By Jeremy Schahill
As news breaks and speculation abounds about cabinet appointments, here are 20people to watch as Obama builds the team who will shape U.S. foreign policy forat least four years:
There was no stronger sign that Obama's foreign policy would follow the hawkishtradition of the Democratic foreign policy establishment than his selection ofSen. Joe Biden as his running mate. Much has been written on Biden's tenure ashead of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but his role in the invasionand occupation of Iraq stands out.
Biden is not just one more Democraticlawmaker who now calls his vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq"mistaken;" Biden was actually an important facilitator of the war.In the summer of 2002, when the United States was "debating" a potential attackon Iraq, Biden presided over hearings whose ostensible purpose was to weigh allexisting options.
But instead of calling on experts whose testimony couldchallenge the case for war -- Iraq's alleged WMD possession and its supposedties to al-Qaida -- Biden's hearings treated the invasion as a foregoneconclusion. His refusal to call on two individuals in particular ensured thattestimony that could have proven invaluable to an actual debate was neverheard:
Former Chief United Nations Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter and Hans vonSponeck, a 32-year veteran diplomat and the former head of the U.N.'s Iraqprogram.Both men say they made it clear to Biden's office that they were ready andwilling to testify; Ritter knew more about the dismantling of Iraq's WMDprogram than perhaps any other U.S. citizen and would have been in primeposition to debunk the misinformation and outright lies being peddled by theWhite House.
Meanwhile, von Sponeck had just returned from Iraq, where he hadobserved Ansar al Islam rebels in the north of Iraq -- the so-called al-Qaidaconnection -- and could have testified that, rather than colluding withSaddam's regime, they were in a battle against it.
Moreover, he would havepointed out that they were operating in the U.S.-enforced safe haven of IraqiKurdistan. "Evidence of al-Qaida/lraq collaboration does not exist, neither inthe training of operatives nor in support to Ansar-al-Islam," von Sponeck wrotein an Op-Ed published shortly before the July 2002 hearings.
"The U.S.Department of Defense and the CIA know perfectly well that today's Iraq posesno threat to anyone in the region, let alone in the United States. To argueotherwise is dishonest."With both men barred from testifying, rather than eliciting an array ofinformed opinions, Biden's committee whitewashed Bush's lies and helped leadthe country to war.
Biden himself promoted the administration's false claimsthat were used to justify the invasion of Iraq, declaring on the Senate floor,"[Saddam Hussein] possesses chemical and biological weapons and is seekingnuclear weapons."With the war underway, Biden was then the genius who passionately promoted theridiculous plan to partition Iraq into three areas based on religion andethnicity, attempting to Balkanize one of the strongest Arab states in theworld.
"He's a part of the old Democratic establishment," says retired Army Col. AnnWright, the State Department diplomat who reopened the U.S. embassy in Kabul in2002. Biden, she says, has "had a long history with foreign affairs, [but] it'snot the type of foreign affairs that I want."
Obama's appointment of Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff is aclear sign that Clinton-era neoliberal hawks will be well-represented at 1600Pennsylvania Ave. A former senior Clinton advisor, Emanuel is a hard-linesupporter of Israel's "targeted assassination" policy and actually volunteeredto work with the Israeli Army during the 1991 Gulf War.
He is close to theright-wing Democratic Leadership Council and was the only member of theIllinois Democratic delegation in the Congress to vote for the invasion ofIraq. Unlike many of his colleagues, Emanuel still defends his vote. As chairof the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006, Emanuel promotedthe campaigns of 22 candidates, only one of who supported a swift withdrawalfrom Iraq, and denied crucial Party funding to anti-war candidates.
"As forIraq policy, at the right time, we will have a position," he said in December2005. As Philip Giraldi recently pointed out on Antiwar.com, Emanuel "advocatesincreasing the size of the U.S. Army by 100,000 soldiers and creating adomestic spying organization like Britain's MI5.
More recently, he hassupported mandatory paramilitary national service for all Americans between theages of 18 and 25."While Obama has at times been critical of Clinton-era free trade agreements,Emanuel was one of the key people in the Clinton White House who brokered thesuccessful passage of NAFTA.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
For all the buzz and speculation about the possibility that Sen. Clinton may benamed Secretary of State, most media coverage has focused on her rivalry withObama during the primary, along with the prospect of her husband having to facethe intense personal, financial and political vetting process required tosecure a job in the new administration.
But the question of how Clinton wouldlead the operations at Foggy Bottom calls for scrutiny of her positionsvis-a-vis Obama's stated foreign-policy goals.Clinton was an ardent defender of her husband's economic and military waragainst Iraq throughout the 1990s, including the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998,which ultimately laid the path for President George W. Bush's invasion.
Later,as a U.S. senator, she not only voted to authorize the war, but aided the Bushadministration's propaganda campaign in the lead-up to the invasion. "SaddamHussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, hismissile-delivery capability and his nuclear program," Clinton said when risingto support the measure in October 2002.
"He has also given aid, comfort andsanctuary to terrorists, including al-Qaida members … I want to insure thatSaddam Hussein makes no mistake about our national unity and for our supportfor the president's efforts to wage America's war against terrorists andweapons of mass destruction."
"The man who vowed to deliver us from 28 years of Bushes and Clintons has beenstocking up on Clintonites," New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd recentlywrote. "How, one may ask, can he put Hillary -- who voted to authorize the Iraqwar without even reading the intelligence assessment -- in charge of patchingup a foreign policy and a world riven by that war?"
Beyond Iraq, Clinton shocked many and sparked official protests by Tehran atthe United Nations when asked during the presidential campaign what she woulddo as president if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons. "I want theIranians to know that if I'm the president, we will attack Iran," she declared."
In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching anattack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them."Clinton has not shied away from supporting offensive foreign policy tactics inthe past.
Recalling her husband's weighing the decision of whether to attackYugoslavia, she said in 1999, "I urged him to bomb. … You cannot let this goon at the end of a century that has seen the major holocaust of our time. Whatdo we have NATO for if not to defend our way of life?"
While Obama's house is flush with Clintonian officials like former Secretary ofState Warren Christopher, Defense Secretary William Perry, Director of theState Department Office of Policy Planning Greg Craig (who was officially namedObama's White House Counsel) and Navy Secretary Richard Danzig, perhaps mostinfluential is Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton's former Secretary of State andU.N. ambassador.
Albright recently served as a proxy for Obama, representinghim at the G-20 summit earlier this month. Whether or not she is awarded anofficial role in the administration, Albright will be a major force in shapingObama's foreign policy.
"It will take time to convince skeptics that the promotion of democracy is nota mask for imperialism or a recipe for the kind of chaos we have seen in thePersian Gulf," Albright recently wrote. "And it will take time to establish theright identity for America in a world that has grown suspicious of all whoclaim a monopoly on virtue and that has become reluctant to follow the lead ofany one country."Albright should know. She was one of the key architects in the dismantling ofYugoslavia during the 1990s.
In the lead-up to the 1999 "Kosovo war," sheoversaw the U.S. attempt to coerce the Yugoslav government to deny its ownsovereignty in return for not being bombed. Albright demanded that the Yugoslavgovernment sign a document that would have been unacceptable to any sovereignnation.
Known as the Rambouillet Accord, it included a provision that wouldhave guaranteed U.S. and NATO forces "free and unrestricted passage andunimpeded access throughout" all of Yugoslavia -- not just Kosovo -- while alsoseeking to immunize those occupation forces "from any form of arrest,investigation or detention by the authorities in [Yugoslavia]."
Moreover, itwould have granted the occupiers "the use of airports, roads, rails and portswithout payment." Similar to Bush's Iraq plan years later, the RambouilletAccord mandated that the economy of Kosovo "shall function in accordance withfree-market principles.
"When Yugoslavia refused to sign the document, Albright and others in theClinton administration unleashed the 78-day NATO bombing of Serbia, whichtargeted civilian infrastructure. (Prior to the attack, Albright said the U.S.government felt "the Serbs need a little bombing.") She and the Clintonadministration also supported the rise to power in Kosovo of a terrorist mafiathat carried out its own ethnic-cleansing campaign against the province'sminorities.
Perhaps Albright's most notorious moment came with her enthusiastic support ofthe economic war against the civilian population of Iraq. When confronted byLesley Stahl of “60 Minutes” that the sanctions were responsible for thedeaths of "a half-million children … more children than died in Hiroshima,"Albright responded, "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price -- wethink the price is worth it." (While defending the policy, Albright latercalled her choice of words "a terrible mistake, hasty, clumsy, and wrong.")
Like Albright, Holbrooke will have major sway over U.S. policy, whether or nothe gets an official job. A career diplomat since the Vietnam War, Holbrooke'smost recent government post was as President Clinton's ambassador to the U.N.Among the many violent policies he helped implement and enforce was theU.S.-backed Indonesian genocide in East Timor.
Holbrooke was an AssistantSecretary of State in the late 1970s at the height of the slaughter and was thepoint man on East Timor for the Carter Administration.According to Brad Simpson, director of the Indonesia and East TimorDocumentation Project at the National Security Archive at George WashingtonUniversity, "It was Holbrooke and Zbigniew Brzezinski [another top Obamaadvisor], both now leading lights in the Democratic Party, who played point intrying to frustrate the efforts of congressional human-rights activists to tryand condition or stop U.S. military assistance to Indonesia, and in factaccelerated the flow of weapons to Indonesia at the height of the genocide."Holbrooke, too, was a major player in the dismantling of Yugoslavia and praisedthe bombing of Serb Television, which killed 16 media workers, as a significantvictory.
(The man who ordered that bombing, now-retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark,is another Obama foreign policy insider who could end up in his cabinet. WhileClark is known for being relatively progressive on social issues, as SupremeAllied Commander of NATO, he ordered bombings and attacks that AmnestyInternational labeled war crimes.)Like many in Obama's foreign policy circle, Holbrooke also supported the Iraqwar.
In early 2003, shortly after then-Secretary of State Colin Powell's speechto the UN, where he presented the administration's fraud-laden case for war tothe UN (a speech Powell has since called a "blot" on his reputation), Holbrookesaid: "It was a masterful job of diplomacy by Colin Powell and his colleagues,and it does not require a second vote to go to war. …
Saddam is the mostdangerous government leader in the world today, he poses a threat to theregion, he could pose a larger threat if he got weapons of mass destructiondeployed, and we have a legitimate right to take action."
Middle East envoy for both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Ross was one ofthe primary authors of Obama's aforementioned speech before AIPAC this summer.He cut his teeth working under famed neoconservative Paul Wolfowitz at thePentagon in the 1970s and worked closely with the Project for the New AmericanCentury.
Ross has been a staunch supporter of Israel and has fanned the flamesfor a more hostile stance toward Iran. As the lead U.S. negotiator betweenIsrael and numerous Arab nations under Clinton, Ross' team acted, in the wordsof one U.S. official who worked under him, as "Israel's lawyer.""The 'no surprises' policy, under which we had to run everything by Israelfirst, stripped our policy of the independence and flexibility required forserious peacemaking," wrote U.S. diplomat Aaron David Miller in 2005.
"If wecouldn't put proposals on the table without checking with the Israelis first,and refused to push back when they said no, how effective could our mediationbe? Far too often, particularly when it came to Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy,our departure point was not what was needed to reach an agreement acceptable toboth sides but what would pass with only one -- Israel."
After the ClintonWhite House, Ross worked for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, ahawkish pro-Israel think tank, and for FOX News, where he repeatedly pressedfor war against Iraq.
Founder of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Indyk spent yearsworking for AIPAC and served as Clinton's ambassador to Israel and AssistantSecretary of State for Near East Affairs, while also playing a major role indeveloping U.S. policy toward Iraq and Iran.
In addition to his work for theU.S. government, he has worked for the Israeli government and with PNAC."Barack Obama has painted himself into a corner by appealing to the mosthard-line, pro-Israel elements in this country," Ali Abunimah, founder ofElectronicInifada.net, recently told Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, describingIndyk and Dennis Ross as "two of the most pro-Israel officials from the Clintonera, who are totally distrusted by Palestinians and others across the MiddleEast, because they're seen as lifelong advocates for Israeli positions."
Clinton's former National Security Advisor was an early supporter of Obama andone of the few top Clintonites to initially back the president-elect. Lakebegan his foreign policy work in the U.S. Foreign Service during Vietnam,working with Henry Kissinger on the "September Group," a secret team taskedwith developing a military strategy to deliver a "savage, decisive blow againstNorth Vietnam.
"Decades later, after working for various administrations, Lake "was the mainforce behind the U.S. invasion of Haiti in the mid-Clinton years," according toveteran journalist Allan Nairn, whose groundbreaking reporting revealed U.S.support for Haitian death squads in the 1990s.
"They brought back Aristideessentially in political chains, pledged to support a World Bank/IMF overhaulof the economy, which resulted in an increase in malnutrition deaths amongHaitians, and set the stage for the current ongoing political disaster inHaiti." Clinton nominated Lake as CIA Director, but he failed to win Senateconfirmation.
Hamilton is a former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and wasco-chairman of both the Iraq Study Group and 9/11 Commission. Robert Parry, whohas covered Hamilton's career extensively, recently ran a piece on ConsortiumNews that characterized him this way:
"Whenever the Republicans have a touchynational-security scandal to put to rest, their favorite Democraticinvestigator is Lee Hamilton. … Hamilton's carefully honed skill forbalancing truth against political comity has elevated him to the status of aWashington Wise Man."
Former Assistant Secretary of Sate Susan Rice, who served on Bill Clinton'sNational Security Council, is a potential candidate for the post of ambassadorto the U.N. or as a deputy national security advisor. She, too, promoted themyth that Saddam had WMDs. "It's clear that Iraq poses a major threat," shesaid in 2002.
"It's clear that its weapons of mass destruction need to be dealtwith forcefully, and that's the path we're on." (After the invasion, discussingSaddam's alleged possession of WMDs, she said, "I don't think many informedpeople doubted that.")Rice has also been a passionate advocate for a U.S. military attack againstSudan over the Darfur crisis.
In an op-ed co-authored with Anthony Lake, shewrote, "The United States, preferably with NATO involvement and Africanpolitical support, would strike Sudanese airfields, aircraft and other militaryassets. It could blockade Port Sudan, through which Sudan's oil exports flow.Then U.N. troops would deploy -- by force, if necessary, with U.S. and NATObacking."
A longtime CIA official and former head of the National CounterterrorismCenter, Brennan is one of the coordinators of Obama's intelligence transitionteam and a top contender for either CIA Director or Director of NationalIntelligence. He was also recently described by Glenn Greenwald as "an ardentsupporter of torture and one of the most emphatic advocates of FISA expansionsand telecom immunity."
While claiming to oppose waterboarding, labeling it"inconsistent with American values" and "something that should be prohibited,"Brennan has simultaneously praised the results achieved by "enhancedinterrogation" techniques. "There has been a lot of information that has comeout from these interrogation procedures that the agency has, in fact, usedagainst the real hard-core terrorists," Brennan said in a 2007 interview. "Ithas saved lives.
And let's not forget, these are hardened terrorists who havebeen responsible for 9/11, who have shown no remorse at all for the death of3,000 innocents."Brennan has described the CIA's extraordinary rendition program -- thegovernment-run kidnap-and-torture program enacted under Clinton -- as anabsolutely vital tool.
"I have been intimately familiar now over the pastdecade with the cases of rendition that the U.S. Government has been involvedin," he said in a December 2005 interview. "And I can say without a doubt thatit has been very successful as far as producing intelligence that has savedlives."Brennan is currently the head of Analysis Corporation, a private intelligencecompany that was recently implicated in the breach of Obama and Sen. JohnMcCain's passport records.
He is also the current chairman of the Intelligenceand National Security Alliance (INSA), a trade association of privateintelligence contractors who have dramatically increased their role insensitive U.S. national security operations. (Current Director of NationalIntelligence Mike McConnell is former chairman of the INSA.)
Miscik, who works alongside Brennan on Obama's transitional team, was the CIA'sDeputy Director for Intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war. She was one ofthe key officials responsible for sidelining intel that contradicted theofficial line on WMD, while promoting intel that backed it up.
"When the administration insisted on an intelligence assessment of SaddamHussein's relationship to al-Qaida, Miscik blocked the skeptics (who were latervindicated) within the CIA's Mideast analytical directorate and instructed theless-skeptical counterterrorism analysts to 'stretch to the maximum theevidence you had,' " journalist Spencer Ackerman recently wrote in theWashington Independent.
"It's hard to think of a more egregious case ofsacrificing sound intelligence analysis in order to accommodate the strategicfantasies of an administration. … The idea that Miscik is helping staffObama's top intelligence picks is most certainly not change we can believe in."What's more, she went on to a lucrative post as the Global Head of SovereignRisk for the now-bankrupt Lehman Brothers.
John Kerry and Bill Richardson
Both Sen. Kerry and Gov. Richardson have been identified as possible contendersfor Secretary of State. While neither is likely to be as hawkish as HillaryClinton, both have taken pro-war positions. Kerry promoted the WMD lie andvoted to invade Iraq. "Why is Saddam Hussein attempting to develop nuclearweapons when most nations don't even try?"
Kerry asked on the Senate floor inOctober 2002. "According to intelligence, Iraq has chemical and biologicalweapons … Iraq is developing unmanned aerial vehicles capable of deliveringchemical and biological warfare agents."Richardson, whose Iraq plan during his 2008 presidential campaign was moreprogressive and far-reaching than Obama's, served as Bill Clinton's ambassadorto the UN.
In this capacity, he supported Clinton's December 1998 bombing ofBaghdad and the U.S.-led sanctions against Iraq. "We think this man is a threatto the international community, and he threatens a lot of the neighbors in hisregion and future generations there with anthrax and VX," Richardson told aninterviewer in February 1998.
While Clinton's Secretary of Energy, Richardson publicly named Wen Ho Lee, ascientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, as a target in an espionageinvestigation. Lee was accused of passing nuclear secrets to the Chinesegovernment. Lee was later cleared of those charges and won a settlement againstthe U.S. government.
Washington consensus is that Obama will likely keep Robert Gates, George W.Bush's Defense Secretary, as his own Secretary of Defense. While Gates hasoccasionally proved to be a stark contrast to former Secretary of DefenseDonald Rumsfeld, he would hardly represent a break from the policies of theBush administration. Quite the opposite; according to the Washington Post, inthe interest of a "smooth transition," Gates "has ordered hundreds of politicalappointees at the Pentagon canvassed to see whether they wish to stay on in thenew administration, has streamlined policy briefings and has set up suites forPresident-elect Barack Obama's transition team just down the hall from his ownE-ring office."
The Post reports that Gates could stay on for a brief periodand then be replaced by Richard Danzig, who was Clinton's Secretary of theNavy. Other names currently being tossed around are Democratic Sen. Jack Reed,Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel (a critic of the Iraq occupation) and RepublicanSen. Richard Lugar, who served alongside Biden on the Senate Foreign RelationsCommittee.
Ivo H. Daalder
Daalder was National Security Council Director for European Affairs underPresident Clinton. Like other Obama advisors, he has worked with the Projectfor the New American Century and signed a 2005 letter from PNAC toCongressional leaders, calling for an increase in U.S. ground troops in Iraqand beyond.
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Peacekeeping and HumanitarianAssistance during the Clinton administration, Sewall served as a top advisor toObama during the campaign and is almost certain to be selected for a post inhis administration.
In 2007, Sewall worked with the U.S. military and Army Gen.David Petraeus, writing the introduction to the University of Chicago editionof the Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. She was criticized forthis collaboration by Tom Hayden, who wrote, "the Petraeus plan drawsintellectual legitimacy from Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy,whose director, Sarah Sewall, proudly embraces an 'unprecedented collaboration[as] a human rights center partnered with the armed forces.'”
"Humanitarians often avoid wading into the conduct of war for fear of becomingcomplicit in its purpose," she wrote in the introduction. "'The field manualrequires engagement precisely from those who fear that its words lack meaning."
Flournoy and former Clinton Deputy Defense Secretary John White are co-headingObama's defense transition team. Flournoy was a senior Clinton appointee at thePentagon. She currently runs the Center for a New American Security, acenter-right think-tank. There is speculation that Obama could eventually nameher as the first woman to serve as defense secretary.
As the Wall StreetJournal recently reported: "While at CNAS, Flournoy helped to write a reportthat called for reducing the open-ended American military commitment in Iraqand replacing it with a policy of 'conditional engagement' there.Significantly, the paper rejected the idea of withdrawing troops according tothe sort of a fixed timeline that Obama espoused during the presidentialcampaign.
Obama has in recent weeks signaled that he was willing to shelve theidea, bringing him more in line with Flournoy's thinking." Flournoy has alsoworked with the neoconservative Project for the New American Century.
Wendy Sherman and Tom Donilon
Currently employed at Madeline Albright's consulting firm, the Albright Group,Sherman worked under Albright at the State Department, coordinating U.S. policyon North Korea. She is now coordinating the State Department transition teamfor Obama.
Tom Donilon, her co-coordinator, was Assistant Secretary of Statefor Public Affairs and Chief of Staff at the State Department under Clinton.Interestingly, Sherman and Donilon both have ties to Fannie Mae that didn'tmake it onto their official bios on Obama's change.gov website.
"Donilon wasFannie's general counsel and executive vice president for law and policy from1999 until the spring of 2005, a period during which the company was rocked byaccounting problems," reports the Wall Street Journal.
While many of the figures at the center of Obama's foreign policy team arewell-known, two of its most important members have never held national electedoffice or a high-profile government position. While they cannot becharacterized as Clinton-era hawks, it will be important to watch DenisMcDonough and Mark Lippert, co-coordinators of the Obama foreign policy team.
From 2000 to 2005, McDonough served as foreign policy advisor to SenateDemocratic Leader Tom Daschle and worked extensively on the use-of-forceauthorizations for the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which Daschlesupported.
From 1996 to 1999, McDonough was a professional staff member of theHouse International Relations Committee during the debate over the bombing ofYugoslavia. More recently, he was at the Center for American Progress workingunder John Podesta, Clinton's former chief of staff and the current head of theObama transition.
Mark Lippert is a close personal friend of Obama's. He has worked for VermontSen. Patrick Leahy, as well as the Senate Appropriations Committee and theDemocratic Policy Committee. He is a lieutenant in the Navy Reserve and spent ayear in Iraq working intelligence for the Navy SEALs.
"According to those who've worked closely with Lippert," Robert Dreyfuss recently wrote in The Nation, "he is a conservative, cautious centrist who often pulled Obama to the right on Iraq, Iran and the Middle East and who has been a consistent advocatefor increased military spending.
'Even before Obama announced for thepresidency, Lippert wanted Obama to be seen as tough on Iran,' says a lobbyistwho's worked the Iran issue on Capitol Hill, 'He's clearly more hawkish thanthe senator.' "Barack Obama campaigned on a pledge to bring change to Washington. "I don'twant to just end the war," he said early this year. "
I want to end the mindsetthat got us into war." That is going to be very difficult if Obama employs aforeign policy team that was central to creating that mindset, before andduring the presidency of George W. Bush."Twenty-three senators and 133 House members who voted against the war -- andcountless other notable individuals who spoke out against it and the dubiousclaims leading to war -- are apparently not even being considered for thesecrucial positions," observes Sam Husseini of the Institute for Public Accuracy.
This includes dozens of former military and intelligence officials who spokeout forcefully against the war and continue to oppose militaristic policy, aswell as credible national security experts who have articulated their visionsfor a foreign policy based on justice. Obama does have a chance to change the mindset that got us into war.
More significantly, he has a popular mandate to forcefully challenge themilitaristic, hawkish tradition of modern U.S. foreign policy. But that workwould begin by bringing on board people who would challenge this tradition, notthose who have been complicit in creating it and are bound to continueadvancing it.