YouTube video

Former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell Col. Larry Wilkerson says that regime change in Libya was pushed by then-Secretary of State Clinton

Story Transcript

SHARMINI PERIES, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, TRNN: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore, and this is the Larry Wilkerson report, and today we’re going to talk about last Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton squared off, addressing something very specific, which is Libya and the regime change that took place in Libya. Let’s have a look. HILLARY CLINTON: I would just point out that there was a vote in the Senate as to whether or not the United States should support the efforts by the Libyan people to protect themselves against the threats, the genocidal threats, coming from Gaddafi, and whether we should go to the United Nations to seek security council support. Senator Sanders voted for that, and that’s exactly what we did. BERNIE SANDERS: No. HILLARY CLINTON: We went to the United Nations. Yes, he did. We went to the United Nations Security Council, we got support from the security council, and we then supported the efforts from our European and our Arab allies, and – SANDERS: –Yes, 100 to zero in the Senate voted for democracy in Libya, and I would vote for that again, but that is very different from getting actively involved to overthrow and bring about regime change without fully understanding what the consequence of that regime change– PERIES: Now Larry, as you know, the UN resolution that had been passed that US supported was all about providing a no-fly zone in Libya and also for supporting Benghazi against attacks from the Gaddafi government military. Now, this particular measure was supposed to be limited, but what happened was actually regime change. Tell us whether you think Hillary Clinton was a bit dishonest here, in terms of her explanation of things. WILKERSON: I’ll say first, Sharmini, that appealing to the United States Senate as if it were a sane body of people with regard to the war power or with regard to regime change is like appealing to an insanity asylum. This is not an argument that I would have registered. That said, I think Bernie had a point in that, as I read it, we were looking at, in the Senate, a more modest approach to this, certainly not necessarily a military approach that became as robust as the one did. And I would think that one argues that the United Nations created the circumstances, legal and otherwise, under which you could do it, is a little bit specious also because, let’s face it, the United Nations is the United States. China, Russia, the other member of the UN Security Council permanent five, too, but the United Nations more or less does what the United States, particularly the United States in concert with NATO, in this case France and Britain really big time, wants it to do, as long as there’s not a veto from one of the other sitting powers, usually Russia or China. So falling back on the United Nations as an excuse for doing something is just preposterous. We did exactly what Secretary Clinton and ultimately the decision maker himself, President Obama, wanted him to do, and if we were to believe the Goldberg article, which I do, as a matter of fact, in this case, anyway, it was Secretary Clinton who threw the president over the line, 51 to 49, whatever percentage you want to assign to it, but she was the one who was most war-like, most hawk-like, and threw him over the line to the use of more than just the no-fly zone, but a complete regime change, and now we see what we’ve got from that. Not that we wouldn’t have had it from just implementing the no-fly zone. We probably would have gotten the same ingredient, but we might not have gotten it in the chaotic form that we got it. Now we have a Libya that is, for one thing, probably the biggest arms depot for terrorists and others in northern Africa and elsewhere in the world. PERIES: Larry, another component of the debate featured a lengthy exchange between the two over Syria. Hillary Clinton was reiterating that support for the no-fly zone, but what are the geopolitical implications of this kind of policy, particularly with a nation like Russia now involved? WILKERSON: I think Bernie started on the right track there, at least initially. I think what happened in Syria, rather than the Russian intervention, although i will say that was timely to sort of give equal weight to, quote, both sides, unquote, although there are many sides in the Syrian civil war. That was timely and it helped. What I would say is, what kept the president of the United States from entering the fray far more forcefully, as Hillary Clinton might have wanted, was the American people. I had one senator tell me the outpouring of emails, the telephone calls, the cards and letters and so forth was just overwhelming. Another individual told me the same about the White House. The American people let it be known that they did not want another war in southwest Asia like Iraq, like Afghanistan or like whatever. So, I think that’s what really caused the president to decide to tone down our intervention in Syria and limit it to air power and a few special operating forces. And, as far as I can say right now, that probably was a sound decision. PERES: All right, Larry. As always, thank you so much for joining us on the Real News Network, and I appreciate your comments. WILKERSON: Thanks for having me, and let me just say one other thing. I continued to be amazed, and this time it was with all the debate, but primarily and most importantly the Palestinian-Israeli situation, that Bernie causes Hillary to track more towards the progressive side of the Democratic Party. It’s amazing what pressure he’s having and what influence he’s having. Whether that carries on into her presidency remains to be seen, but it looks good from the perspective of restoring at least one of the political parties to some sort of a middle road, moderation and diplomatic approach rather than war. PERIES: All right. As always, thanks for joining us, Larry. WILKERSON: Thanks for having me. PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Government and Public Policy

Lawrence Wilkerson's last positions in government were as Secretary of State Colin Powell's Chief of Staff (2002-05), Associate Director of the State Department's Policy Planning staff under the directorship of Ambassador Richard N. Haass, and member of that staff responsible for East Asia and the Pacific, political-military and legislative affairs (2001-02). Before serving at the State Department, Wilkerson served 31 years in the U.S. Army. During that time, he was a member of the faculty of the U.S. Naval War College (1987 to 1989), Special Assistant to General Powell when he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989-93), and Director and Deputy Director of the U.S. Marine Corps War College at Quantico, Virginia (1993-97). Wilkerson retired from active service in 1997 as a colonel, and began work as an advisor to General Powell. He has also taught national security affairs in the Honors Program at the George Washington University. He is currently working on a book about the first George W. Bush administration.