Sunday, November 23, 2008

This Is Change? Clintonites and Neocons in Obama's White House

By Jeremy Scahill

A who's who guide to the people poised to shape Obama's foreign policy. U.S. policy is not about one individual, and no matter how much faith peopleplace in President-elect Barack Obama, the policies he enacts will be fruit ofa tree with many roots. Among them: his personal politics and views, thedisastrous realities his administration will inherit, and, of course,unpredictable future crises.

But the best immediate indicator of what an Obama administration might look like can be found in the people he surrounds himself with and who he appoints to his Cabinet. And, frankly, when it comes to foreign policy, it is not looking good.Obama has a momentous opportunity to do what he repeatedly promised over thecourse of his campaign: bring actual change.

But the more we learn about whoObama is considering for top positions in his administration, the more hisinner circle resembles a staff reunion of President Bill Clinton's White House.

Although Obama brought some progressives on board early in his campaign, hisforeign policy team is now dominated by the hawkish, old-guard Democrats of the1990s. This has been particularly true since Hillary Clinton conceded defeat inthe Democratic primary, freeing many of her top advisors to join Obama's team.

"What happened to all this talk about change?" a member of the Clinton foreignpolicy team recently asked the Washington Post. "This isn't lightly flavoredwith Clintons. This is all Clintons, all the time."Amid the euphoria over Obama's election and the end of the Bush era, it iscritical to recall what 1990s U.S. foreign policy actually looked like. BillClinton's boiled down to a one-two punch from the hidden hand of the freemarket, backed up by the iron fist of U.S. militarism.

Clinton took office and almost immediately bombed Iraq (ostensibly in retaliation for an alleged plot by Saddam Hussein to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush). Hepresided over a ruthless regime of economic sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and under the guise of the so-called No-Fly Zones in northern and southern Iraq, authorized the longest sustained U.S. bombing campaign since Vietnam.

Under Clinton, Yugoslavia was bombed and dismantled as part of what NoamChomsky described as the "New Military Humanism." Sudan and Afghanistan wereattacked, Haiti was destabilized and "free trade" deals like the North AmericaFree Trade Agreement and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade radicallyescalated the spread of corporate-dominated globalization that hurt U.S.workers and devastated developing countries.

Clinton accelerated themilitarization of the so-called War on Drugs in Central and Latin America andsupported privatization of U.S. military operations, giving lucrative contractsto Halliburton and other war contractors. Meanwhile, U.S. weapons sales tocountries like Turkey and Indonesia aided genocidal campaigns against the Kurdsand the East Timorese.The prospect of Obama's foreign policy being, at least in part, an extension ofthe Clinton Doctrine is real.

Even more disturbing, several of the individualsat the center of Obama's transition and emerging foreign policy teams were topplayers in creating and implementing foreign policies that would pave the wayfor projects eventually carried out under the Bush/Cheney administration. Withtheir assistance, Obama has already charted out several hawkish stances.

Amongthem:-- His plan to escalate the war in Afghanistan;-- An Iraq plan that could turn into a downsized and rebranded occupation thatkeeps U.S. forces in Iraq for the foreseeable future;-- His labeling of Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a "terrorist organization;"-- His pledge to use unilateral force inside of Pakistan to defend U.S.interests;-- His position, presented before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee(AIPAC), that Jerusalem "must remain undivided" -- a remark that infuriatedPalestinian officials and which he later attempted to reframe;-- His plan to continue the War on Drugs, a backdoor U.S. counterinsurgencycampaign in Central and Latin America;-- His refusal to "rule out" using Blackwater and other armed private forces inU.S. war zones, despite previously introducing legislation to regulate thesecompanies and bring them under U.S. law.

Obama did not arrive at these positions in a vacuum. They were carefullycrafted in consultation with his foreign policy team. While the verdict isstill out on a few people, many members of his inner foreign policy circle --including some who have received or are bound to receive Cabinet posts --supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Some promoted the myth thatSaddam had weapons of mass destruction. A few have worked with theneoconservative Project for the New American Century, whose radical agenda wasadopted by the Bush/Cheney administration. And most have proven track recordsof supporting or implementing militaristic, offensive U.S. foreign policy."

After a masterful campaign, Barack Obama seems headed toward some fatefulmistakes as he assembles his administration by heeding the advice ofWashington's Democratic insider community, a collective group that representslittle 'change you can believe in,'" notes veteran journalist Robert Parry, theformer Associated Press and Newsweek reporter who broke many of the stories inthe Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s.

No comments: