My jaw has hit the floor. I didn't expect this.
I really, really wish that the headlines ran some other way. I really, really wish that Hillary Clinton had said something other than what she said.
As you know, I was a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primaries. Well, technically, I was a strong opponent of Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton just happened to be the only thing standing between him and the nomination. Over time, I came to be truly for
her, not just against Obama.
I do not regret my stance. In many ways, Obama has been nightmarish for the Democratic party. Perhaps he has not been quite as
nightmarish as feared, but still -- a nightmare.
Incidentally, our fellow blogger and PUMA leader Riverdaughter (who happens to have an amusing column
today), seems to be under the impression that the Hillary-vs-Obama contest was all about the wee-wees. Obviously, we are long overdue for a female president -- that
should have happened a century or two ago -- but for me, policy concerns trump wee-wee concerns.
In 2008, I favored Hillary on policy. And experience. And -- dare I mention it? -- the Clinton brand name.
Well, she still possesses the name and the experience. But the policy...? Good lord, what has happened to this woman?
She thinks that ISIS was created by the "failure" to arm the Syrian rebels.
In an interview with me earlier this week, she used her sharpest language yet to describe the "failure" that resulted from the decision to keep the U.S. on the sidelines during the first phase of the Syrian uprising.
“The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle—the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” Clinton said.
As she writes in her memoir of her State Department years, Hard Choices, she was an inside-the-administration advocate of doing more to help the Syrian rebellion. Now, her supporters argue, her position has been vindicated by recent events.
No no no no. No. NO!
We have established what happened. Such things are known. If Hillary Clinton possessed all the sheep in Scotland, she still could not compile enough wool to pull over our eyes. Not on this issue, not at this point in history.
What happened in Syria is not a matter of opinion. Facts are facts. You know the saying: We are all entitled to our own opinions, but not to our own facts. And it is a hard historical fact that the American people strongly opposed
giving any open aid to the Syrian rebels -- and for good reason.
I have scored Hillary on this point before, in a post about her book
. But now she is making bullshit revisionist history the centerpiece of her strategy to distance herself from Obama.
Meanwhile, Obama is taking a line that -- while not fully candid -- is far more credible than what Hillary is saying
The president, though not mentioning his former secretary of state by name, said such a plan was unlikely to work and was never going to happen.
“This idea that we could provide some light arms or even more sophisticated arms to what was essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth, and that they were going to be able to battle not only a well-armed state but also a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, a battle-hardened Hezbollah, that was never in the cards,” the president said.
There is a lot of truth in this, although Obama cannot allow himself to utter the
truth. He can't admit that America bears much responsibility for this disaster.
Let's get real. There were no "moderate" rebels in Syria -- at least, none with any chance of success.
ISIS was created by Saudi Arabia and Qatar
with the blessing of Washington. We even trained some of the warriors.
We were so gung-ho about toppling Assad, we even allowed full-on jihadi maniacs -- guys who had earned a permanent spot on any no-fly list -- to travel in and out of the United States
. We were able to track their travel in real time.
The "moderate" factions within the anti-Assad coalition were always nothing more than rhetorical window-dressing for the westerners, and everyone has always known this fact. It was an open secret. The U.K.'s Daily Telegraph (no-one's notion of a radical left-wing rag) published these words
The Western campaign to dislodge President Assad of Syria was another contributing factor. While our leaders were ready to call for Assad to go, they were unwilling to intervene directly to dislodge him. Instead, mainly through allies such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the West supported militant rebel groups which have since mutated into Isis and other al‑Qaeda connected militias.
The comparison with the terrible mistakes made by Western intelligence agencies during the Afghan war against the Soviets is startling. We supported al‑Qaeda, which later turned on us.
It is time for President Obama and David Cameron to acknowledge that we have been helping to sponsor terror for the past few decades. We have to choose new allies, and they must include Iran.
They must also include Bashar Assad.
And I say that speaking as someone who detests Assad.
I also detested Saddam Hussein. But the sad fact is, America cannot back any scheme to bring down a Middle Eastern tyranny unless we have a proper replacement waiting in the wings. Why remove a secular despotism in order to bring about an even worse religious
despotism (or, as in Iraq, the constant threat of religious civil war)?
The region needs a truly democratic, popular and secular political movement.
Such a movement seems unthinkable right now. But there was a time when the Arabic world was modernizing. Changes in female fashion tell the story: If you fire up Google Images, you can see pictures of Afhgan and Egyptian women as they were in the 1960s, wearing smart western clothing and moving about freely in public.
You know what put a stop to all that? To a large degree, the key factor was...us
. The United States. We weren't fully responsible, but we participated.
At the time, in our minds, secularism was linked to Nasser, whom we considered far too close to the USSR.
When I was a boy, we were all taught in school that only an internal rebellion of "Moslems" (as we then called them) could bring an end to the Soviet Union. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Obama's former mentor (and Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor) certainly thought that way
. He initiated the policy of secretly encouraging
Islamic fundamentalism: "What's a few riled up Muslims?" he famously said. In Iran, when the Shah looked poised for a fall, even the Ayatollah Khomeini was considered preferable to the socialist Tudeh party.
That's why we are where we are today. Anyone in the Middle East willing to fight for a revolution is going to want an Islamic
revolution. An earlier generation might have conceived of other possibilities, but this generation cannot.
If Hillary wants our support, she should stop serving up bullshit history and give us the real stuff. America backed the wrong side in the Syrian civil war.
There is simply no way the toppling of Bashar Assad can result in anything other than the rise of a maniacal Sunni power.
If Hillary still wants us to believe in the existence of "moderate" Syrian rebels, all I can say is: Come off it
. The moderates were always as mythical as Slender Man and the Easter Bunny.
(By the way, even if those moderate rebels did
exist, and even if they had been successful in Syria, the jihadis still would have moved on to Iraq and we'd be right where we are today. So who does Hillary think she is kidding?)
Obama seems to have finally -- finally
-- understood his huge mistake.
Hillary, I want
to support you. I really do. But: WAKE THE FUCK UP!!!
Patrick Cockburn makes the exact same point
in the London Review of Books...
Like the Shia leaders in Baghdad, the US and its allies have responded to the rise of Isis by descending into fantasy. They pretend they are fostering a ‘third force’ of moderate Syrian rebels to fight both Assad and Isis, though in private Western diplomats admit this group doesn’t really exist outside a few beleaguered pockets. Aymenn al-Tamimi confirms that this Western-backed opposition ‘is getting weaker and weaker’; he believes supplying them with more weapons won’t make much difference. Jordan, under pressure from the US and Saudi Arabia, is supposed to be a launching pad for this risky venture but it’s getting cold feet. ‘Jordan is frightened of Isis,’ one Jordanian official in Amman said. ‘Most Jordanians want Assad to win the war.’ He said Jordan is buckling under the strain of coping with vast numbers of Syrian refugees, ‘the equivalent of the entire population of Mexico moving into the US in one year’.