Sarah Lazare — Alternet Jan 5, 2017
A federally-funded “peace” institute that claims to be independent and nonpartisan will feature a lineup of staunch military interventionists and torture cheerleaders at a conference about “passing the baton” to Donald Trump.
The Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) will host the gathering, titled “Passing the Baton 2017: America’s Role in the World,” January 9 and 10. “As the United States prepares to inaugurate its 45th president, the U.S. Institute of Peace again will hold its Passing the Baton conference—a review, during the transition between administrations, of global challenges confronting our nation,” states USIP.
Established in 1984 by Ronald Reagan, USIP receives its funding from Congress and says its mission is to “help prevent and resolve violent conflicts abroad, which pose risks for U.S. and global security.” Yet, the organization’s list of presenters is a roll call of key hawkish figures from both sides of the political aisle.
Albright, who served as Secretary of State under Bill Clinton, will participate in a discussion about “The Three National Security Priorities for the Next Administration.” Albright’s hawkish record includes overseeing U.S. military intervention in the Balkans, and she infamously told “60 Minutes” in 1996 that half a million children who died as a result of U.S. sanctions against Iraq were “worth” the price.
Trump’s National Security Advisor designate, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, will participate in a conversation with the current National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, about “passing the baton.” Flynn, who once outrageously tweeted that “fear of Muslims is rational,” is a stringent opponent of the Iran nuclear deal with deep ties to the mercenary industry. He has a long history of pushing for wars of aggression and has called for a revival of Cold War tactics to fight the “War on Terror.”
Rice also brings a troubling track record. As United Nations ambassador, she argued vociferously in 2011 for the disastrous U.S. military intervention in Libya, and in her current role, she has championed the expansion of covert drone wars under Obama.
Stephen Hadley, who chairs USIP’s board of directors, will participate in a panel about “America’s Role in the World.” As deputy National Security Advisor under George W. Bush, Hadley is implicated in promoting false claims that Iraq had sought to purchase uranium from Niger—lies that were used to justify the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Michèle Flournoy, who was expected to be appointed as defense secretary if Hillary Clinton had won the electoral college, will share the panel with Hadley and other presenters. Flournoy repeatedly called for an escalation in the U.S. war against ISIS, arguing in favor of increased U.S. troop deployments to Syria and Iraq.
Other presenters include Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who has made a national name for himself by promoting militaristic policies, including repeated attempts to undermine the Iran deal. Cotton has called for the expansion of torture at the Guantánamo Bay U.S. military prison, telling a 2015 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing: “The only problem with Guantánamo Bay is there are too many empty beds in cells there right now. We should be sending more terrorists there for further interrogation to keep this country safe. As far as I’m concerned, every last one of them can rot in hell. But as long as they don’t do that, they can rot in Guantánamo Bay.”
The program also advertises a “A Conversation with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)” and presentation by Retired General Jack Keane, who chairs the hawkish Institute for the Study of War.
USIP’s embrace of pro-war officials, politicians and pundits is not new. Sarah Diamond and Richard Hatch noted in a Z Magazine article published in 2007, “The idea of a national peace institute was long in the making and approved by a wide spectrum of peace advocates. But by the time the USIP was formally established in 1984, its board looked like a ‘who’s who’ of right-wing ideologues from academia and the Pentagon.”
Phyllis Bennis, senior fellow and director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, told AlterNet that “the U.S. has been at war since the founding of USIP, which was founded at the height of the Cold War. One would think its job is to bring in different voices than the people running the wars.”
“Part of what this agenda looks like is an effort to normalize the Trump agenda and position USIP as playing a perfectly normal role within normal administration,” Bennis continued. “This sends the message to the White House, ‘We’re here, like everything’s normal, like nothing has changed, and we will continue to do our work, bringing in the same old people.’ They are doing this at a moment that change is so desperately needed.”
Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare