News Release

Background of Obama’s Foreign Policy Group


On Wednesday, Obama met with his newly named “Senior Working Group on National Security.”

The following are available for interviews:

Zunes is professor of politics at the University of San Francisco and a contributor to Foreign Policy in Focus. He said today: “Earlier in his campaign, Obama’s senior advisers included some of the more innovative and cutting-edge thinkers from the foreign policy establishment, such as Larry Korb, Joseph Cirincione, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Samantha Power, Robert Malley and Richard Clarke, all of whom opposed the invasion of Iraq and took a more holistic view of national security. Now, however, it appears he has surrounded himself with backers of failed foreign policies based upon contempt for international legal norms and military solutions to complex political problems.”
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Director of the Backbone Campaign, Moyer said today: “We’ve been working to highlight progressive leaders who have bold and visionary ideas for transforming this country and its foreign policy. Seeing this group of advisers, I think people who anticipate real change should feel betrayed. They’re being sold this package of ‘change’ and ‘innovation’ and what they’re getting is a warmed-over Clinton cabinet that does nothing to address fundamental problems haunting U.S. foreign policy, and will do nothing to reform U.S. grand strategy or redirect funds from empire building to building true security. We deserve better, and if Obama has any backbone at all, he’ll go back to the drawing board in his selection of advisers and potential cabinet members.”

Some background on “Senior Working Group on National Security” members:

Albright was secretary of state and UN ambassador in the Clinton administration. When Lesley Stahl asked “We have heard that a half million children have died [in Iraq from the sanctions]. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And — and you know, is the price worth it?” Albright replied: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.” (CBS News, May 12, 1996).

During the Rambouillet talks prior to the bombing of Yugoslavia, Albright reportedly told Western media the U.S. government felt “the Serbs need a little bombing.” Albright insisted that Yugoslavia comply with demands at Rambouillet that basically would have allowed NATO to occupy Yugoslavia
See, from the Institute for Public Accuracy, “Troubling Questions About Rambouillet.”

Also, see “Albright’s State Deportment” by Ian Williams.

Boren was chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Consortium News, in “Blackmail & Bobby Gates,” reports on Boren preventing meaningful investigation into allegations of an October Surprise.

Boren has been called “my lifetime mentor” by former CIA head George Tenet. (CIA speech, May 10, 2003)

See also SourceWatch.

In January 1993, as Bill Clinton was about to take office, Clinton stated about Iraq: “I am a Baptist. I believe in death-bed conversions. If he [Saddam Hussein] wants a different relationship with the United States and the United Nations, all he has to do is change his behavior.” Clinton was immediately and widely criticized for indicating he might lift sanctions and even normalize relations with Iraq if it complied with UN resolutions. Christopher, then Clinton’s incoming secretary of state, actually joined in the criticism: “I find it hard to share the Baptist belief in redemption. … I see no substantial change in the position and continuing total support for what the [Bush] administration has done.” Clinton quickly backtracked: “There is no difference between my policy and the policy of the present administration. … I have no intention of normalizing relations with him.” Thus the George H. W. Bush policy of maintaining the sanctions on Iraq regardless of Iraqi compliance with the weapons inspectors continued through the 1990s. See, from the Institute for Public Accuracy, “Autopsy Of A Disaster: The U.S. Sanctions Policy On Iraq.”

Craig was director of the State Department Office of Policy Planning in the Clinton administration.

Danzig was secretary of the Navy in the Clinton administration.

Former chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Hamilton also co-chaired the Iraq Study Group, the 9/11 Commission and the Iran-Contra congressional investigation. Consortium News writes: “Whenever the Republicans have a touchy national-security scandal to put to rest, their favorite Democratic investigator is Lee Hamilton. … Hamilton’s carefully honed skill for balancing truth against political comity has elevated him to the status of a Washington Wise Man.” See “Dr. Hamilton and Mr. Hyde,” which includes detailed information and suggested questions for Hamilton.

President Reagan nominated Holder to become an associate judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. In 1993, President Clinton nominated Holder to become the United States attorney for the District of Columbia. In 1997, President Clinton appointed Holder to serve as deputy attorney general.

In the Clinton administration, Lake was national security adviser as well as White House special envoy.

A former senator, Nunn was chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

From “Not Quite a Dream Team: Some of John Kerry’s Foreign Policy Advisers Should Give Pause to Progressives” by Laura Flanders: “As Clinton-era secretary of defense, Perry spearheaded a post-cold war plan to restructure the defense industry, but the Perry plan wasn’t quite the ‘peace dividend’ Americans had in mind. Perry pushed a government program that paid military contractors to consolidate, arguing that only vast conglomerates would have what it takes to compete in the 21st century. The Pentagon provided partial underwriting for defense industry mergers. In what critic Bernie Sanders, I-VT, dubbed ‘payoffs for layoffs,’ Perry’s Pentagon picked up the costs of moving equipment, dismantling factories and providing golden parachutes for top executives. Foreign Policy in Focus reports that Perry had to get a conflict of interest waiver before he could greenlight the merger-subsidy program. He worked as a paid consultant for Martin Marietta immediately before joining the Clinton administration.

“Today, Lockheed Martin, which was created in a merger announced just months after the start of Perry’s policy, is the nation’s top weapons maker. Its component parts include Martin Marietta, Loral Defense and General Dynamics. The mergers shrank company payrolls, but hugely expanded their political influence. When he retired in ’98, Perry joined the board of one of the biggest — the Seattle-based Boeing Corporation. For those who are interested, Perry also joined the Carlyle group, the Saudi-based firm [correction below] whose partners include no end of world leaders, including former British Prime Minster John Major, former secretary of state James Baker and the first President Bush.” (Feb. 18, 2004)

Assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration, Rice has been a prominent foreign policy spokesperson for the Obama campaign. Here are some of her claims shortly before the invasion of Iraq: “I think he [then Secretary of State Colin Powell] has proved that Iraq has these weapons and is hiding them, and I don’t think many informed people doubted that.” (NPR, Feb. 6, 2003)

“We need to be ready for the possibility that the attack against the U.S. could come in some form against the homeland, not necessarily on the battlefield against our forces. And I think there, too, is an area where the American people need to be better prepared by our leadership. … It’s clear that Iraq poses a major threat. It’s clear that its weapons of mass destruction need to be dealt with forcefully, and that’s the path we’re on. I think the question becomes whether we can keep the diplomatic balls in the air and not drop any, even as we move forward, as we must, on the military side.” (NPR, Dec. 20, 2002)

“I think the United States government has been clear since the first Bush administration about the threat that Iraq and Saddam Hussein poses. The United States policy has been regime change for many, many years, going well back into the Clinton administration. So it’s a question of timing and tactics. … We do not necessarily need a further Council resolution before we can enforce this and previous resolutions. (NPR, Nov. 11, 2002)

A member of the 9/11 Commission, while he was a congressional representative, the South Bend Tribune (Indiana) reported: “U.S. Rep. Tim Roemer joined a bipartisan majority in the House in voting to give President Bush authority to use military force against Saddam Hussein and Iraq. ‘The threat from Saddam is grave and growing and it’s something we’re going to have to address in the not-too-distant future,’ Roemer said from his office in Washington after the vote. The resolution passed by a vote of 296-133, a clear indication of strong support for plans to eliminate Iraq’s threat of chemical and biological weapons.” (Oct. 11, 2002)

Steinberg was deputy national security adviser in the Clinton administration.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

[Added and emailed July 3]: Correction: A June 19 news release from the Institute for Public Accuracy excerpted from an article that referred to the Carlyle Group as a “Saudi-based firm.” The group is in fact not based in Saudi Arabia.