November 9, 2011
Hillary Clinton Does (Psyops) Work
Different time, different place, same propaganda.
Holding Washington’s elite network of universities and think tanks in her palm, America’s Secretary of State enjoys a wide selection of platforms to issue international declarations, propaganda and warnings. In late 2009 Hillary Clinton used the U.S. Institute of Peace to launch a propaganda campaign in Pakistan, with predictably dreary results. Months ago, at the National Defense University, she tag-teamed the Arab Spring with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
On Monday Clinton unveiled her usual rhetoric at the National Democratic Institute’s 2011 “Democracy Awards.” NDI’s global activities have acquired an external reputation for funding movements favorable to U.S. interests, and the Secretary seemed content with reinforcing this perception. Clinton had one objective on her list: confront the mounting doubts over America’s response to the Arab revolutions.
“I’ve heard skepticism about American motives and commitments, people wondering if, after decades of working with the governments of the region, America doesn’t—in our heart of hearts—actually long for the old days. I’ve heard from activists who think we aren’t pushing hard enough for democratic change, and I’ve heard from government officials who think we’re pushing too hard. I’ve heard from people asking why our policies vary from country to country...”
“I want to ask and answer a few of these tough questions.”
Unfortunately Clinton came to NDI to defend, not correct, the flaws in U.S. policy. Although she insists that the Obama administration “begins by rejecting the false choice between progress and stability,” this “false choice” is brutally real in Yemen and Bahrain, where entire populations have been sacrificed to preserve U.S. military interests. In Yemen’s case, Washington measures “progress” not by sustainable governance but “success” against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP); non-military areas are given lip-service to offset military predominance. A vain attempt to mitigate regime change through the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has exasperated Yemen’s conflict.
“The truth is that the greatest single source of instability in today’s Middle East is not the demand for change; it is the refusal to change," Clinton confidently argues. "That is certainly true in Syria, where a crackdown on small, peaceful protests drove thousands into the streets and thousands more over the borders. It is true in Yemen, where President [Ali Abdullah] Saleh has reneged repeatedly on his promises to transition to democracy and suppressed his people’s rights and freedoms. And it is true in Egypt.”
U.S. officials continue to disseminate the false notion that Saleh has “reneged repeatedly on his promises to transition to democracy,” when he never sincerely agreed to sign the GCC’s favorable initiative. This lie is exploited to lay all of the blame on Saleh as the administration quietly pushes for regime alteration. Already rejected by Yemen’s revolutionaries, the GCC’s initiative remains a stalling mechanism for Saleh and foreign powers. Clinton never mentions the proposal despite firmly backing its implementation, a tacit sign of the GCC’s illegitimacy, and the White House hasn’t clarified the proposals immunity clause with UN resolution 2014.
With rumors of an asset freeze floating out of Europe, Saleh is now looking for even more favorable terms under the GCC’s initiative. According to Sultan Barakani, the Secretary General of his ruling General People’s Congress (GPC), Saleh “wishes to remain president of Yemen until the next presidential elections.” GPC spokesman Tareq al-Shami later clarified that the party is waiting on UN envoy Jamal Benomar to initiate a new round of dialogue “on details of the Gulf initiative so it can be signed.”
Western and Gulf powers had envisioned a ceremony in Riyadh on Thursday, a flagrant violation of Yemen’s revolution, and still plan to hold an out-of-country signing.
U.S. bias pervades military support for Saleh’s regime and political support for the GCC’s initiative. Clinton has actively participated in Yemen’s cover-up, avoiding its revolution whenever possible and backing the GCC when cornered. Her department assists in the task, addressing Syria 13 separate times since Yemen’s UN resolution 2014 was unanimously passed on October 21st. Not only are Yemen’s six statements briefer, all politely request Saleh’s signature on the GCC’s illegitimate initiative, offering no other context or explanation on Yemen’s revolution.
In contrast to Yemen’s singular mention and token reference to Saleh - and his immunity offer - Clinton slammed Bashar al-Assad before NDI’s adoring crowd.
As for Bahrain, the State Department went a month and a half between August and October without commenting on Bahrain’s uprising. Even conservative editorials from the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post concede Washington’s double standard in Bahrain, but Clinton rejected the very silence that the Obama administration actively maintains. Current statements praise Bahrain’s investigation into its own crimes, and the Secretary’s explanation of U.S. policy reads straight from the propaganda playbook.
“The government has recognized the need for dialogue, reconciliation, and concrete reforms. And they have committed to provide access to human rights groups, to allow peaceful protest, and to ensure that those who cross lines in responding to civil unrest are held accountable. King Hamad called for an independent commission of inquiry, which will issue its report soon. And we do intend to hold the Bahraini Government to these commitments and to encourage the opposition to respond constructively to secure lasting reform.”
Clinton argued, “President Obama and I have been frank, in public and in private, that mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain's citizens,” but both have been noticeably quiet. U.S. leadership suffers from an extensive confidence crisis within Bahrain’s opposition, who feel abandoned by the international community and praise the silver lining of America’s controversial 5th Fleet. Bahrain’s “National Dialogue” was exposed as a foreign-backed political sham and its internal investigation now blocks criticism of ongoing abuses. Instead of condemning the suppression of Ali Hasan al-Dehi's funeral, Clinton casually praised King Hamad for his response.
Several Bahraini groups followed Clinton’s speech by demanding the world’s absent attention. After the Arab League’s activity in Syria heightened resentment over a double standard, oppositional officials requested an AL meeting and pressure on Bahrain’s monarchy. The February 14th movement independently rejected the government’s dialogue and Western pressure to “respond constructively.”
While Clinton declares that the Obama administration will support all peoples “because democracies make for stronger and stabler partners,” Egypt’s military council has been promoted for “stability’s” sake, Saleh’s regime is being shielded, and Bahrainis face an isolated climb to serious reform. Eventually dispensing with “universal rights,” Clinton backtracks by defending the “one-size-doesn’t-fit-all” policy adopted by the Obama administration. She claims that U.S. policy varies depending on the country, that “it would be foolish to take a one-size-fits-all approach” - except the administration has adopted a one-side-fits-all response. Washington’s response to the Arab revolutions is based on self-interest, not altruist narrative that Clinton attempts to weave.
“We are not simply acting in our self-interest. Americans believe that the desire for dignity and self-determination is universal - and we do try to act on that belief around the world. Americans have fought and died for these ideals. And when freedom gains ground anywhere, Americans are inspired.”
NDI served its purpose in the end: redouble America’s double standard in the Arab world.