The Hawk in Charge of a Chicken Coup
By Nicholas Goroff
To listen to the campaign rhetoric and carefully crafted messages which Hillary Clinton utters about her experience regarding foreign policy could lead one to the mistaken conclusion that she is a tough but fair player on international stage. Even with respect to the backpedaling she has engaged in regarding her vote in favor of authorization for war in Iraq, the variety of language she uses in respect to her work as a diplomat can very easily paint a picture of a squared away, no nonsense straight shooter on the world’s stage. But upon just a peek beneath the glossy veneer of polished political imagery that is Hillary Clinton, a history of gross interventionism and intractable militarism becomes readily apparent.
For the purposes of this examination of what a Clinton foreign policy could look like, the easiest and most immediately relevant examples come to us by way of Libya and Syria. These two nations which have both been wracked by bloody civil wars, as well as become host nations to the growing threat that is ISIS, are both in many ways victims of many of the policies and poor decisions made by the U.S. State Department under the guidance of Hillary Clinton. Though the roots of the interventionist, neoconservative foreign policies of the United States and their effects on nations throughout the Middle East and North Africa stretch back decades, the sorts of manipulative and blowback inspiring actions by western powers are rather succinctly summed up through an examination of the Clinton State Department and their handling of the Arab Spring.
It may be best to start analyzing this tragic comedy by going back many decades to the year 1969, when a young rebel commander named Muammar Gaddafi brought down the sitting King Idris of Libya in what is described as a bloodless coup. Alongside him during this fight was a young Army officer named Khalifa Haftar, who would upon the ascension of Gaddafi to power, find himself promoted to the role of chief of staff of the armed forces. A devout loyalist to the new regime, Haftar would within a period of a decade and a half find his loyalty to Gaddafi richly (or at least seemingly richly) rewarded when he was put in command of Gaddafi’s failed 1986 invasion of Chad.
The Chadian connection to this story, while somewhat light in respect to its central thesis, is nevertheless interesting as in 1981, a full twelve years after Gaddafi took power, a Chadian rebel force led by one Hissene Habre seized power in the neighboring nation from sitting President Goukouni Oweddi with the help of some $10 million in CIA aid and weaponry. In his failed 1986 attempt to invade Chad, then General Haftar was taken prisoner by what many historians regard to be a “ramshackle but effective” Chadian fighting force and held until in 1987, he suddenly threw off his decades of loyalty to the Libyan regime after being effectively disowned by Gaddafi in an attempt to save face, and founded the rebel Libyan National Army (LNA,) the military front to the Libyan National Salvation Front.
Set now to topple the Gaddafi regime, Haftar led his LNA until some point in the early 1990’s, when following a Libyan backed militia taking over Chad, led by one time Habre’ military advisor Idriss Déby. Following this, Haftar relocated to the suburban Maryland in the United States, reportedly within some twenty or so miles of the CIA headquarters at Langley. There, he lived in comfort while maintaining ties to Libyan rebels for over twenty years until developments within Libya facilitated his return. Thus to do we come to our modern time…
In August of 2009 protests in the Libyan city of Zawiya unleashed a wave of unrest throughout the country with protests and demonstrations cropping up repeatedly in cities throughout Libya. Then, in December of 2010, the Arab Spring began with a toppling of the government in Tunisia. By February of 2011, protests in Benghazi Libya escalated into a full blow rebellion when protestors and demonstrators became involved in violent clashes with security forces. Soon a full on rebellion and civil war raged within the North African country.
As the U.S. watched and the American State Department, then under the directorship of Hillary Clinton watched closer, Libya fell into the grips of full on war between a loosely allied rebel force made up of tribal militias, anti-Gaddafi forces and Islamist groups. In emails recently released by Wikileaks between Clinton and her senior staff, we have since come to learn that though Gaddafi’s own son, Saif al-Islam had since 2004 been calling for political reforms for Libya to create a constitutional democracy, the Clinton State Department position on the matter was to forego working with reformers such as Saif, preferring instead to focus on air-strikes in support of the rebel forces. This, while at the same time similar emails from the time show Clinton interested in the prospect of sectarian civil war within Syria for the purposes of regional destabilization in the aims of bolstering Israeli security while also providing the west with greater leverage in negotiations regarding the Iranian nuclear program.
As the revolutionary war continued in Libya, a ground commander named Abdel Hakim Belhadj, who is widely regarded as a CIA backed al-Qaeda operative with a history of Islamist militancy dating back to his time as an Islamist fighter in the Soviet-Afghan war, began rising to prominence. A dedicated Islamist, Belhadj was a revered within Islamist circles both for his longstanding status as a veteran of the Afghan jihad, as well as his longstanding hatred for the Gaddafi regime which had resulted in a guerrilla uprising in the 1990s. His presence and ideology both well known to both intelligence officials as well as the State Department notwithstanding, Belhadj received substantial material support from CIA as the war waged on. In time, Belhadj would continue to wage war within Libya, only as the ground commander for ISIS, however that would not be until later.
With the war against Gaddafi waging on, factions which made up the rebel forces were feared to be in a state of disarray, with various militias and elements of defected national army units struggling to coalesce into a single fighting force as fighters chose to divide themselves according to allegiances to different commanders. As of April in 2011, the National Libyan Council (NLC) which served as the political body of the rebellion sought to establish a single commander for rebel forces. Initially looking to one General Abdel-Fattah Younus, former Gaddafi Minster of Interior to head up the rebel efforts, the sudden arrival of Khalifa Belgisia Haftar from the U.S. threw these plans into sudden disarray.
Almost immediately, Haftar was announced as the military commander for rebel forces, with Younus not taking the appointment lightly. In August of 2011, Tripoli falls and the revolution against Gaddafi is complete. As the National Transitional Council (NTC,) Libya’s transitional government immediately begins setting about trying to stabilize the nation, one of the first major problems encountered, according to State Dept. emails, is the increasing numbers of demonstrations and even attacks being carried out by student activists, Islamist factions, some pro-Gaddafi loyalist factions and disgruntled revolutionary fighters (known as Thuwar in Libya,) throughout the nation. Though well aware of the strife, as well as the multiple attacks by various factions against the Egyptian consulate and even murders of high profile foreign nationals such as Hugo deSamie (who curiously does not come up in a google search outside of these email releases, despite being an ostensibly successful French businessman with ties to the Gaddafi regime,) State seemingly did little to assist the Libyans in their reconstruction.
Haftar meanwhile assumed a role as a senior military cabinet member and almost immediately began making a name for himself as an adversary of Libyan Islamists. Throughout his tenure, Haftar routinely cast aspersions upon Qatar and Saudi Arabia, as well as Egypt following the 2012 election of the Muslim Brotherhood to power, claiming that each was feeding the conflict within Libya. In 2014 then, Haftar announced he sought a coup against the Libyan parliament, which though resulting in some bloodletting was altogether unsuccessful.
Now it may be fair to ask what any of this has to do with Clinton or the State Department as a majority of this timeline and history has more to do with domestic Libyan affairs than U.S. foreign policy. However the consideration of the attitudes expressed by the Clinton State Department during the Libyan war, as well as the correspondence of events within Libya during and after that time do lead to a curious set of questions and potential hypotheses.
To begin with, we have what in the cases of both Syria and Libya, are policies which seek to openly or covertly sustain instability for the purposes of strategic geopolitical gain. In the case of Syria, we have effectively an open desire for civil war which as we now know happened with calamitous net effects, while in that of Libya, we have a refusal to work with political reformers who had been active in the highest levels of the Libyan government for nearly a decade, as well as active support for Islamist militants within Libya by U.S. intelligence forces.
We then have a military commander (Haftar) who after being taken prisoner in Chad by a regime known to have the support of CIA, defects, becomes a rebel leader and flees to the U.S. when said CIA backed Chadian regime falls, only to wind up living within shouting distance of CIA headquarters. This commander then, after nearly twenty years of life in the states, returns to Libya in the 11th hour to become not only the commander of rebel forces on the ground against Gaddafi, but also then goes on to attempt a coup against the transitional and parliamentary government as a senior member of said government, before he goes into “retirement.”
On top of these, we also have a CIA backed militia commander with known ties to al-Queda who in turn, despite being known to State Dept. and intelligence officials has now managed to become the ground commander for ISIS forces within the country.
Throughout all of this, a consistent theme seems to emerge within respect to Hillary Clinton and the State Department’s attitude towards affairs and that is one of the concept recognizing, exacerbating and exploiting the strategic benefits to regional instability. Whether going back to the days of the crypto-fascist regime change efforts of Operation Ajax, wherein American and British intelligence forces overthrew Iranian leader Mohammed Mossadeq and installed the brutal Shah Reza Palavi, up through more modern examples such as the American war in Iraq, the foreign policy efforts at effectively gaming the international community and select regions for strategic political or resource based gains seems to be an almost constant within circles of the political elite.
Now looking upon the revealed information regarding the developments with Libya, as well as then Secretary Clinton’s attitudes towards the conflict and how America ought best to factor its resources and attention towards it, this altogether destructive and short sighted pattern seems to emerge once again. Was the goal of the State Department’s refusal to work with in country reformers and CIA’s expressed interest in arming what they knew well ahead of time to be Islamist AQ-associated radical groups within Libya part of an effort to destabilize the country in pursuit of an advantage over Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and other rival powers in the region? Was Khalifa Haftar a CIA asset dispatched in the hopes of installing a puppet of some kind within the Libyan rebellion and later military, so as to have within him the potential leader of a coup and new puppet government? Were the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi something that the State Department should have foreseen and if so, was their inaction part of a larger effort to sew disruption and chaos into an already chaotic scene, so as to shore up additional support for their ally in Haftar?
While your author is himself no fan of conspiracy theories, in the case of the Clinton legacy in Libya, such is exceptionally hard to disregard. What is known for certain is that conditions within Libya in respect to the growing Islamist movement, culminating in the establishment of ISIS in Libya was known to Clinton and the State Department well before the revolution had even been completed. What else is known is that by manner of miraculous timing, a suspected CIA asset was placed within the revolution and later within the government at the 11th hour setting the stage for what was almost an outright coup against the provisional government. Finally, we know from her comments on Syria, that Clinton is one who views bloody civil wars and sectarian violence as a potential boon to certain strategic international affairs.
This all being said, you are invited to both dig deeper into the email archive provided here and to draw your own conclusions. As it stands however, the pictures painted thus far by these Clinton emails paint a picture of an almost sociopathic warhawk, who following a vote to authorize military action in Iraq (for which she only seems to show regret for when politically beneficial,) took on her role at state with a nearly Machiavellian view of power and conflict. This should, as your author hopes, factor into the decision making of voters in the United States in the following months as it needs to be made clear that in respect to foreign policy, at least one candidate has a vested and demonstrable track record that can and should be seen as a blueprint for what they might do as President.
Nicholas Goroff is a writer, journalist, actor and Youtube content creator. A former political operative and labor organizer, he holds a degree in Criminal Justice and previously studied Political Science at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire. Presently he works as a beer and liquor critic at Everyjoe.com in addition to writing for The Rationalists.org and Occupy.com