9/7/15, "How Neocons Destabilized Europe" by Robert Parry, consortiumnews.com
"Exclusive: The neocon prescription of endless “regime change” is spreading chaos
across the Middle East and now into Europe, yet the neocons still
control the mainstream U.S. narrative and thus have diagnosed the
problem as not enough “regime change,” as Robert Parry reports.
refugee chaos that is now pushing deep into Europe– dramatized by
gut-wrenching photos of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi whose body washed up
on a beach in Turkey – started with the cavalier ambitions of American
neocons and their liberal-interventionist sidekicks who planned to
remake the Middle East and other parts of the world through “regime
Instead of the promised wonders of “democracy promotion”
and “human rights,” what these “anti-realists” have accomplished is to
spread death, destruction and destabilization across the Middle East
and parts of Africa and now into Ukraine and the heart of Europe. Yet,
since these neocon forces still control the Official Narrative,
their explanations get top billing – such as that there hasn’t been
enough “regime change.”
For instance, The Washington Post’s neocon editorial page editor Fred Hiatt on Monday blamed
“realists” for the cascading catastrophes. Hiatt castigated them and
President Barack Obama for not intervening more aggressively in Syria to
depose President Bashar al-Assad, a longtime neocon target for “regime
But the truth is that this accelerating spread of
human suffering can be traced back directly to the unchecked influence
of the neocons and their liberal fellow-travelers who have resisted
political compromise and, in the case of Syria, blocked any realistic
efforts to work out a power-sharing agreement between Assad and his
political opponents, those who are not terrorists.
In early 2014,
the neocons and liberal hawks sabotaged Syrian peace talks in Geneva by
blocking Iran’s participation and turning the peace conference into a
one-sided shouting match where U.S.-funded opposition leaders yelled at
Assad’s representatives who then went home.
All the while, the Post’s
editors and their friends kept egging Obama to start bombing Assad’s
The madness of this neocon approach grew more obvious in
the summer of 2014 when the Islamic State, an Al Qaeda spinoff which had
been slaughtering suspected pro-government people in Syria, expanded
its bloody campaign of beheadings back into Iraq where this hyper-brutal
movement first emerged as “Al Qaeda in Iraq” in response to the 2003
It should have been clear by mid-2014 that if the
neocons had gotten their way and Obama had conducted a massive U.S.
bombing campaign to devastate Assad’s military, the black flag of Sunni
terrorism might well be flying above the Syrian capital of Damascus
while its streets would run red with blood.
But now a year later,
the likes of Hiatt still have not absorbed that lesson — and the
spreading chaos from neocon strategies is destabilizing Europe. As
shocking and disturbing as that is, none of it should have come as much
of a surprise, since the neocons have always brought chaos and
dislocations in their wake.
When I first encountered the neocons
in the 1980s, they had been given Central America to play with.
President Ronald Reagan had credentialed many of them, bringing into the
U.S. government neocon luminaries such as Elliott Abrams and Robert
Kagan. But Reagan mostly kept them out of the big-power realms: the
Mideast and Europe.
Those strategic areas went to the “adults,”
people like James Baker, George Shultz, Philip Habib and Brent
Scowcroft. The poor Central Americans, as they tried to shed generations
of repression and backwardness imposed by brutal right-wing
oligarchies, faced U.S. neocon ideologues who unleashed death squads and
even genocide against peasants, students and workers.
result – not surprisingly – was a flood of refugees, especially from El
Salvador and Guatemala, northward to the United States. The neocon
“success” in the 1980s, crushing progressive social movements and
reinforcing the oligarchic controls, left most countries of Central
America in the grip of corrupt regimes and crime syndicates,
periodically driving more waves of what Reagan called “feet people”
through Mexico to the southern U.S. border.
Messing Up the Mideast
the neocons weren’t satisfied sitting at the kids’ table. Even during
the Reagan administration, they tried to squeeze themselves among the
“adults” at the grown-ups’ table. For instance, neocons, such as Robert
McFarlane and Paul Wolfowitz, pushed Israel-friendly policies toward
Iran, which the Israelis then saw as a counterweight to Iraq.
That strategy led eventually to the Iran-Contra Affair, the worst
scandal of the Reagan administration. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “When Israel /Neocons Favored Iran.”]
the right-wing and mainstream U.S. media never liked the complex
Iran-Contra story and thus exposure of the many levels of the
scandal’s criminality was avoided. Democrats also preferred compromise
to confrontation. So, most of the key neocons survived the Iran-Contra
fallout, leaving their ranks still firmly in place for the next phase of
their rise to power.
In the 1990s, the neocons built up a
well-funded infrastructure of think tanks and media outlets, benefiting
from both the largesse of military contractors donating to think tanks
and government-funded operations like the National Endowment for
Democracy, headed by neocon Carl Gershman.
The neocons gained more
political momentum from the U.S. military might displayed during the
Persian Gulf War of 1990-91. Many Americans began to see war as fun,
almost like a video game in which “enemy” forces get obliterated from
afar. On TV news shows, tough-talking pundits were all the rage. If you
wanted to be taken seriously, you couldn’t go wrong taking the most
macho position, what I sometimes call the “er-er-er” growling effect.
with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the notion that U.S.
military supremacy was unmatched and unchallengeable gave rise to neocon
theories about turning “diplomacy” into nothing more than the delivery
of U.S. ultimatums. In the Middle East, that was a view shared by
Israeli hardliners, who had grown tired of negotiating with the
Palestinians and other Arabs.
Instead of talk, there would be
“regime change” for any government that would not fall into line. This
strategy was articulated in 1996 when a group of American neocons,
including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, went to work for Benjamin
Netanyahu’s campaign in Israel and compiled a strategy paper, called “A
Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.”
first on the neocon hit list, but next came Syria and Iran. The
overriding idea was that once the regimes assisting the Palestinians and
Hezbollah were removed or neutralized, then Israel could dictate peace
terms to the Palestinians who would have no choice but to accept what
was on the table.
In 1998, the neocon Project for the New American
Century, founded by neocons Robert Kagan and William Kristol, called
for a U.S. invasion of Iraq, but President Bill Clinton balked at
something that extreme. The situation changed, however, when President
George W. Bush took office and the 9/11 attacks terrified and infuriated
the American public.
Suddenly, the neocons had a
Commander-in-Chief who agreed with the need to eliminate Iraq’s Saddam
Hussein – and Americans were easily persuaded although Iraq and Hussein
had nothing to do with 9/11. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”]
The Death of ‘Realism’
2003 Iraq invasion sounded the death knell for foreign policy “realism”
in Official Washington. Aging or dead, the old adult voices were silent
or ignored. From Congress and the Executive Branch to the think tanks
and the mainstream news media, almost all the “opinion leaders” were
neocons and many liberals fell into line behind Bush’s case for war.
even though the Iraq War “group think” was almost entirely wrong, both
on the WMD justifications for war and the “cakewalk” expectations for
remaking Iraq, almost no one who promoted the fiasco suffered punishment
for either the illegality of the invasion or the absence of sanity in
promoting such a harebrained scheme.
Instead of negative
repercussions, the Iraq War backers – the neocons and their liberal-hawk
accomplices – essentially solidified their control over U.S. foreign
policy and the major news media. From The New York Times and The
Washington Post to the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise
Institute, the “regime change” agenda continued to hold sway.
didn’t even matter when the sectarian warfare unleashed in Iraq left
hundreds of thousands dead, displaced millions and gave rise to Al
Qaeda’s ruthless Iraq affiliate. Not even the 2008 election of Barack
Obama, an Iraq War opponent, changed this overall dynamic.
than standing up to this new foreign policy establishment, Obama bowed
to it, retaining key players from President Bush’s national security
team, such as Defense Secretary Robert Gates and General David Petraeus,
and by hiring hawkish Democrats, including Sen. Hillary Clinton, who
became Secretary of State, and Samantha Power at the National Security
Thus, the cult of “regime change” did not just survive
the Iraq disaster; it thrived. Whenever a difficult foreign problem
emerged, the go-to solution was still “regime change,” accompanied by
the usual demonizing of a targeted leader, support for the “democratic
opposition” and calls for military intervention. President Obama,
arguably a “closet realist,” found himself as the foot-dragger-in-chief
as he reluctantly was pulled along on one “regime change” crusade after
In 2011, for instance, Secretary of State Clinton and
National Security Council aide Power persuaded Obama to join with some
hot-for-war European leaders to achieve “regime change” in Libya,
where Muammar Gaddafi had gone on the offensive against groups in
eastern Libya that he identified as Islamic terrorists.
Clinton and Power saw the case as a test for their theories of
“humanitarian warfare” – or “regime change” to remove a “bad guy” like
Gaddafi from power. Obama soon signed on and, with the U.S. military
providing crucial technological support, a devastating bombing
campaign destroyed Gaddafi’s army, drove him from Tripoli, and
ultimately led to his torture-murder.
‘We Came, We Saw, He Died’
Clinton scurried to secure credit for this “regime change.” According
to one email chain in August 2011, her longtime friend and personal
adviser Sidney Blumenthal praised the bombing campaign to destroy
Gaddafi’s army and hailed the dictator’s impending ouster.
brava! This is a historic moment and you will be credited for realizing
it,” Blumenthal wrote on Aug. 22, 2011. “When Qaddafi himself is
finally removed, you should of course make a public statement before the
cameras wherever you are, even in the driveway of your vacation home.…You must go on camera. You must establish yourself in the historical
record at this moment. …The most important phrase is: ‘successful
Clinton forwarded Blumenthal’s advice to Jake
Sullivan, a close State Department aide. “Pls read below,” she wrote.
“Sid makes a good case for what I should say, but it’s premised on being
said after Q[addafi] goes, which will make it more dramatic. That’s my
hesitancy, since I’m not sure how many chances I’ll get.”
responded, saying “it might make sense for you to do an op-ed to run
right after he falls, making this point. … You can reinforce the op-ed
in all your appearances, but it makes sense to lay down something
definitive, almost like the Clinton Doctrine.”
Gaddafi abandoned Tripoli that day, President Obama seized the moment to
make a triumphant announcement. Clinton’s opportunity to highlight her
joy at the Libyan “regime change” had to wait until Oct. 20, 2011, when
Gaddafi was captured, tortured and murdered.
In a TV interview,
Clinton celebrated the news when it appeared on her cell phone
and paraphrased Julius Caesar’s famous line after Roman forces achieved a
resounding victory in 46 B.C. and he declared, “veni, vidi, vici” – “I
came, I saw, I conquered.” Clinton’s reprise of Caesar’s boast went: “We came; we saw; he died.” She then laughed and clapped her hands.
the “Clinton Doctrine” would have been a policy of “liberal
interventionism” to achieve “regime change” in countries where there is
some crisis in which the leader seeks to put down an internal security
threat and where the United States objects to the action.
problem with Clinton’s boasting about the “Clinton Doctrine” was that
the Libyan adventure quickly turned sour with the Islamic terrorists,
whom Gaddafi had warned about, seizing wide swaths of territory and
turning it into another Iraq-like badlands.
On Sept. 11, 2012,
this reality hit home when the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was overrun
and U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other American
diplomatic personnel were killed. It turned out that Gaddafi wasn’t
entirely wrong about the nature of his opposition.
extremist violence in Libya grew so out of control that the United
States and European countries abandoned their embassies in Tripoli.
Since then, Islamic State terrorists have begun decapitating Coptic
Christians on Libyan beaches and slaughtering other “heretics.” Amid the
anarchy, Libya has become a route for desperate migrants seeking
passage across the Mediterranean to Europe.
A War on Assad
to the “regime change” in Libya was a similar enterprise in Syria in
which the neocons and liberal interventionists pressed for the overthrow
of President Bashar al-Assad, whose government in 2011 cracked down on
what had quickly become a violent rebellion led by extremist elements, though the Western propaganda portrayed the opposition as “moderate” and “peaceful.”
the first years of the Syrian civil war, the pretense remained that
these “moderate” rebels were facing unjustified repression and the only
answer was “regime change” in Damascus. Assad’s claim that the
opposition included many Islamic extremists was largely dismissed as
were Gaddafi’s alarms in Libya.
On Aug. 21, 2013, a sarin gas
attack outside Damascus killed hundreds of civilians and the U.S. State
Department and the mainstream news media immediately blamed Assad’s
forces amid demands for military retaliation against the Syrian army.
doubts within the U.S. intelligence community about Assad’s
responsibility for the sarin attack, which some analysts saw instead as a
provocation by anti-Assad terrorists, the clamor from Official
Washington’s neocons and liberal interventionists for war was intense
and any doubts were brushed aside.
But President Obama, aware
of the uncertainty within the U.S. intelligence community, held back
from a military strike and eventually worked out a deal, brokered by
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which Assad agreed to surrender his
entire chemical-weapons arsenal while still denying any role in the
Though the case pinning the sarin attack on the Syrian government eventually fell apart –
with evidence pointing to a “false flag” operation by Sunni radicals to
trick the United States into intervening on their side – Official
Washington’s “group think” refused to reconsider the initial rush to
judgment. In Monday’s column, Hiatt still references Assad’s “savagery
of chemical weapons.”
Any suggestion that the only realistic
option in Syria is a power-sharing compromise that would include Assad –
who is viewed as the protector of Syria’s Christian, Shiite and Alawite
minorities – is rejected out of hand with the slogan, “Assad must go!”
neocons have created a conventional wisdom which holds that the Syrian
crisis would have been prevented if only Obama had followed the neocons’
2011 prescription of another U.S. intervention to force another “regime
change.” Yet, the far more likely outcome would have been either
another indefinite and bloody U.S. military occupation of Syria or the
black flag of Islamic terrorism flying over Damascus.
villain who emerged from the 2013 failure to bomb Syria was Russian
President Putin, who infuriated the neocons by his work with Obama on
Syria’s surrender of its chemical weapons and who further annoyed the
neocons by helping to get the Iranians to negotiate seriously on
constraining their nuclear program. Despite the “regime change”
disasters in Iraq and Libya, the neocons wanted to wave the “regime
change” wand again over Syria and Iran.
Putin got his comeuppance
when U.S. neocons, including NED President Carl Gershman and Assistant
Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland (Robert Kagan’s
wife), helped orchestrate a “regime change” in Ukraine on Feb. 22, 2014,
overthrowing elected President Viktor Yanukovych and putting in a
fiercely anti-Russian regime on Russia’s border.
As thrilled as
the neocons were with their “victory” in Kiev and their success in
demonizing Putin in the mainstream U.S. news media, Ukraine followed the
now-predictable post-regime-change descent into a vicious civil war.
Western Ukrainians waged a brutal “anti-terrorist operation” against
ethnic Russians in the east who resisted the U.S.-backed coup.
of Ukrainians died and millions were displaced as Ukraine’s national
economy teetered toward collapse. Yet, the neocons and their
liberal-hawk friends again showed their propaganda skills by pinning the
blame for everything on “Russian aggression” and Putin.
Obama was apparently caught off-guard by the Ukrainian “regime change,”
he soon joined in denouncing Putin and Russia. The European Union also
got behind U.S.-demanded sanctions against Russia despite the harm those
sanctions also inflicted on Europe’s already shaky economy. Europe’s
stability is now under additional strain because of the
refugees from the war zones of the Middle East.
A Dozen Years of Chaos
we can now look at the consequences and costs of the past dozen years
under the spell of neocon/liberal-hawk “regime change” strategies.
According to many estimates, the death toll in Iraq, Syria and Libya has
exceeded one million with several million more refugees flooding into –
and stretching the resources – of fragile Mideast countries.
of thousands of other refugees and migrants have fled to Europe,
putting major strains on the Continent’s social structures already
stressed by the severe recession that followed the 2008 Wall Street
crash. Even without the refugee crisis, Greece and other southern
European countries would be struggling to meet their citizens’ needs.
back for a moment and assessing the full impact of neoconservative
policies, you might be amazed at how widely they have spread chaos
across a large swath of the globe. Who would have thought that the
neocons would have succeeded in destabilizing not only the Mideast but
Europe as well.
And, as Europe struggles, the export markets of
China are squeezed, spreading economic instability to that crucial
economy and, with its market shocks, the reverberations rumbling back to
the United States, too.
We now see the human tragedies of
neocon/liberal-hawk ideologies captured in the suffering of the Syrians
and other refugees flooding Europe and the death of children drowning as
their desperate families flee the chaos created by “regime change.” But
will the neocon/liberal-hawk grip on Official Washington finally be
broken? Will a debate even be allowed about the dangers of “regime
change” prescriptions in the future?
Not if the likes of The
Washington Post’s Fred Hiatt have anything to say about it. The truth is
that Hiatt and other neocons retain their dominance of the mainstream
U.S. news media, so all that one can expect from the various MSM outlets
is more neocon propaganda, blaming the chaos not on their policy of
“regime change” but on the failure to undertake even more “regime
The one hope is that many Americans will not be fooled
this time and that a belated “realism” will finally return to U.S.
geopolitical strategies that will look for obtainable compromises to
restore some political order to places such as Syria, Libya and Ukraine.
Rather than more and more tough-guy/gal confrontations, maybe there
will finally be some serious efforts at reconciliation.
other reality is that the interventionist forces have rooted themselves
deeply in Official Washington, inside NATO, within the mainstream news
media and even in European institutions. It will not be easy to rid the
world of the grave dangers created by neocon policies."
reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The
Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book,
America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its
connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy
includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here." via WBAI radio interview