It is power, and not principles, that Mr Burke venerates- Thomas Paine, Rights of Man (1792)
What would be your reaction if I told you that there was a modern political figure more mendacious than Tony Blair; as sexually hedonistic as Silvio Berlusconi; as culpable for the 2008 global recession as the bankers, and more wrong footed in foreign policy than George W Bush?
Here is the kicker, what if I told you that unlike the aforementioned figures this person still possesses considerable clout and public approval (in a 2014 Gallup Poll it was found that 64% of the sample asked had a favorable opinion of the figure – the highest rate for any current living president)? In fact, this figure’s sycophantic wife could very well be the next president of the United States of America. I’m of course speaking about Bill Clinton, a man whose oscillating views, corrosive legacy and the pernicious policies that fomented such seemed to have been effaced by spin, sound bites and a slick veneer.
Now I bet you’re thinking I’m mad to harangue the man; under the Clinton administration unemployment was at record lows, inflation was kept under control and there was a budget surplus. Truly to criticize Bill Clinton I’d have to be some Anne Coulter esque extremist, overly concerned with the non-issue of Mr. Clinton’s sex life. Here I should disclaim that this piece will not be dealing with the Lewinsky affair and the subsequent impeachment attempt: I personally like to store my Cigars in a humidor, but if Mr. Clinton finds other places to put them in so be it, being supposedly “dead broke” – I’m sure he was just cost cutting. Joking aside though, this piece to remain somewhat succinct is exclusively on his foreign policy (despite the abundance of other things I could assail him on). Hopefully by the end of this piece it will be ever so apparent to all that there was nothing progressive about the reactionary Clinton administration.
A Janus like face – Bubba’s Foreign Policy Record
Bill’s Foreign policy is plagued by hypocrisy, parochialism and deceit. This piece focuses in on eight main issues: the Al-Shifa Incident, Rwanda, sanctions, Haiti, Suharto, Turkey, Bosnia and counter-terrorism.
The Al-Shifa incident, or the wag the dog incident as it is now better known as, occurred in 1998 when Lewinsky-related fervour was at its peak; here good old Bubba authorised an air strike on Sudan’s only pharmaceutical plant, which anaemic as well as contested intelligence believed had potential links to Al-Qaeda. The strike was a failure that ended up depriving thousands of Sudanese children of vital life saving medicine used to combat diseases like malaria. Bill had committed so suddenly to this cause purely to distract people from his infidelity, and make himself still seem ever the more presidential during this turbulent time. Poor missile targeting seems to be a common re-occurrence under Clinton – merely a year later he would end up blowing up a Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia by ‘mistake’.
The failure to stop the genocide in Rwanda still to this day is profoundly shocking: Clinton led the international community in being supine as the slaughter raged on, a slaughter that they were all fully aware of. Aided by the equally ignoble French President Mitterrand, Clinton didn’t properly tackle the issue (a shrewd political calculation based off the domestic fallout from Somalia). Clinton not only refused to jam the extremist radio broadcasts that were inciting the massacres, spiting the UN who had requested him to do such (see pg.2), he also only evacuated American Civilians and peace keepers from the conflict zone – abandoning the Rwandan consulates (many of them long serving) who were serving at the very American embassies he commanded his forces to evacuate.
With regards to Iraq (granted an area Clinton generally handled quite well) one can talk about the heinous sanctions regime. In the article Sanctions of Mass Destruction from the Foreign Affairs May-June 1999 issue, it is said that ‘economic sanctions may well have been a necessary cause of the deaths of more people in Iraq than have been slain by all so-called weapons of mass destruction throughout history’. According to figures from UNICEF’S 1999 Iraq survey it is revealed that due primarily to the sanctions that in the south and centre of Iraq (home to 85 per cent of the country’s population), the under five mortality rate more than doubled from 56 deaths per 1000 live births (1984-1989) to 131 deaths per 1000 live births (1994-1999).
Speaking of sanctions, the current democrat incumbent Barrack Obama recently made historic diplomatic progress with regard to Cuban embargoes. I mention this as Clinton’s policy in this area stands in antithesis. In what appears to be an example of one of his infamous triangulation manoeuvres (this one enacted to secure votes from Miami’s notorious Cuban Lobby), he signed both the ‘Torricelli Law’ and the ‘Helms-Burton Act’– the sanction tightening these acts induced is said by the American Association of World Health in their 1997 report to have ‘dramatically harmed the health and nutrition of large numbers of ordinary Cuban citizens’.
In his monumental work ‘On War’, Prussian General Karl Von Clausewitz talked of targeting your enemy’s centre of gravity: Bill Clinton seems to have an odd and depraved understanding of what constitutes a centre of gravity – needless to say pharmaceutical factories, empty tents in Pakistan and innocent Iraqi/Cuban children are not.
Now we arrive at Haiti, something I’m sure you’re surprised I’m covering – didn’t Clinton restore the democratic leader Jean Aristide in a proud example of humanitarian interventionism? Exploration of this issue uncovers the darker truths however: Aristide (a figure whose presidency had hitherto been consistently subverted by the USA) was restored only on the grounds that he followed the economic programme that the defeated US backed candidate from the ground-breaking 1990 General Election Marc Bazin had espoused (it is also worth noting that Mr Bazin was a senior minister during the despicable Duvalier dictatorship), and was more amicable to Duvalierist criminals; Bill Clinton’s nefarious action here thus not only went against the will of the Haitian electorate (Bazin’s main campaign point was his economic policy, it resulted in him only acquiring 14.2% of the vote) but the will of the American congress who were united in bi-partisan opposition to the intervention.
One mustn’t forget that Bill Clinton had legitimised the Junta he was supposedly against by extending the embargo exemption George H W Bush had got for US Companies, spiting the efforts of the UN. Now Mr Aristide had been a very mixed bag during his brief term, this didn’t seem to bother Mr Clinton though who didn’t make facets of Aristide’s social policy (e.g. his sympathies for mob violence and attempts to overrule the judiciary) face the same external tailoring. Post-invasion Clinton cronies maintained a profitable nexus with Aristide, through suspect business arrangements. To add to all this Clinton is also one of the main figures criticised in the documentary Fatal Assistance, which tackles the poor implementation of aid in Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake.
Dear old Suharto was a long-standing staple of American foreign policy; the vehemently anti-communist dictator of Indonesia was surely now, in the new era of the 1990’s, an embarrassing anachronism, a throwback to the ‘our son of a bitch’ days of American foreign policy. Bubba disagreed: Suharto, to quote one of Bubba’s officials, was still ‘our kind of guy’. The Clinton administration courted their long-standing despot client with panache; After his meeting with Bubba in the oval office Suharto’s Special Forces group “Kopassus” were given training in urban warfare and advanced sniper techniques through the Joint Combined Exchange Training programme by American Green Berets, this training was of course put to good use in various massacres, kidnappings and mass gang rapes committed by the aforementioned security forces in the region of Jakarta, as well as Licuica during the latter years of Indonesia’s illegal occupation of East Timor (read this excerpt for more detail) to name but a few (another handy link here). In 2002 Bill Clinton (ever the opportunist) conveniently decided to showcase himself as an ally to independent East Timor – the good folks at Democracy Now completely showed him up here though, there Clinton’s response to Allan Narin is wonderfully indicative of Clinton’s utter lack of integrity.
Turkey seems like another strange point for me to critically discuss, considering that it’s perceived that the Clinton administration took a more ethical stand against supplying Turkey with arms that got utilized to oppress the Kurds. This regrettably however is a misconception, as a Joint Report of the World Policy Institute and the Federation of American Scientists in October 1999 proved America still in this period was Turkey’s number one arms supplier, as to quote the report ‘the Turkish armed forces are roughly 80% dependent on U.S.-origin equipment. Turkey received over $4.9 billion in U.S. weaponry during first six years of the Clinton administration, an average of over $800 million per year’.
The administration’s belated response to the butchering at Bosnia makes one feel increasingly repulsed when you find out that Hillary made Bill delay the intervention for four years, as she allegedly regarded it as ‘a Vietnam that would complicate health care reform‘. So in the end over 250,000 people died for a failed eponymous health care initiative. In what Christopher Hitchens dubbed ‘The Tall Tale of Tuzla’ Hillary even had the audacity to exaggerate about her personal experiences when she finally arrived in destitute Bosnia in 1996 with her favourite accessory “Chelsea”, claiming that upon arrival she met ‘sniper fire’ – when in reality the worst thing she had to endure on that trip would be having to sit through a Sheryl Crow performance. The pathos of this episode is bitterly punctuated by remarks Bill Clinton made on the film Three Kings (a personal favourite of mine), he praised the film for its critique of how Bush Sr. ‘falsely raised the hopes of Shi’ites of the south’. In regards to Bosnia he is guilty of the same crime as in his 1992 election campaign he pledged to strongly stand by the Bosnian Muslims, but thanks to Hillary that didn’t come to the level of fruition many hoped for and believed in – talk about Janus faced!
The concluding issue of my piece is of course Bubba’s counterterrorism policies and the relation this has to Osama Bin Laden. Before getting stuck in with that while on the line of counter-terrorism, I’d like to briefly squeeze in the fact that the highly controversial ‘extraordinary renditions’ saw their genesis under Clinton, not Bush as it is widely misconceived. What was occurring here was something called “torture by proxy”, partly because of ‘PDD 39’. Clinton could erroneously erode the protective legal entitlements of suspected Al Qaeda terrorists through foreign collaboration, avoiding pesky US laws. The main collaborators here were Egypt and Libya, two places with regimes that are renowned for their stellar human rights records. This is an anomaly in the broader picture of Bubba’s counter-terrorism policy, since the rest of this area’s problems are mainly to do with apathy. In 1994 he ignored then CIA director James Woolsey’s urgent request for more Arab-language translators, leaving the CIA as journalist Richard Minter put it “blind and deaf as Bin Laden plotted”. Furthermore when Osama relocated his operations from Sudan to Afghanistan in 1996 the Clinton administration didn’t even attempt to stop him, despite state department analysts at the time recognizing that Afghanistan was an ideal place for his extremism to flourish, ergo it would be ‘dangerous to the US in the long term’.
In conclusion I think its clear that Bill Clinton’s foreign policy left the USA with more blood on its hands than that of Bush Junior’s. Look at Africa in particular where Bush has a proud legacy of aid and assistance, in lieu of Clinton’s legacy of disregard. The view that Clinton’s presidential epoch was one of peace for US troops can also be challenged considering that 7,500 of them died in this period. Shockingly these are only a few of his foreign policy related issues, as I haven’t written about NAFTA and the harm it did to environmental regulations, his inert response to the savage Russian airstrikes during the first Chencyan war and his costly economic capitulation to China.