FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bill Clinton’s Hypocrisies on Iraq

by MIKE MARQUSEE

When Bill Clinton told a group of students in Dubai recently that the Iraq war had been a “big mistake”, champions of the current White House occupant were quick to accuse him of hypocrisy. For once, they had a strong point.

To be clear, Clinton’s criticism was confined to the conduct of the war, not its premises or ethics. “We never sent enough troops,” the former president lamented, “and didn’t have enough troops to control or seal the borders.” At the moment, there are 160,000 US troops in Iraq; since 2003, half a million US soldiers have fought there. Would greater numbers have succeeded in doing anything other than further inflame an insurgency which is overwhelmingly conducted not by foreigners but by Iraqis, who have no need to slip over borders?

Clinton publicly backed the invasion of 2003–and he can’t credibly claim he did so because (like the US public) he was misled by White House propaganda about Iraq’s WMD and links to Al Qaeda. In fact, his administration laid the groundwork for the Iraq policy pursued by Bush.

Throughout his eight years in office, Clinton applied a ruthless sanctions regime that took the lives of at least half a million Iraqi children. He subjected Iraq (with British help) to the longest sustained bombing campaign since Vietnam, ostensibly to protect the no-fly zones established in 1991. In 1993, he ordered US warplanes to destroy Iraqi intelligence centers in retaliation for the attempted assassination of George Bush Sr. In 1998, he signed the Iraq Liberation Act, which made regime change official US policy, and did so explicitly on the basis of the threat posed by Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. In December of that year, US forces–with British assistance but without UN consent–mounted a ferocious four day aerial assault on Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. The pretext was Iraq’s refusal to cooperate with UN weapons inspectors, some of whom had been suborned by the Clinton administration to act as spies for US intelligence.

Clinton embellished his foreign policy with “humanitarian” aims and ideals, but in Iraq and beyond, he displayed the customary indifference of US presidents to human rights and the suffering of innocents. On his watch, military aid to Turkey, engaged in a scorched earth campaign against its Kurdish minority, and to Colombia, conducting a dirty war against left-wing insurgents, skyrocketed. The embargo on Cuba was tightened. Global efforts to block the militarisation of space were derailed while a stringent, self-serving neo-liberal economic regime was promoted through NAFTA and the WTO. Hundreds of thousands perished in Rwanda without Clinton lifting a finger, but he found time to bomb a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan that his officials falsely alleged was producing chemical weapons.

The Kosovo War was Clinton’s “humanitarian” showpiece, waged against a genuinely vile adversary, Slobodan Milosevic, and executed without a single US fatality. But here too the record does not match the rhetoric. Clinton’s people stoked the war fires by issuing what later proved to be wildly exaggerated claims about the scale of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo; at the Rambouillet conference, they made demands on Milosevic that went far beyond terminating the attacks on the Albanian population and which they knew he could not accept. The aerial assault that ensued actually precipitated precisely the large-scale ethnic cleansing it was supposed to deter. In what became a war for US and NATO “credibility”, cluster bombs and depleted uranium were used, thousands of civilians died and Kosovo wound up as a half-forgotten big power protectorate, without democracy, self-rule or ethnic peace.

Clinton relished his 1993 photo-op with Arafat and Peres signing the Oslo Accord, and yearned to be seen as a middle east peace-broker, but his actions consistently bolstered Israeli intransigence and flouting of international law. Even as illegal Jewish settlement in the occupied territories expanded, Clinton kept up the flow of arms to Israel and used the US veto at the UN to protect it from criticism. In 2000, he pressed the Palestinians to abandon hopes of a genuine two-state settlement and accept instead a Bantustan dependency. The second intifada erupted that autumn. During its first days, the Israeli Defence Force fired a million bullets and other projectiles at largely unarmed opponents (one for every Palestinian child). Clinton responded by authorising the biggest sale of military helicopters to Israel in a decade–with no constraints on their use against civilians.

Chafing under the dark rule of the neo-cons, many in the US and around the world recall the Clinton era as a halcyon one. And it’s not surprising that people hunger for a lesser evil when the greater evil is Bush. But although the Bush regime, licensed by 9/11, has behaved in a particularly reckless and aggressive fashion, it is not fundamentally an aberration. The double standards on democracy and the rule of law, the claim to a unique prerogative in the use of military force, the contempt for the sovereignty of others, the cynical manipulation of public opinion to justify war: on all these Bush occupies common ground with his predecessors in the Oval office.

MIKE MARQUSEE is the author of Wicked Messenger: Dylan in the 1960s and Redemption Song: Muhammed Ali and the Sixties. He can be reach through his website: www.mikemarqusee.com

This column originally ran in The Hindu.

 

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
Pete Dolack
Killing Ourselves With Technology
David Krieger
The 10 Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age
Lamont Lilly
Movement for Black Lives Yields New Targets of the State
Martha Rosenberg
A Hated Industry Fights Back
Robert Fantina
Hillary, Gloria and Jill: a Brief Look at Alternatives
Chris Doyle
No Fireworks: Bicentennial Summer and the Decline of American Ideals
Michael Doliner
Beyond Dangerous: the Politics of Climate
Colin Todhunter
Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?
Steve Church
Brexit: a Rush for the Exits!
Matthew Koehler
Mega Corporation Gobbles Up Slightly Less-Mega Corporation; Chops Jobs to Increase Profits; Blames Enviros. Film at 11.
David Green
Rape Culture, The Hunting Ground, and Amy Goodman: a Critical Perspective
Ed Kemmick
Truckin’: Pro Driver Dispenses Wisdom, Rules of the Road
Alessandro Bianchi
“China Will React if Provoked Again: You Risk the War”: Interview with Andre Vltchek
Christy Rodgers
Biophilia as Extreme Sport
Missy Comley Beattie
At Liberty
Ron Jacobs
Is Everything Permitted?
Cesar Chelala
The Sad Truth About Messi
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail