In 1996 U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright was asked by Sixty Minutes whether the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions that the U.S. government was enforcing against Iraq were worth it.
Her response was fascinating: She said that while it was a difficult issue, yes, the deaths of those half-a-million children were, in fact, “worth it.”
Nobody in the Bill Clinton administration disagreed with Albright’s assessment, at least not publicly. She wasn’t admonished or criticized. Her statement obviously reflected the position of the Clinton regime.
While much attention has been focused on Albright’s statement — especially among people in the Middle East — very little attention has been focused on the meaning of “it.”
What was the “it” that Albright stated was worth the deaths of those half-a-million innocent children.
The “it” was regime change, one of the core principles of the U.S. national-security establishment, the totalitarian-like apparatus that was grafted onto America’s federal governmental system at the end of World War II in order to oppose the Soviet Union, which had been America’s partner and ally during the war.
From the advent of the national-security state, especially the CIA, regime change has been front and center as a tool of U.S. foreign policy. The idea behind regime change is to oust foreign regimes that are insufficiently loyal to the U.S. government and replace them with regimes that will come to the support of the U.S. government, especially in international affairs.
The U.S. national security state employs various means to accomplish regime change. They include assassination of foreign leaders, coups, bribery, sanctions, embargos, terrorism, sabotage, and invasion. No regime is immune, including democratically elected regimes.
Countries that have been on the receiving end of U.S. regime change operations include Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, Cuba, Congo, Chile, Iraq, Afghanistan, and many, many others.
The corollary of regime change is partnership and support of brutal dictatorial regimes that show loyalty to the U.S. national-security state, such as the brutal military dictatorship in Egypt.
What Albright was referring to by “it” was regime change in Iraq. The U.S. national-security state, which had partnered with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein throughout the 1980s, when Iraq was waging war against Iran, had turned on their former partner and ally and converted him into a new official enemy of the United States. That meant that he had to go, so that he could be replaced with a new, U.S.-approved leader.
But Saddam refused to cooperate. That’s what the U.S. sanctions were all about — to force him from office by producing untold misery within his country. The idea was that if enough suffering could be imposed on the Iraqi people, public opinion within Iraq would drive Saddam from office or he would be ousted in a coup.
Obviously no price was too high to pay in terms of Iraq life for this regime-change operation. That’s why the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children were considered “worth it” — worth the attempt, that is, to secure regime change in Iraq.
The Iraq regime-change operation, however, came back to haunt the United States in the form of terrorist retaliation. It began with the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center and continued with the attacks on the USS Cole and the U.S. Embassies in East Africa, ultimately culminating in the 9/11 attacks on both the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The terrorists always made it very clear: Among their grievances was the ongoing killing of people in Iraq, including those hundreds of thousands of innocent children whose deaths Albright had said were “worth it.”
After the 9/11 attacks, American interventionists could theoretically play the innocent. They could say “We had no ideas that people in the Middle East could be this vicious. We had no idea that they would retaliate against our regime-change operations by targeting large numbers of innocent civilians. We actually thought they would never retaliate but even if they did, we thought that they would limit their targets to military personnel and installations. We never figured they would behave like savages.”
I don’t think the interventionists who believed that had any leg to stand on, especially given that the World Trade Center attack in 1993 involved non-military personnel and non-governmental personnel.
But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Let’s assume that they really didn’t know that Middle East terrorists could be so brutal, vicious, and barbaric in seeking revenge.
After 9/11, American interventionists could no longer play the innocent. At that point, they knew what these people were capable of. They knew how they retaliate. They knew that they had no reservations about targeting innocent civilians in retaliation for foreign interventionism in their countries.
Nonetheless, and with full knowledge of the nature of Middle East terrorists, after 9/11 the George W. Bush regime ordered his army to initiate a military invasion of Iraq, a country that had never attacked the United States. it was done with one purpose in mind: regime change.
Don’t forget, after all: The sanctions that had killed all those Iraqi children had failed to secure the ouster of Saddam Hussein from office. The 9/11 attacks, and the deep fear they engendered among the American people, gave the Bush regime the opportunity it was looking for — a regime-change operation — i.e., through invasion — that would oust Saddam from power and replace him with a U.S.-approved regime.
The invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq received the overwhelming support of American interventionists. But there’s one important factor to keep in mind: At this point — post 9/11 attacks — no longer could any interventionist play the innocent. He could no longer be “shocked” at the viciousness and brutality of those who would inevitably retaliate for the invasion of Iraq. That’s because the 9/11 attacks, which targeted innocent people in New York City, had placed everyone, including the interventionists, on notice. Everyone now knew that the terrorists were vicious and brutal and were more than willing to exact revenge by targeting innocent people in terrorist attacks.
There is no question but that the regime change operation in Iraq produced ISIS, which includes many people who served in the Saddam Hussein regime, the regime that was ousted from power in the U.S. regime-change operation. And as everyone knows by now, ISIS is responsible for the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels.
So, the question, no matter how discomforting it might be, really needs to be asked. It’s the same question that Sixty Minutes asked Madeleine Albright: Are the deaths of all those people in Paris and Brussels “worth it”? That is, are they worth the regime-change operation that the U.S. national-security state effected in Iraq and continues to defend through continuous bombing and killing in the Middle East?
In other words, if the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children were “worth it,” are the deaths of dozens of French and Belgian people and two Americans “worth it” as well?
But there is another discomforting question that has to be asked about all this: Are American interventionists morally responsible for the deaths of the people in Paris and Brussels.
Sure, we all know the terrorists are directly responsible for shooting the guns and blowing up the bombs that killed all those people.
But the moral question is: When someone knowingly and intentionally provokes a person, knowing as an absolute certainty that the person he’s provoking is going to kill innocent people as a result of the provocation, is the person who does the provoking at least morally responsible for the deaths of those innocent people?
Interventionists, as we have seen, cannot claim that they didn’t know that the terrorists were capable of such horrific acts, at least not post-9/11. Yet, they have continued to support the very thing that everyone knows brings the retaliation — regime change. They have supported the continuous killing of people in the Middle East, all with the aim of preserving the regime change they brought to Iraq.
Moreover, let’s not forget their other regime-change operations, which have brought more death and destruction — and more terrorist retaliation. Libya and Syria. Classic regime-change operations, both of which have produced the same type of chaos, crisis, death, suffering, and devastation that the regime-change operation in Iraq has produced.
Throughout all these interventions, the interventionists knew that terrorist retaliation against innocent people was a virtual certainty. Again, that’s what 9/11 taught everyone — that the terrorists were more than willing to target innocent civilians in response to regime-change operations. Interventionists can no longer play the innocent and acted “shocked” at the brutal actions of the terrorists.
Given that interventionists have persisted with their regime-change operations, instead of simply abandoning them, why shouldn’t interventionists be held morally accountable for the foreseeable consequences of their actions, including terrorist retaliation against innocent people?
Are the deaths of the people in France and Belgium “worth it”? Were the deaths of those Iraqi children “worth it”? Were the deaths on 9/11 “worth it”? Are the deaths of those yet to die from terrorist retaliation in the future “worth it”? Are any of these deaths worth regime change?
Are American interventionists morally responsible for what their regime-change actions have wreaked? If they continue their regime-change operations in the Middle East, are they morally responsible for the deaths of innocent people that will be coming in future terrorist retaliatory strikes?
Indeed, are American interventionists morally responsible for all the damage to American liberty, privacy, and prosperity that has accompanied all this regime-change death, chaos, suffering, and mayhem?
It seems to me that these are all questions worth asking and discussing.