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; more responsible for the 2008 global recession than the bankers, and more wrong footed in foreign policy than George W Bush? Now 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 64% of the sample asked had a favorable opinion of the figure, one of the highest amongst their counterparts)? 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, you may think I’ve got something fundamentally wrong here; under the Clinton administration unemployment was at record lows, inflation was kept under control and there was a budget surplus. Truly to criticize the man 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 series will not be dealing with the Lewinsky affair and the subsequent impeachment attempt; this series will have four fronts of attack - economic policy, foreign policy, domestic/social policy and general corruption. Hopefully by the end of this series I hope it will be ever so apparent to all my readers, that there is nothing progressive about the reactionary Clinton administration.
A Janus like face – Bubba’s Foreign Policy Record
The Al-Shifa incident, or the wag the dog incident as its now better known, 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 anemic 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. 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 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; he also only evacuated American civilians and peace keepers from the conflict zone – abandoning the Rwandan consulates (many of them long serving). This is just scraping the surface of this deplorable episode; I urge you to look at the two links I’ve entailed at the bottom of the article to find out more.
Regarding Iraq (granted an area I felt Clinton generally handled fairly 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’s 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 more than doubled from 56 deaths per 1000 live births (1984-1989) to 131 deaths per 1000 live births (1994-1999).
Speaking of sanctions, as of writing this piece current democrat incumbent Barrack Obama has just made historic diplomatic progress in regards to Cuban embargos. I mention this as Clinton’s policy in this area stands in antithesis. In what appears to be an example of one of his traditional 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 center of gravity: Bill Clinton seems to have an odd understanding of what constitutes a center 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); Bill Clinton’s nefarious action here thus not only went against the will of the Haitian electorate but the will of the American congress who were united in bi-partisan opposition to the intervention. 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 the 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 post 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. Bubba disagreed: Suharto, to quote one of Clinton’s officials was still “Our kind of guy”. The Clinton administration courted their long-standing client with panache; after their meeting 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 to name but a few. In 2002 Bill Clinton, ever the opportunist, conveniently decided to showcase himself as an ally to independent East Timor – 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 utilised 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, 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 favorite 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 inchoation 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 recognising that Afghanistan was an ideal place for his extremism to flourish, ergo it would be “dangerous to the US in the long term”.
I think it’s 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.
By Thomas Townend
Further links on the issue of Rwanda