Secretary of State Clinton Disobeyed President Obama

Eric Zuesse

At a crucial juncture after the 28 June 2009 coup by Honduras’s oligarchs overthrowing Manuel Zelaya, the popular progressive democratically elected President of Honduras, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton disobeyed U.S. President Barack Obama’s instruction to block continued U.S. funding of the Honduran government, and she secretly continued that funding, while her friend Lanny Davis was serving as the oligarchs’ chief lobbyist representing their interests to Democrats in Congress and to the Obama Administration.

The coup-installed regime squelched the progress toward democracy and economic growth that had given hope to the impoverished masses of Hondurans, and replaced that hope with a narco state run largely by those very same oligarchs, and with a soaring murder-rate that quickly placed Honduras #1 throughout the world as having the highest murder-rate – an explosion of gang-violence that then sparked the escape from Honduras of millions of children who didn’t want to have to participate in the narcotics traffic in order to be able to make a living.

Hillary Clinton is largely responsible for the resultant soaring influx, into the United States, of illegal immigrants from Honduras. If President Zelaya had remained as President and served out his term of office, narcotics-traffic would probably not have exploded there, at least not nearly so quickly and fast as it did.

The information that Secretary of State Clinton had outright disobeyed the President on this matter was first made public on 5 July 2015 by Bill Conroy of The Narcosphere site, where he headlined, “Emails Show Secretary Clinton Disobeyed Obama Policy And Continued Funding For Honduras Coup Regime.” Examining “more than 3,000 pages worth” of “the official emails recently made public by the State Department” from Hillary Clinton’s private server, Conroy found that she had stovepiped her information about the Honduran situation, to come only from “Lanny Davis – a long-time friend whom she had met while at Yale Law School and a former White House Counsel to Bill Clinton,” and who was serving as the go-between between her and the coup-installed leader, Roberto Micheletti.

As I noted in several of my own previous reports, such as on 16 August 2013, “Hillary Clinton’s Two Foreign Policy Catastrophes,” Secretary Clinton, as early as 29 June 2009, the day after the coup, was trying her hardest to delay a legally mandated Presidential determination about the legitimacy of the post-coup government, and she was viscerally hostile to and contemptuous of President Zelaya’s effort to replace oligarchy by democracy in his country. I also noted there, from wikileaked cables and other evidence, that not only the current U.S. Ambassador in Honduras, but his predecessor under George W. Bush, reported to the Secretary of State on a regular basis, regarding the involvement of Honduras’s top oligarch in the narcotics traffic.

For example, I reported there:

Here was his cable from the U.S. Embassy, reviewing the situation, for Washington, after almost a month’s silence from the Administration:

From: Ambassador Hugo Llorens, U.S. Embassy, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 24 July 2009.

To: Secretary of State, White House, and National Security Council.


This lengthy message from the Ambassador closed:

“The actions of June 28 can only be considered a coup d’etat by the legislative branch, with the support of the judicial branch and the military, against the executive branch. It bears mentioning that, whereas the resolution adopted June 28 refers only to Zelaya, its effect was to remove the entire executive branch. Both of these actions clearly exceeded Congress’s authority. … No matter what the merits of the case against Zelaya, his forced removal by the military was clearly illegal, and [puppet-leader Roberto] Micheletti’s ascendance as ‘interim president’ was totally illegitimate.”

On the same day when the Ambassador sent that cable, AFP headlined “Zelaya ‘Reckless’ to Return to Honduras: Clinton,” and reported that our Secretary of State criticized Zelaya that day for trying to get back into his own country. “‘President Zelaya’s effort to reach the border is reckless,’ Clinton said during a press conference with visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. … Washington supports ‘a negotiated peaceful solution to the Honduran crisis,’ Clinton said.” It wasn’t “the Honduran coup” – she wouldn’t call it a “coup” – it was “the Honduran crisis”; so, she accepted the junta’s framing of the issue, not the framing of it by Zelaya and everyone other than the fascists. She wanted “a negotiated peaceful solution” to the forced removal at gunpoint of Honduras’s popular democratically elected President. 

As both Conroy’s report and mine made clear, for the U.S. government to call it a “coup” would automatically, under existing U.S. law, have required the President to halt U.S. financial aid to the Honduran government. 

Conroy’s report added this, however, which explains how Secretary Clinton managed to succeed in delaying such an official determination long enough to enable the new fascist Honduran regime to become stabilized and ‘legitimate’ so as to become able to have access again to direct U.S. government funding:

That White House-invoked aid suspension, which was supposed to apply to all programs implicated under Section 7008, should also have included any funds being provided to Honduras through a US-backed aid agency known as the Millennium Challenge Corporation. MCC is funded by taxpayers and overseen by a board that is chaired by the Secretary of State. But despite the White House policy on aid suspension to Honduras, the MCC continued to send millions of dollars monthly to the putsch regime in Honduras.

In fact, a Narco News investigation at the time showed the MCC delivered $10.7 million to Honduras in the two months following the June 28 coup and had another $100 million or so in contractually committed funds in the pipeline to be delivered in 2010. As chair of the MCC, Clinton should have been well aware of this flow of dollars to a regime deemed illegitimate by her boss, President Obama, but proof of that direct knowledge could not be verified previously.

The State Department email trail recently made public, however, shows for the first time that Clinton did know that MCC funding was continuing to pour into Honduras – even as publicly the White House, as well as the State Department, were telling the nation that such US aid had been suspended.

What Conroy unfortunately failed to recognize, however, but which my story there reported, was this about President Obama: He necessarily knew what Clinton was doing. He had to have been complicit in it. Here is why:

According to James Rosen of McClatchy Newspapers [on 9 August 2009], the far-right Republican U.S. Senator Jim DeMint had “placed a hold on two nominees to senior State Department posts to protest Obama’s pushing for ousted Honduran President Manuel Zalaya’s return to power, which the administration backed away from last week.” Obama, after a month of silence, caved silently. Instead of his using the bully pulpit to smear the fascist DeMint publicly with his fascism, Obama just joined him in it, silently. …

The U.S. was now the only power sustaining the Honduran junta’s government. Hillary had said “We are working with our partners,” but she lied. It turned out that the U.S. was instead working against “our partners” – against virtually all of the world’s democratic nations. Brazil Magazine headlined on August 13th, “Brazil Urges Obama to Tighten the Vise on Honduras to Get Zelaya Back,” and reported that Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva had urged President Obama to come out publicly for the “immediate and unconditional” restoration of Zelaya to office. It didn’t happen, however; and on Friday, August 21st, Mark Weisbrot thus bannered in Britain’s Guardian, “Obama’s Deafening Silence on Honduras: Seven weeks after the coup in Honduras, the US is hindering efforts to restore President Manuel Zelaya to power.”

Conroy’s assumption that Obama just didn’t know what was going on in the State Department doesn’t make sense. Obama was very actively involved in the situation, not only because Brazil’s President and others were pressing him about it, but also because the fascist Senator DeMint (who subsequently became the head of the Republican think-tank, Heritage Foundation) was holding up two of Obama’s State Department appointees about it.

Therefore, what can be reconstructed historically about this matter is the following:

Secretary of State Clinton rejected the advice of the then-Ambassador in Honduras, who was the George W. Bush holdover, Hugo Llorens, and she worked tirelessly to keep U.S. funds flowing to the Honduran government after the coup. President Obama kept delaying any clear action on the matter but instead only issued anodyne words about the necessity to retain ‘democracy’ in Honduras, while, behind the scenes, he actually supported Senator DeMint’s policy for the U.S. to support the new fascist regime in Honduras.

If President Obama had publicly supported the fascist position on this, that would have been internationally extremely embarrassing for the U.S. government.

Obama brilliantly handled the matter, given his fascist proclivities. His Secretary of State took any blame for it, which was virtually zero; and here is why it was virtually zero:

Her political constituency, toward which she makes constant appeals as being their champion, are two: Democrats, and women. She constantly condemns Republicans, and patriarchy. Consequently, Democrats and women tend to attribute the best of intentions to her, and are therefore extremely reluctant to view her as willingly participating in, much less as a principal in, a bloody and fascist operation, such as the overthrow of Honduras’s briefly budding democracy and progressive President, and its replacement by a narco-regime that’s causing a flood of refugees into the United States.

Obama, for his part, avoided public condemnation, even though he was the only world leader who supported the coup. His long public silence, until a rigged election for a replacement of Zelaya could be installed, separated him publicly from this bloody regime. Republicans couldn’t blame him, because he was actually – and very skillfully – carrying out Republican policy on the matter. (Congressional Democrats, by contrast, remained almost completely silent about the matter, so as to protect ‘their’ President.)

Technically speaking, Conroy was correct in alleging that, “Secretary Clinton Disobeyed Obama.” However, the policy that she was carrying out, to delay an official judgment until the fascists were stably in power in Honduras, was also her boss’s policy there: President Obama could only have been pleased by the way in which she shielded him from being blamed, not only by the international community, but by Obama’s, and her own, political base: Democrats, and women.

And, testimony to this fact is that in none of the Democratic Presidential primary debates has either Clinton or Obama been blamed by anybody for their crucial protection and assistance to the fascistification of Honduras, and the resultant flood of refugees it has caused. Clinton’s and Obama’s playing their political constituencies as suckers has been 100% successful, thus far. In fact, Gallup reports that in the category “Barack Obama Job Approval by Party Identification, Weekly averages from Gallup Daily tracking, 2016.Jan 11- 17,” 86% of Democrats approve of Obama’s job-performance. Of course, Republicans hate him because he’s a ‘Democrat,’ and so only 11% of them approve of his job-performance, despite his policies (though not his rhetoric) having been actually Republican. That’s ‘democracy’ with a misinformed public. Some people call it “oligarchy.”


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.