As the U.S. moves closer to military action against Syria for alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians, a photo has emerged of Secretary of State John Kerry having a swanky dinner with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife, Asma, a scant two years ago. Kerry now condemns Assad as a "thug and murderer."
Awkward? Yes. Surprising? Hardly. As seen below, Washington politicians have often been caught on camera associating with the world's worst bad guys:
1. Barack Obama With Libyan Dictator and Terrorism Sponsor Col. Muammar Gaddafi
Before Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi perished in 2011 on the losing side of a civil war supported with American air power and bombs, he was considered an off-and-on U.S. ally. And actually, before that, the "Mad Dog of the Middle East" was listed by Washington as a state sponsor of terrorism. After Washington decided to call him an ally, he received millions of dollars in military aid taken from Americans before turning back into a bad guy again. How soon before? Just one month before calling Gaddafi a threat to his own people and ordering attacks on him with coordinated air strikes, Obama asked Congress to increase U.S. aid for Gaddafi's military to $1.7 million! Awkward.
2. Donald Rumsfeld With Iraqi Dictator and War Criminal Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein has been one of the media-industrial complex's major Disney villain bad guys since the early 1990s, but before that the U.S. was his ally in the Iran-Iraq war. Your tax dollars actually went to provide Hussein intelligence on Iranian troop movements even though Washington knew he was carrying out one of the worst chemical warfare attacks in history, far more devastating than what might have happened in Syria — if we're even sure that Assad has used chemical weapons there (and are we?).
3. Charlie Wilson With Mujahideen
You might know him from the film Charlie Wilson's War. He was an influential U.S. Congressman who worked with the CIA and led Congress to appropriate tens of millions of dollars to arm radical Islamic militants in the Afghanistan civil war. One of his main beneficiaries in Afghanistan was Jalaluddin Haqqani. Wilson even called Haqqani "goodness personified." Haqqani is the man who introduced suicide bombing as a tactic to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, and provided support and protection to a young, wealthy Saudi named Osama bin Laden as he built a militia called Al-Qaeda. Awkward.
4. Franklin D. Roosevelt With Soviet Dictator and Violent Mass Murderer Joseph Stalin
You might object that we were helping Stalin just because we were fighting an even worse bad guy together, but that's always what they say about these bad guys. And the ones Washington helps against "a worse" bad guy always seem to become even more worse bad guys themselves. And Stalin kind of already was. Just take a look at his Wikipedia page. He's at least on Hitler's level and probably worse.
5. Barack Obama With Egyptian Dictator and Mass Embezzler, Hosni Mubarak
Ousted Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak is definitely a bad guy. He spent 30 years reigning as Egypt's unchecked executive power, holding the country under the iron grip of "emergency law" for nearly his entire reign, and leaving Egyptians to struggle in poverty while he enriched himself to the tune of tens of billions of dollars. Much of it straight from Washington, which sent billions of dollars to this modern-day pharaoh until he was overthrown by his impoverished country.
6. Ronald Reagan With, Yes, More Mujahideen
In the 1980s Washington poured billions of dollars into Afghanistan to arm and train mujahideen fighters in their civil war against the pro-Soviet People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan. The CIA actually sought out the most radical Islamic militants they could find to arm, fund, and train. After toppling the pro-Soviet government, they would form the radically oppressive Taliban government.
And you're going to love this: In May 2001, just four months before the 9/11 attacks, the State Department announced a grant of $43 million to the Taliban.
7. John McCain With Syrian Terrorist Kidnapper
John Kerry isn't the only failed U.S. presidential candidate to meet with bad guys in Syria, just the only one to meet with the biggest, baddest guy allegedly using chemical weapons. On a trip to Syria to support the country's rebels, John McCain had his picture taken with a terrorist kidnapper. Cringe.
This is funny because it's the same John McCain who assures us Washington will be able to support Syrian rebels without inadvertently supporting the Islamic terrorist groups and Al-Qaeda affiliates working on the rebels' side.
8. Condoleezza Rice With Equatorial Guinean Dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema
Teodoro Obiang Nguema has been Equatorial Guinea's brutal and corrupt dictator since 1979, running "a regime regularly condemned by the State Department for human rights violations, including torture, beatings, abuse and deaths of prisoners and suspects." Then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, met with Nguema in 2006 and called him, "a good friend." Yikes.
9. Ronald Reagan With Pakistani Dictator General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq
Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq took control of Pakistan in a 1978 coup and embarked on a program of radical Islamization of the country's laws as well as militarization of the country's nuclear program. His regime received strong support from Washington and tens of billions of dollars in funding to mobilize the mujahideen in neighboring Afghanistan. His government tended to favor the most radical Islamists, including Jalaluddin Haqqani mentioned earlier.
10. Richard Nixon With History's Most Prolific Mass Murderer Mao Zedong
Step aside Stalin. During his time ruling over China, Chairman Mao racked up the highest kill count of any person in human history, killing 40-70 million people though starvation, forced labor, and executions. You could make a pretty good argument that Mao was the worst bad guy to ever live.
Would a picture of a U.S. president smiling and shaking hands with Hitler shock and appall you? If this picture of Richard Nixon with Mao Zedong and the earlier one of Franklin D. Roosevelt with Joseph Stalin don't have the same effect on you, my question is: Why?
11. George W. Bush With Angolan Dictator Oil-Rich Autocrat Jose Eduardo Dos Santos
Dos Santos has ruled Angola since 1979, and despite the region's vast mineral and petroleum deposits, many in the country have remained impoverished under Santos. Washington's own State Department human rights report says that the Angolan military uses rape and murder as a tool of control, while police torture and kill Angolans. Just days before the photo above was taken, the Angolan government assassinated Jonas Savimbi, a man Ronald Reagan once hailed as a freedom fighter. Awkward.