Just How Belligerent is Hillary on Syria? The Divide Between Her Private and Public Rhetoric

Politics Features Hillary Clinton
Share Tweet Submit Pin
Just How Belligerent is Hillary on Syria? The Divide Between Her Private and Public Rhetoric

During the second presidential debate on Oct. 9, interrogator Martha Raddatz passed along the following question—ostensibly submitted by “Diane from Pennsylvania”—to both candidates:

“If you were president, what would you do about Syria and the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo? Isn’t is a lot like the Holocaust when the US waited too long before we helped?”

Leaving aside the fatuous invocation of the Nazi holocaust (I’m shocked the ADL hasn’t issued a statement branding “Diane from Pennsylvania” anti-Semitic), let’s take a look at our next president’s response, which is of course entirely predictable.

“There is a determined effort by the Russian Air Force to destroy Aleppo in order to eliminate the last of the Syrian rebels who are really holding out against the Assad regime,” Hillary said, neglecting to mention that the “rebels” she implicitly glorifies are in fact Wahhabi gangsters affiliated with al-Qaeda (a fact she acknowledges in private, as we’ll see presently).

And she followed up that bit of doublespeak with an outright lie: “Russia hasn’t paid any attention to ISIS.”

That’s a rather bold statement for Hillary to make, given that during the debates she repeatedly called on the “fact-checkers” at home to vet her opponent’s fabrications. This particular canard—that Damascus and Moscow tolerate ISIS while going after civilians and “moderate rebels”—is every bit as egregious, and every bit as refutable, as any of Trump’s numerous lies.

It’s also exasperating, because it illustrates how confident our representatives are that the American people won’t bother to verify what they’re being told. After all, one needs merely to utilize Google’s search bar (or, if one values one’s privacy, some other search bar like DuckDuckGo) to glean the truth: The Syrian and Russian militaries are hitting ISIS very hard, with significant results.

Take the ancient city of Palmyra, captured and largely destroyed by ISIS in May of 2015. The world looked on with disgust as videos and images surfaced showing ISIS fighters demolishing the city’s most treasured cultural monuments and artifacts. But it was more than a symbolic loss; Palmyra is strategically located in central Syria and provided ISIS with an important supply route to its headquarters in Raqqa. It was an invaluable addition to the so-called Caliphate.

With that in mind, closely read the following from journalist Patrick Cockburn, whose broad coverage of the ongoing wars in Syria and Iraq should be read by anyone wishing to understand either conflict:

A striking feature of the Isis victory in [Palmyra] last year was that its fighters were able to advance without being bombarded by US aircraft because the US did not want to be accused of doing anything that would help the Assad government, whom it accused of never fighting Isis. The claim was in part propagandistic since the Syrian army had suffered a series of defeats at the hands of Isis in 2014 as was shown by Isis atrocity videos in which Syrian soldiers taken prisoner are shown being decapitated or shot. (Emphasis added.)

Now, try to reconcile that with the rhetoric emanating from the State Department and its mouthpieces in the mainstream media, about Assad avoiding ISIS. Can’t be done. In fact, at least in this case, it was the U.S. that was avoiding ISIS.

In March, as you may or may not have heard, Palmyra was recaptured from ISIS—by the Syrian army, with close air support from Russia. This was a major victory; it constituted a watershed moment in the fight against ISIS, and lo, it was all but ignored by the Western press. Why? Simple. It belied their narrative and exposed the mendacity of their agenda.

More recently, in September, Russian airstrikes wiped out over 200 ISIS militants and 15 armored vehicles outside Palmyra. Once again this contradicted the Western refrain; once again it was ignored. Meanwhile, the taking of Manbij from ISIS in August was celebrated across our media, in spite of the fact that the tactics employed by the US-led coalition bear a striking resemblance to those being employed—notoriously—by the Syrian army and Russian air force in Aleppo. Does the reader sense a pattern here?

It is against these bare facts that Hillary Clinton asserted, to millions of people on national television, that “Russia hasn’t paid any attention to ISIS.” If this Trump-level (read: Goebbels-level) counterfactual was exposed as such by any major media outlet, I must have missed it.

With Russia properly slandered, Hillary proceeded to articulate her prescription for deescalating the Syrian calamity. “When I was Secretary of State,” she said, ”[I] advocated, and I advocate today, a no-fly and safe zones. We need some leverage with the Russians because they are not going to come to the negotiating table for a diplomatic resolution unless there is leverage over them.”

Russia, of course, already desires a diplomatic resolution in Syria (and has all along), hence the regular meetings between John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. So Hillary has lied again, for the benefit of no one and nothing. But let’s not tarry on that.

Her talk of a no-fly zone over Syria, while mad, is nothing new; she’s been saying it since her campaign began. It’s worth noting now, however, in light of the recent publication via WikiLeaks of her private speeches to Goldman Sachs, which were conveniently forgotten about after she secured the nomination.

During these cloak-and-dagger meetings, particularly the one dated June 4, 2013, Hillary takes a more judicious, realistic line on Syria than she ever has publicly, raising questions about her actual intentions. At one point, for instance, she says the following:

To have a no-fly zone you have to take out all of the air defense, many of which are located in populated areas. So our missiles, even if they are standoff missiles so we’re not putting our pilots at risk, you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians. So all of a sudden this intervention that people talk about so glibly becomes an American and NATO involvement where you take a lot of civilians.

Hold the phone! Is this Clinton acknowledging that a no-fly zone in Syria—now her official policy, asserted without reservation or nuance—would necessarily result in the killing of “a lot of civilians”? Is this 2013 Hillary accusing 2016 Hillary of glibness? Recall that in 2013, when the forgoing remarks were made, Russia was not flying combat missions over Syria, meaning the situation was not nearly as explosive. Even so, Hillary made sure to emphasize the complexities of implementing a no-fly zone, and warned against adopting that policy. Fast forward to October 2016: Russia is conducting airstrikes against opposition strongholds on an hourly basis, and Clinton is prescribing, without a trace of unease, the implementation of a no-fly zone.

What gives? Is a once-lucid Hillary going the way of Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper? Will she start talking about our precious bodily fluids soon? Or could this be an example of her now-famous (thanks again to WikiLeaks) maxim: “You need both a public and private position”? If so, what is her purpose in cutting all nuance from her public position on Syria? To whip up jingoistic, anti-Russian sentiment among the electorate? To pad her well-earned reputation as a war hawk? Why in the hell would she choose to present herself as more belligerent than she actually is? These are questions that Clinton should, but will not, be made to answer.

In another speech, dated Oct. 24, 2013, Hillary concedes that the Syrian government and its allies are “being taken on by indigenous rebels but increasingly a collection of jihadists who are funded by the Saudis, funded by the Emiratis, funded by [Qatar]….” (Emphasis added.)

Yes, that’s Clinton confirming that our allies in the Middle East directly sponsor and finance terrorists, and moreover that said terrorists, all the way back in 2013 (before ISIS was a major factor), made up a significant percentage of the armed opposition in Syria, which we still support. The conclusions to be drawn here are not palatable (nor are they surprising): For the American Empire, combating Islamic terror is merely an afterthought. First comes preserving global hegemony though a variety of projects, e.g. isolating Iran and Russia, controlling the distribution of natural resources, globalizing Mideast economies, and so on and so forth. If realizing these aims presupposes supporting jihadists—whether it’s the Mujahideen in Afghanistan or the Army of Conquest in Syria—so be it. The resulting terrorist attacks on US and European soil, which rock our societies to their core and give life to dangerous demagogues like Donald Trump, are a small price to pay.

Most will agree that the stakes now are the highest they’ve been since the most volatile periods of the Cold War (some say they’re higher). This is no joke: our next president is enthusiastically prescribing a course of action that would result in direct military confrontation with Russia—an unthinkable prospect. The best we can do now is hope that cooler heads, like the one Clinton apparently possessed in 2013, prevail. Otherwise it could very well be curtains.

More from Hillary Clinton