Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Hillary and Libya: Update

That's "Aidez-moi!" on his fingers. Image via Freaking News.

The extremely remarkable news coming out of France this week about ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, under arrest in a grotesque illegal campaign financing case, sheds unexpected light on a question we were working on two years ago, as the presidential campaign and the calumny campaign against Hillary Clinton were intensifying, and one of the angles of the latter was the portrayal of Clinton as a bloodthirsty warmonger against peace-loving Donald J. Trump, as in this example featuring a strange pro-Trump alliance among Instapundit Glenn Reynolds, Green candidate Jill Stein, The New York Times, and young Conor:

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein says Clinton is more dangerous than Trump: “Under Hillary Clinton, we could slide into nuclear war very quickly following her declared policy in Syria.”
The world today, which Clinton as Obama’s secretary of state had a big hand in making,  doesn't look very peaceful. In 2010, things in Iraq were so peaceful that Joe Biden was bragging that the administration’s Iraq policy would be “one of the great achievements of this administration.” In 2012, with Clinton still serving as secretary of State, President Obama bragged about “ending” the war in Iraq, which would be news to the thousands of U.S. troops fighting there today.
Then there’s Libya. According to The New York Times, Clinton played a "critical” role in persuading Obama to topple Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi. This led to what The Atlantic''s Conor Friedersdorf calls her ”failed war in Libya.” Despite her pronouncement that "We came, we saw, he died” after Gadhafi's death, the Libya intervention has been a debacle, and one that Clinton has refused to acknowledge as such.
I was wondering about this at the time, and came up with a different, though not completely comfortable view of Clinton, as a very conventional Democrat on the issue, hardly a warmonger, but with a much less adventurous mind than Barack Obama's—overoptimistic about the potential of military action to save more lives than it takes, and overly frightened of Republicans calling them "weak", the reason for her unfortunate Senate vote on the AUMF of 2002 (which she shared with Biden, Dodd, Kerry, Edwards, and any of the male Senators who were thinking about a run on the presidency, but took a lot longer than they did to publicly regret).

On the Libya question in particular, I came to see Clinton as having played a secondary role in what was really an Anglo-French operation in the first place, masterminded by the Cameron and Sarkozy governments, in which she was recruited to convince Obama to provide US assistance and blessings (which he was in part inclined to do on his "lead from behind" principle of getting other rich countries to rely less on the US, partly reluctant from the fear that, like most military action, it stood a better than even chance of making things worse). When the operation seemed incredibly successful around late 2011 and early 2012, with what looked like a Democratic Libyan government installed by the Arab Spring, she started taking credit for it on behalf of the US, which was not terribly attractive and looked worse a few months later as the situation started to go bad.

As I understood it the official description of the job—that it hadn't at all been to overthrow Qadhafi, just to protect the protesting citizens on the eastern, Benghazi side of the coast from the dictator's troops, saving hundreds of thousands of lives—was really truthful. But the rebels, angrier and more desperate than those of Tunisia or Egypt and confronting a more vicious tyranny (like those in Syria), were able to use the cover to do some real conquest, in the western, Tripoli side, and eventually the NATO forces were really working with them, to the point of pounding Quadhafi's escort as he fled from Sirte to the south where he was captured and killed by rebels, so they really helped to overthrow Qadhafi a bit more than they had been intended to do. And then that English and French intelligence wasn't as good as they claimed it was, and they had failed to understand how unstable the resulting liberated Libya could be and to make any coherent plans for stabilizing it.

This picture is changed quite a bit by Sarkozy's arrest, because it turns out that rumors of unseemly connections between Sarkozy and Qadhafi are looking a lot truer than the did:
Investigators are examining claims that Gaddafi’s regime secretly gave Sarkozy €50m overall for the 2007 campaign. Such a sum would be more than double the legal campaign funding limit, which was €21m at the time. The alleged payments would also violate French rules against foreign financing and declaring the source of campaign funds....
The investigation [dating back to 2012] appeared to accelerate after Ziad Takieddine, a wealthy French-Lebanese businessman who was close to Gaddafi’s regime, told Mediapart in 2016 that he had personally delivered suitcases stuffed with cash from the Libyan leader as payments towards Sarkozy’s campaign.
He said he made three trips from Tripoli to Paris in late 2006 and early 2007. Each time he carried a suitcase containing €1.5m to €2m in €200 and €500 notes, he claimed, saying he was given the money by Gaddafi’s military intelligence chief.
After which one of Sarkozy's first official acts was to invite Qadhafi for a state visit, the one where he he famously pitched his Bedouin tent in the garden of the Hôtel Marigny.

The dark theory now being spread, by Edwy Plenel of that same journal Médiapart was relayed yesterday by NPR:
He says that - did Sarkozy go a lot further than the mandate in - the U.N. mandate in his zeal to get Gadhafi because he had a personal stake in it? He wanted to destroy the dictator and all the evidence of this financing. So Noel, stay tuned. This could be big.
Which I'm inclined to absolutely believe. Never trust a skeezy conservative offering a purely humanitarian intervention.

The overreaching wasn't bad intelligence, in other words, but corruption defending itself. Sarkozy's promises to Clinton and Obama and to the United Nations that the Libyan mission was only to protect civilians were a deeply corrupt lie, and Clinton and Obama got rolled (to say nothing of what was done to the people of Libya and all the peoples from south of Libya who have become embroiled in the refugee and slavery crises).

So that Clinton looks not just more innocent than she did before, but actually too innocent. (I still wish she'd won the election!) A problem with the Stupid Shit Caucus is that it's not cynical enough.

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