“The immediate one, of course, is that [Obama] is going to go out there as surrogate-in-chief and fill in a place while Hillary is convalescent somewhere, I guess, from whatever her health issues are that they continue to lie about,” he said. “
“The Russians, he noted, don’t go along with a lot of the things here like same sex marriage, transgenderism and all the other silliness we see in America and Europe today,” he noted.
“A lot of progressives really-really-really hate Russia. They look at it as at almost a failure that ruined this “great progressive experiment” called communism and they really resent it and hate it. So you actually find much more Russophobia in the US on the progressive side today,” the former diplomat said.
Hillary is the candidate of the “deep state”, of the oligarchy, he said. In effect. the way the script was supposed to run was that the corresponding co-candidate should have been Jeb Bush so that “we have “Tweedledee – Tweedledum” choices like we usually get.”
However there were “insurgencies” in both parties. Bernie (Sanders) on the democratic side and Trump on the Republican side.
Commenting on the health issues of the Democratic nominee and the prospects of her further participation in the presidential race, the former diplomat noted that “Hillary, unless she actually dies, will hang on with her fingernails to the very last minute and she will probably succeed in remaining the nominee.”
He also pointed out one reason why people are really concerned about Hillary’s political and physical viability and might not want to see her go is that they realize there will be “blood bath in the Democratic party while deciding who succeeds her.”
Fingers on the Button: “First Use” and US Nuclear Weapons
Do you wait till the prospect of obliteration is upon you? Or initiate, blithely, a nuclear holocaust upon your enemy as a matter of what is termed “first use” by the nuclear weapon high priests? Neither prospect is particularly attractive, for each assumes the unthinkable made possible, madness made real.
In one way, even articulating a policy on first use or otherwise is a shoddy way of earning plaudits in the game of annihilation. The logic of obliteration remains. In any case, this was a debate that has transfixed the inner circles of Washington.
The latest fuss largely centres on revising the long held position in US strategic “thinking” that using nuclear weapons first should never be taken off the table. President Barack Obama, in the remaining months of his administration, is attempting to ruffle a few feathers in the strategic outlook in Washington on the use of nuclear weapons.
Keeping the first use option available became a critical feature of deterrent plans against a potential Soviet invasion of Western Europe, where its calamitous promise would hopefully chill the prospect of any such move. Such weapons would also come into play in potential actions in the Asian theatre, notably focused on North Korea and China.
Such murmurings from the Obama administration on a possible “No First Use” declaration caused shudders among some allies late last month – notably those taken with the shibboleth of Washington’s nuclear umbrella.
While scant on precise details, The Washington Post did suggest that Japan, South Korea, France and Britain had send urgent notes of concern to the administration feeling that such a move would be unwise and unnecessarily disruptive.
The message of concern from Japan came straight from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, conveyed directly to Adm. Harry Harris Jr., head of US Pacific Command, while Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, reiterated his understanding that the diplomatic wires had been particularly hot on the subject. “The allies lobbying against [adopting no-first use] are nervous nellies.”
Such nervous nellies can also be found closer to home. Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz can be counted amongst them. Their concerns became clear at a National Security Council meeting in July. Carter’s gripe was that having a no first use posture would risk fostering insecurity within US allied circles and dirtying the sacred notion of deterrence.
The central fallacy to such opposition lies in the self-deluding notion that nuclear deterrence has any genuine credibility. To keep that delusion alive entails staying firm on the issue of obliterating your enemy even as a matter of first course. The finger must be ever hovering above the button.
Such a stance does not convince the secretary-general of an A-bomb survivors group, Kazuo Okoshi, who has been particularly aggravated at Japanese opposition to the new slant in Washington. “North Korea repeatedly conducts nuclear tests. Deterrence is not working.” Clearly.
James E. Cartwright, formerly a vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Bruce G. Blair, founder of the Global Zero Commission on Nuclear Risk Reduction, writing in the New York Times (Aug 14), made their pitch that nuclear weapons, in the post-Cold War thaw, served no other purpose “beyond deterring the first use of such weapons by our adversaries.”
The United States, with its alliances, diplomatic and economic might, “our conventional and cyber weaponry our technological advantages, constitute a global military juggernaut unmatched in history.” If Washington’s adversaries refrain from using nuclear weapons, the US has no need to even consider the prospect.
While the authors do slip into the imperial-speak typical of such pronouncements (we have power far superior to others and all that), they make obvious points. Using such weapons against Russia and China would entail global death; employing such weapons against non-state actors would be “gratuitous”.
The more telling point here is that ditching first use would provide reassurances across the globe while saving oodles of money (less need for a strategic nuclear missile strike force, housed in expensive silos; a leaner force).
This giant, in short, will not act unless provoked, and if so, the results will be catastrophic to all concerned. This assumption is as much grounded in false assessment as it is in optimism, the ultimate point being that if you have such entities at hand, you will use them.
The normalisation such weapons of mass murder has exerted a numbing effect on the strategic establishment. Even Cartwright and Blair, both having been connected with the nuclear establishment in some way, never countenance a world free of nuclear weapons. They are in the business of risk reduction and norm creation, hoping that Obama’s embrace of a no-first use policy would cause other states to follow.
States in possession of them may well make superficial gestures: the odd promise to cull a certain type of delivery weapon; a scant reduction of warheads. Others will wheeze their way in response. None of this ultimately helps with the prospect of abolition – the mere existence of one such weapon is one too many.
“What Would She Do in Iraq?”: As Clinton Slams Trump for ISIS Speech, We Look at Her Own Positions
On Monday, while Trump was speaking in Youngstown, Ohio, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden held a rally in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Scranton is Biden’s hometown. During her speech, Hillary Clinton slammed Trump’s foreign policy positions on Syria and fighting ISIS. But what about her own positions? For more, we speak with Phyllis Bennis, author of “Understanding ISIS and the New Global War on Terror.” We also speak with co-founder of the Muslim Democratic Club of New York Linda Sarsour.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to turn to Hillary Clinton, who spoke alongside Biden in Scranton, Pennsylvania, just as Donald Trump was giving his major foreign policy address in Youngstown.
HILLARY CLINTON: He talked about letting Syria become a free zone for ISIS, a major country in the Middle East that could launch attacks against us and others. He’s talked about sending ground troops, American ground troops. Well, that is off the table as far as I am concerned. So, we’ll wait and see what he says today. But, you know, sometimes he says he won’t tell anyone what he’ll do, because he wants to keep his plan, quote, “secret.” And then, it turns out, the secret is he has no plan.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Hillary Clinton. Phyllis Bennis, your response?
PHYLLIS BENNIS: You know, this is a serious challenge when we’re talking about the strategy for these wars. The notion that Hillary Clinton is saying, “That’s off the table,” I’d like to know if she’s opposed to the thousands of U.S. troops that are now officially, openly in Iraq, the hundreds that are officially, openly in Syria. She hasn’t said whether she would call them back, whether she would simply not escalate. So her own position here is very unclear.
One of the things that Trump had said about Iraq, which was quite extraordinary, was this notion that as he was against nation building, he said what we should have done in Iraq was keep control of the oil, because that would have, on the one hand, kept the money from the oil out of the hands of ISIS, and, on the other hand, it would mean that we would, of course, have soldiers on the ground to protect that oil. So he was calling for a permanent deployment of troops, a permanent occupation of Iraq.
Hillary Clinton’s position is very unclear. What would she do in Iraq? And the problem is, it’s—the critique that she’s making is fine, but she has no answer for it herself. She has called for an escalation in Syria, for the creation of a no-fly zone in Syria. No one is asking her whether she believes that her former colleague on the—in the Obama Cabinet, the then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who said he was against a no-fly zone in Syria—sorry, in Libya, because the first act of a no-fly zone is an act of war, to take out the antiaircraft system. Now, Libya hardly had an antiaircraft system. Syria has a very developed, first Soviet-installed and Russian-supplied, antiaircraft system. So, is Hillary Clinton saying it’s OK to go to war against Russia? Is she calling for that? No one is pressing her on that question. No one asked her that question after her own speech. So, her position of saying how outrageous the positions of Donald Trump is accurate, in its own right, but doesn’t take into account the uncertainty of her own position, whether she would support more ground troops, whether she would support a so-called no-fly zone that would immediately be extended to a regime change action, as it was in Libya. These are all uncertainties that we still have no answers to.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Donald Trump talking about Iran
DONALD TRUMP: Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, is now flush with $150 billion in cash released by the United States, plus, if you remember from two weeks ago, another $400 million in actual cash that was obviously used for ransom. Worst of all, the nuclear deal puts Iran, the number one state sponsor of radical Islamic terrorism, on a path to nuclear weapons.
AMY GOODMAN: Phyllis Bennis, your response?
PHYLLIS BENNIS: Well, first of all, I mean, where to start in that? The notion that Iran is the leading state sponsor of what he calls radical Islamic—Islamist terror, which—by which he means primarily ISIS and al-Qaeda, who are sworn enemies of Iran—they have both theological, sectarian, as well as national fights, and Iran is one of the greatest enemies of both ISIS and al-Qaeda. You could start there with what’s wrong with this.
The notion that the Iran deal has put Iran on a path to a nuclear weapon, not even the critics of the deal claim that. The critics of the deal said it didn’t go far enough, it didn’t impose enough sanctions, something like that. That was sort of the Hillary Clinton critique and the critique of others, but none of them said that this deal puts Iran on a path towards a nuclear weapon. All 16 U.S. intelligence agencies have consistently agreed—and they don’t agree on a lot—but they have consistently agreed that Iran not only has not made a nuclear weapon, is not trying to make a nuclear weapon, but that it had not even reached the decision that it wanted to make a nuclear weapon. So this is simply created whole cloth.
AMY GOODMAN: Before we end, I wanted to get to what happened here in New York. Hundreds gathered here in New York Monday for the funeral of Imam Maulama Akonjee and his assistant Thara Uddin, who were shot in the back of their heads while walking home from prayer in broad daylight Saturday. On Monday, a suspected shooter, Oscar Morel, was charged with two counts of second-degree murder. Authorities said it’s not clear whether the attacks were targeted as a result of their faith. This is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who spoke at Monday’s funeral.
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO: And we know there are voices all over this country who are spewing hate, trying to create division, trying to turn one American against another. I look around at all my brothers and sisters here, I see proud Americans, I see proud New Yorkers. And I will never let us be torn apart, and we will not let each other be torn apart.
AMY GOODMAN: That was New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Linda Sarsour, your final comment?
LINDA SARSOUR: I mean, just an outrageous and traumatic experience. And we may never know the motive. The two victims are dead and can’t speak for themselves about what happened. But it still validates why, in this climate, the Muslim community is on edge and very afraid. And we should be able to live freely and safely, and walk home from our mosque without being targets of murder in our streets.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to leave it there, continue this discussion, of course. Linda Sarsour, thanks for being with us, head of MPower Change and co-founder of Muslim Democratic Club of New York. Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, we will link to your pieces, the latest, “The Summer of the Shill.” And Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.
The Iraq War Made
LONDON – With the land of the two rivers, Iraq and Syria, now a wasteland of human suffering and rubble, the Report of the Iraq Inquiry, commonly known as the Chilcot report (after its chairman, Sir John Chilcot), has aimed to help explain how we got here. Now that it has detailed the extent of British culpability in the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq, those implicated in the report’s findings are using two arguments to refute it.
The first, offered by former Prime Minister Tony Blair, that the world would be much worse today had Iraqi President Saddam Hussein been left in power. The second is that invading Iraq would have succeeded but for a lack of post-invasion planning, which allowed for the mayhem that followed.
Simon Tilford examines how Barry Eichengreen, Joseph Stiglitz, Laura Tyson, and other Project Syndicate contributors address the anti-trade sentiment roiling advanced economies.
The second argument has some truth to it. But the first argument is surely false – a desperate attempt at reputation management by those responsible for a disastrous decision.
To academic observers and others who reported from Iraq at the time, as I did, Saddam was a prototypical regional bully. Domestically, he was a murderous tyrant; but his primary security concern was Iran, with which he waged, with Western support, a pointless war of nearly ten years that cost a million lives and ended in stalemate.
When Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990, he assumed it was purely a regional squabble about oil and territorial claims. He mistakenly believed that the West had given him a green light.
The Kuwait invasion was reversed by Operation Desert Storm and other events that led the United States, the United Kingdom, and France to impose crippling sanctions and no-fly zones across large swaths of Iraq. With these measures in place, Saddam’s Iraq was weakened almost to breaking point.
In his newly diminished state, Saddam continued to obsess over Iran and hint at his own weapons of mass destruction. Iraq, however, had abandoned its nuclear project in 1991, had no biological weapons, and had only limited chemical-weapons capability. At no stage after being expelled from Kuwait did Saddam’s regime pose a serious threat to the region or the West. He was contained, like a jackal in a cage.
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, George W. Bush’s administration understandably retaliated, by invading Afghanistan, where the Taliban government hosted Al-Qaeda training camps. By December 2001, the Bush administration was considering attacking Iraq, too.
The biggest obstacle for the Bush administration was the absence of an established connection between Saddam’s regime and Islamic extremism, though an effort was made to concoct a meeting between representatives of the two in Prague. Quite the contrary: Saddam’s regime and militant Islam were mortal enemies.
Still, leading administration figures were determined to wage war on Iraq, so they manufactured a justification: the threat of WMDs. In reality, there was no new Iraqi threat or indication that Iraq was in a position to deploy such weapons. And even when Saddam had used chemical weapons years earlier – against Iranian forces in 1988, at the turning point in the war in the Faw Peninsula, and against Iraqi Kurds in 1991 – the international response had entailed, at most, a no-fly zone, not an invasion. (The 1988 incident drew no response at all.)
Moreover, in the 1991 campaign to liberate Kuwait, Western countries threatened to respond with tactical nuclear weapons if Saddam deployed chemical weapons. He didn’t; and during United Nations inspections before the March 2003 invasion, there was no evidence of any additional WMD program.
The plain purpose of the 2003 invasion was regime change. Indeed, Blair has all but admitted as much. Earlier this year, he explained to Parliament’s foreign affairs committee that he had doubts about Western intervention in Libya for fear of repeating events in Iraq.
The damage from regime change in Iraq has been substantial. According to the Chilcot report, at least 150,000 Iraqis (and possibly four times that number) have been killed in the years since the invasion, and an estimated three million people have been displaced from their homes. The security situation is far worse than under Saddam, and the economy is no better.
Meanwhile, as many had warned at the time, Iran, with its largest historical barrier to expansion gone, now enjoys a significant strategic advantage. Through Shia militias and a sympathetic government in Baghdad, Iran is virtually occupying large parts of Iraq. So, too, is the so-called Islamic State, which is largely composed of Saddam’s former Sunni henchmen. They are locked in battle against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s murderous pro-Iranian regime; a few pro-Western fighting groups, supported by American and British air strikes; as well as the Kurds, the Turks, and the Russians. The view that the Syrian civil war had nothing to do with events in Iraq is untenable.
Support Project Syndicate’s mission
BY MICAH ZENKO JULY 27, 2016
Whoever is elected on Nov. 8 will be a war president on day one, with the power and autonomy to undertake destabilizing shows of force, drone strikes, special operations raids and ever-deepening military interventions. Today, combat troop deployments are routinely made by executive branch spokespeople, decisions to back open-ended air wars in places like Yemen by “partners” like Saudi Arabia are announced via press release, and congressional oversight hearings largely boil down to legislators pleading with commanders to ask for more troops and looser rules of engagement.And much of this probably suits Hillary Clinton just fine.
Unlike Donald Trump, who has wildly shifting positions and alleged “secret” plans to defeat the Islamic State, Clinton has an extensive track record upon which one can evaluate her likely positions. By any reasonable measure, Clinton qualifies as a hawk, if a nuanced one. Though she has opposed uses of force that she believed were a bad idea, she has consistently endorsed starting new wars and expanding others.Consider seven prominent situations in which she has had to decide whether to support the use of American military force:Haiti: In 1994, Clinton opposed intervening in Haiti to reinstate the Jean-Bertrand Aristide government. As historian Taylor Branch recounted in his diary of interviews with Bill Clinton: “I asked him what Hillary thought. He said the pell-mell rush to invade was crazy to her. Reacting against the pressure, the lack of options, and his sense of being trapped, she said he was badly served by his foreign policy staff.” This was an astute judgment by the then-first lady, as the options developed by the U.S. Southern Command and Joint Chiefs were poorly conceived and often logistically impossible to carry out. Fortunately, a 25,000 U.S. troop invasion was avoided after Jimmy Carter brokered a last-minute agreement with Raoul Cédras that assured he would step down from power.
Iraq: In 2002, as a senator for New York, Clinton voted for the authorization for the use of military force in Iraq. In her accompanying floor statement, she claimed it was to ensure President George W. Bush was “in the strongest possible position to lead our country in the United Nations or in war” and to show Saddam Hussein that the country was united. After initially defending the vote, she later adjusted, variously declaring she “thought it was a vote to put inspectors back in,” it was “based on the facts and assurances that I had at the time,” and ultimately “it was a mistake to trust Bush.” Clinton also justified the 2002 vote as simply one for compelling compliance, proclaiming, “I believe in coercive diplomacy,” in a January 2008 presidential debate. Regardless of the reasons or excuses behind her vote, the Iraq War was a foreign-policy and geopolitical disaster.Pakistan: In 2007 and 2008, Clinton strongly disagreed with then-Sen. Barack Obama about striking al Qaeda targets inside of Pakistan. Obama called such attacks “just common sense” if there were “actionable intelligence.” Clinton referred to the 1998 cruise missile strikes in Afghanistan that failed to kill Osama bin Laden and warned that “we have to be very conscious of all the consequences,” particularly anything that would destabilize Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Obama would go on to authorize 407 drone strikes in Pakistan, killing 3,089 people. Nearly 300 of these occurred while Clinton was secretary of state, during which time U.S. diplomats opposed only one or two of the strikes. Whatever hesitation Clinton once had in attacking militants in Pakistan vanished upon being confirmed as secretary of state.
Afghanistan: In 2009, Clinton supported three-quarters of the Afghanistan surge. When Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, requested four brigades of additional U.S. troops in the summer of 2009, Clinton endorsed deploying three of them (equaling roughly 30,000 troops). Reportedly, “Clinton usually favored sending even more [troops] than [Secretary of Defense Robert] Gates did.” Obama eventually deployed 33,000 extra troops. It is hard to identify any enduring political or security gains in Afghanistan that have resulted from the surge. Moreover, more than
Libya: In 2011, Clinton was a strong proponent of regime change in Libya (as was Trump). It is forgotten today that a primary justification she offered for the U.S. military role in Libya was to pay back allies for Afghanistan. As she stated in late March 2011: “We asked our allies, our NATO allies, to go into Afghanistan with us 10 years ago. They have been there, and a lot of them have been there despite the fact they were not attacked.… When it comes to Libya, we started hearing from the U.K., France, Italy, other of our NATO allies. This was in their vital national interest.” Academic research shows that great powers enjoy freedom of action to avoid becoming dragged into wars involving allies, but the Libya regime change intervention was, unfortunately, one that the Obama administration chose to fully support, despite misleading the American people at the time that it was not the goal. Obama correctly labeled not planning for the postwar scenario his “worst mistake” and correctly described Libya as a “mess.”
Osama bin Laden: In 2011, she endorsed the Navy SEAL raid into Abbottabad, Pakistan, that killed Osama bin Laden, even while recognizing that it would likely poison diplomatic relations with Pakistan for a short time. According to Vice President Joe Biden — who opposed it — every other official (including Clinton) was “51-49” in supporting the raid. Before the news broke, Obama called Bill Clinton (who, as president, signed three covert findings authorizing bin Laden’s killing) to let him know the al Qaeda leader was finally dead. “I assume Hillary’s already told you,” Obama said to an unaware Clinton. As Hillary Clinton later wrote in her memoir: “They told me not to tell anyone, so I didn’t tell anyone. Bill later joked with me, ‘No one will ever doubt you can keep a secret!’”
Syria: In 2012, she reportedly proposed to the White House — along with CIA Director David Petraeus — a covert program (apparently larger than the one later authorized) to provide arms to vetted Syrian rebel groups fighting Bashar al-Assad’s government. Obama opposed this proposal on the grounds that there could be no guarantees of where the weapons would ultimately end up and that CIA analysts determined they would not have “materially” hastened the removal of Assad from power. It is difficult to assess the CIA-led train-and-equip program’s effectiveness, compared to larger Defense Department-led efforts, but there remains no collection of U.S.-backed rebel groups that has threatened the existence of the Assad government, which is now backed by indiscriminate Russian air power.Outside of specific interventions, Clinton also supported muscular shows of force as secretary of state. New York Times reporter Mark Landler describes a July 2010 White House debate about rerouting the USS George Washington aircraft carrier from its normal cruise into the Yellow Sea. Adm. Robert Willard, the head of U.S. Pacific Command; Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs; and Secretary of Defense Gates all agreed on this aggressive maneuver. “Clinton strongly seconded it. ‘We’ve got to run it up the gut!’ she had said to her aides a few days earlier,” Landler writes. But Obama refused the request, declaring, “I don’t call audibles with aircraft carriers.” It bears noting that determining the aggressiveness by which the United States conducts freedom of navigation operations in maritime waters claimed by China will be a consequential call for the next president.Finally, Clinton has had an unusual exposure to the military from multiple civilian positions, which may make her far better prepared to serve as commander in chief than her husband was in 1993, when he had a notoriously difficult start leading the military.
As first lady, Clinton was routinely exposed to military intervention debates among senior officials, including over Haiti, Bosnia, and Afghanistan, and later served six years on the Senate Armed Services Committee and four as secretary of state. She also has developed close relations with retired military officers like Gen. Jack Keane, who has rarely seen a country that cannot be improved with U.S. ground troops and airstrikes. As Bob Woodward wrote of a 2009 meeting between the two to discuss the Afghan surge: “Clinton greeted Keane with a bear hug, astonishing [U.S. envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard] Holbrooke because—and he should know—Hillary rarely bear-hugged anyone.”I have spoken about Clinton with a handful of military officers, then stationed in Islamabad and Kabul, who were routinely involved in video teleconferences with her as secretary of state. They all described her as being, by far, the best-prepared senior participant in meetings and having read all the memos or briefing books that were sent as preparatory material. They relayed that Clinton has an intimate understanding of military doctrine, Pentagon acronyms, and military planning principles and was not afraid to press senior commanders to clarify the “courses of action” and the intended “end state” of any given military intervention.
Should Hillary Clinton win the White House, the United States, already at war for 15 years, would be led by a president deeply aware and comfortable with the military. It’s impossible to know which national security crises she would be forced to confront, of course. But those who vote for her should know that she will approach such crises with a long track record of being generally supportive of initiating U.S. military interventions and expanding them.Photo credit: JILL M. DOUGHERTY/Getty Images
Embracing Clinton, Obama says she’ll ‘finish the job’
Gregory Korte | USA TODAY11 minutes ago
PHILADELPHIA — President Obama endorsed Hillary Clinton as the woman to finish the job he started eight years ago, calling on Americans to “reject cynicism” and elect Clinton to “show the world we still believe in the promise of this great nation.”
Embracing his former rival to thunderous applause from the convention hall, Obama thus passed the Democratic party’s baton to the first woman ever nominated for president by a major American political party.
President Obama and Hillary Clinton on stage during the 2016 Democratic National Convention at Wells Fargo Center.
“I’m here to tell you that yes, we still have more work to do,” Obama told delegates at the Democratic National Convention Wednesday, implicitly arguing for a third term for his policies by citing unfinished work on the economy, public safety and civil rights. “My time in this office hasn’t fixed everything; as much as we’ve done, there’s still so much I want to do.”
Of that unfinished work, nothing is more important than national security. And there, he argued that no candidate was more prepared than his former secretary of state and first lady to President Bill Clinton. “No one. Not me, not Bill, not nobody,” he said.
“I know Hillary won’t relent until ISIL is destroyed. She’ll finish the job – and she’ll do it without resorting to torture, or banning entire religions from entering our country. She is fit to be the next commander in chief,” Obama said.
Touting Clinton’s experience and judgment, Obama’s speech was a direct rebuttal to one Trump’s most incisive attacks at last week’s Republican convention in Cleveland. Trump said Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State was marked by “death, destruction and weakness.”
“You know, nothing truly prepares you for the demands of the Oval Office. Until you’ve sat at that desk, you don’t know what it’s like to manage a global crisis or send young people to war,” Obama said. “But Hillary’s been in the room. She’s been part of those decisions.”
Acknowledging that the two were once bitter rivals for the 2008 Democratic nomination, Obama said he came to admire Clinton’s tenacity. “No matter how daunting the odds; no matter how much people try to knock her down, she never, ever quits.”
Obama’s enthusiastic endorsement anchored a Wednesday night lineup that also featured Vice President Biden and his would-be successor, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine. Echoing a theme throughout the convention, they all spoke of the Clinton they know personally — as opposed to the cartoon version she’s portrayed as by her Republican critics.
“She’s been caricatured by the right and by some folks on the left; accused of everything you can imagine – and some things you can’t,” Obama said. “But she knows that’s what happens when you’re under a microscope for 40 years. She knows she’s made mistakes, just like I have; just like we all do.”
“Even in the middle of crisis, she listens to people, and keeps her cool, and treats everybody with respect,” Obama said. “That’s the Hillary I know. That’s the Hillary I’ve come to admire. And that’s why I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America.”
“Everybody knows she’s smart. Everybody knows she’s tough,” Biden said. “But I know what she’s passionate about. I know Hillary.”
After walking out on the Philadelphia stage to the theme from the movie Rocky, Biden urged the crowd not to boo or cheer while he delivered an indictment of Donald Trump. He said the GOP nominee’s “cynicism is unbounded” and his commitment to the middle class was “malarkey.” The crowd cheered anyway. When Biden said the billionaire Trump didn’t have a clue about the middle class, the crowd chanted, “Not a clue!”
Obama’s prime-time speech in Philadelphia capped a 12-year career in national politics as he attempts to pass the baton to the former first lady and senator from New York. Twelve years ago to the day, a then-unknown state senator from Illinois took to the convention stage in Boston to declare a “politics of hope,” laying the groundwork for his own 2008 election to the White House.
“I was so young that first time in Boston, maybe a little nervous addressing such a big crowd,” he said. “But I was filled with faith — faith in America,the generous, bighearted, hopeful country that made my story – that made all of our stories – possible.”
Obama continued that hopeful tone as he returns to the Democratic National Convention podium for the fourth time, but infused it with the themes of some of his most important speeches of his career. He spoke of building “a more perfect union” and the “audacity of hope,” and urged on the crowd as it chanted “Yes, we can!”
“The America I know is full of courage, and optimism, and ingenuity. The America I know is decent and generous,” he said.
He even quoted Ronald Reagan, calling America “a shining city on a hill,” and contrasted it with Trump’s pessimism.
But Obama also acknowledged that Americans have “real anxieties” about jobs and security. “We get frustrated with political gridlock, worry about racial divisions; are shocked and saddened by the madness of Orlando or Nice,” he said. “There are pockets of America that never recovered from factory closures; men who took pride in hard work and providing for their families who now feel forgotten.”
Trump is not the answer to those anxieties, Obama said. “He’s not really a plans guy. Not really a facts guy, either. He calls himself a business guy, which is true, but I have to say, I know plenty of businessmen and women who’ve achieved success without leaving a trail of lawsuits, and unpaid workers, and people feeling like they got cheated.”
When the crowd booed, he repeated a line that’s become a staple of his stump speeches. “Don’t boo. Vote,” he said.
Fact check: Clinton’s record at State Department during Middle East chaos
Oren Dorell | USA TODAY1 hour ago
Hillary Clinton’s tenure as President Obama’s first secretary of State from 2009 through January 2013 was marked by extreme turmoil in the Middle East. It included the Arab Spring protests, Iranian nuclear brinksmanship and withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq. Republican rival Donald Trump said her tenure at State left a legacy of “death, destruction and weakness.”
Here is what Trump said, plus events before, during and after her time as secretary:
ISLAMIC STATE (ISIS or ISIL):
Trump said: “In 2009, pre-Hillary, ISIS was not even on the map. … ISIS has spread across the region, and the world. ”
Before Clinton: ISIS was al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), which launched a bloody campaign against Iraq’s Shiite Muslim majority and U.S. troops. AQI faded into obscurity after an increase in U.S. troops in 2007 teamed up with Sunni Arab tribes to combat the group.
Clinton’s role: Obama’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011 and the start of the Syrian civil war that same year created turmoil that allowed AQI to re-emerge. Obama rejected Clinton’s advice to take a more aggressive approach toward Syria to protect civilians and empower moderate and secular rebels to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad’s brutal regime. She also saw the war as an opportunity to sever Syria’s close alliance with Iran. It’s not clear if Clinton’s approach would have prevented AQI from re-emerging and later branding itself as the Islamic State.
After Clinton: Over the next three years, ISIS took advantage of growing instability in Syria to seize territory there, but it did not gain international notoriety until it occupied portions of neighboring Iraq in June 2014, more than a year after Clinton left State. The group has since plotted or inspired followers to launch terrorist attacks around the world.
Trump said: “Libya was cooperating. … Libya is in ruins, and our Ambassador and his staff were left helpless to die at the hands of savage killers.”
Before Clinton: Libya and its strongman leader, Moammar Gaddafi, renounced the country’s nuclear weapons program in 2003 and allowed the United States and Britain to destroy its nuclear weapons infrastructure. Libya earlier renounced terrorism as well, turning over terror suspects and paying compensation to the victims of Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, killing all 259 aboard.
Clinton’s role: When the Arab Spring uprisings in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt spread to Libya in 2011, Gaddafi sought to put the revolt down by force. Clinton helped develop the NATO campaign to stop him. Libya’s rebels gained momentum and overthrew Gaddafi. The ensuing power vacuum gave rise to militias, including al-Qaeda, which launched a terrorist attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans at a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012. In the following days, Clinton and the White House wrongly blamed the attack on a protest over an anti-Islam video, and only later acknowledged there was no protest and it was a planned terrorist attack. Obama and Clinton had a plan for stabilizing Libya after Gaddafi’s fall, but Libya’s transitional government rejected any role for foreign troops.
After Clinton: Multiple investigations by Clinton’s State Department and congressional panels found that State did not provide enough security at the diplomatic post in Benghazi, but little more could have been done to protect the Americans once the attack began. Libya’s warring factions formed a government this year, opening the door to U.S. assistance to defeat the Islamic State, which took advantage of the chaos to grab territory in parts of the country.
Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, on Jan. 23, 2013.
Trump said: “Egypt was peaceful. … Egypt was turned over to the radical Muslim Brotherhood, forcing the military to retake control.”
Before Clinton: Egypt had been ruled for almost 30 years by President Hosni Mubarak, a former general who crushed opponents but cooperated with the United States and its ally Israel on counterterrorism and other regional issues.
Clinton’s role: When the Arab Spring spread to Egypt in 2011, Mubarak was ousted by his military. Clinton said in her memoir, Hard Choices, that she counseled Obama to proceed with caution toward Egypt, but he was swayed by idealism to support the democratic movement that unseated Mubarak. Under her leadership, the State Department sought to work with various post-Mubarak political parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood, a previously outlawed group that tried to impose hard-line Islamic rule in a country used to a secular government. In 2012, the first democratic elections brought to power a political party that represented the Muslim Brotherhood.
After Clinton: In July 2013, five months after Clinton’s departure, the Egyptian military, backed by millions of demonstrators and the political opposition, overthrew the government of Mohamed Morsi and installed a new general who was later elected president in voting that international monitors considered rigged.
Trump said: “Iraq was seeing a reduction in violence. … Iraq is in chaos.”
Before Clinton: Four years after President George W. Bush ordered the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the presence of 145,000 U.S. troops finally reduced violence from an anti-U.S. insurgency. Obama pledged during his 2008 presidential campaign to bring the troops home, and he did in 2011.
Clinton’s role: Clinton sought unsuccessfully to mediate between the Baghdad government and opposition groups to head off sectarian divisions. The State Department also failed to reach an agreement with Iraq’s government on a law that would provide legal protection for a small contingent of U.S. forces that would remain to help keep the peace. Violence flared again, as Iraq’s elected government, dominated by the country’s Shiite majority, pursued policies that alienated the country’s Sunni Arab and Kurdish minorities.
After Clinton: As a result, Sunni tribes that had helped the U.S. military defeat al-Qaeda welcomed the Islamic State fighters when the fellow Sunnis swept into Iraq from neighboring Syria in 2014.
Obama then agree to send military trainers and advisers back to Iraq. More than 4,000 are there now.
Trump said: “Iran was being choked by sanctions. … (Now) Iran is on the path to nuclear weapons.”
Before Clinton: Iran was selling oil at a relatively steady rate and pursuing a nuclear weapons research program during the George W. Bush presidency, according to the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency.
Clinton’s role: Obama and Clinton pursued a dual-track policy of strengthening international sanctions against Iran, while secretly pursuing a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear threat. New U.S. sanctions imposed by Congress and European sanctions urged by Clinton created severe economic hardship in Iran. China and Russia joined the international sanctions, removing huge markets for Iranian petroleum. Iran expanded its nuclear program during this time, but its crude exports dropped in 2012 to their lowest level since 1986.
After Clinton: Secret and overt overtures by Obama and Clinton began soon after Obama became president. Formal negotiations under Clinton’s successor, John Kerry, led to a final agreement between Iran and six world powers in July 2015. It called for limits on Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting sanctions. Implementation began in January, and Iran has kept its nuclear program peaceful — so far, according to the U.N.
Sanctions relief has made tens of billions of dollars available to fund the political agenda of Iran’s anti-U.S. leaders, but Iran has yet to enjoy the economic relief it had hoped for because many U.S. sanctions remain in place, and international businesses remain wary of doing business with Iran.
Trump said: “Syria was under control. … Syria is engulfed in a civil war and a refugee crisis that now threatens the West.”
Before Clinton: Syria was a brutal dictatorship led by Assad, the president belonging to a minority Shiite sect and a close ally of Iran.
Clinton’s role: The Arab Spring uprising in Syria led to civil war in 2011 after Assad’s military opened fire on unarmed democracy demonstrators. Clinton saw the uprising as an opportunity to disconnect Syria from the destabilizing influence of Iran. The U.S. ambassador to Syria encouraged democracy protesters. Clinton and other top advisers urged Obama to increase U.S. support to moderate, secular Syrian rebel groups and to impose a no-fly zone in Syria to prevent Assad’s air force from targeting civilians. But Obama rejected the advice. The precursor to the Islamic State first formed as a militant army that took control of areas in Syria vacated by retreating Assad troops.
After Clinton: The Islamic State grew exponentially after Obama failed to follow through on his 2012 “red line” warning to Assad not to use chemical weapons. Assad used them against rebels in 2013, but the United States did not retaliate, a signal to the rebels that the U.S. would not come to their aid. After Clinton left office, Obama agreed to help train Syrian rebel groups to fight the Islamic State but not Assad.
The civil war continues, with 250,000 to more than 400,000 people dead so far, according to varying estimates, most at the hands of Assad and his allies. About half of Syria’s pre-war population of 22 million fled to neighboring countries, and hundreds of thousands entered Europe, creating a migrant crisis along with fears that a wave of Islamic State-inspired terrorism in Europe could worsen.