A Two-President, Three-Term Policy Coup

This YouTube has been getting some belated attention. In it, Wes Clark reveals he heard, on roughly September 21, 2001, that Bush had a plan to take out 7 countries in 5 years. Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran.

He told this story about 6 years later. He called it a policy coup.

That was 5 years ago. Since that time, largely in response to the Arab Spring, we “liberated” Libya. We’re preparing to (if have not already done so) arm al-Qaeda related rebels in Syria. We’re inventing reasons to sanction a Lebanese terror-related political party. We’ve been violating sanctions to wage war in Somalia, including with drones, and have fiddled with several incarnations of government. And our Iran sanctions–which are fairly clearly about regime change–are really beginning to hurt the Iranian people.

Sure, while the US has helped birth South Sudan, we didn’t overthrow it. But throw in Yemen, where we’ve hand selected the President who will be a partner in our drone strikes in his country, and we’ve been fighting in almost the same 7 countries Bush’s NeoCons picked out in their impotent response to 9/11.

Syria? Check. Lebanon? Check. Libya? Check. Somalia? Check. Sudan Yemen? Check. Iran?

The methods may be different. But I’m not sure how the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s objectives, at least, are all that different.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

25 replies
  1. Roman Berry says:

    I get a fair amount of disapproval from many progressive quarters when I describe Obama as giving us Bush’s third term…but in area after area, Obama is giving us Bush’s third term. Frankly, with what is being done to whistle blowers and leakers, and with Obama’s codification of so many of the most extreme Bush policies thereby making them into what amounts to bipartisan consensus (not to mention Obama’s ability to effectively neuter a very large portion of liberal opposition), I have come to regard Barack Obama as potentially the most dangerous president in our nation’s history. Yes, worse than Bush, because with Bush I expected nothing but bad. (I had at least a little hope that Obama had better sense and would chart an actual new course rather than just a more effective implementation of evil.)

  2. bell says:

    roman berry – i agree with you..

    7:23- 7:40 of the video is the essence of the video. what the hell is the usa doing in that area ? it matters not just for americans but for anyone living on the planet. regime change in faraway countries seems to be all that the usa is about at this point..

    juxtaposition this interview with the new reality show that wes clark co hosts..weird dude. http://www.salon.com/2012/08/13/nbcs_war_for_fun_and_profit/

  3. bmaz says:

    @Roman Berry: Honestly, I could make the argument that the last term, or at least the last 2-3 years of it once Cheney was somewhat sidelined, of Bush was superior to Obama in many, if not most, regards.

  4. JThomason says:

    @bmaz: The treasury panic and the ensuing bailout of Bush’s final years were of such a noble order. (That’s sarcasm folks.)

    Hard to see Bush being redeemed after Cheney led him around by the nose for six years. But I guess he does get some credit for sidelining Cheney, finally. After all we are a forgive and forget people. (More sarcasm).

    Its a pretty low standard to overcome but I am not sure Obama has done it. Can someone explain “Fast and Furious” to me. I still haven’t heard and explanation that even comes close to suggesting why this program was a good idea.

    My sense is of having been subjected to a de facto disenfranchisement as far as Election 2012 goes.

  5. bmaz says:

    @JThomason: Well, that was kind of exactly my point. Not that Bush is redeemed in any way, just that in an awful lot of ways, most actually, Obama has been no better, and in a lot of very critical areas, he is arguably worse. As a couple, say what you will about Bush, but he did not abrogate the War Powers Act in a usurpation of Article I power. He did not claim the right to unilaterally execute citizens with no due process. There are lots of areas of executive power that have been exacerbated by Obama that even Bush did not go to. Similarly, I think the manipulation of courts to protect the executive branch has been even more craven under Obama. In the financial arena, Bush appointed Neil Barofsky; Obama neutered him into resignation. Despite the hype, I believe there is actually less transparency in the most critical areas no than there was under Bush.

    This is not to say there are not good things from Obama. The restoration of DOJ Civil Rights Division is outstanding, as is what he has done on gay rights and equality (although I think he was forced into that). A lot of people think Obamacare is a positive thing; I don’t really overall, but I’ll count that as a draw for now.

    A lot of Obama’s failure is not what he has done, but what he hasn’t done and thus has given the Democratic imprimatur of ratification to. There is a LOT in this category. Bottom line is, while, yes, I would rather have Obama than Bush, it is really a pretty close call in most respects, and in some he has been demonstrably worse. It is just all depressing.

  6. emptywheel says:

    @bmaz: Actually, I think the Kamal Derwish assassination was done on the same legal basis as the first attempt on Awlaki.

  7. jayackroyd (@jayackroyd) says:

    @Roman Berry:

    When I sat down with Brad DeLong ( http://bit.ly/k1z0Eg ) one of the things we speculated about was whether a McCain presidency could have gotten away with a failed, underpowered stimulus. And whether the party that brought us Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D would really have had any problem with running a still bigger deficit in order to reduce the unemployment rate.

    We’re increasing being divided into three groups–rank and file conservatives, rank and file liberals, and a ruling class of centrist elites that rejects the principles of both populations.

    Pesky elections.

  8. jayackroyd (@jayackroyd) says:

    @bmaz:

    But the question is whether you’d rather have McCain. Or Romney. (I do not see how anyone can make an affirmative case for Romney. It’s an absolute crap shoot. But, jeez, without an election to check him, and with a Veep who’s not credible POTUS material, it’s not exactly easy to predict what Obama will do either. The achievements you list have direct electoral implications….)

  9. Frank33 says:

    Bush or Obama, who is more superior and who is more inferior? Obviously, Chimpie, who is the Decider Guy, was the more superior.

    President Obama merely takes orders from the Secret Government. He even admitted he is not authorized to tell us about all the secret wars. Also, Obama messed up, by declaring Bradley Manning guilty. Very careless of a Harvard trained lawyer.

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0411/53601.html#ixzz23WdPPX5R

    “I have to abide by certain classified information,” Obama said on a video that quickly began to circulate among media outlets Friday. “If I was to release stuff, information that I’m not authorized to release, I’m breaking the law. … We’re a nation of laws. We don’t individually make our own decisions about how the laws operate. … He broke the law.”

  10. John Glover says:

    “The methods may be different. But I’m not sure how the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s objectives, at least, are all that different.”

    And what, pray tell, are those objectives? As near as I can tell, they are to keep the region in total chaos so we can continue to extract their natural resouces with impunity…

  11. bmaz says:

    @jayackroyd (@jayackroyd): No, I most assuredly would not prefer McCain or Romney. You may recall what I have said about McCain….

    And the second part of your comment is exactly right. We Dems never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity to leverage Obama and other Dem leaders.@emptywheel:

  12. bmaz says:

    @emptywheel: I think that is likely right; let’s put it this way, Derwish seems somewhat isolated and was not made a policy and practice, and bragged about via leaks to where it is effectively the open and notorious policy of the nation, as has been done under Obama.

    To some extent, does anyone really doubt that the CIA has done wet work on citizens for a long, long time? The difference is how it is played and portrayed vis a vis rule of law and due process. I think Obama has been a sea change in that regard in a very destructive way.

  13. bmaz says:

    @emptywheel: I still maintain the overall nature of the activity has been formally ratified as a policy and exacerbated by Obama in a notable and negative manner.

    That said, in thinking and looking back at it again, the parallels between Derwish and Awlaki are really pretty strong as to underlying free speech activity an targeting. That should not be as lost in the discussion as it is (other than you).

  14. no says:

    “Lebanese terror-related political party”

    Are there any Lebanese political parties that aren’t terror related? Come to think of it are there any major political organizations on earth that are not “terror related”
    I won’t even bother to talk about Israel but yes I’m including The party of the Dalai Lama

  15. joanneleon says:

    I’ve been referring that that talk that Wes Clark gave in 2006 for years now. He gave it in several different venues. We saw it in person at a campaign event for Joe Sestak in 2006.

    After that event, there was a small group of people who hung around and we were talking to Clark up at the front of the room. Right before he left, someone asked him if we were going to attack Iran. He hesitated, and I was close enough to see his expression. I thought it was a serious, very worried and genuine expression (though I don’t know what the heck Clark is doing now). After a bit, he simply said “there are people in the White House who want to”. Well we pretty much knew that Cheney wanted to at that point. But who else wanted to and are they still around?

    I think it seems pretty clear that the neocon plan for the Middle East just continued uninterrupted when the Obama administration took office. I can’t, for the life of me, understand why. I mean, I can guess, but I really don’t understand why, after listening to the things the Democrats were saying during the entire Bush/Cheney reign. Who is in control of the military? Who is in control of the policies?

  16. earlofhuntingdon says:

    This administration has consistently labeled anything remotely contravening Bush practices or doctrine as a “distraction” from its agenda. That applies to whistleblowing, agency personnel and staffing, political appointments, OLC opinions, programs of all stripes, ad nauseum.

    That no longer begs the question of what Mr. Obama’s agenda is if not to overturn and correct some of the worst executive branch excesses ever. Mr. Obama has answered that question not by passively adopting the Bush program. He has actively made it his own; he has jumped into the CheneyBush briar patch because it suits him better than his award-winning campaign face.

  17. rugger9 says:

    Sudan was covered by the South Sudan rebels. The regime is still there in Khartoum, however, and still not improved, so call that one a half.

  18. rugger9 says:

    @Roman Berry: #17
    I have to disagree with you, as it stands now that IS the question. It’s a binary situation, and the rationale for a viable third and fourth party is made because of the choice we have. The viable 3&4 will not be ready before November, and such a party will be hampered for years by the reliable media access available to the GOP, then Ds, but not to the Greens, AIP, Libertarian, CP-USA, etc., which is the other component necessary for success. Overseas, many parties have their reliable press outlets. We have corporate media here.

    I also don’t consider the Electoral College as much as a problem. Even in a parliamentary system there is horse-trading. I do like that ability in the parliamentary system to have Question Time [most fun in Australia], and no-confidence votes, both of which would have shortened the Teabagger tyranny and maybe we’d have the Obama JOBS act instead of 34 votes to rescind the ACA. The JOBS act is being held up because the GOP wants everyone unemployed in November. Hell, the GOP is even holding up the farm bill in the middle of the worst drought ever because of Teabagger politics.

  19. jawbone says:

    @jayackroyd (@jayackroyd): Actually, when I heard Romney had picked Paulie Ryan, I flashed on Bush Sr. picking Sen. Dan Quayle as his veep. At the time, there were jokes that Bush Sr. had chosen Quayle as his insurance against being impeached or assassinated….

    Ryan, on the other hand and with no deer in the headlights expression –his eyes are more like that of a snake observing its prey–, given the idiocy and ideology of some of the Tea Partiers, might just be the motivation to off Romney, should R&R win.

    Think how ecstatic the TPers would be with someone like Ryan, with his Randian approach, in the Oval Office*. Yikes!

    I some how think Romney lacks imagination and the ablity to think in terms other than the money involved, or he might have thought of that.

    *Also, imagine how some of the TPers would feel once they realized they’re going to be just as screwed as the rest of us in the lower four economic quintiles. Remember those signs about keeping the government’s hands off “their” Medicare? Not going to be so funny then.

  20. JohnT says:

    That’s the point a lot of others and I kept making to the cruise missile liberals during the Libya Freedom Fest – AKA bomb the shit out of a non white euro-amero-centric govs that refuse to pay the proper homage to multinational corps.

    PS who’s been paying the belated attention to the video?

  21. DeadLast says:

    I personally heard Wesley Clark make those very same claims on April 24, 2006 in a lecture at University of Judaism held at the Gibson Amphitheater. The lecture was moderated by George Stephanopolis and also included Tom Ridge and David Kay. I wrote several comments about the lecture on the FDL and HuffPo websites in the days afterwords, but no one picked up on it (this was before FDL commentators could submit posts). It seemed as if no one was interested.

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