Is Hillary Clinton responsible for rise of ISIL, as Bernie’s Campaign Manager Alleged?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, alleged on Thursday that Hillary Clinton’s policies are responsible for the ‘rise and expansion of ISIS throughout the Middle East.’ His full statement on CNN:

“I think if you look at her record and campaign, her campaign is funded by millions and millions of dollars from Wall Street and other special interests. She’s made a deal with the devil, and we all know the devil wants his money in the end. So that’s the kind of campaign she’s running. She supported the terrible trade deals which have devastated American manufacturing in the country. She supported the war in Iraq. She continues to have a very, very hawkish foreign policy that has led to the rise and expansion of ISIS throughout the Middle East.”

Daesh (ISIS or ISIL) arose in Iraq as a reaction against the Bush occupation of that country and its punitive policies toward Sunni Arabs, as part of a Shiite-led “debaathification.” (The ruling party 1968-2003 had bee the Baath Party, which was secular, socialist and disproportionately dominated in the upper echelons by Sunni Arabs).

It spread to Syria as a result of that country’s 2011 revolution, which turned into a civil war when the Bashar al-Assad regime used military weaponry on civilian protesters.

It also spread to the Sinai Peninsula after General-President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and declared members of the movement terrorists.

Then it spread last year into Libya, where the government had collapsed (or rather, there were three).

So is Weaver correct?

Informed Comment says that he is mostly incorrect.

Although Clinton did vote to authorize the Iraq War, it wasn’t the war per se that created Daesh there but rather the US backing for Shiite policies of political reprisals against the Sunnis. Clinton did not have anything to do with policy-making in Iraq.

Clinton might have liked to intervene in Syria in 2011 by backing the Free Syrian Army with arms and money, but she was prevented from implementing such a policy by President Obama, who wanted the US to stay out of Syria. So you can’t blame her for Daesh coming to Syria and joining the civil war there.

Clinton was out of office during Sisi’s coup and crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and had nothing to do with it. That radical groups among the Sinai bedouin declared for Daesh (and then apparently dissociated themselves from it) has nothing to do with Sec. Clinton.

Clinton backed a no-fly zone in Libya and exulted when Muammar Gaddafi was ejected. Her main fault there, I would argue, however, was that she set in motion no international help to reestablish the Libyan military. As the militias declined to disarm or stand down, their internecine fighting threw the country into chaos. A small band of fundamentalists in the old Gaddafi stronghold of Sirte declared for Daesh, but they are a tiny exception. You could make a case that some Clinton policies as secretary of state did contribute to the spread of Daesh to Libya, but in my view that is a stretch. Libyan radical fundamentalists were well established in the country, and had supplied fighters against the US in Iraq in the thousands. Once revolution against the decrepit Gaddafi regime broke out in 2011, I fear the country was going to face chaos one way or another (if there hadn’t been a no-fly zone things could have been worse, on a Syria scale).

Maybe you could find a way to put a little blame on Clinton for Daesh in Libya, but that really is the only instance of it where she might be said to have such culpability. And in my view it is a stretch.


Related video added by Juan Cole

Bernie Sanders’ Campaign Responds To Hillary Clinton ‘Unqualified’ Comments | MSNBC

78 Responses

  1. To be fair, the accusation was this:
    “She continues to have a very, very hawkish foreign policy that has led to the rise and expansion of ISIS throughout the Middle East”

    So it can be argued that he is claiming that it is “very, very hawkish foreign policy” that is responsible ISIS, which as claims go is pretty uncontroversial.

    I think everyone concedes that the USA’s hawkish foreign policy has created the conditions within which ISIS can expand.

    Hillary didn’t create that foreign policy, no, but she is very definitely an unreconstructed chicken-hawk.

    Seen in that light the criticism is a valid one, if only because anyone who **still** advocates a very, very hawkish foreign policy after all this turmoil is very clearly a dimwit.

    • A “chicken hawk”? That is a term of art that applies to pro-war politicians who avoided service when their number came up. Or didn’t volunteer for service when they could have. To apply it to Clinton doesn’t even make sense, and is deeply insulting.

      Otherwise, your attempt to handwave the writer’s points in order to reach your predetermined conclusion is pathetic. It’s right up there with, “If my uncle was a woman he’d be my aunt, and I think he was rather effeminate anyway, so he’s my aunt after all.”

      Very sad.

      • JR: “Otherwise, your attempt to handwave the writer’s points in order to reach your predetermined conclusion is pathetic.”

        Jeff, the quote is here: “She continues to have a very, very hawkish foreign policy that has led to the rise and expansion of ISIS throughout the Middle East”

        No “twisting” is required to point out that the quote can be read as this:
        1) “very, very hawkish foreign policy” created and enabled the rise of ISIS
        2) Clinton still has a “very, very hawkish foreign policy”.

        She is hardly unique in this, which is why I am pointing out that the accusation isn’t that the is uniquelly and personally responsible for the creation of ISIS.

        Now, that’s what the quote says, and you and I are perfectly free to disagree on what it meant.

        To claim otherwise is…. sadly…. pathetic

      • Chickenhawk is not a term applied to those who avoided service when their number came up, as you state, but rather to those who avoid it altogether. The draft was eliminated in the early-70s. West Point began admitting female cadets in the mid-70s. Clinton had ample opportunities to join. She never did. Subsequently, she has supported, and advocated, US military action on numerous occasions.

        With respect to the writer’s points, he could be described as trying to handwave in order to reach his predetermined conclusions. Clinton did not just back a no-fly zone and exult at Gaddafi’s demise, she pushed for regime change. And the argument that Daesh is a result of the occupation and punitive policies only, to divorce it from the war, stretches the boundaries of sophistry. (The latter, concerning Daesh and Iraq, is particularly egregious. It’s the kind of nonsense one expects from Sam Harris and his ilk.)

        • Hillary Clinton was born in 1947 and in 1973 she earned her J.D. at Yale and then worked as a congressional legal aide. She then went to Arkansas and married Bill in 1975. To say she had ample opportunity to go to West Point is really kind of ridiculous. You expect someone who has a law degree and is married to go to West Point? Or a woman who is getting a law degree to enlist in the early 70’s. This is the kind of non-analytical thinking I can’t stand.

        • You assume that of course a woman with a law degree couldn’t serve in the military. You are of course making the point that politicians who favor war frequently aren’t the sort of people who would even consider joining the military.

  2. Just having appeased the AIPAC hawks with a speech worthy of a Dick Cheney seal of approval my thoughts are turning to which neocon (s) will be appointed to be Sec. of State…Defense Secretary and who would be picked as her running mate ( Corey Booker?)in the Hillary Clinton administration? Thank God Richard Holbrooke is not available for any of the above.

  3. The Deaver statement “She continues to have a very, very hawkish foreign policy that has led to the rise and expansion of ISIS throughout the Middle East.” indicates mostly that she approved and continues to support hawkish US foreign policy there, which was substantially responsible for the rise of ISIS.

    The US Iraq War II, created ISIS by displacing Sunnis from government and military positions, and failing to foresee that the Shiite/Kurdish majority would not grant them equal rights and would purge them from Baghdad. The US warmongers pretended that the factions of Iraq would suddenly jump to democracy rather than using its forms to settle scores. When the minority Sunnis were suppressed after a long violent insurgency, it is not surprising that many of them formed ISIS/Daesh with Saudi assistance. This appears to me a direct consequence of the warmongering of US Iraq War promoters.

    Warmongers like Clinton indeed created ISIL/Daesh by simpleminded propagandist warmongering. The fact that she was not the only one hardly exonerates her.

    If elected, she will indeed go on to spread death and destruction by giving her boys with the medals all they want, just as she has done at every opportunity since 2008. See Bob Woodward’s The War Within on admin policymaking if not familiar with Clinton’s attitude toward the military. We don’t need bribed simpleminded propagandists in high office.

    • Wow. A nifty bit of lefty rhetoric, unsullied by facts. “War monger”? Well, I guess that says it all. No need for reason or analysis.

      ISIS is the natural result of the Bush war and its conduct. Which, I need hardly add, Hillary had nothing to do with. (Unless, as you might, you blame Kerry and a host of others for the same things.) Otherwise, your argument consists of the same superficial cant that so many who make such arguments rely on.

      But then, when you spout nonsense like “US warmongers” instead of careful analysis, you have pretty much given the game away.

      Unlike you, apparently, the rest of us have to live in the real world, where very tough situations demand imperfect solutions. Where puerile cries of “Revolution!” can be safely, and legitimately, ignored because there is actual work to be done. Which progressives never lower themselves to do. Also, where the consequences of a Republican administration are not abstract, and not shielded by privilege.

      “Lead, follow, or get out of the way” may be a hackneyed phrase. But it also applies. Some of us have actual work to do. So sod off.

      • As a long time progressive who has worked in government and on numerous campaigns, be careful about claiming that all progressives fail to do any work. There are people who claim to be progressives who are unrealistic ideologues. And then there are progressives who know what needs to be done, know how hard it is to do, and try to do it anyway. So, be careful with your generalizations.

      • Warmongering is clearly defined. You must read Aristotle’s Politics in which he cautions against the warmongering of tyrants, who create fears to demand power as false protectors and accuse their moral superiors of disloyalty. Much as you are doing in claiming to be “realistic” with “work to be done” and accusing critics of the opposite. They are prevalent in the US policymaking since the cold war, and their influence on VP Clinton and Obama via the NSC is clear in Woodward’s The War Within and many other sources.

        Those who deal realistically with tough situations will not ignore these facts. It the is warmonger who is unrealistic and puerile and must get out of the way of humanity.

  4. Hillary’s suport of a no fly zone was disingenuous. It is now established that she was after regime change. This shows catastrophic bad judgement in light of what regime change and intervention in civil wars in the middle east has wrought. The rise of Isil is a direct result of the mainstream neocon policies that she is a champion of.

  5. I remember a comment Clinton made when Mubarak was overthrown. She said the Mubaraks were like family to the Clintons. She seemed quite comfortable with his ilk.

    Though maybe not a prime mover in the birthing of Daesh, she certainly lent her prestige (manufactured rather than earned, in my opinion) to all the neocon rhetoric and actions that brought the Middle East to where it is today. Never the lone or lonely voice of dissent.

    • She said the Mubaraks were like family to the Clintons.

      And, when it became obvious Mubarak was out, she wanted General Suleiman, chief of staff for torture operations, to replace him as president.

  6. She is not responsible in an absolute sense but she surely shares a level of responsibility, a higher level than many due to the single-minded forcefulness of her persuasions and the then influence of her positions. Since she is seeking the highest office it’s perfectly valid for people to be reminded of her past positions and the consequences that followed them and haunt us to this day.

  7. These allegations are directed more broadly against a set of policies (with financial, economic, foreign/military aspects).

    The claim is that those policies are ingrained in HRC’s persona – with her allegiances regularly confirmed and greased through speaking fees to the likes of Goldman-Sachs, exclusive fundraising events and so on.

    In the classical (Kantian) sense we hold an individual responsible for their actions and foreseeable consequences – but that is the crux: The deeper insinuation is that HRC is not her own person at all, but merely an echo of a larger set of forces – forces that she has unfailingly served whenever she was in office (and would again).

    But even in terms of individual responsibility, didn’t her Iraq war vote precisely empower the executive to go ahead with the policies that created ISIS – and for which she therefore holds responsibility as a member of the legislative? While nobody could foresee the particulars, I remember the anti-war movement running ads with a picture of Osama bin Laden saying “I want you to invade Iraq”. Sadly the only foreseeable consequences HRC cared about were on her electability ratings and Iraqis don’t get to vote against her. She did miscalculate the depth of anti-war sentiment among Democratic primary voters – which cost her one election already – and hence professes to be sorry.

    a little blame?
    HRC is clearly directly responsible for the civil war in Libya. Perhaps Prof. Cole would care to explain how snidely applauding the (needless to say, illegal) torture and extra-judicial murder of the Libyan dictator in captivity would facilitate anything but civil war in a country where some factions were supporting said dictator. We cannot know whether later actions (that could have been taken but didn’t) would or would not have ameliorated the situation somewhat – (or would have further escalated it, for that matter).

    Even if one were to take the so-called “humanitarian intervention” argument seriously with regard to Libya (and I do believe Prof Cole is on the wrong side of history on this), overstepping the UN security council resolution authorizing a limited no-fly zone was the last straw for Russia and China, on top of Kosovo and Iraq. A minimally sane foreign policy would have been to build trust and cooperation in the UNSC rather than to hand the keys over to neo-cons like Nuland to instigate proxy wars between the U.S. and Russia – which directly helped fuel the rise of Daesh in Syria. A great record for a foreign secretary indeed.

    • The deeper insinuation is that HRC is not her own person at all, but merely an echo of a larger set of forces

      Hillary’s primary interest is Hillary, and she will align herself with anyone or any movement that will cater to her personal agenda.

      • Fair enough. I think we are really saying the same thing, looking through the empty shell from two different sides as it were.

    • I really dislike it when people distort history to try and prove their point. There was already a civil war going on in Libya. It was a result of the widespread uprising throughout the Middle East and the internal situation within Libya. How can any sane analysis put the blame for that war on Clinton. It was due to Quadaffi being a despot for over 30 years and refusing to give up any power. The chaos after was due to the complete lack of civil or political institutions to take over the government because the prior government was dependent on the will of one man who relied on a cult of personality. People on the right seem to think the US has a right and duty and the ability to right wrongs whenever and wherever we want. People on the left seem to think that US intervention is responsible for all ills, as if wars wouldn’t happen if we weren’t mixing in other’s business. Both sides are wrong. The widespread tumult in the Middle East is a result of many long time forces, including colonialism, the Versailles Treaty, lack of development, and despots who care about only themselves. At times US actions worsened the effects of these trends, at other times not. To say it is all the US fault, and more specifically that of one Secretary of State shows a complete lack of understanding of the history, development and politics in third world countries.

      • We seem to have very different ideas about taking responsibility. It would seem to me that the more you have supported a war the more you are called upon to be open critical re-evaluation and to constantly question whether a better avenue would have been available, what with war being the option of last resort, the failure of imagination, and so on. I’m not sure what anyone gains by defending the war and dismissing critics. When you are dissatisfied with the level of criticism of that war, then by all means be more critical, achieve a higher level of scrutiny, show by example how to take responsibility.

        How can any sane analysis put the blame for that war on Clinton.

        I distinctly remember NATO warplanes bombing government troops and the US foreign office giving diplomatic and PR support by widely exaggerating claims of impending genocide – and then switching seamlessly from protecting a majority rebel city to supporting rebel takeovers of majority regime cities, this time choosing to de-emphasize the resulting atrocities. This effectively killed any initiative towards a cease-fire locally and by the UN.

        You are free to disagree. However, would you please refrain from questioning my sanity?

        People on the left seem to think that US intervention is responsible for all ills, as if wars wouldn’t happen if we weren’t mixing in other’s business.

        I have never met anyone who would think that. This sounds rather like an outside perspective to dismiss the messenger.

        The US (and France) dropped bombs on Libya – how can one escape responsibility for such things?

        The widespread tumult in the Middle East is a result of many long time forces, including colonialism, the Versailles Treaty, lack of development, and despots who care about only themselves.

        Which is why we need to pick these things apart and take responsibility for our actions. Ironically, the lack of development stems in part from Gadaffi switching to neo-liberal economics in an effort to appease the West. He even had his son hang around the London School of Economics and such. A lot of good that did them.

        To say it is all the US fault, and more specifically that of one Secretary of State

        Again I’ve never heard anyone say any of these things.

        What we did say is that when you drop bombs on a country you carry responsibility. This is hardly a radical concept and should be especially clear when things go spectacularly south starting immediately after the bombing. Going on the record (as the civilian side of the government) to openly boast about an extra-judicial execution that pre-empts negotiation for a cease-fire clarifies things and helps with assigning responsibility. Isn’t the job of a foreign secretary to pursue diplomatic solutions rather than trying to out-macho the military?

  8. Thank you for the informed comment, professor!

    I agree that Weaver’s claim falls flat. It is painting with too broad a stroke and comes out quite facile. (Moreover, the Sanders campaign continues to stumble in its own foreign policy vision, with Sanders himself offering support for the continuation of targeted killings and suggesting a bigger role for the Saudi military in the region — unless he has more recently revised these ludicrous claims, in which case I would very gladly revise my view!)

    But despite this, I hope that we can easily enough demonstrate Clinton’s culpability in another field: the arming of authoritarian regimes. True, the American munitions that are currently killing hundreds of Yemeni civilians were sold to the Saudi state *after* Clinton’s resignation from the State Department. Yet one might argue that she set the trend when in office, with one deal alone worth almost thirty billion dollars to the Saudis:

    link to

    Then, if we turn to our own hemisphere, we see that she bankrolled Mexican state violence, expanding Bush’s failed drug wars, but turning them into successful fund raising opportunities for the Clinton Foundation:

    link to

    This is to say nothing of the millions of federal dollars she funneled to the Honduras coup regime when she was secretary of state and thus board of the Millennium Challenge Corporation:

    link to

    This shouldn’t have been one of those “Hard Choices” and ultimately if indirectly led to atrocities like this:

    link to

    If I too am painting with too large a brush-stroke, I welcome push-back.

  9. I think it is not unfair to say that since she supported the war in Iraq, and has also supported policies to undermine the Syrian regime, which is increasingly seen as very important to containing and eventually defeating ISIS, HRC helped to foster both the genesis and the growth of ISIS.

  10. Sorry but you are almost completely off here. There is a more or less a straight line that can be drawn from the US policies(abundant historical evidence supporting, including your own past posts) in Iraq, Israel, Syria, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, etc. in the nineties under Clinton/Albright/Bush/Rumsfeld/Obama/HRC, through the rise of Al Queda, IS, and DAESH. To distance HRC’s hawkish “everything is on the table” to her not looking at Benghazi or post Kadaffi Libya with any sense of responsibility is akin to not bearing witness to the blunders of the 90’s and 2000’s in ME. Where I disagree with Weaver is that HRC was not the only engine running the show and therefore cannot be solely blamed. Apart from that he is right on!

  11. I believe you mean that Clinton exulted when Gaddafi was disemboweled with a bayonet. We cannot know what would have happened if the US/NATO, largely at Clinton’s behest, had not undertaken its bombing campaign.

  12. I am sure there is no direct connection between Daesh and Clinton, but your recount of events is just baffling in its simplicity.

  13. “She continues to have a very, very hawkish foreign policy that has led to the rise and expansion of ISIS throughout the Middle East.”

    Former Secretary of State Clinton did break with the Obama administration and called for increased funding and support for the rebel groups in Syria to specifically depose Assad. One would think that after admitting her mistake with deposing Saddam, she’d hesitate with deposing other leaders.

    She also supported the programs that funneled financial and technical support via Saudi Arabia and Turkey to the rebel groups that were allied with ISIS. That support did benefit ISIS. They looted US-manufactured armaments that were brought into Syria via Turkey for other rebel groups. In addition, rebels that were supported by Saudi Arabia and Turkey with US backing (or technical expertise) defected to ISIS.

    This does indicate that her militarism has played a role in the expansion of ISIS. Jeff Weaver’s larger point about former Secretary of State Clinton’s hawkishness is largely correct. You argued the very same thing, when you suggested that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are only marginally different with respect to their foreign policy views regarding the middle east.

    It’s not very democratic to have two presidential candidates that are only marginally different to George W Bush with regards to foreign policy.

    • Our host Professor Cole for unaccountable reasons has an idée fixe about deposing President Assad, regardless of how the people of Syria feel about it (voting for President Assad with an approval rate of about 70%, better than most Western leaders). It has been proven again and again that the US and Turkish and Saudi concern with “Syrian human rights” is entirely wrapped up in a Qatari gas pipeline. Strangely, Informed Comment continues to beat the human rights in Syria drum while Al-Queda and Daesh dance and pillage the cradle of civilisation.

      President Assad’s father was a hard man and probably worth opposing (although even he brought peace and prosperity to Syria in the face of terrorism, albeit at a price) on moral principle. But the son – he’s about as gentle and genuine as political leaders come, in the Middle East or elsewhere. Indeed until the pipeline deal came up, Bashar and first lady Asma al-Assad were an internationally fêted glamour couple, spending leisure time with Nicolas Sarkozy, Carla Bruni, Tony and Cherie Blair, and even the Queen of England.

      So, yes Hillary Clinton with her active support for gun running to Syria (to al-Queda and Daesh) is as responsible for the rise of Daesh as anyone in the American political establishment. Perhaps only Turkish President Erdogan would bear more personal responsibility for the rise of Daesh.

      • One does not need to think of Assad as a benign dictator or “gentle or genuine” as you suggest to argue that regime change with US support whether in Iraq, Libya, or Syria (hopefully not) is catastrophic. None of the rulers in the Arab world have been pursuing policies that have been in favor or the majority of the residents of their countries (with the possible exception of maybe Tunisia now). However, given that we have seen the consequences of Iraq and Libya, why should we now follow the same broken policies that have led to the rise of ISIS?

        There was one paragraph that I completely missed in this post on former Secretary of State Clinton:

        “Although Clinton did vote to authorize the Iraq War, it wasn’t the war per se that created Daesh there but rather the US backing for Shiite policies of political reprisals against the Sunnis. Clinton did not have anything to do with policy-making in Iraq.”

        This is a very confused paragraph. It is very sad to see Informed Comment obfuscating the the effect of the Iraq War. Simply put, had we not invaded Iraq, there would have been no Daesh. Therefore, our invasion of Iraq was a cause of the creation of Daesh. In the same capacity, one can admit that US policies in post invasion Iraq created conditions that led to the creation of Daesh (as you argue). These causes aren’t mutually exclusive: both can perfectly well be causes for the creation of ISIS.

        There is a similar gripe that I have when Informed Comment argues:

        “Clinton backed a no-fly zone in Libya and exulted when Muammar Gaddafi was ejected. Her main fault there, I would argue, however, was that she set in motion no international help to reestablish the Libyan military.”

        This is mere speculation on the reestablishment of the Libyan military leading to a more stable Libya. How do you know? There is no possible way you can know this with any certainty. This is just simply peering into a crystal ball, attempting to find justifications for the disastrous consequences of our policies in Libya. Former Secretary of State Clinton said, “We came, we saw, he died.” And, unfortunately, residents of the middle east have to every day live with the consequences of our hubris (whether in Iraq, Libya or Syria). We (US) invaded Iraq, bombed (Libya/Yemen/others), and supported rebel groups with money and arms (in Syria), and then when things don’t quite go right, we say, oh, if only we didn’t do this afterwards… This is getting tiring. I would just like my democratically elected leaders (Bush, Obama, and presumably Clinton) to stop invading countries, bombing countries, or supporting rebel groups.

        • All successful transitions from revolutions have depended on the establishment of a new postrevolutionary military, and this is true for postcolonial states, as well.

        • @Juan Cole

          Where we capable of “establishing a new postrevolutionary military?” Presumably, the “new” military would not have elements of the former military that remained loyal to Gaddafi? It would be simple to just keep the former salaried workers and and simply change their allegiance, but the way Gaddafi was tortured in executed, seems to suggest none of the Libyan rebels would have acquiesced to having Qaddafi elements embedded in the new military.

          We tried for several years to create a new Iraqi military, but doesn’t seem as though they are very capable. Nor has the Iraqi military played much of a role in the nation-building of Iraq. Does any of this suggests that we could have helped in the creation of a new and capable Libyan military?

          Even if all successful revolutionary transitions “have depended on the establishment of a new military,” there is no indication that such a military could have been created with US or European support.

          These comments of “if only Bremmer hadn’t dissolved the Iraqi military” or “if only the US and Europe were more involved in post-Gaddafi Libya (in creating a new military)” have the ring of hollow excuses to mitigate the disaster that has plagued Iraq and Libya. We have repeated them long enough to believe them, and stay beholden to our “just” intentions. We use these excuses to assuage our moral conscience that we have good intentions, and, more importantly, keep believing that our initial impulses of military hawkishness aren’t responsible for any of the resulting mess.

      • This is a most bizarre tribute to a war criminal. I can see how you could have thought of Assad as “gentle and genuin” before the war, but how did you embargo yourself from the many years of news that document the regime’s war crimes? Assad’s regime is more old fashioned than IS/Daesh, you won’t see them advertising their crimes on Youtube, but that doesn’t make torture and the barrel bombs any less real. Where the heck have you been to miss these inconvenient facts?

        • President Assad is in the middle of a civil war, provoked by yet another American backed color revolution. People die in civil wars.

          Barrel bombs: Actually people die in peace time now if the US would so chooses (drone wars). How is losing your family to a drone strike any different than losing your family to a barrel bomb?

          Torture: Abu Graib and Lynndie England ring a bell? Or Guantanomo Bay torture, where a rather impressive catalogue of torture techniques was employed by CIA and DOD.

          War criminals: a war of aggression is the greatest war crime reasoned Nuremberg prosecutors.

          To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.

          The United States of America invaded and destroyed Iraq based on intelligence it knew false. While there, depleted uranium was used to foul the soil and rend much of the land uninhabitable without expensive reclamation. Indeed many US soldiers have died from radiation exposure. Deliberately endangering civilian lives is another war crime.

          So until the ICC in the Hague have had time to consider the weighty cases against George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Tony Blair, Colin Powell, Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton, there’s scant reason for them to consider small fry like Bashar el-Assad.

          For that matter, barrel bombs are not a war crime at all. Nor is taking steps to put down an armed insurrection.

          Conclusion: your comment is either incredibly naive or deeply cynical.

      • “How is losing your family to a drone strike any different than losing your family to a barrel bomb?” Abu Graib etc.

        How is comparing crime to crime supposed to make either one better?

        Completely irrelevant relativism.

        “…. provoked by yet another American backed color revolution.”

        Typical Western hybris. Nothing in the world could ever happen without being orchestrated by the US.

        Yes, the US Iraq invasion was a war crime, but this does nothing to exonerate Assad for having started this mess by authorizing his security forces to shoot into protest marches.

        And you are of course well aware that Assad assisted the US in their rendition program. They outsourced much of this dirty work to Assad because he had the torture experts on hand.

        link to

        You my friend misplaced you moral compass by thinking you can somehow neatly counterbalance atrocities on a scale of justice that’ll make Lustitia’s head spin.

        • So President Bashar Assad is to blame for being strong-armed into an illegal rendition program. Service to the Empire given on the promise of immunity to attacks on the Syrian state. As often, the duplicitous Americans not only break their word but turn cooperation as a weapon against the counter-party.

          This has been going on for a long time. Heard of the Trail of Tears? The Cherokee were America’s Indian allies.

          Your irony about America’s capabilities and interference is as misplaced as your other dismissive assertions. Over 800 military bases around the world weren’t put there for decoration. President Obama has claimed repeatedly that America is the “one indispensable nation“:

          I see an American century because no other nation seeks the role that we play in global affairs, and no other nation can play the role that we play in global affairs. That includes shaping the global institutions of the 20th century to meet the challenges of the 21st.

          I.e. if the American President has to stack the United Nations or manipulate the ICC in the Hague through America’s European partners peons to get his way, he’ll do that too.

          Not quite sure why you think a wave of the hand replaces study and reading in the consideration of foreign policy.

        • “So President Bashar Assad is to blame for being strong-armed into an illegal rendition program. “

          “Not quite sure why you think a wave of the hand replaces study and reading in the consideration of foreign policy.”

          OK, I get it now. You obviously just have a very shrewd sense of humor.

  14. “Clinton might have liked to intervene in Syria in 2011 by backing the Free Syrian Army with arms and money, but she was prevented from implementing such a policy by President Obama” Except Obama’s policies tacitly allowing S Arabia, Turkey, other Gulf counties, Jordon, etc – intervene made the Administration responsible for the ‘proxy’ war that had developed. The Syrian war could have been settled on the same terms as Russia and the US are trying to ‘solve’ it now in 2011 when 2300 Syrians lay dead at Assad’s hands, not almost half a million. Hillary certainly has responsibility for the blotched UN diplomacy in 2011-2012 through her obsessive “Assad must go” mantra – effectiveliy blocking even a cease fire – and allowing the slaughter to continue.

    Politicians make decisions that have consequences they are responsible for no matter what the stated objectives were.

  15. I do think she pushed very hard for regime change in Libya and because of that we’ll end up fighting Daesh there. I’m not sure it is much of a stretch to connect her to that. As for Iraq, I’m not sure what her position on the occupation — from roughly the time the search for WMD ended and Saddam Hussein was captured until now — has been. I’m sure many will disagree, but I would be far more concerned about anyone who supported the occupation than about someone who voted for the invasion itself.

  16. The responsibility for ISIS/ISIL/Daesh began many years before Hillary came on the scene. It began with the Zionist plan and its implementation leading to the “transfer” (ethnic cleansing) of Palestinians from the Palestine Territories. Osama bin Laden raised the stakes with the establishment of Al-Qaeda and the implementation of its plan to avenge Israel’s abuse of the Palestinians. That included 9/11 for US support of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians. ISIS/ISIL/Daesh just happened to be the most aggressive of the Al-Qaeda franchises. The Clinton Administration, which obviously included Hillary, gave Al-Qaeda another reason for attacking the US on 9/11. They apparently disagreed with Madeleine Albright that whatever “it” was sacrificing an estimated half million Iraqi children wasn’t worth it. Since then Hillary has been very active in encouraging anti-US sentiment in the Middle East and North Africa with continued support of Israel’s murderous operations in Gaza, the war on Iraq, and regime changes in Libya and Syria. Clinton didn’t start the fire. She just piled on more fuel.

  17. I think it is a bit simplistic to attribute rise of Al Qaeda in Iraq and later IS to the policies of Bush administration towards Sunnis. There was bad blood between Shiite , Kurds and Sunnis due to Saddam’s genocidal policies. Remember that initially Shiite and Sunnis were united. They were united against occupation and invasion of Iraq. But this changed when the opposition to occupation acquired a sectarian nature. The opposition to occupation was corrupted and took a sectarian and religious nature. Here Saudi Arabia and its Wahhabi religion had a great influence. In brief, modern history of Iraq will be written sometime in future, and there are many causes for the mess that is there, but don’t just simplify everything to US policies and mistakes made. Many other factors – Saddam’s policies, presence of SA, so on were present and responsible.

    • Oh for heaven’s sake. The Shiites the US brought to power have a Debaathification Commission which targeted Sunnis

      • Yeah, golly, can’t have any argument that doesn’t implicate Clinton and instead takes a nuanced view of history. Though how she had fuck-all to do with Bush’s favoring of the Shiites, or the destruction of the Iraqi army, is beyond me.

        But you go, girl! You’ve picked your narrative and God forbid facts get in the way!

        • Ryan, no one said that she orchestrated the details, only that she supported the war that predictably caused all of this and did not learn from the disasters and continues to support such wars when they are proven disasters. Those are the facts. You erase the distinctions to argue against valid points.

      • Prof., while you are correct in saying that the shiites have a “Debbthification Commission”; as I recall it was the CPA and Paul Bremer who through executive order introduced the debaathification program. See: “The first act of the CPA under Bremer was to issue order of de-Ba’athification of Iraqi society. On 23 May, CPA Order Number 2 formally disbanded the Iraqi army [2] On 22 July 2003, the CPA formed the Iraqi Governing Council and appointed its members. ” Source Wikipedia
        link to en.wikipedia.or

        Let us not absolve our primary role in this (we not only started the process and then brought these Shiites into that order) and not conveniently blame those pesky Shiites.

        • Bremer says at least that he dissolved the army because the Kurds and Shiites threatened him with fatal noncooperation if he wouldn’t. They drove this thing and went on doing it for years after the Americans no longer believed in it (Petraeus was actively opposed), all the way through 2014.

    • It was not claimed that the US advocated the factional strife that its Iraq War II created, only that it was quite predictable, and that there was no reason to believe that democracy would work among the warring factions left by warmongers. The US and Israel did secretly and systematically aggravate conflict among the factions in the 1980s Iran-Iraq War in the Iran-Contra affair and related schemes under Reagan and Bush 1.

  18. Score: Responders 1; Prof Juan – 0
    I agree that Prof Cole is off on this one. And I do not think one can pin the de-Baathification of Iraq on the Shia. The Iraq govt and military were dissolved about as soon as US boots hit the ground in Baghdad, even before Bremmer arrived.
    I’d love to take part in a seminar on the modern Middle East taught by Juan with responders like the ones above challenging him every step of the way.
    Where do I register for such a course?

    • But the idea that the US was not complicit in dissolving the Iraq military is of course false. The fact that it was defeated did not dissolve it, and that is the problem. That is propaganda, not argument, and apparently your Army friends agreed to spread propaganda today.

  19. Sanders unfortunately has forgotten that Hillary’s nasty attacks against Obama lost her points in 2008, while Obama’s refusal to respond in kind, worked well for him. Sanders has given Hillary a huge gift by his tit for tat comments, and if he’s smart and cool-headed enuff to be prez, he’ll stop it immediately.

  20. link to

    Robert Pape has spent his career studying terrorism. His conclusion is that the main cause of terrorism is occupation. There is no doubt that Hilary Clinton desires to be known as a strong supporter of Israel, a well-known occupying country. It is also well known that both Daesh and AlQuaeda use the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and the harsh treatment of Palestinians by the occupying entity in their recruiting material. So draw the connections . . .

    • Sure, because they aren’t plain to anyone else. So draw away! Because there are so many things that are “well-known”, and thus don’t need evidence to support them. Makes it all rather easy, doesn’t it? No need to get one’s hands dirty by actually doing the research.

      • Now, Ryan: show us research to the contrary. His points are generally quite valid. I would suggest that occupation is correlated rather than necessarily causal, but in the ME there have always been major insurgencies during occupations. So where is the evidence of democracy formation by warmongers?

  21. Judith Johnson

    So happy and relieved to discover that a Democratic female is responsible for all the sins of US. It goes without saying that St. Bernie will steer us from our hegemonic course as a nation, institute economic equality, be a comrade to Fidel and Francis alike, elevate us from our 3rd world status with UHC, free higher education, stop global warming and nationalize oil companies, auto manufacturing, replace capitalism with Scandanavian socialism and enforce isolationalism, and any other Liberatarian tenet I may have forgotten. His inagauration can include a public hanging of Mr. & Mrs. Clinton to kick off the Millenial Revolution!

    • There is really no attack upon democrats or females in opposing Hillary, nor any attempt here to sanctify Sanders. The criticism of Hillary’s consistent warmongering is very well founded. It is unfortunate that we don’t have a female democratic candidate who can and will lead the way, but we don’t. Commonly the first candidate from a group not before represented in the presidency is just a shill for the oligarchy, because they deceive the people best. So the wiser women will see that they are not yet represented by the female candidate. Wait for Senator Warren or one of the many other brilliant women who care for the people and have the intelligence to ignore the right wing warmongers and get on with the improvement of civilization.

    • Judith, Sanders is no saint, but he is yet to threaten “obliteration of Iran” – naturally, involving the extinction of the civilian population, as a part of a presidential campaign, as Hilary did in 2008, during her earlier presidential campaign.

      You have satirically gotten Bernie to hang Messrs Clintons, but Madam Clinton has actually threatened mass annihilation of an entire country.

      Add in the fact that Hilary threw a cock-a-hoop cheer when Qaddafi was ~disemboweled~ – like a kid playing a video-game, routinely grandstands tough in front of AIPAC and blindly ignores Israels own threats against Palestine (not to mention actual aggression), has supported an illegal war that killed 100000+, has called for further foreign aggression involving US ground troops, and I think we don’t quite have the exact opposite of a saint, but a fairly dangerous, mock-strong warmonger.

      And what’s more, I don’t think the world is amenable to such intervention anymore. That Hilary doesn’t get it is only proof of her lack of political perception.

  22. Dear Professor Cole

    Reading the worries about the future of Lebanon, where you were resident during the last collapse this morning makes me reject the Hillary as a fit and proper person to be US President. It doesn’t really matter because us Europeans don’t have a vote.

    We do get to question, obstruct, oppose and reject any American foolishness she comes up with if the woman is elected.

    “In fact, ISIS is already there; it has infiltrated virtually all the cities and towns of Lebanon, as well the countryside. Whenever it feels like it, it carries out attacks against the Shia, military and other targets. Both ISIS and al-Nusra do. And the dream of ISIS is blatant: a caliphate with access to the sea, one that would cover at least the northern part of Lebanon.

    If the West and its allies do nothing to prevent these plans, it is because they simply don’t want to.”

    link to

    The dead Ambassador in Banghazi was running guns to ISIS and the Fantasy Syrian Army.

    This can be traced back to Hillary’s email on Wikileaks where she says “Arming the Syrian rebels and using western air power to ground Syrian helicopters and airplanes is a low-cost high payoff approach. As long as Washington’s political leaders stay firm that no U.S. ground troops will be deployed, as they did in both Kosovo and Libya, the costs to the United States will be limited. Victory may not come quickly or easily, but it will come. And the payoff will be substantial. Iran would be strategically isolated, unable to exert its influence in the Middle East. The resulting regime in Syria will see the United States as a friend, not an enemy. Washington would gain substantial recognition as fighting for the people in the Arab world, not the corrupt regimes. For Israel, the rationale for a bolt from the blue attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be eased. And a new Syrian regime might well be open to early action on the frozen peace talks with Israel. Hezbollah in Lebanon would be cut off from its Iranian sponsor since Syria would no longer be a transit point for Iranian training, assistance and missiles.”

    This email reveals the woman to be a naive fantasist Agent of a Foreign Power.

    UNCLASSIFIED U.S. Department of State Case No. F-2014-20439 Doc No. C05794498 Date: 11/30/2015

    This email should make her a pariah among European leaders.

    I am struck by how prescient Osama was when he said “Third, if the Americans’ aims behind these wars are religious and economic, the aim is also to serve the Jews’ petty state and divert attention from its occupation of Jerusalem and murder of Muslims there. The best proof of this is their eagerness to destroy Iraq, the strongest neighboring Arab state, and their endeavor to fragment all the states of the region such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sudan into paper statelets and through their disunion and weakness to guarantee Israel’s survival and the continuation of the brutal crusade occupation of the Peninsula.”

    His view is the same as that the great poet Nizar Qabbani who says in his poem “We are accused of Terrorism”

    “America is fighting the cultures of Man
    Because it lacks one
    And against the civilizations because it needs one
    It is a gigantic structure but without a wall

    We are accused of terrorism
    If we refuse current times
    Where America the arrogant the mighty the rich
    Became a sworn interpreter of Hebrew.”

    Why do I care? Because of the irony that I might get shot by some idiot who thinks that all overweight white men are Americans, as a result of the woman’s next screwup.

      • A most extensively reported conspiracy theory. US government has form. see Contras, Irangate.

        “The Obama administration effectively switched sides in what used to be called the Global War on Terror [GWOT] when it decided to overthrow the sovereign government of our Libyan ally, Muammar Qaddafi, who’d been helping in the fight against al-Qaeda, by actually teaming up with and facilitating gun-running to Libyan al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood [MB] elements there in 2011,” explained Lopez. “This U.S. gun-running policy in 2011 during the Libyan revolution was directed by [then] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and [the late Libya Ambassador] Christopher Stevens, who was her official envoy to the Libyan AQ rebels.” link to

      • OK then Hersh, Boykin, Giraldi Too much smoke not to be fire.

        A highly classified annex to the report, not made public, described a secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama and Erdoğan administrations. It pertained to the rat line. By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria. A number of front companies were set up in Libya, some under the cover of Australian entities. Retired American soldiers, who didn’t always know who was really employing them, were hired to manage procurement and shipping. The operation was run by David Petraeus, the CIA director who would soon resign when it became known he was having an affair with his biographer. (A spokesperson for Petraeus denied the operation ever took place.)

        The operation had not been disclosed at the time it was set up to the congressional intelligence committees and the congressional leadership, as required by law since the 1970s. The involvement of MI6 enabled the CIA to evade the law by classifying the mission as a liaison operation. The former intelligence official explained that for years there has been a recognised exception in the law that permits the CIA not to report liaison activity to Congress, which would otherwise be owed a finding. (All proposed CIA covert operations must be described in a written document, known as a ‘finding’, submitted to the senior leadership of Congress for approval.) Distribution of the annex was limited to the staff aides who wrote the report and to the eight ranking members of Congress – the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, and the Democratic and Republicans leaders on the House and Senate intelligence committees. This hardly constituted a genuine attempt at oversight: the eight leaders are not known to gather together to raise questions or discuss the secret information they receive. link to

  23. I have often criticized Professor Cole in the past. This time I must support his view. The Bernie supporters are out in force, it seems. Yes, Secretary Clinton is too hawkish. It is one big reason I supported Obama in 2008. But to assign all this blame on her shows a lack of understanding of how the US government or the world works. For example, according to some posters here, apparently there would have been no civil war in Libya without Clinton. The US, which has supplied billions to Saudi Arabia for at least 40 years, wouldn’t have sold more weapons without Secretary Clinton. So many of these complaints would have you believe that it is only because of Secretary Clinton that certain events happened. What absolute hogwash. First, as Secretary of State, Secretary Clinton was in charge of administering the department and providing advice to the President. Many other people offer advice to the President and it is the PRESIDENT who makes all major foreign policy decisions. Many actions taken, like aid to Saudi Arabia or to Israel, are continuations of policies that have been in place for decades and have strong constituencies in Congress. And, as a Democratic senator, she had no influence whatsoever on actions taken by the Bush administration. Jeff Weaver, whom I have seen numerous times and have little respect for, seems to have a habit of making sweeping charges that are way overblown. This is one of them. For the record, I prefer Bernie Sanders foreign policy views much more than Clinton’s, but I consider myself an analytical realist and I find that too many of the Sanders supporters are ideologues who are not analytical.

    • Are very much on the same page, are also quite fond of Bernie’s positions, but the mindlessness of many of his supporters demonstrate nicely that Republicans don’t have a monopoly on stupid.

    • If you read the attribution, it does not hold Hilary directly responsible for , it only holds her as the supporter of a “very, very hawkish foreign policy”, which – obviously as only one of its consequences – has led to the rise of ISIS.

      I think it’s perfectly legitimate to read that quote as Hilary broadly supporting the sort of foreign policy that leads to consequences like ISIS.

      Also : did Hilary propose any substantial emendations to the US Iraq policy after 2005, or 2006, which would have led to any improved outcomes ? Has she modified her foreign policy stands in substance – away from hawkishness – till date ?

  24. Something else I thought I would add. Some of these arguments are so shallow, I think it is equivalent to saying that it was the Clintons that were responsible for the war in Bosnia and it was US foreign policy that was responsible for the murder of 20,000 at Srbenicia.

  25. I do not agree that Clinton bears no responsibility. Backing Bush’s invasion of Iraq meant backing Bush to do it, to achieve the goal of the invasion. Bush, however, led the US into a quagmire that has seen the deaths of 100s of thousands and produced ISIS. Bush’s quagmire is the quagmire of every leader who placed their confidence in Bush, including Senators. Even someone who wanted the US to invade Iraq should have had the good sense not to back Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Those like Clinton who lacked the good sense not to do either deserve to be held responsible for all that has eventuated.

  26. Stephen Hatt

    Hogwash. If there is any one event that has brought about ISIL, it is the Bush/Cheney decision to engage in regime change and “nation building” (hubristic farce) by invading Iraq, throwing Saddam Hussein out of power and disbanding the Iraqi army.

  27. Isn’t one of the problems with this critique of Clinton that it can’t imagine Arabs (or anyone else) acting except at the instigation of some western power? The strong causal claims–Clinton or the US or whom ever — caused Daesh seems to be part of an imaginary where no one else can really act in powerful ways on the world. I’m not rejecting the claims that various western interventions have had powerful effects in helping shape what happens, but it would be nice to also acknowledge the agency of those living in the region.

    • Ideologues on the right and left share an unrealistic opinion of the omnipotence of the US and seem to ignore local conditions and the strength of nationalism. Some countries and societies are dysfunctional and will be that way no matter what we do or don’t do. Somalia, Libya and Syria are good examples. Many other countries could end up that way.

      • Ideologues of the center commonly invoke ideologues of the right and left to downplay or deny America’s role in causing havoc. Sensible people on all sides agree we are not solely responsible, but I will take these complaints about ” ideologues” seriously when high ranking American officials and politicians are held to account for their mistakes and yes, sometimes crimes.

    • I have never seen anyone claim that ISIS leaders were not responsible for ISIS actions, but I do see people often erecting the straw man you just constructed and setting it on fire. It’s a distraction. I have seen people on the far left say silly things, but nearly all this agency denying is made up.

      The Iraq War was predicted by many to have disastrous consequences, but nobody could have been certain about the details. Clinton supported it and other interventions, so to some degree she shares blame for the consequences. We needed politicians to stand up to Bush and Cheney and she supported them. Does this mean that ALL of the blame goes to Hillary? Of course not. Just a small fraction which she shares with many likeminded people in the US and none of this somehow means ISIS members are innocent. Now can we stop these stupid arguments? No, probably not– those strawmen won’t burn themselves.

  28. The U.S. incestuous relationship with the global fossil fuel industry and allowing the need for a soon-to-be obsolete energy source dictate foreign policy for approaching SEVENTY YEARS is the root cause of conflicts set in oil/gas producing countries in the region(s). This befouled relationship must be diminished, greatly, for peace to break out.

    The oil-soaked TWO BUSH – THREE WARS destabilized entire regions allowing large bandit armies to rise and spread. And stability is nowhere in sight.

    But the brain-dead national hobby of blaming a President who is not old, white or testicular for everything wrong will continue, unabated.

    • The piece you cite reads like a political hit piece and is mostly all opinions with very few facts. I find it interesting that on the one hand Hillary and the US will get blasted for supporting someone like Mubarak and then get blasted for not supporting someone like Quadaffi. Especially in Libya, this completely ignores the history of this made up country, riven by tribal conflicts, lack of political and social development and a megalomaniac who ran the country as a personal fiefdom for over 30 years. It assumes that it was a stable well functioning society that would have been just fine except for our meddling.

      • Is there some rule that says the US must either prop up a dictator or bomb them? This does seem like the sort of false dichotomy that drives so much of the discussion of US policy.

  29. ” her campaign is funded by millions and millions of dollars from Wall Street”
    That is my problem with the Clintons, they are corrupt as Hell! The problems in the middle east are a direct result of our meddling for oil and Israel and Hillary has taken Millions of Dollars from both, and one thing about the Clintons: When they are paid they deliver.
    Burning fossil fuels is poisoning the planet but also making Wall Street very rich. If elected Hillary would spend Billions on oil wars because that is what she has been paid to do.
    We should use the money we waste on oil wars for replacing fossil fuels with sustainable energy sources.
    Can anyone really believe that Hillary would do anything that would cut into the profits of Wall Street?
    Hillary is for the Status quo and the status quo is killing the planet.

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