending deeper into a human rights and security abyss,” as the coup government was seen to be actually committing crimes worthy of removal from power. Professor Dana Frank, an expert in recent Honduran history at UC Santa Cruz, would charge in the New York Times that the resulting “abyss” in Honduras was “in good part the State Department’s making.”
Though the case has been made, it’s impossible to accuse Clinton of foreknowledge of the coup. Likewise, no smoking gun exists to definitively conclude that Clinton and her associates actively and willfully acted to maintain the coup government in league with the elite and corporate interests, but an abundance of evidence, combined with what we know about Clintonite ideals in foreign policy and global trade, makes a case deserving of a response from one of two or three people expected to become the most powerful person on earth.
Clinton herself even gets dangerously close to confessing a role in keeping Zelaya out of office in her book “Hard Choices,” in which she discussed the hard choice to ignore the most basic tenets of democracy and international norms:
“In the subsequent days [after the coup] I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere…We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot.”
One of those strategic partners appears to have been Clinton family legal pitbull, Lanny Davis, deployed as an auxiliary weapon against the rightful, legal, democratically elected president of Honduras. Davis famously defended President Bill Clinton during his impeachment proceedings, and he’s been on Team Clinton for decades, most recently serving as a booster for Hillary’s campaign in its early days.
Davis, along with another close Clinton associate Bennett Ratcliff, launched a Washington lobbying offensive in support of the coup government and its oligarchic backers, penning a Wall Street Journal op-ed, testifying before a Congressional committee, and undoubtedly knocking on office doors on Capitol Hill, where he enjoys bipartisan connections, which valuable asset he demonstrated during his committee hearing.
“If you want to understand who the real power behind the [Honduran] coup is, you need to find out who’s paying Lanny Davis,” said Robert White, former ambassador to El Salvador, just a month after the coup. Speaking to Roberto Lovato for the American Prospect, Davis revealed who that was: “My clients represent the CEAL, the [Honduras Chapter of] Business Council of Latin America.” In other words, the oligarchs who preside over a country with a 65 percent poverty rate. The emerging understanding, that the powerful oligarchs were behind the coup, began to solidify, and the Clinton clique’s allegiances were becoming pretty clear. If you can believe it, Clinton’s team sided with the wealthy elite.
NYU history professor Greg Grandin, author of a number of books about Central and South America, boiled the coup down to a simple economic calculation by the Honduran elite: “Zelaya was overthrown because the business community didn’t like that he increased the minimum wage. We’re talking about an elite that treats Honduras as if it was its own private plantation.”
Grandin was echoed by a Honduran Catholic bishop, Luis Santos Villeda of Santa Rosa de Copan, who told the Catholic News Service, “Some say Manuel Zelaya threatened democracy by proposing a constitutional assembly. But the poor of Honduras know that Zelaya raised the minimum salary. That’s what they understand.”
One doesn’t have to believe professors and bishops, though; one of the central members of the oligarchic elite, Adolfo Facussé, admitted to Al Jazeera’s Avi Lewis two months after the coup that Zelaya’s reforms for the poor had angered the ruling economic cabal: “Zelaya wanted to do some changes, and to do that, instead of convincing us that what he was trying to do was good, he tried to force us to accept his changes.”
Facussé was, of course, describing democracy. The so-called “Diez Familias” of Honduras, the country’s 1 percent, were unhappy that the Honduran people—the families’ subjects, essentially—backed a leader who worked on behalf of the vast majority of Hondurans. Also known as, how representative democracy works.
Facussé’s family is one of, if not the, most powerful families in Honduras, with the family patriarch Miguel Facussé being described in a Wikileaked State Department cable as “the wealthiest, most powerful businessman in the country.” The elder Facussé was even vice president of the infamous Association for the Progress of Honduras (APROH) in the early 1980s, a time during which the right-wing, pro-Washington, ultra-capitalist business group had strong ties with the infamous US-trained death squads of Battalion 3-16.
The School of the Americas-trained death squads no longer terrorize Honduras and Central America at the behest of business interests, but the legacy and power remains in a more refined, technocratic, you might say “Clintonite,” means of effecting a good climate for the oligarchs and corporations who remain in control in the region. The coup leader, Gen. Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, is a two-time graduate of the Pentagon’s School of the Americas (SOA, now called WHINSEC), and he was able to enact a coup without the widespread ’80s-era bloodshed brought by the death squads.
Another SOA-trained Honduran military lawyer, Colonel Herberth Bayardo Inestroza, confessed to the Miami Herald just days after the coup that the Honduran military broke the law in kidnapping and exiling the president. But Inestroza still bore the ideological training he’d received under President Reagan’s pro-capitalist crusades in the region: “It would be difficult for us, with our training, to have a relationship with a leftist government. That’s impossible.”
The coup was cleaner, replacing Reagan-era death squads with high-priced PR and attorneys from Clinton’s world, but it still accomplished what the other, bloodier conflicts had aimed for in earlier decades: keeping Central America free of leftist leadership—or even progressive leadership, in Zelaya’s case—and keeping the region business-friendly. A post-coup government a couple years later would announce that Honduras is “open for business,” if not open for human rights and democracy. Foreign policy Clintonism may be more technocratic than the Republican model, but its goals are effectively the same. Clintonite mercenaries wear Brooks Brothers suits, not military fatigues.
Lanny Davis’ role as PR guerrilla is reminiscent of fellow Clinton team member James Carville, who worked in the 2002 campaign of multimillionaire Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada (“Goni”) in Bolivia, another pro-globalization, pro-Washington, hyper-capitalist candidate running against socialist Evo Morales.
Detailed in the documentary “Our Brand is Crisis,” Carville’s role in Bolivia, along with other Clintonite luminaries, was much the same as the coup defenders nearly a decade later in Honduras, in that the expertise of Clinton team members were put in service of business elites. In 2002, Bolivia was convulsing after hyper-capitalist, neoliberal reforms had sold off the country’s state-owned resources at the order of international financial institutions. Goni had been a central figure in the neoliberal reforms during his first term as president. Losing office after his first term, Goni was trying to grab the reins again four years later.
The effects of his privatization plan—called “capitalization” in Bolivia—had come to be felt in the intervening years, especially in Bolivia’s third-largest city, Cochabamba, where even water service was sold off to multinational corporations, principally San Francisco-based Bechtel. The country’s majority indigenous population, mostly poor (Goni, called “El Gringo,” is rich, fairer-skinned and grew up in the U.S.), began to revolt as water prices suddenly rose by 50 percent after the corporation took control. Due to the giveaway Goni had initiated, residents even had to obtain a permit to collect rainwater. “Even rainwater was privatized,” said one of the principal activists. “Water sources were converted into property that could be bought and sold by international corporations.” Campesinos began to charge that the dystopian Bechtel, one of the largest contractors in the world, was “leasing the rain.”
Moreover, Bolivia’s long-suffering and indigenous poor majority was calling for constitutional reform, the same sort of measure Zelaya was floating in Honduras. The insurgent indigenous candidate Evo Morales, a lowly coca farmer, nearly defeated the Washington-backed and -assisted Goni on a platform that demanded constitutional reform. Throughout the past few decades as Latin American governments have begun to shed the vestiges of colonialism and Monroe Doctrine-based U.S. control, countries have democratically written new constitutions to replace former national doctrines in which racism, sexism, and radical inequity were constitutionally permitted in many cases.
Finally, Clinton’s State Department’s role in attempting to block a minimum wage increase in Haiti allows us to triangulate (so to speak) and speculate with some confidence on Clinton’s wishes vis-à-vis poor nations under the rule of oligarchs and corporate elites. State Department cables exposed by Wikileaks reveal that, according to The Nation, “[c]ontractors for Fruit of the Loom, Hanes and Levi’s worked in close concert with the US Embassy when they aggressively moved to block a minimum wage increase for Haitian assembly zone workers, the lowest-paid in the hemisphere.”
(The Haitian assembly zones are free trade enclaves of the sort the Clintons advocate, where corporations are permitted to take advantage of the hemisphere’s cheapest labor without paying high tariffs—tiny versions of President Clinton’s NAFTA.)
Just weeks before the coup in Honduras, the State Department acted on behalf of a “tiny assembly zone elite” and intervened in the Haitian government’s plan to raise the wage. This was after President Clinton had already ravaged the island nation and enriched U.S. agricultural companies with a devastating trade deal that led to Haitians eating dirt cakes to survive.
This sort of engineering of regional politics in the service of the economic elite appears to be something of a hallmark of the Clinton camp. A case is being built that it’s the family business to cater to the global elite, despite the Clinton campaign’s salt-of-the-earth optics in Iowa and New Hampshire, which appears disingenuous in light of virtually everything else we know about Clinton. And with a growing list of Clinton associates being complicit, concerns about a President Clinton’s criteria for cabinet and agency appointments grow, as well.
Keeping wages down in places like Honduras and Haiti virtually ensure that those formerly decently paying, often unionized, jobs will never return to the U.S. Going to bat by proxy for Bechtel, a conglomerate with close ties to the GOP and the military industrial complex, doesn’t seem like the best use of the political talent of members of the Clintons’ braintrust. It becomes fair to ask, “Who do the Clintons work for?”
More Matthew Pulver.
Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Hillary Clinton.
Tags: bernie sanders, democracy, grammar, hillary, hillary clinton, mark twain, netanyahu, roger hollander
THE VERB TO NETANYAHU: SAY ONE THING ONE DAY AND THE OPPOSITE THE NEXT IN ORDER TO WIN AN ELECTION
THE STARRY EYED DREAMERS WELCOME BERNIE SANDERS INTO THE RACE BELIEVING THAT IT WILL MOVE HILLARY CLINTON TO THE PROGRESSIVE POPULIST LEFT.
I AM SURE THAT IT WILL, DURING THE CAMPAIGN, THEN, ONCE ELECTED SHE WILL NETANYAHU AND GO BACK TO HER GENUINE CORPORATE TOADYING WARMONGERING SELF.
AMERICAN DEMOCRACY IN ACTION; OR, AS MY ANARCHIST FRIENDS SAY: DON’T VOTE, THE GOVERNMENT ALWAYS WINS.
Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.
Posted by rogerhollander in Hillary Clinton, ISIS/ISIL, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria, War, Women.
Tags: Bashar al-Assad, clinton hawk, feminism, gaddafi, gaza massacre, hard choices, hillary clinton, libya, roger hollander, sophie stephenson, Syria, women's rights
Roger’s note: is it really necessary for me to post this article? Well, just in case you haven’t heard …
Consider the Women of Saudi Arabia and Libya
Hillary Clinton says she’s a feminist, and claimed, astonishingly, while promoting her book “Hard Choices” last year:
“Women and girls … [are] central to our foreign policy,” saying that countries that value the rights of women are “less likely to breed extremism.”
However this statement is completely at odds with her actions as Secretary of State, such as with Libya – of which it has been said was her own project rather than Obama’s – where she put her own vile agenda ahead of the rights of the nation’s women, which were until that point light-years ahead of most other Middle Eastern countries. Since the death of Gaddafi, the rights of Libyan women have been rolled back by decades, with them now having to leave the house covering their heads, if not also their faces. It should be noted that the leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) – Abdelhakim Belhadj – whose group was backed by NATO air strikes and who afterwards had his photograph taken with Washington’s leading warmongers John McCain and Lindsey Graham, is now said to be leading ISIS in Libya.
Clinton was also central to the “Friends of Syria” group, an ironic name if ever there was one, which advocates for the violent overthrow of the country’s President Bashar al-Assad. Syria is also one of the few countries in the Middle East where women are treated as human beings. In November, Al Arabiya reported that nightlife has returned to the besieged ancient city of Aleppo. In the government-held half women dance the night away underneath the lasers, even on weeknights…whilst in the rebel-held part of the city, cafes and restaurants are divided into men only and family sections, and women do not leave the house without their husbands. Clearly following the example set by Saudi Arabia – perhaps the most oppressive country on earth in terms of women’s rights.
On the Israeli-Palestinian issue she has staunchly defended Israel’s massacres in Gaza, and has said that if she were the Israeli Prime Minister, she would not give up “security” in the West Bank – suggesting that she does not support a two-state solution.
Therefore, Hillary proclaiming herself a feminist, and her claim that women’s rights are important to the Obama administration’s foreign policy, is crude and absurd. As Kelley Vlahos wrote in The American Conservative last year:
Hillary Clinton just may prove to be what the defense establishment has been waiting for, and more. Superior to all in money, name recognition, and influence, she is poised to compete aggressively for the Democratic nomination for president. She might just win the Oval Office. And by most measures she would be the most formidable hawk this country has seen in a generation.
“It is clear that she is behind the use of force in anything that has gone on in this cabinet. She is a Democratic hawk and that is her track record. That’s the flag she’s planted,” said Gordon Adams, a national security budget expert who was an associate director in President Bill Clinton’s Office of Management and Budget.
Karen Kwiatkowski, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who has spent her post-service days protesting the war policies in Iraq and Afghanistan, is more blunt. “Interventionism is a business and it has a constituency and she is tapping into it,” she tells TAC. “She is for the military industrial complex, and she is for the neoconservatives.”
Clinton’s record as Secretary of State can be summarised by her response when asked about Gaddafi’s death in an interview: “We came, we saw, he died.” This was followed by a period of laughter that can only be described as giving the impression of her being in a state of pure ecstasy. Evidently, to Clinton, the brutal killing and sodomizing of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi – himself thinking he was surrendering under the safety of a white flag – was a foreign policy achievement to be proud of. If the African nation’s women and girls were central to her objectives in the now failed state that is Libya, Hillary Clinton is certainly no feminist.
Sophie Stephenson is an American History postgraduate student at the University of Edinburgh, with a particular interest in US foreign policy and relations with the Middle East. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hillary Clinton Wants You to Call Her a Feminist
Washington’s Al Qaeda Ally Now Leading ISIS in Libya
The Military-Industrial Candidate
Sliver of Aleppo’s once thriving nightlife returns
Here is Hillary Clinton hanging with two of our foremost warmongers:
Posted by rogerhollander in Dominican Republic, Haiti, Hillary Clinton, Imperialism.
Tags: aristide, bellerive, Bill Clinton, clinton candidate, clinton foundation, clintons, coup, Dominican Republic, Ezili Dantò, haiti, haiti clintons, haiti corruption, haiti earthquake, haiti genocide, haiti gold, haiti mining, hillary, hillary clinton, michael martelly, pamela white, roger hollander, samatha powers, susan rice, World Bank
Roger’s note: So today Hillary Clinton announces, to no one’s surprise, that she is running for president. Assuming she wins the Democratic Party nomination, she will be running against who, by definition, will be a very dangerous person (the Republican Party is capable of nominating no other). Many will be tempted therefore to white wash Clinton’s record. Not me. Here is just a sample of what the Clintons are all about. Democrats. Republicans. A pox on both their houses.
The economic reasons for the US occupation of Haiti behind the UN and NGO charitable fronts
(Check back often for updates.)
The Obama Administration got rid of its most powerful Democratic rival with Haiti. Hillary and Bill Clinton “opened Haiti” as their private asset to liquidate. They used the resources of the World Bank, the State Department, USAID, the UN, the Private Military Security Contractors (PMSC), the US military, and the Fed’s passport and visa issuance capabilities. They got kickbacks called “donations,” from anyone who wished to buy, from them, a piece of Haiti’s lands, oil, iridium, uranium or gold. They also took in bribes disguised as “donation” from big businesses, some from offshore Swiss Bank accounts, to assign UN guns subcontracted to PMSCs to secure corporate interests in Haiti. The Clintons have used governmental power to conduct their private business and called it “helping poor Haitians.” The evidence is in the results for Haiti’s poor.
The racket is finally being exposed by some US journalists. But not altogether and not simply because most care to step outside the lucrative dumbing down of America they participate in to expose the uncomfortable truth -the US destruction of the lives and health of the Black people of Haiti. No. We’ve explained the racism, neo-feudalism, cognitive dissonance, imperialism terrors and about the US low intensity warfare in Haiti for decades now. (See, The Pain Rush in Haiti; Haiti Riches, the economic reason for the US occupation of Haiti behind the UN and NGO charitable fronts ; Quiet Genocide in Haiti from FDR to Obama: UN a criminal organization from Lumumba to Aristide and Swapping Haiti lives: Interview on US Haiti Exploits.)
The new “revelations” – they’re “new” because some white guy or gal with privilege newspaper distribution and publishing access, says so. They’re new revelations because the Republicans are getting ready to play their musical chair dance at the false 2016 presidential elections for the false US democracy. They will fuel up on false consternation about how the Clintons enriched themselves on Haiti’s traumas to score political points to fuel their own power-grabs for the presidential seat of power in Washington. (See, Former US Ambassador to Haiti lied, Martelly held a U.S. passport; and the 2004 George W.Bush Bloodbath Brought to Haiti: Coup D’etat Massacres, Victims and Human Rights Abuses.)
One reporter duly noted that it’s not news to the US public that charges of ethical violations are associated with the Clintons. The public is used to:
“the whiff of “Pay to Play” in Clinton World; they’re blind to appearances of impropriety; they feel the rules don’t apply to them; and they aren’t transparent.” (See also, Jan 2015 –Flight logs place Bill Clinton on sex offender’s jet multiple times and Bill Clinton identified in lawsuit against his former friend and pedophile Jeffrey Epstein who had ‘regular’ orgies at his Caribbean compound that the former president visited multiple times and By Ezili Dantò The Western sex push and ethnic cleansing in Haiti)
In 2009, we wrote about the Bill and Hillary many conflicts of interests. One, at the State Department divvying up false aid dollars to beltway NGOs. The other, as UN Special Envoy to Haiti supposedly garnered $3billion in funds for the four back-to-back 2008 hurricanes that killed 3000 Haitians and flooded out the town of Gonaives. Bill Clinton announced he would collect funds to built Gonaives back up and do infrastructure, with flood barriers, embankments and levees against such natural disasters in Haiti. Two years later, by the time of the 2010 earthquake, Gonaives was still in mud and the local residents were asking Ezili’s HLLN to investigate where did the $3billion Bill Clinton collected go to? This was our prelude to what would happen to the earthquake funds under Bill Clinton. No one would listen to ourstory. See, “The Two Most Common Neocolonial Storylines about Haiti, 2007.
In 2011, we again pointed to the stark and unethical Clintons’ conflicts of interests. Asked how would donors know where Bill Clinton would put Haiti funds he collected in the name of quake victims?
Bill Clinton had more Haiti titles and power in Haiti than Haiti’s president. He was the UN Special Envoy to Haiti, the head of the Clinton Foundation, the co-chair of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC). Obama also put him in charge, along with George W. Bush, of the Clinton-Bush Haiti fund. Clinton also directed the Clinton Guistra Sustainable Growth Initiative for Haiti (CGSGI).
Frank Giustra is a member of the Clinton Foundation board and a Vancouver mining magnate. CGSGI was created to conduct “social and economic development programs in parts of the world where poverty is widespread, including Colombia, Peru, Mexico, and Haiti.” All these countries have mining operations in the works. Clinton and Giustra brought in a third investor, the richest man the world, Carlos Slim, who matched their initial $100 million fund. After the 2010 earthquake Clinton, Giustra and Slim established another $20 million fund to finance “small businesses in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.”
Laws against insider dealings and for transparency are raised by these interlocking boards and funds. It is not clear, and one does not know when former president Bill Clinton asks for donation dollars for Haiti earthquake relief and reconstruction whether he was raising monies for the UN country-donor fund as the UN Special Envoy to Haiti and for the IHRC or, for the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, or for the Clinton Foundation, the Clinton Guistra Sustainable Growth Initiative, or the Clinton, Giustra and Slim $20 million fund for Haiti, to name a few blatant conflicts. What’s clear is that even the ethics agreement the Clinton Foundation signed with the Obama administration about not accepting foreign government funds while Mrs. Clinton was Secretary of State was violated. The $500,000 from Algeria for Haitian earthquake relief, violated the ethics agreement with the Obama State Department. But Haitians understand that this earthquake donation is not the only donation the Clintons mishandled. It’s just the only one, so far, that’s noted unethical by the powers-that-be. What about the World Bank, banking over $9 billion and disbursing these foreign government quake funds collected in the name of Haiti, practically at Bill Clinton’s sole discretion while his wife was directing State Department queries about Haiti to the Clinton Foundation?
Probably in violation of Article I, Section 9 of the US Constitution, multinational businesses and foreign countries bought influence in the US and in Haiti by making bribes, disguised as charitable gifts, to the Clinton Foundation.
Little footprint of that $9 billion collected for quake victims by Bill Clinton can be found in Haiti today, other than luxury hotels and a sweatshop for Korean owners, built with monies given for homeless people. The area where the quake happened was not “built back better.” There’s no well-built permanent housing for the victims, no roads, clean water, local food or a reliable supply of electricity. Less than one cent of every dollar went to the Haiti government. The bulk of responsibility lies with the Clintons and the US government that unleashed them onto defenseless Haiti. One at the UN/WB. The other, at the State Department.
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits ethics violations and bribery of foreign officials. But Bill Clinton made no attempt to conceal his Haiti aid corruption. Neither did US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. They pushed their own Haiti staff members into nominal positions of power to rubber stamp their Haiti edicts. Haiti Prime Minister Gary Conille, who succeeded Jean Max Bellerive as Prime Minister was the chief of staff for Bill Clinton and a U.N. employee at the time. Cheryl Mills, another Clinton staffer also served as the United States’ representative on the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) while Bill Clinton was co-chair of the IHRC with Haiti Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive.
In 2010, under the tenure of Haiti Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive when Bill Clinton was named co-chair of IHRC, the State Department, run by his wife, began directing parties interested in competing for Haiti contracts to the Clinton Foundation. The Wall Street Journal, wrote that:
“Being on the right side of Bill matters if you want to benefit from U.S. foreign aid destined for Haiti” wrote the Wall Street Journal.”
A slew of recent articles are detailing how Hillary Clinton used a private email server from her home to conduct State Department business. There’s been consternation over the big backers of the Clinton Foundation with Swiss Bank accounts, and criticisms of the Clinton Foundation for accepting donations from countries that Hillary Clinton dealt with while Secretary of State, including Canada, Algeria, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Keystone XL pipeline Canadians who have an important financial stake in Haiti oil, mining and the US occupation in Haiti, also donated to the Clinton Foundation.
Obama’s State Department acknowledged the ethical violation issue with the Clinton Foundation donations. But it’s doubtful that the lawless Obama Administration, authors of the shocking kill list or rule 1021 of the NDAA, will find lawlessness in the Clintons behavior on this matter or on Hillary Clinton’s failure to comply with the Federal Records Act.
What is clear is that the US occupation behind UN and NGO charitable fronts added to Haiti’s suffering immeasurably even before the earthquake. More than 20-thousand Haitians have been killed by the occupation forces since 2004. A UN-imported cholera epidemic has killed over 10,000 Haitians, infected over 850,000. A Ferguson-like Haiti militarized police and a brand new neoDuvalierist dictatorship, with Martelly ruling by decree, has annihilated any “change we can believe in” for a new US-Haiti policy under the Clinton-Obama team.
What’s clear is that, just as Gonaives was not built back for the benefit of the storm victims, neither were the earthquake zones. It’s been eight years since the 2008 storms. The people at Gonaives Haiti are still living in mud and at risked of another flood crisis each hurricane season. Same thing happened with the earthquake billions. The quake monies benefited Clintons’ cronies, the Clinton Foundation big business donors, the Clintons’ luxury spa resort and hotel partners, the military industrial/intelligence complex and the usual Washington beltway bandits, like Chemonics. The holocaust for Haiti continued. What’s worst was the Clintons’ use of shock and trauma – the cataclysmic 2010 earthquake and 2010 UN-imported cholera traumas – to push the 2010 doctored elections down the Haitian people’s throats.
That impossibly flawed election had, by Jan 12, 2015, turned from four years of Martelly circumventing Parliament, to outright dictatorship where he was formally ruling by decree with the approval and international force of the Clintons and their Hollywood image makers. In essence, the Clintons’ fraudulently manipulated horrifying pestilence brought upon the people of Haiti, including the starvation that Bill Clinton apologized for, to enrich themselves, strengthen the US occupation, peddled their US governmental access, their UN-World Bank access for the benefit of their cronies, the Clinton Foundation donors and to better steal Haiti oil, golds, underwater treasures, offshore islands and lands. We’ve written about this at: “Haiti Waking Up 5 Years Later“.
Behind the headlines, Haitians continue to strongly protest the Clintons’ brazen exploitation of US foreign aid and quake donation monies meant for homeless people to enrich themselves and secure a regulatory business environment favorable to foreigners that hurts local Haitians. In 2014, two prominent Haiti lawyers, Newton St. Juste and Andre Michel petitioned Haiti’s Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes, demanding an audit of Bill Clinton’s management of the IHRC.
But the forces against justice for Haiti are made to look so overwhelmingly innocent. Nowadays the “good ‘ol” boys are white “just-doing-their-jobs” career chicks with blond or red hair with smiley names like Hillary, Samantha or Pamela.
They can be Cheryl Mills, Susan Rice, Condi Rice or gay, LGBT or straight. Doesn’t matter. They work for the Bush dynasty or for the Clinton/Obama group to install dictatorship in Haiti. The terror they’ve brought to Haiti is as familiar as when FDR was running the first US occupation of Haiti for Woodrow Wilson, or when Harding took it over. The UN is a criminal tool of empire that enjoys the immunity of the corporatocracy to readily swap the lives of the global poor in exchange for funding to keep its career bureaucrats in easy jobs and power. (See also, On UN Jobs-Selling Scandal, UN Tells ICP of Suspensions and Butchers of Haiti masked as the saviors of Haiti.)
Hillary Clinton and the other “smiley faced” career chicks are as complicit in supporting brutal US dictatorship and imperialism worldwide as the Manifest Destiny good ‘ol boys who saw no problem with genocide of indigenous peoples and with making alliances with countries like Saudia Arabia known for violence against women and for denying them many basic freedoms. The new dictatorship and US occupation in Haiti, legitimized with the help of Hillary Clinton, Pamela White, Samantha Powers, Cheryl Mills and Susan Rice, brings proportionally greater violence, hunger, disease, rape and brutality into the lives of Haiti women and children.
For us Haitians, the situation won’t change as long as the American people and schooled peoples worldwide believe that elections, as implemented by the US, actually represents Main Street interests or people values over monopolistic Wall Street profits. The Ndòki forces of empire, responsible for engineering group passivity or to leveraging centuries of African enslavement to angelize whites and demonize Blacks must be structurally decoded and removed.
The 2004 Bush regime change in Haiti was further institutionalized by the Obama/Clinton maneuvers from 2008 to present. The World Bank, controlled by the US, amended Haiti mining laws. These laws benefit insiders such as, Hillary Clinton’s brother, Larry Rodham, whose VCS Mining-Majescor received one of two rare gold mining licenses. Bill Clinton’s co-chair at the IHRC, Jean Max Bellerive also sits on the board of VCS mining, which landed the rare gold permit in Haiti.
The World Bank did not only rewrite Haiti mining laws but at the same time, invested, through the IFC in Haiti mining. It’s really the US multinational mining companies – through the World Bank/IFC – that are writing Haiti mining laws to mine Haiti’s over $20billion in gold while the people are disenfranchised under the US occupation behind UN guns.
The people of Haiti objected to this, with constant calls for these UN rapes, World Bank rapes, US occupation and re-colonization to stop. But the World Bank ruled they have no say. It doesn’t matter to the imperialist World Bank that besides the economic pillage, gold mining causes severe environmental devastation, not needed in Haiti. The World Bank refused to consider the Haitian communities’ complaint about the new mining law. This mining ruling by foreigners will only bring more pain to Haiti. In a recent Letter to World Bank about its accountability, more than 80 organizations from around the world joined with the Haiti Mining Justice Collective, the NYU Global Justice Clinic and Accountability Counsel to demand that the World Bank take responsibility for its actions in Haiti.
Will the World Stop the Clintons: End the US occupation of Haiti behind UN mercenary guns and the NGO charitable fronts?
Hillary Clinton, in the middle of managing the crisis in Egypt, finished interviews on the Sunday morning news shows and immediately flew to Haiti where she insisted Michell Martelly, who had not scored to be included in the run-offs, be included in the run-offs for the sham 2010 elections. Hillary Clinton and her Cheryl Mills’ acolytes brought intense U.S. pressure to bear on the Haitian government and Electoral Council to comply, including, revoking the visas of several Haitian officials she felt were not complying, prematurely announcing the election dispute was over, threatening to cut off aid if the doctored elections and OAS ruling to advance Martelly to the second rounds were not accepted by Haiti. According to special representative of the OAS, Ricardo Seitenfus, the internationals’ “Core Group” for Haiti, even threatened to forcibly remove Haiti president Preval if he didn’t comply and put Martelly in the elections. Seitenfus exposed the international meddling in Haiti in general, and by MINUSTAH and NGOs in particular. Then, the US-installed Michel Martelly ruled against Haiti Parliament prohibitions giving Hillary Clinton’s brother a rare license to exploit Haiti’s over $20 billion in gold.
Meanwhile, Bill Clinton, as UN envoy to Haiti, brought in the World Bank to replace the UN’s regular banker. Bill Clinton with Paul Farmer’s partner at the World Bank, worked to take in all quake monies to increase white foreign presence in Haiti and to create infrastructure for the mining and oil magnates magnates in the North where there was no earthquake, calling it “Caracol jobs” for the people of Haiti. The Clinton used their star power to bring Hollywood with them to celebrate their Haiti sweatshop. (See also, Haiti: Foreign Investment means Death and Repression: A Historical Perspective and Oil in Haiti and Oil Refinery – an old notion for Fort Liberte as a transshipment terminal for US supertankers)
The World Bank privately invested in Haiti’s gold through its for-profit affiliate and used US/UN/PMSCs military guns in Haiti and the NGO charitable fronts to forcibly amend Haiti constitution and Haiti’s laws with a new mining law favorable to the Clinton brother ilks, the mining and oil magnates. In exchange, the mining magnates and other corporations, buying influence in Haiti, gave 100s of millions in kickbacks as “donation” to the Clinton Global Foundation. Meanwhile, Haitians have no sovereignty. Bill Clinton apologizes for destroying Haiti local agriculture with US subsidies to big Arkansas agro-business while Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State brought in Monsanto as a “gift” to Haiti agriculture! Haitians die from UN-imported cholera, quake ravages, UN brutality and rapes. The Clintons provided the traumatized Haiti poor with cholera insurance for destitute Haiti market women to purchase and formaldehyde-laced trailers left over from Katrina.
The World Bank Thievery in Haiti
The World Bank, for its part, brings death to Haitians in various ways besides its traditional endless debts that replaced Haiti’s Independence Debt to perpetually feed the corporatocracy.
It’s graduated to helping US/Clintons/Bushes collect earthquake funds to finance infrastructure for multinational mining magnates and oil barons instead of permanent housing for quake victims. Then uses US military occupation as opportunity to invest in Haiti mining and changes the Haiti mining laws to benefit itself. While the UN brings death through importing UN-cholera and a closed society to Haiti. But does the world care? Oh no. The corporate media focuses everyone on ISIL, Ukraine, Ebola, new wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, et al. While, right here in the Western Hemisphere the greatest terror against an un-armed people, the least violent peoples in the Caribbean and an impoverished, traumatized people without an army, goes unabated.
The World Bank, controlled by the US, also insisted on collecting the Haiti quake donation dollars at the UN. This was supervised by Bill Clinton. This was unprecedented, in the entire history of the UN, as the UN has the UNDP as its own banker that traditionally holds such funds. This duplicity and theft which raised no ruckus allowed both the World Bank and the UN’s banker to pocket an “administrative fee” off the top, from every quake dollar meant for homeless and traumatized Haiti quake victims. We’re told, though we’d like more verification that the fee taken off the top, was 7% or so, by each of these entities (that’s 7% each received of $13 billion in quake dollars.)
There are no laws for the lawless US and their UN-NGO charitable fronts in Haiti. They’re above all laws, all civility – some are obviously brainwashed and engineered to be as depraved and inhumane as their handlers’ wish. No one in power lifts not even a token protest. The UN Security Council is in on the rape. Samantha Powers recently led the UN Security Council visit to Haiti to reinforce the Martelly dictatorship. US Ambassador Pamela White, if she could get away with it, would sign the name of every Haiti Parliamentary member to whatever document the US wants to have a Haiti signature for. She’s been spotted at midnight Parliamentary meetings she’s called to order, working her blackberry to get protesting Haiti parliamentarians to her confab. See, Haiti Message to US Ambassador Pamela White: Stop Blocking Removal of Corrupt Martelly-Lamothe Regime.
Dominican Republic is also not benefiting from foreign mining.
The foreign gold mining exploitation in the Dominican Republic is also not benefiting its people. When the Dominican poor and Haiti poor collide, the instability flames benefit the US-Euro corporatocracy taking advantage of both nations. To that end the US authorities have pushed Haiti quake construction work that’s not gone to the Washington beltway hoards, not to local Haiti construction firms, but to enrich corrupt Dominican Republic politicians like Senator Felix Bautista. The Obama Administration has also ignored the 2013 DR court ruling that denationalized over 2o0,ooo Dominicans of Haitian descent and, instead, placed new homeland security guards at the border to inflame both sides of the island as pawns in their colonial games.
Pushing racism helps inept DR state authorities scapegoat Haitians for the country’s economic problems instead of neoliberal economics, unfair trade, privatization of public assets, colonialism, Barrick Gold, their corrupt oligarchs or colonial politicians.
Although DR cultural hatred for their own African blood is real, both peoples are also pawns in the colonial game of conquest. Despite the dangers, Haiti migrants flood into the DR as well as the open seas to escape the US occupation and new dictatorship making it harder and harder to breathe in Haiti. This exacerbates an already historical issue of racism in the DR as well as legitimate concerns to control their borders. The ensuring violence kills more Haitians and gives the US-UN military another pretext for destroying both countries for the benefit of mining heavyweights like Barrick Gold, which is exploiting DR gold, leaving the environment ravaged, the DR people sickened from poisoned water and skin rashes. Haiti already has enough pain from UN cholera, skin rashes from tear gas and foul water thrown at human rights demonstrators by the US-trained militarized police. The Clintons’ mining contracts, World Bank mining laws imposed on Haiti with the continuing US occupation, promises more environmental costs – higher levels of lead, sulphur, cyanide and zinc poisoning, more pain rush and poverty for the poor.
The mining area in Haiti’s North lies on a quake fault line. There are already questions about whether mining and oil drilling behind UN/US guns triggered the Haiti earthquake in 2010? Not to mention if the building of the largest US-embassy compound in the Western Hemisphere and the US underground tunnel-diggings did not also trigger the Haiti earthquake?
It’s time for the terror and quiet genocide in Haiti to stop. For the assets of Haiti to be properly used to better the lives of local Haitians. It’s time to stop the use of the US military and charitable fronts to provide corporate welfare to the Bush and Clinton Wall Street corporatocracy. During the 2008 presidential elections, Republican presidential candidate John McCain got no pushback whatsoever for heading the International Republican Institute (IRI) which played a pivotal role in ousting Haiti’s democratically elected government in George Bushes’ 2004 Regime change. The Clintons hammering the McCain nail stuck in Haiti’s back with Martelly’s cholera democracy probably will not raise more than an eyebrow during this 2016 upcoming US presidential charade. It would be nice to be proven wrong.
Ezili Dantò, Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network (HLLN) and Free Haiti Movement
March 9, 2015
“The West has two faces. One evil.”
Clinton Foundation & Canada mining, Big pharma and weapons manufacturers, Saudi Arabia, et al…
Haitian Protest in New York Against Bill & Hillary Clinton
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Posted by rogerhollander in Latin America, Foreign Policy, History, Honduras, Guatemala, Imperialism, Hillary Clinton.
Tags: roger hollander, Latin America, history, hillary clinton, chiquita banana, U.S. imperialism, mark weisbrot, zelaya, Honduras, honduras coup, lanny davis, Edward Bernays, honduras corruption, banana republic, guatemala coup, arbenz, hard choices, gordon liddy, brendan fischer
Roger’s note: With respect to U.S. foreign policy towards Latin America, there is virtually no distinction between Democratic and Republican presidencies. Hillary Clinton as Obama’s Secretary of State, for example, was no less hawkish in is asserting the interests of U.S. corporations and military than John Foster Dulles or Henry Kissinger. The role of Lanny Davis in serving the perpetrators of the military coup against President Zelaya, Clinton family friend and legal counsel is striking. I follow up the Clinton article with a fascinating study of the manipulation of public opinion (what Noam Chomsky refers to as “manufacturing consent) in the overthrowing of democratically elected governments in Latin America, with, in the case of Guatemala in 1954, the direct participation of the infamous “father of public relations,” Edward Bernays.
Hillary Clinton with Pepe Lobo, the newly “elected” president of Honduras, who has recently come to power in an election rejected and considered illegitimate and fraudulent by virtually every government around the world that is not a virtual puppet of the US. This photo by itself is capable of generating resentment towards the United States throughout the entire Latin American world, not to mention the vast Latino population in the States.
The chapter on Latin America, particularly the section on Honduras, a major source of the child migrants currently pouring into the United States, has gone largely unnoticed. In letters to Clinton and her successor, John Kerry, more than 100 members of Congress have repeatedly warned about the deteriorating security situation in Honduras, especially since the 2009 military coup that ousted the country’s democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya. As Honduran scholar Dana Frank points out in Foreign Affairs, the U.S.-backed post-coup government “rewarded coup loyalists with top ministries,” opening the door for further “violence and anarchy.”
The homicide rate in Honduras, already the highest in the world, increased by 50 percent from 2008 to 2011; political repression, the murder of opposition political candidates, peasant organizers and LGBT activists increased and continue to this day. Femicides skyrocketed. The violence and insecurity were exacerbated by a generalized institutional collapse. Drug-related violence has worsened amid allegations of rampant corruption in Honduras’ police and government. While the gangs are responsible for much of the violence, Honduran security forces have engaged in a wave of killings and other human rights crimes with impunity.
Despite this, however, both under Clinton and Kerry, the State Department’s response to the violence and military and police impunity has largely been silence, along with continued U.S. aid to Honduran security forces. In “Hard Choices,” Clinton describes her role in the aftermath of the coup that brought about this dire situation. Her firsthand account is significant both for the confession of an important truth and for a crucial false testimony.
First, the confession: Clinton admits that she used the power of her office to make sure that Zelaya would not return to office. “In the subsequent days [after the coup] I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere, including Secretary [Patricia] Espinosa in Mexico,” Clinton writes. “We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot.”
This may not come as a surprise to those who followed the post-coup drama closely. (See my commentary from 2009 on Washington’s role in helping the coup succeed here, here and here.) But the official storyline, which was dutifully accepted by most in the media, was that the Obama administration actually opposed the coup and wanted Zelaya to return to office.
Clinton’s position on Latin America in her bid for the presidency is another example of how the far right exerts disproportionate influence on US foreign policy in the hemisphere.
The question of Zelaya was anything but moot. Latin American leaders, the United Nations General Assembly and other international bodies vehemently demanded his immediate return to office. Clinton’s defiant and anti-democratic stance spurred a downward slide in U.S. relations with several Latin American countries, which has continued. It eroded the warm welcome and benefit of the doubt that even the leftist governments in region offered to the newly installed Obama administration a few months earlier.
Clinton’s false testimony is even more revealing. She reports that Zelaya was arrested amid “fears that he was preparing to circumvent the constitution and extend his term in office.” This is simply not true. As Clinton must know, when Zelaya was kidnapped by the military and flown out of the country in his pajamas on June 28, 2009, he was trying to put a consultative, nonbinding poll on the ballot to ask voters whether they wanted to have a real referendum on reforming the constitution during the scheduled election in November. It is important to note that Zelaya was not eligible to run in that election. Even if he had gotten everything he wanted, it was impossible for Zelaya to extend his term in office. But this did not stop the extreme right in Honduras and the United States from using false charges of tampering with the constitution to justify the coup.
In addition to her bold confession and Clinton’s embrace of the far-right narrative in the Honduran episode, the Latin America chapter is considerably to the right of even her own record on the region as secretary of state. This appears to be a political calculation. There is little risk of losing votes for admitting her role in making most of the hemisphere’s governments disgusted with the United States. On the other side of the equation, there are influential interest groups and significant campaign money to be raised from the right-wing Latin American lobby, including Floridian Cuban-Americans and their political fundraisers.
Like the 54-year-old failed embargo against Cuba, Clinton’s position on Latin America in her bid for the presidency is another example of how the far right exerts disproportionate influence on U.S. foreign policy in the hemisphere.
Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Argentina, Congo, Economic Crisis, Latin America, Peru.
Tags: Argentina, Bill Clinton, Congo, conn hallinan, cristina kirchner, Economic Crisis, hedge funds, hillary clinton, paul singer, Peru, roger hollander, the clintons, vulture investor
Roger’s note: I confess to an intense dislike of the Clintons and their retinue. Whereas right wing ideologues and bigots make no secret of where they stand, the Clinton crowd pose as progressives as they and their close friends and supporters become millionaires whilst enacting and promoting policies that are damaging to the constituencies they claim to represent. From Bill the president we had drastic welfare reductions camouflaged as “reforms,” and the deregulation that led to the 2008 economic crisis that resulted in thousands losing their homes. From Hillary the Secretary of State we had super hawk foreign policy, a continuation of the Monroe Doctrine in Latin America, and support for military coup d’etat in Honduras, Egypt and now the Ukraine — all in the service of US corporate and geopolitical interests. A pox on their house.
By Conn Hallinan, OpEdNews Op Eds 7/24/2014 at 15:16:53
It is no surprise that right-wing Republican and hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer should be trying to wring hundreds of millions of dollars out of Argentina for a debt that Buenos Aires doesn’t really owe him. He screwed tens of millions of dollars out of poverty-stricken Peru and the Republic of Congo using the same financial sleight of hand. What may surprise people, however, is that key leaders in the administration of former President Bill Clinton are helping him do it.
Singer, who owns Elliot Management, a $17 billion hedge fund, is the leading “vulture investor” — a financial speculator who buys up the bonds of debt strapped nations for pennies on the dollar and then demands payment in full. When Argentina defaulted on its foreign debt in 2001, Singer moved in and bought up $48 million in bonds. He is now demanding that those bonds be paid at full-face value — $1.5 billion — plus interest and fees. It is a move that could derail Argentina’s long climb back into solvency, as well as undermine debt settlements worldwide.
A recent decision by federal District Judge Thomas Griesa in Manhattan may not only force Argentina to pay the vultures, it could unravel a 2006 debt deal between Buenos Aires and other creditors. Under the highly controversial principle of “pari passu” (“equal ranking among creditors”), if the vultures are compensated, so must all the other creditors, even those who settled back in 2006. That bill could reach $15 billion. Given that Argentina has only about $28 billion in foreign reserves, the tab could send Buenos Aires into a recession or force the country into bankruptcy.
The “sleight of hand” involves the fact that the countries the vultures prey on are not really in debt to creditors such as Singer and Eric Hermann of FH International Asset Management LLC. The hedge funds look for distressed countries, then buy their debt at bargain basement prices and sit on it. In the meantime, other creditors cut a deal to take a reduced payment on their bonds, which in turn helps improve the debtor’s economy and allows it to emerge from default.
That’s when the vultures sue, threatening to shut down outside aid programs, seize assets and freeze debtor nations out of international finance if they don’t pay up. Recent examples involving Singer include the Republic of Congo being forced to pay him $90 million on a $10 million investment. Singer’s investment of $48 million in Argentina’s debt would net him a 1,608 percent profit if Buenos Aires pays in full. Peru was similarly plundered.
It is more than dollars and cents at stake in all this. As journalist Greg Palast
points out, “In Congo-Brazzaville [the capital of the Republic of Congo] last year, one-fourth of all deaths of children under five were caused by malnutrition.” That $90 million might have made a difference.
Singer’s rap sheet is consistent with hard-nosed vulture tactics. He is a leading Republican fundraiser, and a member — along with former Vice President Dick Cheney and Iraq War designer Richard Perle — of the right-wing Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. He helped bankroll Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and is a bitter critic of “unpayable” social welfare programs, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
But the people who head up the main lobbying organization behind Singer’s current campaign, the American Task Force Argentina (ATFA), sit on the high councils of the Democratic Party and would likely be part of any Hillary Clinton administration.
The task force is essentially a front for several vulture funds, conservative and libertarian business groups, and agricultural organizations, like the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, which would like to damage Argentina’s cattle export business. And its executive director is Robert Raben, former counsel for liberal Congressman Barney Frank, Democratic counsel for the House Subcommittee on the Constitution and assistant attorney general in the Clinton administration.
ATFA’s two co-chairs are Clinton’s former undersecretary of commerce, Robert Shapiro, and Clinton appointee to the United Nations Nancy Soderberg. Shapiro was an adviser to Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign and a senior adviser to Al Gore’s 2000 run for the White House. Soderberg, who served as a senior foreign policy adviser to Sen. Edward Kennedy, was also a member of Clinton’s National Security Council and an alternative representative to the U.N. with the title of ambassador. She is currently a Democratic Party activist in Florida and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Raben, Soderberg and Shapiro have written numerous opinion pieces on Argentina using their Clinton administration credentials and, depending on the publication, have not always disclosed their lobbying ties. The three snookered the progressive Huffington Post into running opinion pieces until journalists Christina Wilkie and Ryan Grim uncovered their ties to ATFA. HuffPo subsequently removed the articles from its website.
Because of the huge debt burdens borne by nations from Latin America to Europe, the Griesa decision has opened up a Pandora’s box of trouble. A number of financial institutions and countries — including the International Monetary Fund and organizations representing 133 nations — have condemned the vultures or filed amici curiae briefs on behalf of Argentina, fearing that the decision could chill future debt negotiations and threaten economies trying to work themselves out of the red.
Given the ongoing hangover from the 2007-08 international meltdown, there is a lot of vulture food out there.
The key role being played by important Democratic Party activists in this cruel business — for there is no other word to describe taking money from countries struggling to emerge from debt and recession — may seem contradictory. And yet it was the Clinton administration that deregulated national and international finance and fought so hard for policies that ended up impoverishing some of the countries the vultures are now preying on.
In the 1990s, the Clinton administration pushed Argentina to privatize its state-owned industries, tie its currency to the dollar and institute the “Washington Consensus” of combining tax cuts with austerity. The result was economic disaster. From 1998 to 2002 Argentina’s economy shrank 20 percent and half the population fell below the poverty line.
Buenos Aires defaulted on its $100 billion debt in order to staunch the hemorrhage and pull the country out of an economic death spiral. In 2006, it negotiated a deal with 92.4 percent of its debt holders to pay 30 and 50 cents on the dollar. It was that deal that drew the vultures, which swooped in, scooped up some of the debt and then refused to accept the settlement.
The 2001 default blocked Argentina from tapping into international finance to tide it over until the economy recovered, but policies to end austerity and increase government spending eventually did the job. The economy grew at an average rate of 6 percent from 2002 to 2012 and Argentina paid off the IMF in 2006 and the Paris Club countries (representing the world’s 20 largest economies) in 2014.
But the vultures now threaten to undo much of this.
The Obama administration has come down on the side of Argentina because it is worried that financial institutions will shift their business to London if “pari passu” is allowed to stand. Hillary Clinton, however, has been quiet on the subject of international debt and Argentina. Given that her husband’s administration helped push Argentina off the cliff, that is hardly a surprise.
What is disquieting is that Clinton and people such as Raben, Shapiro and Soderberg have an economic philosophy that many times marches in step with that of Wall Street.
According to The New York Times, the financial sector was the second largest contributor to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 run for the White House. She is also close to the center-right Third Way think tank that advocates cutting Social Security and tends to be allergic to financial regulations. It is hard to imagine a Hillary Clinton administration stacked with Wall Street insiders and hedge fund lobbyists coming down on the vultures.
Clinton’s most recent comment on the debt crisis was to complain that she and Bill were “dead broke” when they left the White House in 2001, rhetorically putting herself in the same boat as tens of millions of indebted people in the U.S. and around the world. “Dead broke” in Chappaqua, N.Y., is not quite the same as “dead broke” in Brazzaville, or in the growing number of homeless encampments around the U.S.
Argentina is currently negotiating a compromise with the vultures, who have Buenos Aires over a barrel. The country desperately needs outside financing to exploit its huge Vaca Muerta gas reserves and to underwrite agricultural exports. “These hedge funds are equipped with an instrument [the New York court decision] that forces struggling countries into submission,” saysEric LeCompte, executive director of the anti-poverty religious organization Jubilee USA Network.
Countries are wising up to the hedge funds. Many of them now require that a debt agreement include a collective action clause (CAC), in which a majority or two-thirds vote by creditors is binding on all and would block a handful of vultures from tying up agreements. Because they signal economic fragility however, the CACs will string out negotiations and may result in higher interest rates.
In the meantime, the vultures have backed Buenos Aires against the wall. At a minimum, Democratic candidates for the presidency should make it clear that they stand with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. One way would be to endorse campaigns by organizations such as Oxfam and Jubilee to forgive foreign debt, and to make it clear they will also press for financial regulations to block vulture speculation.
In the world, vultures are estimable creatures. There is a “yuck” factor, but at least they wait until their prey are dead before making a meal of them, and they do clean up after themselves. The vultures of Wall Street prey on the living and leave behind an unspeakable mess.
Read more of independent journalist Conn Hallinan’s work at his blog, Dispatches from the Edge.
Conn M. Hallinan is a columnist for Foreign Policy In Focus, “A Think Tank Without Walls, and an independent journalist. He holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley. He oversaw the (more…)
Posted by rogerhollander in Egypt, Foreign Policy.
Tags: roger hollander, foreign policy, john kerry, hillary clinton, gaza strip, egypt, mubarak, muslim brotherhood, egypt military, egypt coup, el-sisi, sheldon richman, us egypt, al-sisi
Roger’s note: just yesterday I posted on Egypt’s iron-fisted repression of the media via its harsh and politically motivated sentences of Al Jazeera journalists. But the US alliance with respect to Egypt is so blatantly hypocritical, that it bears reinforcement. Of course this is really nothing new. The US has never met a military dictatorship it didn’t like, unless it happened to be Communist or otherwise independent of the US sphere of influence. This article also reflects libertarian blind schizophrenia (the author is associated with various “freedom” enterprises), acutely critical of US foreign policy in a way that puts ninety percent of Democrats and Republicans to shame, but Neanderthal on domestic issues where in the name of individual freedom they in effect support the objectives of the very corporate military industrial complex that is the driving force behind the imperial foreign policy. And put the blame on Obama as if he isn’t following the same path as every administration since the beginning of the American Empire.
(image by Media With Conscience)
Sheldon Richman, June 26, 2014
opednews.com, cross-posted from Future of Freedom Foundation
Largely overshadowed by events in Iraq and Syria, the Obama administration is dropping its pretense at displeasure with the military junta in Egypt and restoring full support for the regime that so recently quashed the country’s faltering attempt at democracy.
Secretary of State John Kerry, en route to troubled Baghdad, stopped in Cairo, where he announced that Washington would soon release a briefly withheld portion of the more than a billion dollars in aid that the Egyptian military receives each year from American taxpayers.
Kerry affirmed the “historic partnership” between the U.S. and Egyptian governments, while expressing confidence “that the  Apaches [helicopter gunships] will come, and that they will come very, very soon.” The New York Times noted that “the Egyptian military has been especially eager” to receive the gunships.
Considering how the military government treats the Egyptian people, one can fully believe it.
Let’s remember that in 2011, when Egyptians took to the streets to demand an end to the decades-long dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, the Obama administration — in particular then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton — stood by Mubarak until the bitter end. Two years earlier, when asked about Mubarak’s despicable human-rights record, which was documented in State Department reports, Clinton said, “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family. So I hope to see him often here in Egypt and in the United States.” That statement led some to wonder if she was the right person to be handling the Egyptian crisis for the U.S. government.
Moreover, the New York Times reported, State Department cables given to WikiLeaks revealed that “relations with Mr. Mubarak warmed up because President Obama played down the public ‘name and shame’ approach of the Bush administration.” (Behind the scenes, the Times reported, diplomats repeatedly “raised concerns with Egyptian officials about jailed dissidents and bloggers, and kept tabs on reports of torture by the police.”) Military aid to the government continued to flow.
When Mubarak’s ouster was inevitable, the administration backed an abortive “compromise” that would have put Mubarak’s chief enforcer in charge. Thus the U.S. government’s claim that it supported the popular Arab Spring was exposed as a sham.
The Egyptian people’s uprising led to their first elections and a victory for candidates associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which, despite its reputation among American hawks, had forsworn violence decades before. The administration of President Mohammed Morsi (June 2012 – July 2013) was marred by repression, exclusion, incompetence, an uncooperative opposition, and public discontent, but that did not justify what followed: a military coup, the suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition, violence against peaceful demonstrators, silencing of opposition media, jailing of journalists on the thinnest of pretexts, and death sentences for hundreds of Egyptians, including the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. All this was topped off this past spring by the election of former general Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as president, with a suspicious 95 percent of the vote.
This is the regime that Kerry and Obama wish to work with in pursuit of their “historic partnership.” Do they think the world is blind and deaf?
The U.S. ruling elite has long seen Egypt’s military as a bulwark against the sort of popular political change that would conflict with the regional hegemonic program of American administrations and their ally Israel. For example, in 1978 Israel and Egypt signed an accord at Camp David under prodding by then-president Jimmy Carter in return for billions of dollars in annual military aid from America’s taxpayers. With the two countries putting aside their historic differences, Egypt was removed as an ally of the Palestinians in their struggle for an independent state on the West Bank, occupied by Israel since 1967, and in the Gaza Strip, whose borders are controlled by Israel. Mubarak helped enforce the brutal Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip imposed in 2007. For that reason, Palestinians welcomed the dictator’s ouster and the election of Morsi, and received the news of the coup against Morsi with apprehension.
But the coup — which the Obama administration was reluctant to identify as such — served U.S. government interests. Its alliance with Egypt’s military dictatorship shows the hypocrisy of Barack Obama’s paeans to freedom and self-government. Americans should be embarrassed.
Sheldon Richman is vice president of The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of FFF’s monthly journal, Future of Freedom . For 15 years he was editor of The Freeman , published by the Foundation for Economic Education in (more…)
Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Imperialism.
Tags: Congo genocide, danny haiphong, drone wars, education privatized, hillary clinton, imprialism, libya blowback, libya war, NAFTA, obama administration, president obama, roger hollander, syria war, U.S. imperialism, ukraine crisis, welfare abolitshed
Roger’s note: “While the Obama Administration was busy militarizing Africa, propping up the prison state, privatizing education, slashing entitlements, waging NATO-led wars all over Eurasia, dropping drones, eroding civil liberties, and bailing out Wall Street, white liberals and Black misleaders spent much of their time defending Obama’s actions and seeking Democratic Party approval.”
No Republican president could get away with what Obama has wreaked without massive left/liberal opposition in the streets. That is what the lesser of evils gets you.
by Danny Haiphong
“Obama’s exit will conclude a period of history where the even harsher tasting ‘Satan Sandwich’ of austerity, imperialist adventure, and state repression was swallowed with little resistance by the most progressive forces residing in the American empire.”
The corporate media has been preparing the Obama Administration’s curtain call for the 2016 election cycle. Obama’s diligent service for corporate empire stabilized the political rule of imperialism at a high cost for oppressed people everywhere. Now, with the Obama Administration’s popularity at an all time low from the US to South Africa to the Asia Pacific, corporate media syndicates have set their sights on Hilary Clinton’s possible 2016 candidacy. During her tenure as Obama’s first Secretary of State (2009-2013), Hillary performed the role of top lapdog for the Obama Administration’s imperialist ventures. It is important for the radical left to begin preparing for what’s to come while continuing to struggle against prevailing conditions, as the Obama Administration is far from finished with its task of managing the affairs of corporate empire at the people’s expense.
The few of us who have spent nearly six years fighting Obama-mania are glad to see him go. The Obama Administration consolidated the rule of corporate imperialism far more effectively than the Bush Jr. Administration. This is why Black Agenda Report has called Barack Obama “the more effective evil” from the minute he began making policy decisions. Obama’s mere presence in the White House built a dangerous white liberal and Black American consensus that terribly confused the actions and positions of the US left. While the Obama Administration was busy militarizing Africa, propping up the prison state, privatizing education, slashing entitlements, waging NATO-led wars all over Eurasia, dropping drones, eroding civil liberties, and bailing out Wall Street, white liberals and Black misleaders spent much of their time defending Obama’s actions and seeking Democratic Party approval. This balance of forces stifled radical political resistance, as best evidenced by the deterioration of the US anti-imperialist movement and the rapid dissolution of Occupy Wall Street.
“The left will need to carry out an offensive against materialized fascism or decide, as it has for the last six years, to continue attaching itself to the interests of the corporate ruling class.”
The end of the Obama era and the prospect of Hillary present an interesting challenge to grassroots left forces in the years to come. The Obama presidency’s affect on the consciousness of exploited and oppressed people allowed the ruling circle to institutionalize police-state laws like the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and imperialist projects such as “humanitarian intervention” with little organized resistance. Race to the Top and the Affordable Care Act institutionalized privatization at the national level. Thus, state repression, capitalist austerity, and imperialist intervention will find strong consensus within both parties of the US establishment come 2016. Starting from this point, the left will need to carry out an offensive against materialized fascism or decide, as it has for the last six years, to continue attaching itself to the interests of the corporate ruling class. Hillary Clinton appears ready to carry on what Obama has wrought. Her prospects for success are bright if the US left decides to deem her the “lesser-evil” like it did with Obama.
Hillary Clinton is a rabid Democratic Party imperialist whose record as Secretary of State makes her a welcome addition to the Oval Office of capitalist-imperialist treachery. In 2011, following the extrajudicial murder of Muammar Gaddafi by US-NATO bandits, Clinton reported to the media “We came, we saw, he died.” This demonstration of Western imperial arrogance capped off the successful US-NATO overthrow of independent Libya by way of “humanitarian intervention.” During this same period, Clinton staunchly advocated for the escalation of US-NATO involvement in Syria and continued pressuring Iran to open its economy to Western capitalist ruin with starvation sanctions and military threats. These moves made Obama’s first Secretary of State a darling to US imperialism despite the loss of political points suffered from the embarrassing “blowback” experienced in Benghazi on Sept. 11th 2012.
“Hilary’s imperialist policy positions represent a further move to the right for the Democratic Party in its attempt to escape accountability for the disasters of Libya, Syria, and now Ukraine.”
Since being relieved of her duties as Secretary of State, Hillary has been setting her still unofficial campaign trail ablaze with foreign policy positions that veer to the right of Obama. Last March, the Wall Street Journal covered Hilary’s speech at the American Jewish Congress in New York. In it, she stated bluntly that a military option was “on the table” for Iran if the nation didn’t capitulate to US demands of halting uranium development. Earlier in the same month, Hillary spoke to a crowd in California comparing Russian President Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler for his responses to the US engineered illegal coup in Ukraine that put US-NATO supported fascists in power. As the Wall Street Journal article reports, Hilary’s imperialist policy positions represent a further move to the right for the Democratic Party in its attempt to escape accountability for the disasters of Libya, Syria, and now Ukraine. For these positions, Hillary is guaranteed plenty of support from the Zionist Israeli settler state and imperialists all over if and when she announces Presidential candidacy. However, imperialism according to Hillary Clinton brings the world closer to a World War III scenario and further exposes the collaboration between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to economic and foreign policy endeavors.
Many people in the US were shocked when the Obama Administration abandoned each and every progressive campaign promise made in 2008. In denial, the white liberal and Black misleadership opportunists cried out Republican “obstructionism” and “lesser evil” dogmas to avoid the fact that the Obama Administration was a natural outgrowth of US imperialism. It should not be forgotten that the last Democratic Party President and Hilary’s husband, Bill Clinton, worked hard to collaborate with the much-vaunted right-wing of imperialism. Clinton eliminated welfare, passed the “three strikes” Omnibus Crime Bill that greatly expanded the prison-state, bombed a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant, instituted NAFTA’s job killing proposals, and provided financial and logistical support for the Rwanda and Congolese genocides. Obama’s exit will conclude a period of history where the even harsher tasting “Satan Sandwich” of austerity, imperialist adventure, and state repression was swallowed with little resistance by the most progressive forces residing in the American empire. It remains to be seen whether working class Black America will break with neo-colonialism or whether working class leadership will break with their masters in Washington. Our task, no matter who takes the reigns from the “More Effective Evil,” is do everything we can to facilitate both.
Posted by rogerhollander in Russia, Ukraine.
Tags: crimea, douglas feith, foreign policy, frederick kagan, hillary clinton, iran nuclear, kerry, ned, neocons, netanyahuy, Petraeus, president obama, putin, regime change, richard perle, robert parry, robet gagtes, roger hollander, syrain civil war, ukraine, ukraine crisis, victoria nuland, washington post, Yanukovych, Yatsenyuk
Roger’s note: This article lays out in detail the overall geopolitical strategy of the most reactionary hawkish elements within the Obama government, including Hillary Clinton; and puts the Ukraine crisis in a broader perspective. This situation is complex and has historical roots that get ignored in the main stream media which, for analysis, substitutes cheer leading for U.S. interests, which have absolutely nothing to do with democracy, not to mention the best interests of the Ukrainian, Russian or American people.
President Barack Obama has been trying, mostly in secret, to craft a new foreign policy that relies heavily on cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin to tamp down confrontations in hotspots such as Iran and Syria. But Obama’s timidity about publicly explaining this strategy has left it open to attack from powerful elements of Official Washington, including well-placed neocons and people in his own administration.
The gravest threat to this Obama-Putin collaboration has now emerged in Ukraine, where a coalition of U.S. neocon operatives and neocon holdovers within the State Department fanned the flames of unrest in Ukraine, contributing to the violent overthrow of democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych and now to a military intervention by Russian troops in the Crimea, a regionin southern Ukraine that historically was part of Russia.
President Barack Obama discusses the crisis in Ukraine for 90 minutes on March 1, 2014, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (White House photo/Pete Souza)
Though I’m told the Ukraine crisis caught Obama and Putin by surprise, the neocon determination to drive a wedge between the two leaders has been apparent for months, especially after Putin brokered a deal to head off U.S. military strikes against Syria last summer and helped get Iran to negotiate concessions on its nuclear program, both moves upsetting the neocons who had favored heightened confrontations.
Putin also is reported to have verbally dressed down Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan over what Putin considered their provocative actions regarding the Syrian civil war. So, by disrupting neocon plans and offending Netanyahu and Bandar, the Russian president found himself squarely in the crosshairs of some very powerful people.
If not for Putin, the neocons – along with Israel and Saudi Arabia – had hoped that Obama would launch military strikes on Syria and Iran that could open the door to more “regime change” across the Middle East, a dream at the center of neocon geopolitical strategy since the 1990s. This neocon strategy took shape after the display of U.S. high-tech warfare against Iraq in 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union later that year. U.S. neocons began believing in a new paradigm of a uni-polar world where U.S. edicts were law.
The neocons felt this paradigm shift also meant that Israel would no longer need to put up with frustrating negotiations with the Palestinians. Rather than haggling over a two-state solution, U.S. neocons simply pressed for “regime change” in hostile Muslim countries that were assisting the Palestinians or Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Iraq was first on the neocon hit list, but next came Syria and Iran. The overriding idea was that once the regimes assisting the Palestinians and Hezbollah were removed or neutralized, then Israel could dictate peace terms to the Palestinians who would have no choice but to accept what was on the table.
U.S. neocons working on Netanyahu’s campaign team in 1996, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, even formalized their bold new plan, which they outlined in a strategy paper, called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” The paper argued that only “regime change” in hostile Muslim countries could achieve the necessary “clean break” from the diplomatic standoffs that had followed inconclusive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
In 1998, the neocon Project for the New American Century called for a U.S. invasion of Iraq, but President Bill Clinton refused to go along. The situation changed, however, when President George W. Bush took office and after the 9/11 attacks. Suddenly, the neocons had a Commander in Chief who agreed with the need to eliminate Iraq’s Saddam Hussein — and a stunned and angry U.S. public could be easily persuaded. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”]
So, Bush invaded Iraq, ousting Hussein but failing to subdue the country. The U.S. death toll of nearly 4,500 soldiers and the staggering costs, estimated to exceed $1 trillion, made the American people and even Bush unwilling to fulfill the full-scale neocon vision, which was expressed in one of their favorite jokes of 2003 about where to attack next, Iran or Syria, with the punch line: “Real men go to Tehran!”
Though hawks like Vice President Dick Cheney pushed the neocon/Israeli case for having the U.S. military bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities – with the hope that the attacks also might spark a “regime change” in Tehran – Bush decided that he couldn’t risk the move, especially after the U.S. intelligence community assessed in 2007 that Iran had stopped work on a bomb four years earlier.
The Rise of Obama
The neocons were dealt another setback in 2008 when Barack Obama defeated a neocon favorite, Sen. John McCain. But Obama then made one of the fateful decisions of his presidency, deciding to staff key foreign-policy positions with “a team of rivals,” i.e. keeping Republican operative Robert Gates at the Defense Department and recruiting Hillary Clinton, a neocon-lite, to head the State Department.
Obama also retained Bush’s high command, most significantly the media-darling Gen. David Petraeus. That meant that Obama didn’t take control over his own foreign policy.
Gates and Petraeus were themselves deeply influenced by the neocons, particularly Frederick Kagan, who had been a major advocate for the 2007 “surge” escalation in Iraq, which was hailed by the U.S. mainstream media as a great “success” but never achieved its principal goal of a unified Iraq. At the cost of nearly 1,000 U.S. dead, it only bought time for an orderly withdrawal that spared Bush and the neocons the embarrassment of an obvious defeat.
So, instead of a major personnel shakeup in the wake of the catastrophic Iraq War, Obama presided over what looked more like continuity with the Bush war policies, albeit with a firmer commitment to draw down troops in Iraq and eventually in Afghanistan.
From the start, however, Obama was opposed by key elements of his own administration, especially at State and Defense, and by the still-influential neocons of Official Washington. According to various accounts, including Gates’s new memoir Duty, Obama was maneuvered into supporting a troop “surge” in Afghanistan, as advocated by neocon Frederick Kagan and pushed by Gates, Petraeus and Clinton.
Gates wrote that Kagan persuaded him to recommend the Afghan “surge” and that Obama grudgingly went along although Gates concluded that Obama didn’t believe in the “mission” and wanted to reverse course more quickly than Gates, Petraeus and their side wanted.
Faced with this resistance from his own bureaucracy, Obama began to rely on a small inner circle built around Vice President Joe Biden and a few White House advisers with the analytical support of some CIA officials, including CIA Director Leon Panetta.
Obama also found a surprising ally in Putin after he regained the Russian presidency in 2012. A Putin adviser told me that the Russian president personally liked Obama and genuinely wanted to help him resolve dangerous disputes, especially crises with Iran and Syria.
In other words, what evolved out of Obama’s early “team of rivals” misjudgment was an extraordinary presidential foreign policy style, in which Obama developed and implemented much of his approach to the world outside the view of his secretaries of State and Defense (except when Panetta moved briefly to the Pentagon).
Even after the eventual departures of Gates in 2011, Petraeus as CIA director after a sex scandal in late 2012, and Clinton in early 2013, Obama’s peculiar approach didn’t particularly change. I’m told that he has a distant relationship with Secretary of State John Kerry, who never joined Obama’s inner foreign policy circle.
Though Obama’s taciturn protectiveness of his “real” foreign policy may be understandable given the continued neocon “tough-guy-ism” that dominates Official Washington, Obama’s freelancing approach gave space to hawkish elements of his own administration.
For instance, Secretary of State Kerry came close to announcing a U.S. war against Syria in a bellicose speech on Aug. 30, 2013, only to see Obama pull the rug out from under him as the President worked with Putin to defuse the crisis sparked by a disputed chemical weapons attack outside Damascus. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “How War on Syria Lost Its Way.”]
Similarly, Obama and Putin hammered out the structure for an interim deal with Iran on how to constrain its nuclear program. But when Kerry was sent to seal that agreement in Geneva, he instead inserted new demands from the French (who were carrying water for the Saudis) and nearly screwed it all up. After getting called on the carpet by the White House, Kerry returned to Geneva and finalized the arrangements.[See Consortiumnews.com’s “A Saudi-Israel Defeat on Iran Deal.”]
Unorthodox Foreign Policy
Obama’s unorthodox foreign policy – essentially working in tandem with the Russian president and sometimes at odds with his own foreign policy bureaucracy – has forced Obama into faux outrage when he’s faced with some perceived affront from Russia, such as its agreement to give temporary asylum to National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
For the record, Obama had to express strong disapproval of Snowden’s asylum, though in many ways Putin was doing Obama a favor by sparing Obama from having to prosecute Snowden with the attendant complications for U.S. national security and the damaging political repercussions from Obama’s liberal base.
Putin’s unforced errors also complicated the relationship, such as when he defended Russian hostility toward gays and cracked down on dissent before the Sochi Olympics. Putin became an easy target for U.S. commentators and comedians.
But Obama’s hesitancy to explain the degree of his strategic cooperation with Putin has enabled Official Washington’s still influential neocons, including holdovers within the State Department bureaucracy, to drive more substantive wedges between Obama and Putin. The neocons came to recognize that the Obama-Putin tandem had become a major impediment to their strategic vision.
Without doubt, the neocons’ most dramatic – and potentially most dangerous – counter-move has been Ukraine, where they have lent their political and financial support to opposition forces who sought to break Ukraine away from its Russian neighbor.
Though this crisis also stems from the historical division of Ukraine – between its more European-oriented west and the Russian-ethnic east and south – neocon operatives, with financing from the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy and other U.S. sources, played key roles in destabilizing and overthrowing the democratically elected president.
NED, a $100 million-a-year agency created by the Reagan administration in 1983 to promote political action and psychological warfare against targeted states, lists 65 projects that it supports financially inside Ukraine, including training activists, supporting “journalists” and promoting business groups, effectively creating a full-service structure primed and ready to destabilize a government in the name of promoting “democracy.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “A Shadow US Foreign Policy.”]
State Department neocons also put their shoulders into shoving Ukraine away from Russia. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, the wife of prominent neocon Robert Kagan and the sister-in-law of the Gates-Petraeus adviser Frederick Kagan, advocated strenuously for Ukraine’s reorientation toward Europe.
Last December, Nuland reminded Ukrainian business leaders that, to help Ukraine achieve “its European aspirations, we have invested more than $5 billion.” She said the U.S. goal was to take “Ukraine into the future that it deserves,” by which she meant into the West’s orbit and away from Russia’s.
But President Yanukovych rejected a European Union plan that would have imposed harsh austerity on the already impoverished Ukraine. He accepted a more generous $15 billion loan from Russia, which also has propped up Ukraine’s economy with discounted natural gas. Yanukovych’s decision sparked anti-Russian street protests in Kiev, located in the country’s western and more pro-European region.
Nuland was soon at work planning for “regime change,” encouraging disruptive street protests by personally passing out cookies to the anti-government demonstrators. She didn’t seem to notice or mind that the protesters in Kiev’s Maidan square had hoisted a large banner honoring Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist who collaborated with the German Nazis during World War II and whose militias participated in atrocities against Jews and Poles.
By late January, Nuland was discussing with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt who should be allowed in the new government.
“Yats is the guy,” Nuland said in a phone call to Pyatt that was intercepted and posted online. “He’s got the economic experience, the governing experience. He’s the guy you know.” By “Yats,” Nuland was referring to Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who had served as head of the central bank, foreign minister and economic minister — and who was committed to harsh austerity.
As Assistant Secretary Nuland and Sen. McCain cheered the demonstrators on, the street protests turned violent. Police clashed with neo-Nazi bands, the ideological descendants of Bandera’s anti-Russian Ukrainians who collaborated with the Nazi SS during World War II.
With the crisis escalating and scores of people killed in the street fighting, Yanukovych agreed to a E.U.-brokered deal that called for moving up scheduled elections and having the police stand down. The neo-Nazi storm troopers then seized the opening to occupy government buildings and force Yanukovych and many of his aides to flee for their lives.
With these neo-Nazis providing “security,” the remaining parliamentarians agreed in a series of unanimous or near unanimous votes to establish a new government and seek Yanukovych’s arrest for mass murder. Nuland’s choice, Yatsenyuk, emerged as interim prime minister.
Yet, the violent ouster of Yanukovych provoked popular resistance to the coup from the Russian-ethnic south and east. After seeking refuge in Russia, Yanukovych appealed to Putin for help. Putin then dispatched Russian troops to secure control of the Crimea. [For more on this history, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Cheering a ‘Democratic’ Coup in Ukraine.”]
Separating Obama from Putin
The Ukraine crisis has given Official Washington’s neocons another wedge to drive between Obama and Putin. For instance, the neocon flagship Washington Post editorialized on Saturday that Obama was responding “with phone calls” when something much more threatening than “condemnation” was needed.
It’s always stunning when the Post, which so energetically lobbied for the U.S. invasion of Iraq under the false pretense of eliminating its (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction, gets its ire up about another country acting in response to a genuine security threat on its own borders, not half a world away.
But the Post’s editors have never been deterred by their own hypocrisy. They wrote, “Mr. Putin’s likely objective was not difficult to figure. He appears to be responding to Ukraine’s overthrow of a pro-Kremlin government last week with an old and ugly Russian tactic: provoking a separatist rebellion in a neighboring state, using its own troops when necessary.”
The reality, however, appears to have been that neocon elements from within the U.S. government encouraged the overthrow of the elected president of Ukraine via a coup spearheaded by neo-Nazi storm troopers who then terrorized lawmakers as the parliament passed draconian laws, including some intended to punish the Russian-oriented regions which favor Yanukovych.
Yet, besides baiting Obama over his tempered words about the crisis, the Post declared that “Mr. Obama and European leaders must act quickly to prevent Ukraine’s dismemberment. Missing from the president’s statement was a necessary first step: a demand that all Russian forces – regular and irregular – be withdrawn … and that Moscow recognize the authority of the new Kiev government. … If Mr. Putin does not comply, Western leaders should make clear that Russia will pay a heavy price.”
The Post editors are fond of calling for ultimatums against various countries, especially Syria and Iran, with the implication that if they don’t comply with some U.S. demand that harsh actions, including military reprisals, will follow.
But now the neocons, in their single-minded pursuit of endless “regime change” in countries that get in their way, have taken their ambitions to a dangerous new level, confronting nuclear-armed Russia with ultimatums.
By Sunday, the Post’s neocon editors were “spelling out the consequences” for Putin and Russia, essentially proposing a new Cold War. The Post mocked Obama for alleged softness toward Russia and suggested that the next “regime change” must come in Moscow.
“Many in the West did not believe Mr. Putin would dare attempt a military intervention in Ukraine because of the steep potential consequences,” the Post wrote. “That the Russian ruler plunged ahead shows that he doubts Western leaders will respond forcefully. If he does not quickly retreat, the United States must prove him wrong.”
The madness of the neocons has long been indicated by their extraordinary arrogance and their contempt for other nations’ interests. They assume that U.S. military might and other coercive means must be brought to bear on any nation that doesn’t bow before U.S. ultimatums or that resists U.S.-orchestrated coups.
Whenever the neocons meet resistance, they don’t rethink their strategy; they simply take it to the next level. Angered by Russia’s role in heading off U.S. military attacks against Syria and Iran, the neocons escalated their geopolitical conflict by taking it to Russia’s own border, by egging on the violent ouster of Ukraine’s elected president.
The idea was to give Putin an embarrassing black eye as punishment for his interference in the neocons’ dream of “regime change” across the Middle East. Now, with Putin’s countermove, his dispatch of Russian troops to secure control of the Crimea, the neocons want Obama to further escalate the crisis by going after Putin.
Some leading neocons even see ousting Putin as a crucial step toward reestablishing the preeminence of their agenda. NED president Carl Gershman wrote in the Washington Post, “Ukraine’s choice to join Europe will accelerate the demise of the ideology of Russian imperialism that Putin represents. … Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”
At minimum, the neocons hope that they can neutralize Putin as Obama’s ally in trying to tamp down tensions with Syria and Iran – and thus put American military strikes against those two countries back under active consideration.
As events spin out of control, it appears way past time for President Obama to explain to the American people why he has collaborated with President Putin in trying to resolve some of the world’s thorniest problems.
That, however, would require him to belatedly take control of his own administration, to purge the neocon holdovers who have worked to sabotage his actual foreign policy, and to put an end to neocon-controlled organizations, like the National Endowment for Democracy, that use U.S. taxpayers’ money to stir up trouble abroad. That would require real political courage.
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