Cheerleaders for Syrian intervention refuse to learn lessons from recent history
Hillary Clinton gave her first post-election interview on Wednesday at the Women in the World summit, hosted by the New York Times and Toyota. Speaking to NYT's Nicholas Kristof, Clinton responded to the news earlier that day of a chemical weapons attack in the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib, killing upwards of 80 people. "I really believe we should have and still should take out [Syrian Prime Minister Bashar al-Assad's] air fields and prevent him from being able to use them to bomb innocent people and drop sarin gas on them”. Clinton's wish came true just hours after her remarks when the Trump administration announced that it had launched 59 cruise missiles at the Al Sharyat airfield in Syria, alleging that the Syrian government was responsible for the atrocities in Idlib.
The cruise missile attacks were described with frenzied, near religious praise across corporate and state media outlets. The New York Times ran a piece of “news analysis” entitled “On Syria Attack, Trump’s Heart Came First” (the title has now been changed). “Mr. Trump’s advisers framed his decision in the dry language of international norms and strategic deterrence. In truth, it was an emotional act by a man suddenly aware that the world’s problems were now his — and that turning away, to him, was not an option,” wrote NYT's Mark Lander. In the opinion pages came the headlines “Trump Was Right to Strike Syria” and “Syria’s ‘Conundrum’: Limited Strikes Risk Entrenching Assad’s Strategy", with author Max Fisher warning that limited strikes may not be enough and widespread bombardments of Syria should be seriously considered. Praise in center-left TV outlets was equally effusive, with CNN's Fareed Zakaria remarking, “'I think Donald Trump became president of the United States' last night.” In a moment capable of making North Korean newscasters blush, MSNBC's Brian Williams provided surreal commentary to footage obtained by the network of the missiles being launched.
We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean. I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: “I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons.” And they are beautiful pictures, of fearsome armaments making what is, for them, a brief flight over this airfield.
Wall Street reacted to the news favorably as well, with an increase to the share price of Raytheon, the company that produced the missiles, along with arms manufacturers Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman.
On Twitter, Clinton supporters attempted various forms of mental gymnastics to reconcile the fact that Clinton and Trump now shared nearly identical policy positions on Syria.
Trump is willing to bomb the sh*t out of Syria, but then doesn't want to take their refugees. That's the difference between him and Hillary.— Kaivan Shroff (@KaivanShroff) April 7, 2017
Thank God we didn't elect a woman who'd start war illegally for stupid reasons like her ego or low approval ratings or suspicion of treason— Sady Doyle (@sadydoyle) April 7, 2017
Trump's bombings were different, Clinton supporters argued. If Clinton was in charge, she would have made sure those airfields were more thoroughly bombed, and she wouldn't bomb just because of silly political reasons, she would bomb because she deeply cares about the Syrian people.
When it comes to “humanitarian intervention” historical amnesia is the norm
Predictably, what seemed to be of little concern to Hillary fans and media cheerleaders was the fate of the last country whose government was unseated by U.S. intervention. Almost exactly 6 years ago, the U.S. began bombing Libya in order to topple the regime of Muammar Qaddafi.
It was in 2011, after describing Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak and his wife as “friends of the family”, and failing to convince president Barack Obama to continue supporting Mubarak, that then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was feeling nervous about her position in the White House cabinet and her image as a humanitarian. For these reasons, Clinton turned to Libya, seeing an opportunity to once again make a name for herself by spearheading a humanitarian bombing campaign. Despite the fact that U.S. officials were largely “relying on news reports” for information about the situation on the ground in Libya, Clinton managed to narrowly convince Obama to support military action in Libya. After playing off of and helping to spread wild and grotesquely racist reports that the Libyan government had distributed Viagra to “African mercenaries” and encouraged them to rape women, Clinton and the Obama administration sold the attacks to the public as humanitarian intervention, necessary to protect civilians, with the specific intention of stopping an impending massacre in the city of Benghazi.
After completely destroying Qaddafi's air force and air defenses within a manner of days, the U.S. began widespread bombing campaigns in an increasingly desperate effort to give the woefully out-organized and outgunned rebels an upper hand in the civil war. Despite numerous requests through a multitude of channels for a ceasefire and the initiation of peace talks, the U.S. refused to negotiate with the Libyan government, with Clinton personally ordering top Pentagon officials to break off negotiations with Qaddafi's son, Saif. After a war that lasted much longer than anticipated, Qaddafi was brutally executed by rebels on October 20th, 2011 after his convoy was bombed by NATO forces. Upon hearing the news Clinton gleefully remarked, “we came, we saw, he died!”
In the end, it was revealed that the stories about Viagra fueled rapes were a complete fabrication, and that while Qaddafi's soldiers had indeed committed rapes (not mass rapes as alleged), there were also numerous reports of rebels killing and raping African migrants who, likely in large part due to Western media reports, became the victims of extreme xenophobia. A subsequent UK parliamentary inquiry disproved the idea that there was evidence that Qaddafi was about to engage in a massacre in Benghazi. Despite achieving her apparently psychopathic goal of killing Qaddafi, Clinton's war-mongering has not helped the Libyan people, and the country which once boasted the highest living standards in Africa is now a failed state that is home to thousands of ISIS fighters who have rushed to fill the power vacuum left by Qaddafi's fall.
In her eagerness to gain political points from bombing Libya, Clinton disregarded the fact that the Libyan state's control over its three provinces, Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, and Fezzan has been tenuous since the rule of Libya's first leader, King Idris, began in 1951.1 To this day, Libyans continue to place more importance on tribal allegiances than the nation-state system, something which Qaddafi understood and skillfully played off of. The collapse of Qaddafi's government has led to renewed tensions between the provinces, tensions which have been exacerbated by the spread of radical Islamism and various rivalries between NATO members.
After devastating Libya, the CIA took Libyan arms stockpiles and shipped them via a “rat line” to rebel groups in Syria, many of whom were affiliated with al-Qaeda. The arms shipments were a joint effort, made with Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, the three countries that were instrumental in sponsoring ISIS during its early stages. When the program was first launched jihadis were considered a lesser threat than the Russian aligned Assad, and CIA participation in the program did not stop until the attack on the American embassy in Benghazi. The arms shipments helped al-Qaeda rearm itself after being nearly destroyed by the U.S. troop surge in 2007-08.
If at first you don't succeed, fail, fail again
The U.S. has proven itself totally incapable of achieving even modest foreign policy goals in Syria and the region at large. Furthermore, the motivations of our efforts have been far removed from the benign platitudes put forth by leaders like Hillary Clinton. How many more Libyas, Afghanistans, or Iraqs will it take before interventionists realize that the U.S. is not a "force for good" in the region? There is no reason to believe that Donald Trump is any more capable of bombing a path to peace than was Hillary Clinton. There is no war to support but the class war.
- 1. Vandewalle, Dirk. A History of Modern Libya