Pick Your Poison: Clinton Vs. Trump on Foreign Policy

In their remarks to the nation following the Orlando massacre, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump made their differences—and disturbing similarities—crystal clear.

Trump attacked Hillary Clinton for refusing to label the violence carried out by a mentally-disturbed American-born gunmen of Muslim background as a manifestation of “radical Islam.” He reiterated his call to ban Muslims from entering the United States and to subject American Muslims to special surveillance and restrictions.

To her credit, Hillary Clinton rejected such bigotry. However, she called for returning to the “spirit of 9/12,” ignoring how that reaction to 9/11 resulted in a major crackdown on civil liberties and preparation for war. She stated:

“The attack in Orlando makes it even more clear, we cannot contain this threat. We must defeat it.”

Though there is no evidence of any operational ties between ISIS and the lone Orlando gunman, she piled on, saying:

“We should keep the pressure on ramping up the air campaign, accelerating support for our friends fighting to take and hold ground.”

Sam Adler-Bell, a journalist and policy associate with The Century Foundation, observed:

“I fear we’ve already begun to enlist the 49 dead into the project of American empire, here and abroad, into the endless, borderless war that began on 9/12.”

In previous weeks, both incipient nominees had given what have been called “major foreign policy addresses.” Though both lacked detail and substance, Clinton made a strong case that Trump really does not have the experience, knowledge, or temperament to be commander-in-chief.

Still, while former Secretary of State Clinton would be among the most experienced and knowledgeable nominees on foreign policy in modern history, she is probably the most hawkish Democratic nominee in decades.

Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies noted:

“She talked about all of the crazy stuff that Donald Trump has said. That’s easy to do, [but] the choice between the kind of chaos of Trump’s policy, that’s so incredibly dangerous, versus a very clear militaristic commitment to regime change and U.S. domination in [Clinton’s] foreign policy, is not much of a choice.”

In certain areas, Clinton has even placed herself to the right of the incipient GOP nominee. For example, Trump has questioned why Americans must pay for overseas bases, carrier groups, and other forward deployment to defend wealthy European, Middle Eastern, and Western Pacific allies who could afford to defend themselves, but whose military budgets are only a fraction of those of the United States. Clinton has denounced what she refers to as his threat “to abandon our allies in NATO.”

She has denounced Trump for wanting to negotiate directly with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and calls instead for a U.S.-led military buildup in East Asia, including a costly missile defense system in Japan. Harkening back to the rhetoric once used against liberal Democrats by their hawkish electoral opponents, Clinton said that if her opponent is elected, “they’ll be celebrating in the Kremlin.”

Rather than support collective security arrangements, a stronger United Nations, expanding nuclear-free zones, or other multilateral efforts, Clinton insists that “if America doesn’t lead, we leave a vacuum—and that will either cause chaos, or other countries will rush in to fill the void.” Anything short of U.S. primacy “is not an outcome we can live with.”

This drew a rebuke from Columbia University’s Jeffrey Sachs:

“This kind of arrogance—that America and America alone must run the world—has led straight to overstretch: perpetual wars that cannot be won, and unending and escalating confrontations with Russia, China, Iran, and others that make the world more dangerous. It doesn’t seem to dawn on Clinton that in today’s world, we need cooperation, not endless bravado.”

Clinton falsely accused Trump of saying he would “stay neutral on Israel’s security.” In reality, Trump said that in order to effectively mediate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the United States should take a more neutral position in the negotiations. A longstanding assumption in the field of conflict resolution is that mediators shouldn’t take sides.

The sad fact is that American voters this November will probably be forced to choose between a Republican nominee who thinks the United States should ban Muslims from entering the country versus a Democratic nominee who thinks the United States has a right to invade Muslim countries; a Republican nominee who agrees with George W. Bush that it’s okay to torture prisoners in the name of fighting terrorism versus a Democratic nominee who agrees with Benjamin Netanyahu that it’s okay to bombard crowded civilian neighborhoods in the name of fighting terrorism; a Republican nominee who supports building a wall on the border to keep Mexicans out of the United States versus a Democratic nominee who supports Israel building a wall far beyond its border to keep Palestinians out of Palestine.

Overall, Trump may be the bigger militarist. Though he has attacked Clinton for backing the invasion of Iraq and the bloody counter-insurgency war that followed, archived interviews have indicated that Trump did not actually oppose the war as he’s claimed. Same with U.S. intervention in Libya. Indeed, in both cases, Trump called for an even greater use of force, including seizure of oil fields for U.S. economic benefit. He also agrees with Clinton to militarily intervene in Syria to create “safe zones” for refugees and to escalate U.S. bombing against ISIS.

Trump’s call for pulling U.S. forces back from overseas is accompanied by a call for such countries as Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia to develop their own nuclear weapons. He opposes the nuclear agreement with Iran. He has falsely accused President Obama of having “supported the ouster of a friendly regime in Egypt . . . and then helped bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power in its place.” He charges that Obama, whose administration has given unprecedented amounts of aid to Israel and blocked the United Nations from addressing human rights concerns, “has not been a friend to Israel,” saying the President has “snubbed and criticized” what he calls “the one true Democracy in the Middle East.”

Trump also claims “our nuclear weapons arsenal”—on which Obama plans to spend nearly $1 trillion over the next thirty years—“has been allowed to atrophy and is desperately in need of modernization and renewal.” He has criticized Obama’s cancellation of the missile defense program, despite extraordinary cost and highly dubious efficacy. He pledges to dramatically increase military spending.

“Our military,” he laments, “is depleted, and we’re asking our generals and military leaders to worry about global warming”—which, according to Trump, does not exist.

Clinton, throughout her career, has been a hawk. Not only did she support the Iraq War, she has backed the Israeli and Moroccan occupations, the Honduras coup, various allied dictatorships, higher military spending, and a more interventionist foreign policy. She’s thumbed her nose at the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, and various reputable international human rights and arms control agencies.

Yet, ironically, her foreign policy agenda will likely be treated as the “left” wing of the debate by the mainstream media this fall, and perhaps for the next four to eight years.

This is why those of us who have a truly progressive vision of foreign policy need to mobilize and put on the pressure.

The good news is that Clinton has been forced to downplay her hawkish tendencies in order to get the Democratic nomination, while Trump is on the verge of winning the Republican nomination by exaggerating his dovish tendencies. This indicates that an increasing number of American voters are questioning the militarization of U.S. foreign policy.

With only a few exceptions, virtually every change in U.S. foreign policy—including ending the Vietnam War, accepting the Central American peace plan, imposing sanctions on apartheid South Africa, curbing the nuclear arms race, ceasing support for Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor, and phasing out most U.S. involvement in Iraq—came not from the initiative of enlightened politicians but from the American public.

Elections are important. Yet just as important are the other forms of pressure we can provide to force a saner and less militaristic foreign policy.

Defending Israel’s Attacks on Civilians—A Harbinger for Clinton’s Presidency?

A fight is brewing as Democrats prepare to debate U.S. policy on Israel at their national convention in July. Bernie Sanders’ appointees to the platform committee Cornel West and James Zogby plan to challenge the party establishment’s uncritical support for an increasingly aggressive, right wing Israeli government.

While the large-scale civilian casualties inflicted by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in military operations in recent years have raised concerns both within Israel and internationally, Hillary Clinton—the almost-certain Democratic nominee for President—has repeatedly gone on record defending the IDF’s conduct. Not only has she failed to even once raise concerns about the thousands of civilian deaths inflicted by Israeli forces, she has been a harsh critic of human rights organizations and international jurists who have.

Going well beyond the normal “pro-Israel” rhetoric expected of American politicians, she has defended Israeli attacks on heavily-populated civilian areas as legitimate self-defense against terrorism, even in cases where the Obama administration and members of Congress—including Sanders—have raised objections.

Her statements raise serious questions as to what kind of rules of engagement she would support for U.S. forces in the “War on Terror.”

As Secretary of State, Clinton took the lead in blocking any action by the United Nations in response to a 2009 report by the UN Human Rights Council which—like previous reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other groups—documented war crimes by both Israel and Hamas.

When Israeli forces attacked a UN school housing refugees in the Gaza Strip in July 2014, killing dozens of civilians, Sanders condemned it as “terribly, terribly wrong” and the U.S. State Department issued a statement saying that it was “appalled” by the “disgraceful” shelling. By contrast, Clinton–when asked about the attack during an interview with The Atlantic–refused to criticize the massacre. She argued that since Hamas had begun the conflict by firing rockets into civilian-populated areas of Israel, the Israeli government was therefore not legally or morally culpable for killing Palestinian civilians, claiming that “the ultimate responsibility” for the deaths at the school “has to rest on Hamas and the decisions it made.”

In reality, however wrong Hamas indeed was, such actions simply do not absolve Israel of its responsibility under international humanitarian law for the far greater civilian deaths its armed forces have inflicted on Palestinians in Gaza. Indeed, it has long been a principle of Western jurisprudence that someone who is the proximate cause of a crime cannot claim innocence simply because of the influence of another party. For example, if someone starts a bar fight and the person he punches ends up shooting him and a group of innocent bystanders, the shooter cannot claim innocence because the other guy initiated the conflict.

Similarly, when asked in an interview about the nearly 1500 civilians killed by Israeli forces during the 2014 war on the Gaza Strip, Clinton insisted, “I think Israel did what it had to do to respond to Hamas rockets,” which were responsible for six civilian deaths. When, during a debate prior to the New York primary, Sanders pushed her to acknowledge that Israel used disproportionate force during that military campaign, she responded “You have a right to defend yourself,” even though Sanders was not disputing that. She insisted the civilian deaths were because of “the way that Hamas places its weapons” and that Hamas “often has its fighters in civilian garb.” However, independent human rights investigators found very few of the Palestinian civilian deaths were a result of such actions. More than 500 of the civilians killed were children and hundreds more were trapped inside buildings nowhere near Hamas military operations.

Following reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other investigators documenting war crimes committed by both Hamas and Israeli forces that summer, Clinton condemned what she referred to as “this enormous international reaction against Israel, and Israel’s right to defend itself, and the way Israel has to defend itself. This reaction is uncalled for and unfair.’”

Such a callous attitude towards civilian deaths is not new or restricted to territories controlled by Hamas. In 2002, during an Israeli military offensive in the West Bank, Amnesty International reported:

“The IDF acted as though the main aim was to punish all Palestinians. Actions were taken by the IDF which had no clear or obvious military necessity; many of these, such as unlawful killings, destruction of property and arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment, violated international human rights and humanitarian law.”

In response, Sen. Clinton introduced a resolution in the Senate saying the IDF’s actions were “necessary steps to provide security to [Israel’s] people by dismantling the terrorist infrastructure in the Palestinian areas.”

During the 2006 Israeli military offensive in Lebanon, Human Rights Watch criticized the “systematic failure by the IDF to distinguish between combatants and civilians,” noting how “in dozens of attacks, Israeli forces struck an area with no apparent military target. In some cases, the timing and intensity of the attack, the absence of a military target, as well as return strikes on rescuers, suggest that Israeli forces deliberately targeted civilians.”

Again, Clinton co-sponsored a Senate resolution unconditionally defending Israel’s conduct during the 35-day conflict, which resulted in the deaths of more than 800 Lebanese civilians. Though Hezbollah rocket attacks on Israel did not commence until after Israel began its bombing campaign, Clinton responded to those expressing concerns about civilian casualties by saying, “If extremist terrorists were launching rocket attacks across the Mexican or Canadian border, would we stand by or would we defend America against these attacks from extremists?”

In attempting to justify such illegal conduct, Clinton is not just trying to appear to be “pro-Israel.” Israelis themselves, through such organizations as the human rights groups B’Tselem and the veterans group Breaking the Silence, have also been highly critical of the IDF’s attacks on non-combatants.

Clinton’s posture may be more of a reflection of her lack of respect for international humanitarian law, her apparent belief that attacking civilian-populated areas is legitimate self-defense if done in the name of fighting terrorism, and a perceived need to discredit those who say otherwise. And, since she has frequently linked Israeli and American fights against terrorism, she may be laying the groundwork as president to use the same tactics.

Having called for an escalated U.S. military response to ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Clinton as President might use a similar rationale to order massive U.S. air strikes on Mosul, Raqaa, and other Islamic State-controlled cities, regardless of civilian casualties.

That prospect is far more worrisome than a divisive platform fight over Israel at the Democratic convention in July.

Turkey’s Creeping Authoritarianism: Is the Resistance Enough?

Turkey’s march towards authoritarianism took another dangerous turn this past week with the forced resignation of moderate Islamist Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, apparently at the insistence of President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an.

Though constitutionally the Turkish prime minister wields executive authority and the president is largely a figurehead, Erdo?an—who served as prime minister for eleven years before term limits forced him to step down in 2014—appears to still be in charge.

And he is becoming ever more autocratic.

With his Justice and Development Party (AKP) controlling a sizable majority in parliament, Erdo?an has been steadily increasing his grip on power, with police raids on opposition media, the jailing of independent journalists on trumped-up charges, severe repression in Kurdish-populated areas and arrests of even moderate non-violent Kurdish leaders for alleged terrorist ties, the undermining of the independent judiciary, and the arrests of political opponents.

Though often portrayed as a struggle between autocratic Islamists and democratic secularists, the situation in Turkey is not that simple. The secular nationalist governments which ruled the Turkish Republic for most of its first eight decades were either semi-autocratic center-right plutocracies or rightwing military dictatorships, with those subsequent to World War II maintaining close strategic ties with the United States.

The election of Erdo?an and the AKP in 2003 was initially welcomed by some pro-democracy elements as a means of weakening the military’s overbearing influence, breaking up the old corrupt oligarchic order, and challenging U.S. hegemony. However, the AKP has proved itself to be at least as corrupt, oligarchical, deferential to the wealthy and powerful economic interests as the secular elites they replaced. Erdo?an’s social conservatism and Islamist rhetoric has alarmed both Western nations and educated secular Turks.

In addition, Erdo?an has cultivated a kind of cult of personality not seen in a Turkish leader since the days of founding President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Indeed, rather than resembling Iran of the ayatollahs as some initially feared, it is instead looking increasingly like the Russia of Vladimir Putin.

Just as the United States and European governments tolerated previous military dictatorships on the grounds that Turkey was a valuable NATO ally in the struggle against Communism, however, Western leaders have similarly demonstrated little inclination to challenge Erdo?an’s repression given his perceived role as an ally in the struggle against Islamist extremism.

Not that taking him on would be easy.

Erdo?an remains genuinely popular. In a manner comparable to conservative Republican leaders in the United States, he has taken advantage of the resentment of religious Turks in rural areas and poor working class communities, winning their allegiance by portraying himself as their ally against liberal secular urban elites, despite the fact that the AKP’s economic policies primarily benefit the wealthy at the expense of the poor majority.

This cultural divide has been exacerbated by the often-condescending views towards AKP supporters held by educated Europeanized liberals of the country’s western cities. Many of these urbanites express nostalgia for former governments led by long-discredited corrupt secular nationalist politicians or military rulers. This has made the development of an electoral majority that can successfully challenge the AKP’s growing power extremely difficult.

The good news is that this has not stopped the people of Turkey from fighting back.

Civil society movements, stressing democracy and economic justice, are growing and becoming better organized. In 2013, the violent breakup of a nonviolent sit-in in Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park protesting a planned urban development project in one of the city’s few remaining downtown green spaces spawned a mass movement demanding greater democracy, government transparency, and economic justice. Over the next several weeks, over three and a half million Turks took to the streets in more than 5,000 demonstrations across the country.

As with the Occupy! movement in the United States, the protesters were unable to sustain their momentum, but it has helped spawn important grassroots initiatives and curtailed the state’s efforts at consolidating power still further. Organized labor, feminists, environmentalists, civil libertarians, and anti-war activists have become increasingly bold in challenging government policies, as have those fighting government corruption, economic injustice, and suppression of Kurdish rights.

And just as Turkey has produced elite autocratic secularists, it has also developed progressive democratic Islamists. A group known as Antikapitalist Müslümanlar (Anti-Capitalist Muslims) has played an important role in the popular opposition, challenging the corruption, arrogance, social conservatism, and crony capitalism of the new Islamic bourgeoisie nurtured by the AKP, and instead stressing Islam’s message of social justice, respect for the environment, and honest governance.

Antikapitalist Müslümanlar have organized a series of campaigns and creative public protests challenging the AKP’s claims of representing religious Turks. During Ramadan, when the ruling party hosted an ostentatious iftar (the evening meal breaking the daylong fast) for the party’s wealthy supporters in Taksim Square, they put together a simple “people’s iftar” for thousands sitting on the pavement in a nearby pedestrian mall.

Whether such mobilizations of pro-democracy forces, both Islamic and secular, can coalesce into a large enough force to prevent Erdo?an from establishing a full-fledged dictatorship remains to be seen. The forces of reaction are gaining strength in Turkey, but so is the democratic resistance.

Hillary and Bernie Part Ways on Israel

The foreign policy divide between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders could not have been more obvious than in last week’s debate in Brooklyn when the moderator brought forward the issue of Israel and Palestine. The answers they gave not only revealed differing emphases among two politicians who both strongly identify as being “pro-Israel,” it revealed a striking contrast regarding the role the United States should play as a mediator in international conflicts and attitudes towards international humanitarian law.

Referring to the fighting between Israeli and Hamas forces during the summer of 2014, Bernie Sanders reiterated both his longstanding position condemning Hamas rocket attacks on Israel and supporting Israel’s right to self-defense. But he also declared that the killing of nearly 1,500 Palestinian civilians by Israel during that fifty-day conflict represented a “disproportionate” use of force.

Comparable observations were made at that time by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Secretary of State John Kerry, UN ambassador Samantha Power, senior White House official Valerie Jarrett, the U.S. State Department, the leading Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, and the Israeli veterans’ group Breaking the Silence, as did—as Sanders put it—“countries all over the world.”

But Hillary Clinton refused to acknowledge that Israel had done anything wrong, responding “You have a right to defend yourself,” even though Sanders was not disputing that. She insisted the civilian deaths were because of “the way that Hamas places its weapons” and that Hamas “often has its fighters in civilian garb.” However, independent human rights investigators found very few of the Palestinian civilian deaths were a result of such actions.

Clinton’s ongoing defense of Israeli military operations that have killed hundreds of civilians in the name of “self-defense” and “fighting terrorism” and her previous attacks against reputable human rights groups and respected international jurists for documenting apparent war crimes during these offensives, raise troubling questions about her position on rules of engagement for U.S. armed forces in the “war on terror” if she becomes Commander-in-Chief.

Also troubling during the debate was that while Sanders reiterated the longstanding U.S. and international position that there should be a viable independent Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel, Clinton would only go as far as saying Palestinians should be able to have “self-government” and “autonomy.”

Sanders noted how, in addition to maintaining the United States’ longstanding commitment to Israel, “if we are ever going to bring peace to that region . . . we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity,” noting how in a recent speech Clinton gave on the topic, there was “virtually no discussion at all about the needs of the Palestinian people.”

While Clinton has long supported allowing Israel to annex large swaths of the occupied West Bank and other Israeli negotiating positions, Sanders went on to note that “there will never be peace in that region unless the United States plays an even-handed role trying to bring people together and recognizing the serious problems that exist among the Palestinian people.”

And, in contrast to Clinton’s strong support for Israel’s right-wing prime minister—whom she promises to invited to the White House her first day in office—Sanders observed, “if we pursue justice and peace, we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time.”

A number of commentators noted that not only was this the most criticism the Israeli government has ever received in a presidential debate by either party, it came from a Jewish candidate at a forum in Brooklyn on the eve of the New York primary, challenging the conventional wisdom that criticizing Israel is bad politics, particularly before and electorate with a large number of Jewish voters.

The truth is that there has been a marked change in attitudes towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in recent years, even among American Jews. Polls show the Democratic base is far closer to positions espoused by Sanders than by Clinton. This is particularly apparent among younger Democratic voters, who have been favoring Sanders by more than 70 percent.

Indeed, within such bastions of traditional Democratic voters as college campuses, liberal churches, and peace and human rights groups, Israel/Palestine has emerged as important in the same way Central America and Southern Africa were in the 1980s. Hillary Clinton, therefore, by siding with a right-wing government with a history of discriminatory policies and large-scale attacks on civilians, is seen by increasing numbers of progressive Democrats as akin to politicians of the previous generation who defended the Salvadoran junta, Nicaraguan Contras, and South Africa’s apartheid regime.

No matter how things go in the race for delegates to secure the Democratic nomination, alienating your base is not good politics in a general election.

Hillary Clinton’s Iraq War vote still appalls

In 2002, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York voted to authorize the Iraq War; her rival for the Democratic nomination for president, Bernie Sanders, opposed it. Clinton’s vote continues to haunt her on the campaign trail – and for good reason.

First, there are the consequences of that illegal and unnecessary war: 4,500 American soldiers killed and thousands more permanently disabled; hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths; the destabilization of a region with the rise of the Islamic State; and a dramatic increase in the federal deficit, resulting in major cutbacks to important social programs.

Clinton’s vote, which she now professes to regret, raises troubling implications regarding her role as a potential commander-in-chief.

The United Nations charter forbids member states from using military force unless they are under direct attack or receive explicit authorization by the U.N. Security Council. (Customary international law allows for pre-emptive war, but only in cases of an imminent threat, such as troops massing along the border or missiles preparing to be launched.)

Clinton now claims the vote was simply meant to pressure Saddam Hussein to allow inspectors back in and that it had the support of Hans Blix, the head of the U.N. inspection team. But the bill she supported gave President George W. Bush blanket authority to attack Iraq. When he did so in March 2003, despite inspectors having been in Iraq for over three months with unfettered access to Iraqi facilities, she supported that decision.

Some Clinton supporters have defended her, saying she had received convincing intelligence data that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Even if that had been the case, the war would still have been just as illegal and just as unwise.

Furthermore, virtually all the alleged intelligence data made available to Congress has since been declassified; most strategic analysts have found it transparently weak, based largely on hearsay by Iraqi exiles of dubious credibility and conjecture by ideologically driven Bush administration officials. Meanwhile, Clinton ignored information provided by U.N. inspectors, reports by independent strategic analysts, and articles in reputable arms control journals that challenged the administration’s claims.

She was also the only Democratic senator to make the absurd claim – strongly challenged by scholars, diplomats and other observers – that the secular Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein was supporting the Salafist Islamist al-Qaida movement. And more than a year after the U.S. invasion and the Bush administration’s acknowledgement that Iraq had neither any WMDs nor any ties to al-Qaida, Clinton insisted it was “the right vote,” adding “I don’t regret giving the president authority.”

This raises concerns that, as president, Clinton might again be willing to blindly accept similarly inaccurate and alarmist intelligence claims over more sober strategic analysis in making decisions on whether to go to war.

In fact, roughly 30 countries, including the United States, really do have chemical or biological weapons or nuclear programs with weapons potential, thereby raising the question as to how many of these countries Clinton, as president, would be willing to invade.

Hillary Clinton’s double standards on human rights

During the 1980s, the United States was seriously divided over U.S. policy toward Central America. The Reagan administration was propping up a brutal military-backed regime in El Salvador that was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people, including priests, nuns and catechists, along with labor, student and human rights leaders, as well as peasants who happened to live in areas supporting the opposition.

The Reagan administration also attempted to bring down the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua by mining the country’s harbors; sabotaging oil installations; and organizing, training, arming and funding a mercenary army, led by leaders of the former Somoza dictatorship’s national guard, which primarily attacked civilian targets.

The Reagan administration refused to acknowledge the indigenous roots of Central American revolutions or the diversity of the left-wing popular movements it was targeting — which included social democrats, liberation theologians, Marxist-Leninists and others. Instead, it blamed Cuba and the Soviet Union for plotting to subjugate the region into totalitarian rule.

Human rights groups, liberal organizations, peace activists, and Catholic and Protestant clergy and laity organized to challenge U.S. policy. Many activists traveled to Nicaragua in solidarity with the people of that besieged country.

Among those was Bernie Sanders, then mayor of Burlington, Vt.

In ways reminiscent of the redbaiting common during the Cold War, the Hillary Clinton campaign has seized on the Vermont senator’s activism during this period as a means of attacking him as a supporter of communism. As columnist Glenn* Greenwald noted at The Intercept, [1] “It seems that, overnight, Clinton and her supporters have decided that Sanders’s opposition to Reagan-era wars against Latin American governments and rebel groups — a common liberal position at the time — is actually terribly wrong and something worthy of demonization rather than admiration, because those governments and groups abused human rights.”

Similarly, New York University history professor Greg Grandin noted in an interview on Democracy Now [2], “So, in Hillary Clinton’s worldview, interventionist worldview, she has come so far that to say good things about the Sandinistas in 1985 is supposedly outside the mainstream.”

At the time, however, it was not. Most Democrats, including moderate elements of the party like House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Texas), were willing to note some positive achievements by that left-wing government.

During a nationally televised debate in March, Clinton also dug up a statement Sanders had made more than 30 years earlier in which he acknowledged the Cuban revolution’s faults but also noted the progress the country had made in transforming the values of that once grossly stratified country into a more egalitarian and less racist society where people were working for the common good.

She stated, “I just couldn’t disagree more. You know, if the values are that you oppress people, you disappear people, you imprison people or even kill people for expressing their opinions, for expressing freedom of speech, that is not the kind of revolution of values that I ever want to see anywhere.”

This came just moments after Sanders had reiterated how he recognized that Cuba was “an authoritarian, undemocratic country” and he wanted to see Cuba “move in a more democratic direction,” but appreciated its advances since the 1959 revolution in education, health care and other human needs.

Not only did Clinton ignore Sanders’ decidedly mixed assessment of the Castro regime, it was also inaccurate: While Cuba remains an authoritarian one-party state and scores of people remain in prison for nonviolent dissent, it has been well over a quarter century since anyone has been killed or disappeared.

She didn’t respond to the focus of Sanders’ statement during the debate, which was his objections to U.S. intervention in Latin America, particularly the sordid history of overthrowing democratically elected governments such as in Guatemala and Chile.

This was perhaps because it might call attention to her admitted role in helping to consolidate the 2009 coup in Honduras against the democratically elected government of Manuel Zelaya, or her close relationship with Henry Kissinger — whom she has referred to as “a friend” and said she “relied on his counsel when I served as secretary of state.” Kissinger was a major architect in the downfall of the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973.

Indeed, Clinton herself has been an outspoken supporter of some of the world’s worst dictators.

One dictatorship that really has killed and disappeared people is Morocco, which has been repeatedly documented by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other reputable human rights groups. However, when Clinton visited Morocco as secretary of state, she offered unconditional praise for the Moroccan government’s human rights record.

Another dictator praised by Clinton was Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. In 2009, Secretary of State Clinton noted, “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family.”

Two years later, in 2011, during a popular pro-democracy uprising against the regime, she insisted that he was “looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.”

After Saudi Arabian forces joined those of the Bahraini monarchy in brutally repressing nonviolent pro-democracy demonstrators the following month, The Wall Street Journal reported [3] that Clinton had emerged as one of the “leading voices inside the administration urging greater U.S. support for the Bahraini king.” She has long considered a “top priority” the promotion of arms transfers to Saudi Arabia, which is not only one of the world’s most repressive regimes but has been using U.S. jets and ordinance in air strikes in Yemen that have killed thousands of civilians.

In her last visit as secretary of state to Uzbekistan— a brutal dictatorship that has gunned down hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators, boiled opponents to death in oil, and sends hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren annually into forced labor in the cotton fields — she declined to meet with leading human rights activists. Instead, she emphasized “the importance of Uzbekistan to the region and to our national interest.”

It is certainly not new for politicians of either party to have double standards when it comes to human rights. Still, it is disappointing to have the leading Democratic candidate for president attack those who took principled stances against U.S. support for terror and repression.

The US role in the Honduras coup and subsequent violence

On March 3, Berta Cáceres, a brave and outspoken indigenous Honduran environmental activist and winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize [1], was gunned down in her hometown of La Esperanza. Erika Guevara-Rosas [2], Americas director for Amnesty International, noted how “For years, she had been the victim of a sustained campaign of harassment and threats to stop her from defending the rights of indigenous communities.”

She is just one of thousands of indigenous activists, peasant leaders, trade unionists, journalists, environmentalists, judges, opposition political candidates, human rights activists, and others murdered since a military coup ousted the democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya in 2009.

Despite being a wealthy logger and rancher from the centrist Liberal Party, Zelaya had moved his government to the left during his four years in office. During his tenure, he raised the minimum wage and provided free school lunches, milk for young children, pensions for the elderly, and additional scholarships for students. He built new schools, subsidized public transportation, and even distributed energy-saving light bulbs.

None of these were particularly radical moves, but it was nevertheless disturbing to the country’s wealthy economic and military elites. More frightening was that Zelaya had sought to organize an assembly to replace the 1982 constitution written during the waning days of the U.S.-backed military dictator Policarpo Paz Garcia. A non-binding referendum on whether such a constitutional assembly should take place was scheduled the day of the coup, but was cancelled when the military seized power and named Congressional Speaker Roberto Micheletti as president.

Calling for such a referendum is perfectly legal under Article 5 of the 2006 Honduran Civil Participation Act, which allows public functionaries to perform such non-binding public consultations regarding policy measures. Despite claims by the rightist junta and its supporters, Zelaya was not trying to extend his term. That question wasn’t even on the ballot. The Constitutional Assembly would not have likely completed its work before his term had expired anyway.

The leader of the coup, Honduran General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, was a graduate of the notorious School of the Americas, a U.S. Army training program nicknamed “School of Assassins” for the sizable number of graduates who have engaged in coups, as well as the torture and murder of political opponents. The training of coup plotters at the program, since renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, isn’t a bygone feature of the Cold War: General Luis Javier Prince Suazo, who played an important role in the coup as head of the Honduran Air Force, graduated as recently as 1996.

There is no evidence to suggest that the Obama administration was behind the coup. However, a number of U.S. officials — most notably then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — played an important role in preventing Zelaya’s return to office and the junta consolidating its power in the face of massive nonviolent protests.

Clinton insisted [4] the day after the coup that “all parties have a responsibility to address the underlying problems that led to yesterday’s events.” When asked [5] if her call for “restoring the constitutional order” in Honduras meant returning Zelaya himself, she didn’t say it necessarily would. State Department spokesperson Ian Kelly [6] evaded reporters’ questions as to whether the United States supported Zelaya’s return, placing the United States at odds with the Organization of American States, the Rio Group, and the U.N. General Assembly, all of which called for the “immediate and unconditional return” of Zelaya.

U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens, reflecting the broad consensus of international observers, sent a cable [7] to Clinton entitled “Open and Shut: The Case of the Honduran Coup,” thoroughly documenting that “there is no doubt” that Zelaya’s ouster “constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup.” Similarly, Ann-Marie Slaughter, then serving as director of Policy Planning at the State Department, sent an email to Clinton strongly encouraging her to “take bold action” and to “find that [the] coup was a ‘military coup’ under U.S. law.” However, Clinton’s State Department refused to suspend U.S. aid to Honduras — as required when a democratically-elected government is ousted in such a manner — on the grounds [8] that it wasn’t clear that the forcible military-led overthrow actually constituted a coup d’état.

Emails released [9] last year by the State Department also show how Clinton rejected calls by the international community to condemn the coup and used her lobbyist friend Lanny Davis — who was working for the Honduran chapter of the Business Council of Latin America, which supported the coup — to open communications with Micheletti, the illegitimate interim ruler installed by the military.

Leaders [10] of Latin American nations, the U.N. General Assembly [11] and other international organizations unambiguously demanded Zelaya’s immediate return to office. However, in her memoir Hard Choices, Clinton admits that she worked to prevent restoring the elected president to office: “In the subsequent days [after the coup] I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere, including Secretary Espinosa in Mexico. We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot.”

The elections, held under military rule and marred [12] by violence and media censorship [13], were hardly free or fair. The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) declared [14] they would not recognize elections held under the de facto government and the Organization of American States drafted a resolution that would have refused to recognize Honduran elections carried out under the dictatorship, but the State Department blocked its adoption.

In the subsequent six years, the horrific repression and skyrocketing murder rate — now the highest in the world — has resulted in tens of thousands of refugees fleeing for safety in the United States. Ironically, as Secretary of State, Clinton rejected granting political asylum and supported [15] their deportation.

Clinton’s role in supporting the coup in Honduras is a reminder that the Middle East is not the only part of the world in which she is willing to set aside principles of international law and human rights to advance perceived U.S. economic and strategic interests. Indeed, it may be a troubling indication of the kind of foreign policies she would pursue as president.

Hillary the Hawk

Despite being an icon for many liberals and an anathema to the Republican right, former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s positions on the Middle East have more closely resembled those of the latter than the former. Her hawkish views go well beyond her strident support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and subsequent occupation and counter-insurgency war. From Afghanistan to Western Sahara, she has advocated for military solutions to complex political problems, backed authoritarian allies and occupying armies, dismissed war crimes, and opposed political involvement by the United Nations and its agencies. TIME magazine’s Michael Crowley aptly summed up her State Department record in 2014:

As Secretary of State, Clinton backed a bold escalation of the Afghanistan war. She pressed Obama to arm the Syrian rebels, and later endorsed airstrikes against the Assad regime. She backed intervention in Libya, and her State Department helped enable Obama’s expansion of lethal drone strikes. In fact, Clinton may have been the administration’s most reliable advocate for military action. On at least three crucial issues—Afghanistan, Libya, and the bin Laden raid—Clinton took a more aggressive line than [Secretary of Defense Robert] Gates, a Bush-appointed Republican.

Her even more hawkish record during her eight years in the Senate, when she was not constrained by President Barack Obama’s more cautious foreign policy, led to strong criticism from progressive Democrats and played a major role in her unexpected defeat in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries.

After stepping down from the helm of the State Department in early 2013, she made a concerted effort to distance herself from Obama’s Middle East policies, which—despite including the bombing of no less than seven countries in the greater region—she argues have not been aggressive enough. It is not surprising, therefore, that the prominent neoconservative Robert Kagan, in examining the prospects of her becoming commander-in-chief, exclaimed to the New York Times in 2014, “I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy.” He elaborated by noting that “if she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue, it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that. They are going to call it something else.” The same New York Times article noted how neoconservatives are “aligning themselves with Hillary Rodham Clinton and her nascent presidential campaign, in a bid to return to the driver’s seat of American foreign policy.”

If Clinton wins the American presidency in 2016, she will be confronted with the same momentous regional issues she handled without distinction as Obama’s first secretary of state: among them, the civil war and regional proxy war in Syria; the Syrian conflict’s massive refugee crisis; civil conflict in Yemen and Libya; political fragility in Iraq and Afghanistan; Iran’s regional ambitions; the Israel-Palestine conflict; and deteriorating relations with longstanding allies Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. There are disagreements as to whether Clinton truly embraces a neoconservative or other strong ideological commitment to hardline policies or whether it is part of a political calculation to protect herself from criticism from Republicans who hold positions even further to the right. But considering that the Democratic Party base is shifting more to the left, that she represented the relatively liberal state of New York in the Senate, and that her 2008 presidential hopes were derailed in large part by her support for the Iraq war, it would probably be a mistake to assume her positions have been based primarily on political expediency. Regardless of her motivations, however, a look at the positions she has taken on a number of the key Middle East policy issues suggest that her presidency would shift America to a still more militaristic and interventionist policy that further marginalizes concerns for human rights or international law.

Voting for War in Iraq

Hillary Clinton was among the minority of congressional Democrats who supported Republican President George W. Bush’s request for authorization to invade and occupy Iraq, a vote she says she cast “with conviction.”As arms control specialists, former United Nations weapons inspectors, investigative journalists, and others began raising questions regarding the Bush administration’s claims about Iraq having reconstituted its chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs and its chemical and biological weapons arsenals, Clinton sought to discredit those questioning the administration’s alarmist rhetoric by insisting that Iraq’s possession of such weapons and weapons programs were not in doubt. She said that “if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons.” She insisted that there was a risk that, despite the absence of the necessary delivery systems, Saddam Hussein would somehow, according to the 2002 resolution, “employ those weapons to launch a surprise attack against the United States,” which therefore justifies “action by the United States to defend itself” through invading and occupying the country.

As a number of prominent arms control analysts had informed her beforehand, absolutely none of those charges were true. The pattern continued when then-Secretary of State Colin Powell in a widely ridiculed speech told the United Nations that Iraq had close ties with Al-Qaeda, still had major stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and active nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs. Powell himself later admitted his speech was misleading and filled with errors, yet Clinton insisted that it was nevertheless “compelling.”

In an apparent effort to convince her New York constituents, still stung by the September 11 attack thirteen months earlier, of the necessity of war, she was the only Democratic U.S. senator who made the false claim that Saddam Hussein had “given aid, comfort, and sanctuary” to Al-Qaeda, an accusation that even many fervent supporters of the invasion recognized as ludicrous. Indeed, top strategic analysts had informed her that there were no apparent links between Saddam Hussein’s secular nationalist regime and the radical jihadist Al-Qaeda. Indeed, doubts over such claims appeared in the U.S. National Intelligence Estimates made available to her and in a definitive report by the Department of Defense after the invasion. These reports not only confirmed that no such link existed, but that no such link could have been reasonably suggested based upon the evidence available at that time.

Clinton’s defenders insist she was misled by faulty intelligence. She admitted that she did not review the National Intelligence Estimate that was made available to members of Congress prior to the vote that was far more nuanced in their assessments than the Bush administration claimed. (She claimed that the authors of the report, including officials from the State Department, Central Intelligence Agency, and Department of Defense, had briefed her: “I felt very well briefed.”) She also apparently ignored the plethora of information provided by academics, independent strategic analysts, former UN inspectors, and others, which challenged the Bush administration’s claims and correctly noted that Iraq had likely achieved at least qualitative disarmament. Furthermore, even if Iraq had been one of the dozens of countries in the world that still had stockpiles of chemical and/or biological weapons and/or a nuclear program, the invasion was still illegal under the UN Charter, according to a consensus of international law experts as well as then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan; it was also arguably unnecessary, given the deterrence capability of the United States and well-armed Middle Eastern states.

Despite wording in the Congressional resolution providing Bush with an open-ended authority to invade Iraq, Clinton later insisted that she voted for the resolution simply because “we needed to put inspectors in.” In reality, at the time of vote, the Iraqis had already agreed in principle to a return of the weapons inspectors and were negotiating with the United Nations Monitoring and Verification Commission on the details which were formally institutionalized a few weeks later. (Indeed, it would have likely been resolved earlier had the United States not repeatedly postponed the UN Security Council resolution in the hopes of inserting language which would have allowed the United States to unilaterally interpret the level of compliance.) In addition, she voted against the substitute amendment by Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, which would have also granted President Bush authority to use force, but only if Iraq defied subsequent UN demands regarding the inspections process. Instead, Clinton voted for the Republican-sponsored resolution to give President Bush the authority to invade Iraq at the time and circumstances of his own choosing regardless of whether inspectors returned. Unfettered large-scale weapons inspections had been going on in Iraq for nearly four months with no signs of any proscribed weapons or weapons facilities at the time the Bush administration launched the March 2003 attack, yet she still argued that the invasion was necessary and lawful. Despite warnings by scholars, retired diplomats, and others familiar with the region that a U.S. invasion of Iraq would prove harmful to the United States, she insisted that at U.S.-led takeover of Iraq was “in the best interests of our nation.”

Rather than being a misguided overreaction to the 9/11 tragedy driven by the trauma that America had experienced, Clinton’s militaristic stance on Iraq predated her support for Bush’s invasion. For example, in defending her husband President Bill Clinton’s four-day bombing campaign against Iraq in December 1998, she claimed that “the so-called presidential palaces … in reality were huge compounds well suited to hold weapons labs, stocks, and records which Saddam Hussein was required by the UN to turn over. When Saddam blocked the inspection process, the inspectors left.” In reality, there were no weapons labs, stocks of weapons, or missing records in these presidential palaces. In addition, Saddam was still allowing for virtually all inspections to go forward. The inspectors were ordered to depart by her husband a couple days beforehand to avoid being harmed in the incipient bombings. Ironically, in justifying her support for invading Iraq years later, she would claim that it was Saddam who had “thrown out” the UN inspectors. She also bragged that it was during her husband’s administration that the United States “changed its underlying policy toward Iraq from containment to regime change.”

What distinguishes Clinton from some of the other Democrats who crossed the aisle to support the Republican administration’s war plans is that she continued to defend her vote even when the rationales behind it had been disproven. For example, in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York in December 2003, in which she underscored her support for a “tough-minded, muscular foreign and defense policy,” she declared, “I was one who supported giving President Bush the authority, if necessary, to use force against Saddam Hussein. I believe that that was the right vote” and was one that “I stand by.” Similarly, in an interview on CNN’s Larry King Live in April 2004, when asked about her vote in favor of war authorization, she said, “I don’t regret giving the president authority.”

As it became increasingly apparent that her rationales for supporting the war were false, U.S. casualties mounted, the United States was dragged into a long counter-insurgency war, and the ongoing U.S. military presence was exacerbating sectarian violence and the threat from extremists rather than curbing it, Clinton came under increasing pressure from her constituents to call for a withdrawal of U.S. forces. She initially rejected these demands, however, insisting U.S. troops were needed to keep fighting in order to suppress the insurgency, terrorism, and sectarian divisions the invasion had spawned, urging “patience” and expressing her concern about the lack of will among some Americans “to stay the course.” She insisted that “failure is not an option” in Iraq, so therefore, “We have no option but to stay involved and committed.” In 2005, she insisted that it “would be a mistake” to withdraw U.S. troops soon or simply set a timetable for withdrawal. She argued that the prospects for a “failed state” made possible by the invasion she supported made it in the “national security interest” of the United States to remain fighting in that country. When Democratic Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania made his first call for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq in November of that year, she denounced his effort, calling it a “a big mistake” and declared, “I reject a rigid timetable that the terrorists can exploit.” Using a similar rationale as was used in the latter years of the Vietnam War, she declared, “My bottom line is that I don’t want their sons to die in vain,” insisting that, “I don’t think it’s the right time to withdraw” and that, “I don’t believe it’s smart to set a date for withdrawal.” In 2006, when Democratic Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts (her eventual successor as secretary of state) sponsored an amendment that would have required the redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq by the middle of 2007 in order to advance a political solution to the growing sectarian strife, she voted against it. Similarly, on Meet the Press in 2005, she emphasized, “We don’t want to send a signal to insurgents, to the terrorists, that we are going to be out of here at some, you know, date certain.”

Two years after the invasion, as the consensus was growing that the situation in Iraq was rapidly deteriorating, Clinton still defended the war effort. When she visited Iraq in February 2005 as a U.S. senator, the security situation had gotten so bad that the four-lane divided highway on flat open terrain connecting the airport with the capital could not be secured at the time of her arrival, requiring a helicopter to transport her to the Green Zone, but she nevertheless insisted that the U.S. occupation was “functioning quite well.” When fifty-five Iraqis and one American soldier were killed during her twenty-four-hour visit, she insisted that the rise in suicide bombings was somehow evidence that the insurgency was failing. As the chaos worsened in subsequent months, she continued to defend the invasion, insisting, “We have given the Iraqis the precious gift of freedom,” claiming that whatever problems they were subsequently experiencing was their fault, since, “The Iraqis have not stepped up and taken responsibility, as we had hoped.”

Clinton finally began calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops when she became a candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, but she was critical of her rival Barack Obama’s longstanding antiwar stance. Even though Obama in 2002 (then a state senator in Illinois) had explicitly supported the ongoing international strategy of enforcing sanctions, maintaining an international force as a military deterrent, and returning UN inspectors to Iraq, Clinton charged in a nationally televised interview on Meet the Press on January 14, 2008, that “his judgment was that, at the time in 2002, we didn’t need to make any efforts” to deal with the alleged Iraqi “threat”—essentially repeating President Bush’s argument that anything short of supporting an invasion meant acquiescence to Saddam’s regime. She also criticized Obama’s withdrawal plan.

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates writes in his book Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War that Clinton stated in his presence that her opposition to President Bush’s decision in 2007 to reject the bipartisan call of the Iraq Study Group to begin a osased withdrawal of U.S. troops and to instead escalate the number of American combat forces was largely political, given the growing opposition to the war among Democratic voters. Indeed, long before President Bush announced his “surge,” Clinton had called for the United States to send more troops.

Unlike former U.S. Senators John Kerry, Tom Harkin, John Edwards, and other Democratic supporters of the Iraq war resolution, Clinton has never apologized for her vote to authorize force. She has, however, said that she now “regrets” her vote, which she refers to as a “mistake.” Yet, arguments against the Iraq war authorization, virtually all of which have turned out to have been accurate, had been clearly articulated for months leading up to the congressional vote. She and her staff met with knowledgeable people who made a strong case against supporting President Bush’s request, including its illegality under the United Nations Charter, providing her with extensive documentation challenging the administration’s arguments, and warning her of the likely repercussions of a U.S. invasion and occupation.

“All Options on the Table”

Saddam’s Iraq is not the only oil-rich country towards which Clinton has threatened war over its alleged ties to terrorists and Weapons of Mass Destruction. She long insisted that the United States should keep “all options on the table”—clearly an implied threat of unilateral military force—in response to Iran’s nuclear program despite the illegality under the UN Charter of launching such a unilateral attack. Her hawkish stance toward Iran, which is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has disavowed any intention of developing nuclear weapons, stands in contrast with her attitude toward countries such as Israel, Pakistan, and India which are not NPT signatories and have already constructed nuclear weapons. She has shown little regard for the danger of the proliferation by countries allied with the United States, opposing the enforcement of UN Security Council resolutions challenging the programs of Israel, Pakistan, and India, supporting the delivery of nuclear-capable missiles and jet fighters to these countries, and voting to end restrictions on U.S. nuclear cooperation with countries that have not signed on to the NPT.

Clinton has nonetheless insisted that the prospect of Iran developing nuclear weapons “must be unacceptable to the entire world”—challenging the nuclear monopoly of the United States and its allies in the region would somehow “shake the foundation of global security to its very core,” in her view. In 2006, she accused the Bush administration of failing to take the threat of a nuclear Iran seriously enough, criticized the administration for allowing European nations to lead diplomatic efforts, and insisted that the United States should make it clear that military options were still being actively considered. Similarly, during the 2008 presidential campaign, she accused Obama of being “naïve” and “irresponsible” for wanting to engage with Iran diplomatically. Not only did she promise to “obliterate” Iran if it used its nonexistent nuclear weapons to attack Israel, she refused to rule out a U.S. nuclear first strike on that country, saying, “I don’t believe that any president should make any blanket statements with respect to the use or non-use of nuclear weapons.”

As with Iraq, she has made a number of alarmist statements regarding Iran, such as falsely claiming in 2007 that Iran had a nuclear weapons program, even though International Atomic Energy Agency and independent arms control specialists, as well as a subsequent National Intelligence Estimate, indicated that Iran’s nuclear program at that time had no military component. Clinton supported the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment calling on President Bush to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group, which the Bush administration correctly recognized as an irresponsibly sweeping characterization of an organization that also controls major civilian administration, business, and educational institutions. The amendment declared that “it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence … of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” language which many feared could be used as a de facto authorization for war.

Her hawkish stance towards Iran continued after she became Obama’s first secretary of state in 2009. In Michael Crowley’s 2014 story in TIME, Obama administration officials noted how she was “skeptical of diplomacy with Iran, and firmly opposed to talk of a ‘containment’ policy that would be an alternative to military action should negotiations with Tehran fail.” Clinton disapproved of the opposition expressed by Pentagon officials regarding a possible U.S. attack on Iran because she insisted “the Iranians had to believe we would use force if diplomacy failed.” In an August 2014 interview with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, when she was no longer in the administration, she took a much harder line on Iranian nuclear enrichment than the United States and its negotiating partners recognized was realistic, leading some to suspect she was actually pushing for military intervention.

Clinton, by then an announced candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, did end up endorsing the 2015 nuclear agreement. Opposing a major foreign policy initiative of a sitting Democratic president, especially one with strong Democratic support, would have been politically untenable. Yet, Clinton’s hardline views toward the Islamic Republic remain palpable. For example, in a speech in September 2015 at the Brookings Institution, she claimed that Iran’s leaders “talk about wiping Israel off the face of the map”—a gross distortion routinely parroted by hardliners in Washington. The original statement was uttered by revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini a quarter century earlier and quoted in 2005 by then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who left office in 2013). Moreover, there is no such idiom in Farsi for “wiping off the map.” Khomeini’s statement was in a passive tense and asserted his belief that Israel should no longer be a Jewish nation state, not that the country’s inhabitants should be annihilated. Yet, during her speech, Clinton kept repeating for emphasis, “They vowed to destroy Israel. And that’s worth saying again. They vowed to destroy Israel.”

Clinton often seems oblivious to the contradictions in her views and rhetoric. For example, to challenge Iran, an authoritarian theocratic regime which backs extremist Islamist groups, she has pledged to “sustain a robust military presence in the region” and “increase security cooperation with our Gulf allies”—namely, other authoritarian theocratic regimes like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, which also back extremist Islamist groups.

She has also repeated neoconservative talking points on alleged Iranian interference in various Middle Eastern conflicts. For example, she has decried Iran’s “involvement in and influence over Iraq,” an ironic complaint for someone who voted to authorize the overthrow of the anti-Iranian secular government of Saddam Hussein despite his widely predicted replacement by pro-Iranian Shiite fundamentalist parties. As a U.S. senator, she went on record repeating a whole series of false, exaggerated, and unproven charges by Bush administration officials regarding Iranian support for the Iraqi insurgency, even though the vast majority of foreign support for the insurgency was coming from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries and that the majority of the insurgents attacking U.S. occupation forces were fanatically anti-Iranian and anti-Shiite.

She has also gone on record holding “Iran responsible for the acts of aggression carried out by Hezbollah and Hamas against Israel.” Presumably since she realizes that relations between Iran and Hamas—who are supporting opposing sides in the Syrian civil war—are actually quite limited, she has not called for specific actions regarding this alleged link. But she has pledged to make it a priority as president to cut off Iran’s ability to fund and arm Hezbollah, including calling on U.S. allies to somehow block Iranian planes from entering Syria. In addition, notwithstanding the provisions in the nuclear agreement to drop sanctions against Iran, she has called on Congress to “close any gaps” in the existing sanctions on non-nuclear issues.

When Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, her principal rival for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, suggested taking steps to eventually normalize diplomatic relations with Iran, the Clinton campaign attacked him as being irresponsible and naïve. Despite the fact that the vast majority of U.S. allies already have diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic, a campaign spokesperson insisted it would somehow “cause very real consternation among our allies and partners.”

Dictators and Democrats

Though bringing democracy to Iraq was one of the rationales Hillary Clinton gave for supporting the invasion of that country, she has not been as supportive of democratic movements struggling against American allies. During the first two weeks of protests in Tunisia against the dictatorial regime of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in December 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed her concern over the impact of the “unrest and instability” on the “very positive aspects of our relationship with Tunisia.” She insisted that the United States was “not taking sides” in the struggle between the corrupt authoritarian government and the pro-democracy demonstrators, and that she would “wait and see” before communicating directly with Ben Ali or his ministers. Nearly four weeks after the outbreak of protests, she finally acknowledged some of the grievances of the demonstrators, saying “one of my biggest concerns in this entire region are the many young people without economic opportunities in their home countries.” Rather than calling for a more democratic and accountable government in Tunisia, however, her suggestion for resolving the crisis was calling for the economies of Tunisia and other North African states “to be more open.” Ironically, Tunisia under the Ben Ali regime—more than almost any country in the region—had been following the dictates of Washington and the International Monetary Fund in instituting “structural adjustment programs” privatizing much of its economy and allowing for an unprecedented level of “free trade.”

Just two days after the interview in which she appeared to back the Ben Ali regime, as the protests escalated further, Clinton took a more proactive stance at a meeting in Qatar, where she noted that “people have grown tired of corrupt institutions and a stagnant political order” and called for “political reforms that will create the space young people are demanding, to participate in public affairs and have a meaningful role in the decisions that shape their lives.” By this point, however, Tunisians were making clear they were not interested in simply “political reforms” but the downfall of the regime, which took place the following day.

Clinton took a similarly cautious approach regarding the Egyptian uprising, which began a week and a half later on January 25. In the initial days of the protests, despite the government’s brutal crackdown, she refused to do more than encourage the regime to allow for peaceable assembly. Despite appearances to the contrary, Clinton insisted that “the country was stable” and that the Mubarak government was “looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people,” despite the failure of the regime in its nearly thirty years in power to do so. As protests continued, she issued a statement simply calling on the regime to reform from within rather than supporting the movement’s demand for the downfall of the dictatorship.

After two weeks of protests, Clinton pressed vigorously for restraint by security forces and finally called for an “orderly, peaceful transition” to a “real democracy” in Egypt, but still refused to demand that Mubarak had to step down, insisting that “it’s not a question of who retains power. That should not be the issue. It’s how are we going to respond to the legitimate needs and grievances expressed by the Egyptian people and chart a new path.” On the one hand, she recognized that whether Mubarak would remain in power “is going to be up to the Egyptian people.” On the other hand, she continued to speak in terms of reforms coming from within the regime, stating that U.S. policy was to “help clear the air so that those who remain in power, starting with President Mubarak, with his new vice president, with the new prime minister, will begin a process of reaching out, of creating a dialogue that will bring in peaceful activists and representatives of civil society to … plan a way forward that will meet the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people.” As the repression continued to worsen and demands for suspending U.S. military assistance to the regime increased, she insisted “there is no discussion of cutting off aid.” As late as February 6, when Mubarak’s fall appeared imminent, Clinton was publicly advocating a leadership role for Mubarak’s newly named vice president. That was General Omar Suleiman, the longtime head of Egypt’s feared general intelligence agency, who among other things had played a key role in the Central Intelligence Agency’s covert rendition program under which suspected terrorists were handed over to third-party governments to be interrogated and in some cases were tortured. In discussions within the Obama administration, she pushed for the idea of encouraging Mubarak to initiate a gradual transition of power, disagreeing with Obama’s eventual recognition that the U.S.-backed dictator had to step down immediately. In her book Hard Choices, a memoir of her tenure as secretary of state written three years later, Clinton noted, “I was concerned that we not be seen as pushing a longtime partner out the door.”

After Saudi Arabian forces joined those of the Bahraini monarchy in brutally repressing nonviolent pro-democracy demonstrators the following month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Clinton had emerged as one of the “leading voices inside the administration urging greater U.S. support for the Bahraini king.” In Yemen, while she eventually called for authoritarian President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down, she backed the Saudi initiative to have him replaced by his vice president, General Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, rather than support the demands of the pro-democracy movement to allow a broad coalition of opposition activists to form a transition government and prepare for democratic multiparty elections.

Clinton proved an enthusiastic supporter of regime change when it came to dictatorships opposed by the United States, however. While there has been debate regarding the appropriateness and extent of U.S. intervention in Libya and Syria, she consistently allied herself with those advocating U.S. military involvement. She pushed hard and eventually successfully for U.S. intervention in support for rebel forces in Libya, over the objections of key Obama administration officials, including the normally hawkish Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. While the Arab League had requested and the United Nations had authorized the enforcement of a no-fly zone to protect civilians from attack by the forces of dictator Muammar Gadhafi, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces—with Clinton’s encouragement—dramatically expanded their role to essentially become the air force of the rebels. Following the extra-judicial killing of Gadhafi by rebel soldiers, she joked, “We came, we saw, he died,” which some took as an effective endorsement of crimes committed by armed allies against designated enemy leaders.

During the Benghazi hearings in October 2015, when she was asked about that comment, she said it “was an expression of relief that the military mission undertaken by NATO and our other partners had achieved its end.” However, in justifying U.S. military intervention, the Obama administration initially insisted that the goal was “to protect the Libyan people from immediate danger, and to establish a no-fly zone,” not regime change or assassination, underscoring Clinton’s apparent role in dramatically expanding the mission of U.S. forces. The chaos that resulted from the seizure of power by a number of armed militia groups, including Islamist extremists, created a situation where militiamen numbered nearly a quarter million in a country of some six million people. While there appears to be little merit in the Republican accusations against Clinton in regard to her conduct regarding the killing of the U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi by Islamist extremists in September 2012, her role in helping to create the situation that gave rise to such extremists raises more serious questions.

As a U.S. senator, and well before the 2011 uprising in Syria, Clinton was a strong supporter of Republican-led efforts to punish and isolate the Bashar Al-Assad regime. She was a co-sponsor of the 2004 Syrian Accountability Act, demanding that—under threat of tough economic sanctions—Syria unilaterally disarm various weapons systems (similar to those possessed by hostile neighbors), abide by a UN Security Council resolution calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Lebanon (which had also been occupied by Israel for twenty-two years without U.S. objection), and return to peace talks with Israel (despite Israel’s categorical refusal to withdraw from the occupied Golan Heights). Her resolution also claimed that the Syrian government was responsible for the deaths of Americans in Iraq and threatened to hold Syria accountable in language that other senators feared could be used by the Bush administration for military strikes.

Not long after the initially nonviolent uprising in Syria turned into a bloody civil war with heavy foreign intervention, the New York Times reported that Clinton pushed hard for the Obama administration to become directly involved militarily in support for Syrian rebels. Irritated that NATO had gone well beyond its mandate in Libya, Russia and China blocked UN action on Syria. Obama eventually agreed with Clinton to begin training and arming some rebels, but despite the half billion dollars invested in the project, only a few dozen rebels made it into the field and they were quickly overrun by rival Islamist rebels of the Al-Nusra Front. Clinton has subsequently insisted that the disorganized and factious nature of the armed secular Syrian opposition notwithstanding, the failure to topple the Syrian regime or contain the rise of Islamist extremists was that the United States did not arm the rebels earlier and more heavily. Indeed, she has essentially blamed Obama for the dramatic rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, saying his failure “to help build up a credible fighting force … left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.” She has also expressed disappointment that the Obama administration backed down from its threats in 2013 to bomb Syria following the Al-Assad regime’s launch of a deadly sarin gas attack on residential areas near Damascus, even after the government agreed to disarm its chemical weapons.

“Friend” of Israel

During and after her term as a U.S. senator, Hillary Clinton has developed a reputation as one of the most rightwing Democrats on the Israel-Palestine conflict. She has repeatedly sided with Likud-led governments against Israeli progressives and moderates. She has not only condemned Hamas and other Palestinian extremists, but has been critical of the Palestinian Authority (PA) as well. That has bolstered the Israeli right’s contention that there are no moderate Palestinians with which to negotiate.

As a U.S. senator, Clinton defended Israel’s colonization efforts in the occupied West Bank and was highly critical of UN efforts to uphold international humanitarian law that forbids transferring civilian populations into territories under foreign belligerent occupation, taking the time to visit a major Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank in a show of support in 2005. She moderated that stance somewhat as secretary of state in expressing concerns over how the rightwing Israeli government’s settlement policies harmed the overall climate of the peace process, but she has refused to acknowledge the illegality of the settlements or demand that Israel abide by international demands to stop building additional settlements. Subsequently, she has argued that the Obama administration pushed too hard in the early years of the administration to get Israel to suspend settlement construction. In 2011, Clinton successfully argued for a U.S. veto of a UN Security Council resolution reiterating the illegality of the settlements and calling for a construction freeze. On this issue, that fit a pattern of Clinton’s disregard for the UN Security Council, which was established precisely to be a vehicle for enforcing international law such as in matters of belligerent foreign occupation. “We have consistently over many years said that the United Nations Security Council—and resolutions that would come before the Security Council—is not the right vehicle to advance the goal,” Clinton has said.

The favoritism toward Israel is all the more glaring given America’s failure or unwillingness to stop Israel’s colonization on its own. When the government of Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reneged on an earlier promise of a temporary and limited freeze and announced massive subsidies for the construction of new settlements on the eve of Clinton’s 2011 visit to Israel, she spoke only of the need for peace talks to resume. She equated the PA’s pursuit of its legal right to have Palestine statehood recognized by the United Nations with Israel’s illegal settlements policy as factors undermining the peace process.

While rejecting Palestinian demands that Israel live up to its previous commitments to freeze settlements on the grounds there should be no pre-conditions to talks, Clinton has at times demanded pre-conditions for Arab participation. For example, in response to President Bush’s invitation for Arab states to attend the Annapolis peace conference in 2007, then-Senator Clinton went on record insisting that Arab states wishing to attend should unilaterally “recognize Israel’s right to exist and not use such recognition as a bargaining chip for future Israel concessions” and “end the Arab League economic boycott of Israel in all its forms.” The letter made no mention of the establishment of a Palestinian state, an end to the Israeli occupation, the withdrawal of illegal Israeli settlements, or any other Israeli obligations. As James Zogby of the Arab American Institute put it at the time, “if the goal is for Arab states not to participate in the upcoming conference, this would be the way to go.” The Bush administration rejected her demands for such pre-conditions.

Another example of Clinton’s double standards has been in her pledge as a presidential candidate to increase U.S. military aid and diplomatic support for Israel’s rightwing government. This is a government that includes ministers from far right parties who support violent settler militia that have repeatedly attacked Palestinian civilians, oppose recognition of a Palestinian state, and reject the Oslo Accords and subsequent agreements by the Israeli government. However, Clinton insists, “We will not deal with nor in any way fund a Palestinian government that includes Hamas unless and until Hamas has renounced violence, recognized Israel, and agreed to follow the previous obligations of the Palestinian Authority.”

More recently, Clinton has been making a series of excuses as to why Israel cannot make peace despite the Palestine Authority’s acquiescence to virtually all the demands of the Obama administration. For example, the Washington Post noted how she “appeared to blame the collapse of direct Israel-Palestinian talks on the wave of Mideast revolutions and unrest during the 2011 Arab Spring, although talks had broken off the previous year.” Clinton has also said that Israelis cannot be expected to make peace until they “know what happens in Syria and whether Jordan will remain stable,” which most observers recognize will take a very long time; that line of thinking enables Israel to further colonize the West Bank to the point where the establishment of a viable Palestinian state is impossible. What kind of peace settlement she envisions has not been made clear, but she did endorse then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s 2004 “Convergence Plan,” which would have allowed Israel to annex large areas of Palestinian territory conquered by Israeli forces in the 1967 war, despite the longstanding principle in international law against any country expanding its territory by force and the fact that the plan divides any future Palestinian state into a series of small, non-contiguous cantons surrounded by Israel.

As a U.S. senator, Clinton co-sponsored a resolution which, had it passed, would have established a precedent by referring to the West Bank not as an occupied territory but as a “disputed” territory. This distinction is important for two reasons. The word “disputed” implies that the claims of the West Bank’s Israeli conquerors are as legitimate as the claims of Palestinians who have lived on that land for centuries. And disputed territories—unlike occupied territories—are not covered by the Fourth Geneva Convention and many other international legal statutes. As a lawyer, Clinton must have recognized that such wording had the effect of legitimizing the expansion of a country’s territory by force, a clear violation of the UN Charter.

Clinton has challenged the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In 2004, the world court ruled by a 14-1 vote (with only the U.S. judge dissenting, largely on a technicality) that Israel, like every country, is obliged to abide by provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the Laws of War, and that the international community—as in any other case in which ongoing violations are taking place—is obliged to ensure that international humanitarian law is enforced. At issue was the Israeli government’s ongoing construction of a separation barrier deep inside the occupied Palestinian West Bank, which the World Court recognized—as does the broad consensus of international legal scholarship—as a violation of international humanitarian law. The ICJ ruled that Israel, like any country, had the right to build the barrier along its internationally recognized border for self-defense, but did not have the right to build it inside another country as a means of effectively annexing Palestinian land. In an unprecedented congressional action, Senator Clinton immediately introduced a resolution to put the U.S. Senate on record “supporting the construction by Israel of a security fence” and “condemning the decision of the International Court of Justice on the legality of the security fence.” In an effort to render the UN impotent in its enforcement of international law, her resolution (which the Republican-controlled Senate failed to pass as being too extreme) attempted to put the Senate on record “urging no further action by the United Nations to delay or prevent the construction of the security fence.”

Clinton’s claim that “it makes no sense for the United Nations to vehemently oppose a fence which is a nonviolent response to terrorism rather than opposing terrorism itself” was false in that the UN and the world court were only objecting to the barrier being built beyond Israel’s borders. Indeed, in her resolution and elsewhere, she appeared to be deliberately misrepresenting the ICJ’s published opinion, claiming that opposition to the plan of building a barrier in a serpentine fashion deep inside the West Bank as part of an effort to effectively annex large swathes of the occupied territory into Israel was denying Israel its right to self-defense and therefore was proof of an “anti-Israel” bias. In a series of statements and in her resolution, she made no distinction between Israel’s legal right to defend its borders, which the world court upheld, and the land grab to which the court objected.

Clinton has also been an outspoken defender of Israeli military actions, even when the United Nations and reputable international and Israeli human rights groups have documented violations of international humanitarian law. While appropriately condemning terrorism and other attacks on civilian targets by Hamas, Hezbollah, and other extremist groups, she has consistently rejected evidence that Israel has committed war crimes on an even greater scale. For example, since becoming a U.S. senator in early 2001, she has publicly condemned the vast majority of the 135 killings of Israeli children, but not once has she criticized any of the more than 2,000 deaths of Palestinian children.

In the face of widespread criticism by reputable human rights organizations over Israel’s systematic assaults against civilian targets in its April 2002 offensive in the West Bank, Senator Clinton co-sponsored a resolution defending the Israeli actions that claimed they were “necessary steps to provide security to its people by dismantling the terrorist infrastructure in the Palestinian areas.” She opposed UN efforts to investigate alleged war crimes by Israeli occupation forces and criticized President Bush for calling on Israel to pull back from its violent reconquest of Palestinian cities in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

She has vigorously defended Israel’s wars on Gaza. As secretary of state, she took the lead in attempting to block any action by the United Nations in response to a 2009 report by the UN Human Rights Council—headed by the distinguished South African jurist Richard Goldstone (a Zionist Jew)—which documented war crimes by both Israel and Hamas. She claims that the report denied Israel’s right to self-defense, when it in fact explicitly recognized Israel’s right to do so. Since the report’s only objections to Israeli conduct were in regard to attacks on civilian targets, not its military actions against extremist militias lobbing rockets into Israel, it appears that either she was deliberately misrepresenting the report, never bothered to read it before attacking it, or believes killing civilians can constitute legitimate self-defense.

When Israeli forces attacked a UN school housing refugees in the Gaza Strip in July of 2014, killing dozens of civilians, the Obama administration issued a statement saying it was “appalled” by the “disgraceful” shelling. By contrast, Clinton—when pressed about it in her interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic—refused to criticize the massacre, saying that “it’s impossible to know what happens in the fog of war.” Though investigators found no evidence of Hamas equipment or military activity anywhere near the school, Clinton falsely alleged that they were firing rockets from an annex to the school. In any case, she argued, when Palestinian civilians die from Israeli attacks, “the ultimate responsibility has to rest on Hamas and the decisions it made.”

Clinton’s defense of Israeli war crimes is not restricted to Palestinian-populated areas, but includes those that take place in countries with historically close relations with the United States. During the thirty-four-day conflict between Israeli and Hezbollah forces in 2006, which resulted in the deaths of more than eight hundred Lebanese civilians, she responded to the widespread international criticism of the Israeli attacks on civilian infrastructure and the high civilian casualties by co-sponsoring a resolution unconditionally endorsing Israel’s war on Lebanon. Failing to distinguish between Israel’s right to self-defense and the large-scale bombing of civilian targets far from any Hezbollah military activity, Clinton asked, “If extremist terrorists were launching rocket attacks across the Mexican or Canadian border, would we stand by or would we defend America against these attacks from extremists?” During and after the fighting, Clinton failed to recognize that most critics of the Israeli actions never questioned Israel’s right to self-defense against Hezbollah, but—in the words of a Human Rights Watch report—the “systematic failure by the IDF to distinguish between combatants and civilians” and the way in which “Israeli forces have consistently launched artillery and air attacks with limited or dubious military gain but excessive civilian cost.” The report, echoing a similar report by Amnesty International and other human rights groups, noted how “in dozens of attacks, Israeli forces struck an area with no apparent military target. In some cases, the timing and intensity of the attack, the absence of a military target, as well as return strikes on rescuers, suggest that Israeli forces deliberately targeted civilians.” While tens of thousands of Israelis protested the Lebanon war—which the Israeli government later acknowledged was unnecessary and harmful for Israel—Clinton emerged as one of its biggest cheerleaders. While diplomats at the United Nations were desperately working to end the fighting, Clinton spoke at a rally by rightwing groups outside the UN headquarters in New York City where she praised Israel’s efforts to “send a message to Hamas, Hezbollah, to the Syrians, [and] to the Iranians,” because, in her words, they oppose the United States and Israel’s commitment to “life and freedom.”

Clinton has opposed humanitarian efforts supportive of the Palestinians, criticizing a flotilla scheduled to bring relief supplies to the besieged Gaza Strip in 2011, claiming it would “provoke actions by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves.” Not only did she fail to explain how ships with no weapons or weapons components on board (the only cargo on the U.S. ship were letters of solidarity to the Palestinians in that besieged enclave), she also failed to explain why she considered the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of the port of Gaza to be “Israeli waters” when the entire international community recognizes Israeli territorial waters as being well to the northeast of the ships’ intended route. Clinton’s State Department issued a public statement designed to discourage Americans from taking part in the flotilla to Gaza because they might be attacked by Israeli forces, yet it never issued a public statement demanding that Israel not attack Americans legally traveling in international waters. The flotilla never went forward, however, after she successfully convinced the Greek government to deny the organizers the right to sail from Greek ports.

A focus of Clinton has been her insistence that the PA was responsible for publishing textbooks promoting “anti-Semitism,” “violence,” and “dehumanizing rhetoric.” The only source she has cited to uphold these charges, however, has been a rightwing Israeli group that calls itself the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP). The group, whose board includes Daniel Pipes and other prominent American neoconservatives, was founded to undermine the peace process following the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. CMIP’s claims have long since been refuted, for example in a detailed report released in March 2003 by the Jerusalem-based Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. The center reviewed Palestinian textbooks and tolerance education programs, and concluded that while the textbooks do not openly or adequately reflect the multiethnic, multicultural, and multireligious history of the region, “the overall orientation of the curriculum is peaceful.” The report said the Palestinian textbooks “do not openly incite against Israel and the Jews and do not openly incite hatred and violence.” The report goes on to observe how religious and political tolerance is emphasized in the textbooks. Similar conclusions have been reached in published reports by the Adam Institute, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, and Nathan Brown, a political science professor at George Washington University and senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. (The books Clinton cited were apparently old Egyptian and Jordanian texts found on some library shelves; they were not currently being used as textbooks nor were they supported by the PA.) Yet Clinton has continued to make these charges, emphasizing that the PA’s “incitement,” which she insists is creating a “new generation of terrorists,” more than Israel’s occupation, repression, and settlements, is the driver of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Here, as in forming her support for the Iraq war, Clinton often seems to rely more on rightwing advocacy groups than she does scholarly research.

The Moroccan Connection

Israel is not the only occupying power in the region supported by Clinton. She has been a strong backer of Morocco’s ongoing occupation of Western Sahara, working with the autocratic Moroccan kingdom to block the long-scheduled referendum on self-determination that would almost certainly lead to a vote for independence. As a recognized self-governing territory (a colony), international law requires that the Sahrawis be given the option of independence, along with other alternatives. Clinton instead has called for international acceptance of Morocco’s dubious “autonomy” plan and for “mediation” between the monarchy and the exiled nationalist Polisario Front, a process that would not offer the people of the territory a say in their future.

Rather than joining Amnesty International and other human rights groups in condemning the increase in the already-severe repression in the Western Sahara, Clinton—in a visit to Morocco in November 2009—instead chose to offer unconditional praise for the Moroccan government’s human rights record. Just days before her arrival, Moroccan authorities arrested seven nonviolent activists from Western Sahara on trumped-up charges of high treason, whom Amnesty International had declared as prisoners of conscience and demanded their unconditional release. Clinton decided to ignore the plight of these and other political prisoners held in Moroccan jails. Not long after Clinton praised the monarchy’s human rights record, the regime illegally expelled Aminatou Haidar, known as the Saharan Gandhi, for her leadership in the nonviolent resistance struggle in Western Sahara. Haidar—a winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and other honors for her nonviolent activism—spent years in Moroccan prisons, where she was repeatedly tortured. She went on a month-long hunger strike that almost killed her before Morocco relented to international pressure and allowed her to return to her country.

The Office Chérifien des Phosphates (OCP), a Moroccan government-owned mining company that controls one of the world’s largest phosphate mines in the occupied Western Sahara, was the primary donor to the Clinton Global Initiative conference in Marrakech in May 2015. Exploitation of nonrenewable resources in non-self-governing territories, such as the OCP mining operations, is normally recognized as a violation of international law. This and other support provided to the Clinton Foundation by OCP—now totaling as much as $5 million—has raised some eyebrows, given Hillary Clinton’s efforts as secretary of state to push the Obama administration to take a more pro-Moroccan position. Since leaving office, she has continued her outspoken support for the monarchy. When she announced the Marrakech meeting in the fall of 2014, she praised Morocco as a “vital hub for economic and cultural exchange,” thanking the regime “for welcoming us and for its hospitality.”

President Hillary Clinton?

Increasing numbers of Americans, particularly those who identify with the Democratic Party, are taking a critical view of the militaristic aspects of U.S. policies in the Middle East. It would therefore be somewhat ironic that at a time when polls indicate that a majority of Democrats are increasingly critical of U.S. military intervention in the Middle East and of U.S. support for dictatorial regimes and occupation armies, the party would nominate a candidate who comes from the more hawkish wing of the party. Moreover, should she win the Democratic nomination for president, her Republican opponent in the November election will likely be advocating an even more hawkish policy in the Middle East. In such a scenario, regardless of who becomes president, Americans may end up providing their next president with a mandate for a more militaristic and interventionist policy for a region in the throes of historic upheaval

On Hillary Clinton, Sexism, and U.S. Foreign Policy

After the strong early primary showings by Senator Bernie Sanders, a few high-profile supporters of his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton have seized upon an explanation: sexism — and not only by men. Sanders’ high level of support from young women in particular, they say, reflects the naiveté of younger self-identified feminists.

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem, for example, claimed that younger women backing Sanders simply wanted the attention of young men on the Sanders campaign: “When you’re young, you’re thinking, where are the boys?” Steinem said. “The boys are with Bernie.”

Huffington Post blogger Kathleen Reardon, for her part, claims that young women prefer Sanders because they’re at a phase in their careers where “when mentors aren’t hard to find, colleagues (including men) are often helpful, and the world seems like a place where hard work will surely enable them to grasp the brass ring.” They won’t recognize the severity of institutionalized sexism, Reardon suggests, until they’re no longer “cute and little.”

Amy Chozik and Yamiche Alcindor piled on in the New York Times, insisting that younger women just don’t “get” sexism like older women. They only support Sanders, the authors seem to say, because they’re not engaged enough.

At worst, these critics accuse their younger counterparts of betrayal. There’s a “special place in hell,” former secretary of state Madeline Albright warned, for women who don’t back the leading female presidential contender.

While Hillary Clinton has overcome a great deal of sexism in her professional life, disingenuous charges like these ignore the many ways in which her positions on key issues — particularly regarding foreign policy — have been deleterious for women.

Dana Bolger, an editor for Feministing, counters that for many young women who support Sanders, “their rejection of Clinton is informed and deeply political. Many of them have suffered violence, discrimination, and rampant unemployment. They have drawn upon their feminist commitments, alongside their lived experience, to evaluate and reject Clinton’s hawkish foreign policy, her expansion of drone warfare, gutting of welfare, (continuing) defense of a burgeoning surveillance state, and more — all of which have hurt women in the U.S. and abroad.”

There’s growing pushback from young feminist supporters of Bernie Sanders against the condescending criticism of older Clinton supporters, noting that they’re indeed quite aware of institutionalized sexism, but prefer to choose candidates based on the issues. They’ve seen friends and family members killed, maimed, and psychologically damaged by being sent to fight in an illegal and unnecessary war in Iraq, which Hillary Clinton enthusiastically supported. They see how the enormous financial costs of that war and its aftermath have taken money away from education, jobs, and other programs that impact women. And they’re attracted to Sanders’ desire to help build a more just and equitable economic system.

The generational divide is borne out in the early voting results. Sanders won a solid majority of women who voted in the New Hampshire Democratic primary. Exit polls showed 69 percent of women under 45 backed Sanders — a figure that rose to 82 percent of those under 30 — while Clinton won the votes of 56 percent of women 45 and older.

All of which raises two important questions: Why do older women prefer Clinton? And what’s the appropriate response for feminist critics of her foreign policy?

Why Support Hillary?

It may be disappointing to see some politically left-leaning women offering their support to Clinton, despite her militaristic foreign policy positions and pro-corporate economic agenda. But many of us who share that view — perhaps especially those of us who are men — underestimate the powerful allure of electing a female president in a pervasively sexist society.

Clinton has personally endured an endless slew of gendered attacks — from demeaning depictions in political cartoons to questions regarding her temperament to commentaries about her hair, clothes, voice, marriage, and whatever else — along with pseudo-scandals over Benghazi and her emails. These sexist attacks have put millions of women on the defensive, even those who would otherwise not be prone to support her based upon her policy positions. There’s an understandable fear that if Clinton is again denied the nomination, in part as a result of sexism, it would discourage other women from running for president any time in the near future.

That would be a major setback in the struggle for women’s rights indeed. But that doesn’t change the fact that several things about Clinton’s record would make her an unusual standard bearer for that cause.

Historically, it’s uncommon for women voters — who statistically tend to be more dovish on foreign policy matters than men — to support the most hawkish candidate in the Democratic primaries. Indeed, Clinton is the only one of the six original and two remaining Democratic candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination to have supported the invasion of Iraq.

Still, some female Clinton supporters may hold on to the belief that she’s more progressive than she’s letting on — and that she simply has to appear tough on foreign policy to overcome sexist attitudes about having a female commander-in-chief in a time of war. This belief may be naïve, but anecdotal evidence suggests it’s widely held among liberal and progressive Democrats of all demographics — and particularly among women middle-aged and older.

All that’s to say, a major reason for the strong support Clinton enjoys among older progressive women may simply be a reaction to the omnipresent sexism in American society. Indeed, older women have likely experienced more institutionalized sexism in the workplace and elsewhere than their younger counterparts. To the extent that their support for Clinton is based on identity politics, that’s no big surprise in a nation that’s had nothing but male leaders at the helm for its entire 240-year history.

Women and War

But the subject is murkier when it comes to examining the actual impacts Clinton’s policies have had on women — an impact that’s arguably felt more deeply abroad than in the United States.

Feminists with an interest in foreign policy are divided on the prospects of a Hillary Clinton presidency. Many rightly applaud her advocacy for global feminist concerns, like education and reproductive health, as secretary of state. The question is: Do these issues make up for her more problematic foreign policy positions — particularly as compared to the more progressive foreign policy agenda of Senator Bernie Sanders?

For example, the Iraq War, made possible in part through Clinton’s vote to authorize the invasion, has been a disaster for Iraqi women. The secular regime overthrown by U.S. forces was replaced by Islamist fundamentalists, and the ensuing sectarian civil war has produced horrific cases of sexual violence — including not least the enslavement of women by extremist groups like the Islamic State. Clinton also backed Israel’s massive 2006 assault on Lebanon, as well as the 2009 and 2014 wars on the Gaza Strip, which killed many hundreds of female non-combatants.

Given that modern warfare results in far more civilian than military casualties, women are often its primary victims. Despite Clinton’s strong record of supporting women’s rights in the United States and in certain overseas programs, her militaristic disposition has arguably made life worse for millions of women outside of her constituency.

Bad Company

It’s not even just the wars: As secretary of state, Clinton spearheaded the U.S. embrace of a number of deeply problematic regimes abroad.

For example, she supported the 2009 coup in Honduras, which resulted in a dramatic upsurge in violence against women, with prominent female peasant leaders, union organizers, and indigenous rights advocates among the victims. She’s called for closer strategic ties with Saudi Arabia, the most misogynist government on the planet. She supported Bahrain’s brutal crackdown on its pro-democracy movement, including prominent women leaders. And Yemeni human rights activist Tawakkol Karman, who was awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for her leadership in the country’s pro-democracy movement, has spoken out against then-Secretary Clinton’s lack of support in the struggle against the U.S.-backed autocratic regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh.

A particularly egregious case of Hillary Clinton’s selective support for the rights of women is her strong support for the autocratic monarchy in Morocco.

For example, in 2012 — during the height of a local campaign to repeal an article of the Moroccan penal code that absolves a male rapist if he consents to marry his victim — Clinton praised the Moroccan government for having “protected and expanded” women’s rights. Just weeks after Clinton commended the regime, Amina Filali — a 16-year old Moroccan girl who’d been raped at the age of 15 and forced to marry her rapist, who subsequently battered and abused her — burned herself to death.

Similarly, it was not long after a previous visit to Morocco, where she also praised the autocratic monarchy’s human rights record, that the regime illegally expelled Aminatou Haidar — known to some as the “Saharan Gandhi” — for her leadership in the nonviolent resistance struggle against the illegal Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara.

Haidar — a winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award who’d previously spent years being tortured in Moroccan prisons — went on a month-long hunger strike, which almost killed her, before Morocco relented to international pressure and allowed her to return. Amnesty International has accused the Moroccan government of systematically engaging in sexual torture and other abuse against female Saharawi political prisoners in the occupied territory.

Global Feminism in an Imperialist Context

It’s no secret that patriarchal men have inflicted enormous damage on the world. But a quick look at a few of the more prominent women who’ve taken leadership roles in U.S. foreign affairs — Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Madeleine Albright, and Condoleezza Rice, for instance — suggests that women can also be forceful advocates for U.S. imperialism. And, as Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain demonstrated, electing a female head of government doesn’t guarantee a more compassionate foreign policy either.

Clinton supporters counter that Thatcher — unlike Clinton — never had much support from feminists in her country, and didn’t have a history of supporting women’s rights in general. Since Clinton has such a stronger base among women and a more robust record in support of women’s rights domestically, they say, there’s reason for hope. But it’s hard to imagine how Clinton would find a way to pay for many programs to help women at home or abroad, given how much she wants to increase military spending and expand U.S. hegemony.

In fact, given Clinton’s history of backing neoliberal economic policies and war-making by the United States and its allies, her advocacy of women’s rights overseas — within what is widely seen outside this country as an imperialist context — could actually set back indigenous feminist movements, just as U.S. support for dictatorial regimes in the Middle East gave little credibility to President George W. Bush’s pro-democracy rhetoric.

For instance, would a President Hillary Clinton’s call for greater respect for women’s rights in the Arab world have much credibility while U.S.-manufactured ordnance is blowing up women in Lebanon, Gaza, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Iraq? The question is especially salient given Clinton’s refusal to accept moral responsibility for the humanitarian, fiscal, and strategic disaster that resulted from her support for the Bush administration’s 2003 invasion of Iraq — an ongoing stumbling block I examined in a recent column, “The Five Lamest Excuses for Hillary Clinton’s Vote to Invade Iraq.”

Challenging Sexism and Imperialism

I’ve long considered myself a feminist: One of my earliest presidential campaigns was in 1972 on behalf of New York Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, who was — quite unlike Clinton — the most progressive Democrat in the race for the nomination that year.

But I also understand that it’s difficult for me, as someone who identifies as both feminist and male, to criticize the feminist credentials of a candidate who could very well become the first woman to lead our country. Indeed, as a result of my personal opposition to Clinton’s candidacy — particularly her militaristic foreign policy agenda — I’ve been repeatedly accused of being sexist.

I want to emphasize that my disagreements with Clinton are purely over policy. And I condemn outright the sexist attacks lobbed at her from the left as well as the right. But it’s important to understand where this critique comes from.

As a result of the vehemence of the anger and distrust many of us direct at Hillary Clinton — for her support for the Iraq war, her support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and numerous Arab dictators, her poor record on human rights, and her indifference to international humanitarian law, among other issues — it can be easy for male critics especially to forget just how serious the misogynist attacks against Clinton have been. For millions of women, it must look all too familiar to the sexist mistreatment they’ve experienced personally. Like the fear of walking alone at night and the constant harassment of catcalls, there are certain fears and experiences about being a woman in a sexist society that I’ll never be able to appreciate fully.

Indeed, I’ve begun to recognize that I sometimes “forget” that Hillary Clinton is a woman as well as a policymaker. That’s not a sign of a lack of sexism on my part: It’s a lack of awareness that contributes to the climate of sexism that’s permeated the campaign.

This doesn’t mean that antiwar voters shouldn’t criticize Clinton. It means we need to recognize that not all Clinton supporters — particularly those motivated by a reaction to right-wing sexism — embrace her militaristic foreign policy agenda.

These supporters don’t need to hear lectures on Clinton’s feminist credentials, especially not from men. But if we want to dispel the denial of just how far to the right Clinton’s international agenda is, those of us on the left need to acknowledge how serious a problem sexism remains in American society — and how it’s manifesting itself in the personal attacks against Hillary Clinton. We must listen, listen, and listen some more to women who raise these concerns, and challenge such sexism whenever and wherever we come across it.

And we must remember that the issues that face us today — from sexism to imperialism — are much greater than anything that can be resolved by electing a new president alone.

The Five Lamest Excuses for Hillary Clinton’s Vote to Invade Iraq

Former senator and secretary of state Hillary Clinton is the only candidate for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination who supported the invasion of Iraq.

That war not only resulted in 4,500 American soldiers being killed and thousands more permanently disabled, but also hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, the destabilization of the region with the rise of the Islamic State and other extremists, and a dramatic increase in the federal deficit, resulting in major cutbacks to important social programs. Moreover, the primary reasons Clinton gave for supporting President George W. Bush’s request for authorizing that illegal and unnecessary war have long been proven false.

As a result, many Democratic voters are questioning — despite her years of foreign policy experience — whether Clinton has the judgment and integrity to lead the United States on the world stage. It was just such concerns that resulted in her losing the 2008 nomination to then-Senator Barack Obama, an outspoken Iraq War opponent.

This time around, Clinton supporters have been hoping that enough Democratic voters — the overwhelming majority of whom opposed the war — will forget about her strong endorsement of the Bush administration’s most disastrous foreign policy. Failing that, they’ve come up with a number of excuses to justify her October 2002 vote for the authorization of military force.

Here they are, in no particular order.

“Hillary Clinton’s vote wasn’t for war, but simply to pressure Saddam Hussein to allow UN weapons inspectors back into Iraq.”

At the time of vote, Saddam Hussein had already agreed in principle to a return of the weapons inspectors. His government was negotiating with the United Nations Monitoring and Verification Commission on the details, which were formally institutionalized a few weeks later. (Indeed, it would have been resolved earlier had the United States not repeatedly postponed a UN Security Council resolution in the hopes of inserting language that would have allowed Washington to unilaterally interpret the level of compliance.)

Furthermore, if then-Senator Clinton’s desire was simply to push Saddam into complying with the inspection process, she wouldn’t have voted against the substitute Levin amendment, which would have also granted President Bush authority to use force, but only if Iraq defied subsequent UN demands regarding the inspections process. Instead, Clinton voted for a Republican-sponsored resolution to give Bush the authority to invade Iraq at the time and circumstances of his own choosing.

In fact, unfettered large-scale weapons inspections had been going on in Iraq for nearly four months at the time the Bush administration launched the March 2003 invasion. Despite the UN weapons inspectors having not found any evidence of WMDs or active WMD programs after months of searching, Clinton made clear that the United States should invade Iraq anyway. Indeed, she asserted that even though Saddam was in full compliance with the UN Security Council, he nevertheless needed to resign as president, leave the country, and allow U.S. troops to occupy the country. “The president gave Saddam Hussein one last chance to avoid war,” Clinton said in a statement, “and the world hopes that Saddam Hussein will finally hear this ultimatum, understand the severity of those words, and act accordingly.”

When Saddam refused to resign and the Bush administration launched the invasion, Clinton went on record calling for “unequivocal support” for Bush’s “firm leadership and decisive action” as “part of the ongoing Global War on Terrorism.” She insisted that Iraq was somehow still “in material breach of the relevant United Nations resolutions” and, despite the fact that weapons inspectors had produced evidence to the contrary, claimed the invasion was necessary to “neutralize Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.”

“Nearly everyone in Congress supported the invasion of Iraq, including most Democrats.”

While all but one congressional Democrat — Representative Barbara Lee of California — supported the authorization of force to fight al-Qaeda in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, a sizable majority of Democrats in Congress voted against the authorization to invade Iraq the following year.

There were 21 Senate Democrats — along with one Republican, Lincoln Chafee, and one independent, Jim Jeffords — who voted against the war resolution, while 126 of 209 House Democrats also voted against it. Bernie Sanders, then an independent House member who caucused with the Democrats, voted with the opposition. At the time, Sanders gave a floor speech disputing the administration’s claims about Saddam’s arsenal. He not only cautioned that both American and Iraqi casualties could rise unacceptably high, but also warned “about the precedent that a unilateral invasion of Iraq could establish in terms of international law and the role of the United Nations.”

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, stood among the right-wing minority of Democrats in Washington.

The Democrats controlled the Senate at the time of the war authorization. Had they closed ranks and voted in opposition, the Bush administration would have been unable to launch the tragic invasion — at least not legally. Instead, Clinton and other pro-war Democrats chose to cross the aisle to side with the Republicans.

“Her vote was simply a mistake.”

While few Clinton supporters are still willing to argue her support for the war was a good thing, many try to minimize its significance by referring to it as simply a “mistake.” But while it may have been a terrible decision, it was neither an accident nor an aberration from Clinton’s generally hawkish worldview.

It would have been a “mistake” if Hillary Clinton had pushed the “aye” button when she meant to push the “nay” button. In fact, her decision — by her own admission — was quite conscious.

The October 2002 war resolution on Iraq wasn’t like the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin resolution authorizing military force in Vietnam, which was quickly passed as an emergency request by President Lyndon Johnson when there was no time for reflection and debate. By contrast, at the time of the Iraq War authorization, there had been months of public debate on the matter. Clinton had plenty of time to investigate the administration’s claims that Iraq was a threat, as well as to consider the likely consequences of a U.S. invasion.

Also unlike the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which was disingenuously presented as an authorization to retaliate for an alleged attack on U.S. ships, members of Congress recognized that the Iraq resolution authorized a full-scale invasion of a sovereign nation and a subsequent military occupation. Clinton had met with scores of constituents, arms control analysts, and Middle East scholars who informed her that the war was unnecessary, illegal, and would likely end in disaster.

But she decided to support going to war anyway. She even rejected the advice of fellow Democratic senator Bob Graham that she read the full National Intelligence Estimate, which would have further challenged some of the Bush administration’s claims justifying the war.

It was not, therefore, simply a “mistake,” or a momentary lapse of judgment. Indeed, in her own words, she cast her vote “with conviction.”

As late as February 2007, Clinton herself refused to admit that her vote for the war resolution was a mistake. “If the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast that vote or has said his vote was a mistake,” she said while campaigning for president, “then there are others to choose from.” She only began to acknowledge her regrets when she saw the polling numbers showing that a sizable majority of Democrats opposed the decision to go to war.

“She voted for the war because she felt it was politically necessary.”

First of all, voting for a devastating war in order to advance one’s political career isn’t a particularly strong rationale for why one shouldn’t share responsibility for the consequences — especially when that calculation proved disastrously wrong. Clinton’s vote to authorize the invasion was the single most important factor in convincing former supporters to back Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary, thereby costing her the nomination.

Nevertheless, it still raises questions regarding Hillary Clinton’s competence to become president.

To have believed that supporting the invasion would somehow be seen as a good thing would have meant that Clinton believed that the broad consensus of Middle East scholars who warned of a costly counterinsurgency war were wrong — and that the Bush administration’s insistence that U.S. occupation forces would be “treated as liberators” was credible.

After all, for the war to have been popular, there would have had to be few American casualties, and the administration’s claims about WMDs and Iraq’s ties to al-Qaeda would have had to be vindicated. Moreover, some sort of stable pro-Western democracy would have emerged in Iraq, and the invasion would have contributed to greater stability and democracy in the region.

If Clinton believed any of those things were possible, she wasn’t paying attention. Among the scores of reputable Middle East scholars with whom I discussed the prospects of a U.S. invasion in the months leading up to the vote, none of them believed that any of these things would come to pass. They were right.

Nor was pressure likely coming from Clinton’s own constituents. Only a minority of Democrats nationwide supported the invasion, and given that New York Democrats are more liberal than the national average, opposition was possibly even stronger in the state she purported to represent. Additionally, a majority of Americans polled said they would oppose going to war if Saddam allowed for “full and complete” weapons inspectors, which he in fact did.

Finally, the idea that Clinton felt obliged to support the war as a woman in order not to appear “weak” also appears groundless. Indeed, every female senator who voted against the war authorization was easily re-elected.

“She thought Iraq had ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and was supporting Al-Qaeda.”

This is excuse is problematic on a number levels.

Before the vote, UN inspectors, independent strategic analysts, and reputable arms control journals all challenged the Bush administration’s claims that Iraq had somehow rebuilt its chemical and biological weapons programs, had a nuclear weapons program, or was supporting al-Qaeda terrorists.

Virtually all of Iraq’s known stockpiles of chemical and biological agents had been accounted for, and the shelf life of the small amount of materiel that hadn’t been accounted for had long since expired. (Some discarded canisters from the 1980s were eventually found, but these weren’t operational.) There was no evidence that Iraq had any delivery systems for such weapons either, or could build them without being detected. In addition, a strict embargo against imports of any additional materials needed for the manufacture of WMDs — which had been in effect since 1990 — made any claims that Iraq had offensive capability transparently false to anyone who cared to investigate the matter at that time.

Most of the alleged intelligence data made available to Congress prior to the war authorization vote has since been declassified. Most strategic analysts have found it transparently weak, based primarily on hearsay by Iraqi exiles of dubious credibility and conjecture by ideologically driven Bush administration officials.

Similarly, a detailed 1998 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency indicated that Iraq’s nuclear program appeared to have been completely dismantled by the mid-1990s, and a 2002 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate made no mention of any reconstituted nuclear development effort. So it’s doubtful Clinton actually had reason to believe her own claims that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program.

Additionally, there was no credible evidence whatsoever that the secular Baathist Iraqi regime had any ties to the hardline Islamist group al-Qaeda, yet Clinton distinguished herself as the only Senate Democrat to make such a claim. Indeed, a definitive report by the Department of Defense noted that not only did no such link exist, but that none could have even been reasonably suggested based on the evidence available at that time.

Moreover, even if Iraq really did have “weapons of mass destruction,” the war would have still been illegal, unnecessary, and catastrophic.

Roughly 30 countries (including the United States) have chemical, biological, or nuclear programs with weapons potential. The mere possession of these programs is not legitimate grounds for invasion, unless one is authorized by the United Nations Security Council — which the invasion of Iraq, pointedly, was not. If Clinton really thought Iraq’s alleged possession of those weapons justified her support for invading the country, then she was effectively saying the United States somehow has the right to invade dozens of other countries as well.

Similarly, even if Iraq had been one of those 30 countries — and remember, it was not — the threat of massive retaliation by Iraq’s neighbors and U.S. forces permanently stationed in the region provided a more than sufficient deterrent to Iraq using the weapons beyond its borders. A costly invasion and extended occupation were completely unnecessary.

Finally, the subsequent war and the rise of sectarianism, terrorism, Islamist extremism, and the other negative consequences of the invasion would have been just as bad even if the rationale weren’t bogus. American casualties could have actually been much higher, since WMDs would have likely been used against invading U.S. forces.

But here’s the kicker: Clinton stood by the war even after these claims were definitively debunked.

Even many months after the Bush administration itself acknowledged that Iraq had neither WMDs nor ties to Al-Qaeda, Clinton declared in a speech at George Washington University that her support for the authorization was still “the right vote” and one that “I stand by.” Similarly, in an interview on Larry King Live in April 2004, when asked about her vote despite the absence of WMDs or al-Qaeda ties, she acknowledged, “I don’t regret giving the president authority.”

No Excuses

The 2016 Democratic presidential campaign is coming down to a race between Hillary Clinton, who supported the Bush Doctrine and its call for invading countries that are no threat to us regardless of the consequences, and Bernie Sanders, who supported the broad consensus of Middle East scholars and others familiar with the region who recognized that such an invasion would be disastrous.

There’s no question that the United States is long overdue to elect a woman head of state. But electing Hillary Clinton — or anyone else who supported the invasion of Iraq — would be sending a dangerous message that reckless global militarism needn’t prevent someone from becoming president, even as the nominee of the more liberal of the two major parties.

It also raises this ominous scenario: If Clinton were elected president despite having voted to give President Bush the authority, based on false pretenses, to launch a war of aggression — in violation of the UN Charter, the Nuremberg Principles, and common sense — what would stop her from demanding that Congress give her the same authority?

Hillary Clinton’s strident opposition to the International Criminal Court

Supporters of international law have expressed consternation that the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for president — like most of her potential Republican rivals — strongly supported the illegal U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. Hillary Clinton’s support for the Bush administration’s request for war authorization effectively placed her in opposition to the United Nations Charter and the Nuremberg Principles forbidding such wars of aggression. Ironically, these important international legal standards were in large part designed by officials from administrations of the very political party she hopes to represent in the contest for the White House.

Clinton’s defenders insist that her vote in support of the invasion was simply a “mistake,” as if this graduate of Yale Law School had somehow forgotten such basic principles of international law or the obligation of the United States, under Article VI of the Constitution, to uphold such binding international treaties.

However, the Democratic front-runner’s hostility towards international law goes well beyond her support for the Bush administration’s imperial ambitions in the Middle East. In previous columns, for example, I have noted her support for Morocco’s illegal annexation of the occupied Western Sahara, her support for Israel’s illegal annexation of occupied greater East Jerusalem and proposed annexation of large segments of the occupied West Bank, her defense of Israeli war crimes, and her attacks on the International Court of Justice for its 2004 ruling upholding the application of the Fourth Geneva Convention in territories under foreign belligerent occupation.

One of the most disturbing examples, however, is in regard to her strident opposition to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The ICC was established by international treaty in 2002 in The Hague, Netherlands, as a means of prosecuting individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, and related international war crimes. It grew out of the 1998 Rome Statute signed by the United States and 122 other countries in the hopes of finally establishing accountability for individuals for serious violations of international humanitarian law.
In response to the signing, right-wing talk show hosts and other conspiracy theorists here in the U.S. began claiming that the ICC would force American soldiers to stand trial before an anti-American tribunal on trumped-up charges without basic defendants’ rights, part of what many saw as a plot by the United Nations to impose a “world government.”

In reality, the ICC only has jurisdiction in cases where national courts are unable or unwilling to prosecute soldiers or others for such crimes. Despite some notable lapses in prosecuting some offenses, the Uniform Code of Military Justice provides a sufficient domestic mechanism for trying any members of the U.S. armed forces suspected of alleged war crimes to avoid having any American soldier tried under ICC jurisdiction. Furthermore, virtually every person put on trial before the ICC since its founding has been a high-level military or political figure, not individual soldiers.

Despite this, ultra-conservative Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) introduced an amendment called the American Service-Members’ Protection Act prohibiting the United States from cooperating in any way with the ICC and its prosecution of individuals responsible for serious crimes against humanity, such as those responsible for the genocide in Darfur. In addition, this vindictive law also restricts U.S. foreign aid to countries that support the ICC.

According to Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch, “The states that have ratified this treaty are trying to strengthen the rule of law,” but that the United States was “trying to punish them for that.”

Similarly, William R. Pace, executive director of the Institute for Global Policy and convener of the global Coalition for the International Criminal Court, noted how “This Congressional action is part of a multi-pronged effort of the US government to undermine international justice, international law and international peacekeeping.”

Much to the shock and dismay of many of her constituents, Clinton voted in favor of that Republican-sponsored amendment, which was immediately signed into law by President George W. Bush.

Even more disturbingly, this resolution Clinton helped become law also authorizes the president of the United States “to use all means necessary and appropriate to free members of United States military and certain other allied persons if they are detained or imprisoned by an international criminal court.” Given that this presumably includes military force, the bill was quickly dubbed the “Hague Invasion Act.”

Not surprisingly, there was widespread international criticism of the bill, particularly in The Netherlands, where the foreign minister issued a formal protest and the Dutch parliament passed a unanimous resolution raising concerns about the authorization of the use of force, an action which would presumably involve armed confrontation with Dutch soldiers and police guarding the court complex. In addition to violating the UN Charter, such an attack would run counter to the NATO Treaty, to which both the United States and the Netherlands are also party.

Apparently, however, Clinton — who has championed U.S. military intervention in over a dozen countries as a senator and Secretary of State and has spoken at right-wing rallies outside the United Nations protesting the world body — has no problem with that.

Her position on the ICC places her well to the right of President Barack Obama, who supports the court, and closer to that of the Republican contenders for president. Ironically, it was President Bill Clinton who initially signed the Rome Statute establishing the court, yet another reminder that as president, Hillary Clinton would likely pursue an even more hawkish foreign policy than did her husband.

It’s unclear why Clinton has so little respect for international law. Some claim it is because she feels a need to look tough in the face of possible Republican opponents who are even further to the right. More likely, however, it could be related to her advocacy of establishing closer U.S. military cooperation with a number of foreign leaders accused of war crimes who might conceivably find themselves under ICC indictment.

Whatever the motivation, should Clinton get the Democratic presidential nomination, supporters of international humanitarian law will not be left which much of a choice in the November election.

What We Can Expect From Hillary Clinton on Israel/Palestine

Supporters of the international legal framework – which has, with mixed success, governed international affairs since the end of World War II – have long expressed concerns over the prospect of former senator and secretary of state Hillary Clinton becoming president. Her support for the US invasion of Iraq (a flagrant violation of the UN Charter), as well as her hostility toward the International Criminal Court, her support for international recognition of Morocco’s illegal annexation of occupied Western Sahara, and her attacks against the United Nations and a number of its key agencies raise concerns that her election would bring a return to the Bush administration’s neoconservative rejection of longstanding international legal principles.

One of the big challenges regarding the application of international law is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which involves a foreign belligerent occupation, illegal colonization, war crimes committed by both the occupying power and at least one arm of the resistance, and scores of UN Security Council resolutions. As senator and subsequently, Hillary Clinton has developed a reputation as one of the most right-wing Democrats on Israel/Palestine, repeatedly siding with Likud-led governments against Israeli progressives and moderates, and taking a dismissive attitude regarding the application of international law or any role for the United Nations.

As a senator, Clinton defended Israel’s colonization efforts in the occupied West Bank and was highly critical of the United Nations for its efforts to uphold international humanitarian law, which forbids transferring civilian populations onto territories under foreign belligerent occupation. Clinton criticized the UN’s enforcement of four UN Security Council resolutions calling on Israel to end the practice, and even took the time for a 2005 visit to a major Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank in a show of support. She moderated that stance somewhat as secretary of state in expressing concerns over how the right-wing Israeli government’s settlement policies harmed the overall climate of the peace process, but she has refused to acknowledge the illegality of the settlements or demand that Israel abide by international demands to stop building additional settlements. Subsequently, she has argued that the Obama administration pushed too hard in the early years of the administration to get Israel to suspend settlement construction.

In 2011, Clinton successfully pushed for a US veto of a UN Security Council resolution reiterating the illegality of the settlement drive and calling for a settlement freeze. The UN Security Council has traditionally been the vehicle for enforcing international law in territories under foreign belligerent occupation, but Clinton noted, “We have consistently over many years said that the United Nations Security Council – and resolutions that would come before the Security Council – is not the right vehicle to advance the goal,” despite the US failure to stop this colonization drive on its own.

Moreover, when the Netanyahu government reneged on an earlier promise of a temporary and limited freeze and announced massive subsidies for the construction of new settlements on the eve of her 2011 visit to Israel, Clinton spoke only of the need for peace talks to resume. She even equated Palestinians’ legal right to have their state recognized by the United Nations with Israel’s illegal settlements policy as undermining the peace process.

Clinton has insisted, “We will not deal with nor in any way fund a Palestinian government that includes Hamas unless and until Hamas has renounced violence, recognized Israel and agreed to follow the previous obligations of the Palestinian Authority.” However, Clinton has called for increasing US military aid and diplomatic support for Israel’s right-wing government, which includes ministers from far right-wing parties who support violent settler militias that have repeatedly attacked Palestinian civilians, oppose recognition of a Palestinian state, and reject the Oslo agreement and subsequent agreements by the Israeli government.

More recently, Clinton has been making a series of excuses as to why Israel cannot make peace, despite the Showing Authority’s acquiescence to virtually all the demands made by the Obama administration. For example, The Washington Post noted how she “appeared to blame the collapse of direct Israel-Palestinian talks on the wave of Mideast revolutions and unrest during the 2011 Arab Spring, although talks had broken off the previous year.” Clinton has also said that Israelis cannot be expected to make peace until they “know what happens in Syria and whether Jordan will remain stable,” which most observers recognize will take a very long time, thereby enabling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to further colonize the West Bank to the point where the establishment of a viable Palestinian state is impossible. What kind of peace settlement she envisions has not been made clear, but she did endorse former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s 2004 “Convergence Plan,” which would have allowed Israel to annex large areas of Palestinian territory conquered by Israeli forces in the 1967 war, despite the longstanding principle in international law against any country expanding its territory by force and the fact that it would divide any future Palestinian state into a series of small, noncontiguous cantons surrounded by Israel.

She has vigorously defended Israel’s wars on Gaza. As secretary of state, she took the lead in attempting to block any action by the United Nations in response to a 2009 report by a UN Human Rights Council fact-finding mission – headed by the distinguished South African jurist Richard Goldstone (a Zionist Jew) – which documented war crimes by both Israel and Hamas. She has implied that the report denied Israel’s right to self-defense, when it in fact explicitly recognized Israel’s right to do so. Since the report’s only objections to Israeli conduct were in regard to attacks on civilian targets, not its military actions against extremist militias lobbing rockets into Israel, it appears that either she was deliberately misrepresenting the report, never bothered to read it before attacking it or believes killing civilians can constitute legitimate self-defense.

More recently, in response to concerns raised by Israeli and international human rights groups about the nearly 1,500 civilians killed by Israeli forces during the 2014 war on the Gaza Strip, she insisted, “I think Israel did what it had to do to respond to Hamas rockets. Israel has a right to defend itself.”

When Israeli forces attacked a UN school housing refugees in the Gaza Strip in July 2014, killing dozens of civilians, the Obama administration issued a statement saying it was “appalled” by the “disgraceful” shelling. By contrast, Hillary Clinton – when pressed about it during an interview with The Atlantic – refused to criticize the massacre, saying, “[I]t’s impossible to know what happens in the fog of war.” Though investigators found no evidence of Hamas equipment or military activity anywhere near the school, Clinton falsely alleged that they were firing rockets from an annex to the school. In any case, she argued, when Palestinian civilians die from Israeli attacks, “the ultimate responsibility has to rest on Hamas and the decisions it made.”

Though President Obama has provided more aid to Israel than any previous US administration and taken a number of other unprecedented steps in support of Israel, Clinton has criticized him for being too critical of Israel’s right-wing government. In response to the chilly relationship between Obama and Netanyahu, she has promised to invite the right-wing Israeli prime minister to the White House within a month of coming to office. She has rejected taking a position of “tough love” advocated by Israeli moderates and liberals and says that any disagreements with Israeli policies should be only done “in private and behind, you know, closed doors” on the grounds that otherwise “it opens the door to everybody else to delegitimize Israel.” In Clinton’s view, then, supporting Israeli moderates by publicly opposing efforts to undermine the peace process and ongoing violations of international humanitarian law by the country’s right-wing government is the same as “delegitimizing” the nation itself. And since, under her leadership, the State Department formally listed efforts to “delegitimize” Israel as part of its definition of anti-Semitism, it may give some indication as to how her administration would characterize those who do publicly raise concerns regarding certain Israeli policies.

Clinton further argues that it is illegitimate to use sanctions or other pressure to “dictate” that an allied occupying power like Israel should end its illegal colonization of occupied territory and withdraw to within its internationally recognized boundaries in accordance with UN resolutions and international law. Though there have been a number of successful efforts since the founding of the United Nations in 1945 in which the international community chose to “dictate” that occupying powers withdraw, she rejects any kind of “outside or unilateral actions” against such flagrant violations of international legal norms if the perpetrator is deemed to be a strategic ally of the United States. Though a series of UN Security Council resolutions, rulings by the World Court and longstanding international legal principles recognize the illegitimacy of any country expanding its borders by force and moving settlers into occupied territory, she insists that whether and to what extent Israel withdraws its occupation forces or its settlements should be solely based upon negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, ignoring the gross asymmetry in power between the two parties. Disregarding how such unilateral Israeli actions such as the expansion of illegal settlements is imposing Israeli control over the occupied West Bank, Clinton has insisted that neither restrictions on Israel’s colonization drive nor resolution of the conflict overall should be “imposed from the outside,” such as through the United States or the United Nations. She is therefore rejecting initiatives like the parameters for a viable two-state solution outlined by her husband in December 2000 in what became known as the Clinton Plan, which the Palestinian Authority belatedly endorsed but successive Israeli governments have rejected.

Perhaps the single most revealing episode showing Clinton’s rejection of international law as a basis for Israeli-Palestinian peace occurred in reaction to a landmark 2004 advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice.

The World Court

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), or “World Court,” has adjudicated disputes between nations since 1899. Since the founding of the United Nations in 1945, it has functioned essentially as the judicial arm of the UN system. Designed to better enable nations to settle their disputes nonviolently based upon the rule of law, the ICJ has been used by Washington on a number of occasions over the years to advance US foreign policy interests ranging from fishing disputes with Canada to the seizure of American hostages by Iran.

The ICJ ruled by a 14-1 vote (with only the US judge dissenting, largely on a technicality) that Israel, like every country, is obliged to abide by provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the Laws of War, and that the international community – as in any other case in which ongoing violations are taking place – is obliged to ensure that international humanitarian law is enforced. At issue was the Israeli government’s ongoing construction of a separation barrier deep inside the occupied West Bank, which the World Court recognized – as does the broad consensus of international legal scholarship – as a violation of international humanitarian law.

The ICJ ruled that Israel, like any country, had the right to build the barrier along its internationally recognized border for self-defense, but did not have the right to build it inside occupied territory as a means of effectively annexing Palestinian land. In an unprecedented congressional action, Hillary Clinton, then a US senator, immediately introduced a resolution to put the Senate on record “supporting the construction by Israel of a security fence” and “condemning the decision of the International Court of Justice on the legality of the security fence.” In an effort to render the UN impotent in its enforcement of international law, her resolution (which even the then-Republican-controlled Senate failed to pass) also attempted to put the Senate on record “urging no further action by the United Nations to delay or prevent the construction of the security fence.”

Clinton’s resolution claimed that Israel had built a similar barrier “in Gaza [that] has proved effective at reducing the number of terrorist attacks.” Also, according to the resolution, “The United States, Korea, and India have constructed security fences to separate such countries from territories or other countries for the security of their citizens.” Such comparisons, however, fail to note – as did the World Court – that these other barriers were placed along internationally recognized borders and were therefore not the subject of legal challenge. Clinton’s resolution also claimed that “the International Court of Justice is politicized and critical of Israel,” ignoring that the World Court has actually been quite consistent in its rulings on such matters: In the only other two advisory opinions issued by the ICJ involving occupied territories – South African-occupied Namibia in 1971 and Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara in 1975 – the court also decided against the occupying powers.

In an apparent effort to misrepresent and discredit the United Nations, Clinton’s resolution contended that the request by the UN General Assembly for a legal opinion by the ICJ referred to “the security fence being constructed by Israel to prevent Palestinian terrorists from entering Israel.” In reality, the UN request said nothing regarding security measures preventing terrorists from entering Israel. Instead, the document refers only to the legal consequences arising from “the wall being built by Israel, the occupying Power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” Moreover, the UN statement referred to the UN secretary general’s recently released report on the occupation, which reiterated the longstanding international consensus that occupied Palestinian territory refers only to the parts of Palestine seized by Israel in the 1967 war, not to any part of Israel itself.

The World Court decision explicitly upheld Israel’s right to build a separation barrier along its internationally recognized border, but noted that Israel could not legally build it deep inside territory recognized as under foreign belligerent occupation. Therefore, Clinton’s claim at a right-wing rally at the United Nations protesting the decision that “It makes no sense for the United Nations to vehemently oppose a fence which is a nonviolent response to terrorism rather than opposing terrorism itself” was false in that both the UN and the World Court were only objecting to the barrier being built beyond Israel’s borders. Indeed, in her resolution and elsewhere, she appeared to claim that opposition to the plan of illegally building a barrier in a serpentine fashion deep inside occupied territory as part of an effort to effectively annex illegal Israeli settlements and other large swathes of the West Bank into Israel was denying Israel’s its right to self-defense and therefore was proof of an “anti-Israel” bias.

The lengthy and nuanced ruling was quite consistent with longstanding international legal standards regarding the responsibility of the occupying power in territories under foreign belligerent occupation. Indeed, in the only other two advisory opinions issued by the ICJ involving occupied territories – South African-occupied Namibia in 1971 and Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara in 1975 – the court also decided against the occupying powers. In her effort to discredit the World Court, however, she nevertheless insisted that “the International Court of Justice is politicized and critical of Israel” and Israel should therefore ignore the ruling.

Human Rights Impact

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Red Cross and a number of Israeli human rights groups have documented the devastating impact of the separation barrier on the economic and social lives of Palestinians, including blocking access to schools, health care and employment. These findings were confirmed in the ICJ ruling. However, in an effort to discredit these reputable human rights groups along with the World Court, Clinton’s resolution contested their assertions that the route chosen for the wall has had such a negative impact, declaring that “the Government of Israel takes into account the need to minimize the confiscation of Palestinian land and the imposition of hardship on the Palestinian people.” Not long afterward, Senator Clinton took part in a photo opportunity at the illegal Israeli settlement of Gilo, in which she claimed, while gazing over the massive wall bisecting what used to be a Palestinian vineyard, “This is not against the Palestinian people. This is against the terrorists.”

Ironically, despite these claims – along with her insistence that Israel’s barrier is a “proportional response to the campaign of terrorism by Palestinian militants” – the Israeli Supreme Court on several occasions subsequently has ordered the government to reroute sections of the wall bisecting some Palestinian towns, because the “relationship between the injury to the local inhabitants and the security benefit from the contraction of the Separation Fence along the route, as determined by the military officer, is not proportionate.”

The Fourth Geneva Convention forbids countries from transferring civilians onto territory seized by military force. No less than four UN Security Council resolutions, along with the World Court decision, have confirmed its applicability to the West Bank settlements. Senator Clinton, however, has long insisted that the Israeli settlements, the route of the wall and other matters of international law should not be matters for the United Nations or the World Court to contend with, but should be left solely to negotiations between representatives of the Palestinians and the right-wing government of their Israeli occupiers, which has steadfastly refused to end its occupation or its colonization of the West Bank.

Clinton claims that the Palestinian decision to take the issue of the separation barrier to the World Court violates the 1993 Oslo agreement that none of the parties take any unilateral initiatives that would prejudice the outcome of the peace process. But she has been loath to criticize Israel for how its governments have prejudiced the outcome of the peace process through their ongoing construction of illegal settlements in the occupied territories and other unilateral initiatives.

Indeed, she must have recognized that the wording of her resolution and her related statements effectively constitute the legitimization of the expansion of a country’s territory by force, a clear violation of the UN Charter. As a graduate of one of the top US law schools, Clinton surely recognized the significance of her insistence that the World Court somehow no longer had jurisdiction on matters related to international humanitarian law in territories legally recognized as under foreign belligerent occupation.

Broader Implications

The World Court made a definitive ruling that member states of binding treaties, conventions and charters such as the Fourth Geneva Convention and the UN Charter are obliged to ensure that other member states live up to their legal obligations under those agreements. Specifically, the court insisted that every country that is party to the Fourth Geneva Convention must “ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law as embodied in that Convention.”

This may be what disturbed Clinton so much. Any such strict and uniform application of international law would interfere with US policy objectives in the region, which rely heavily on the use of military force, including conquest and occupation. This is why any attempt to enforce international humanitarian law must be met by slander, condemnation and other attacks against the credibility of the international organizations daring to suggest that the United States and its allies are not somehow exempt from such legal obligations.

In its ruling, the ICJ also determined that “the United Nations, and especially the General Assembly and the Security Council, should consider what further action is required to bring to an end the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall.” As a result, Clinton’s resolution specifically urges the administration “to vote against any further UN action that could delay or prevent the construction of the security fence and to engage in a diplomatic campaign to persuade other countries to do the same,” effectively saying that despite the nearly unanimous World Court decision to the contrary, parties to international agreements are not bound to abide by or enforce them.

Given that the World Court enjoined the United States and other signatories to “ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law,” any refusal by the US government, which – as Israel’s primary military, economic and diplomatic supporter – is in the best position to “ensure compliance,” places the United States in violation of the World Court, as is Israel. However, just as Hillary Clinton chose to ignore the UN Charter by voting to invade Iraq, she also believes the United States should be able to ignore the world’s highest court.

The United Nations and the Fourth Geneva Convention came into being in part as a result of the efforts of Democratic presidents like Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. That the Democratic Party may nominate someone who is willing to reject such basic tenets of international law is indicative of how far Democrats have gone in abandoning traditional liberal values.

Support for Iraq War Still Haunts Hillary Clinton’s Candidacy

More than a dozen years later, Hillary Clinton is still being haunted by her decision to break with the majority of her Congressional Democratic colleagues and vote in favor of President George W. Bush’s call to authorize the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Clinton is the only one of the five major announced candidates for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination who supported that illegal and unnecessary war, which not only resulted in 4,500 American deaths and thousands more permanently disabled, but hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, the destabilization of the region with the rise of ISIS, and a dramatic increase in the federal deficit resulting in major cutbacks to important social programs.

Her defenders have characterized her vote as a “mistake.” However, it would have been a mistake only if she had pushed the “aye” button when she had meant to push the “nay” button. It was quite deliberate and the implications still raise serious questions.

Pope John Paul II and the National Council of Catholic Bishops, along with the leadership of virtually every major mainline U.S. Protestant denomination, came out in opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The Christian groups that supported Bush’s call for war were essentially restricted to right-wing fundamentalists, thereby raising some serious questions as to where Clinton is coming from theologically.

It is striking that many liberals — who would not think of supporting her if she took positions on gay rights or abortion often identified with conservative Christian groups — do not recognize the implications of her alliance with the Christian Right on this issue. This is ironic, since issues of war and peace are not only of greater prominence in the Gospels and are of far more significance theologically than anything about gay marriage or access to abortion, but are usually a stronger indicator of one’s interpretation of faith as applied to social ethics and public policy. The fact that Clinton would reject the consensus of the mainline Protestant or Catholic theologians — that the invasion did not come anywhere close to meeting the just war criteria — and instead embrace the fundamentalists’ position that it somehow did is therefore significant in understanding her worldview.

Her vote also raises concerns regarding her commitment to international law. The United Nations Charter forbids member states from using military force unless they find themselves under direct attack or if it is explicitly authorized by the UN Security Council. (Customary international law allows for pre-emptive war, but only in cases of an imminent threat, such as troops massing along the border or missiles preparing to be launched.)

Clinton, however — despite being a graduate of one of the top law schools in the country — insisted that the U.S. invasion was somehow “lawful” even though the war failed to get UN authorization and Iraq did not constitute any threat to the national security of the United States.

Her supporters have defended her vote on the grounds that she had been provided intelligence data that convinced her that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction.” However, even if that had been the case, the consequences of the war would have been no better. It would have still been illegal. And such weapons would have likely been used against U.S. soldiers, dramatically increasing U.S. casualties.

Furthermore, virtually all the alleged intelligence data made available to Congress has since been declassified and most strategic analysts have found it to have been transparently weak, based primarily on hearsay by Iraqi exiles of dubious credibility and conjecture by ideologically-driven Bush administration officials. It also raises the question why Clinton ignored the plethora of information provided by UN inspectors, reports by independent strategic analysts, and articles in reputable arms control journals that challenged the administration’s fabricated claims she so willingly embraced.

She was also the only Democratic senator to make the absurd claim — which had been repeatedly challenged by scholars, diplomats, and other observers — that the secular Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein was supporting the Salafist Islamist Al-Qaeda movement.

This raises concerns that, as president, she might again be willing to blindly accept similarly inaccurate and alarmist intelligence claims over more sober strategic analysis in making decisions on whether to go to war.

More troubling, roughly 30 countries (including the United States) really do have chemical or biological weapons and/or nuclear programs with weapons potential, thereby raising the question as to how many of these countries Clinton, as president, would be willing to invade as well.

Regardless, it appears that Hussein’s alleged possession of “weapons of mass destruction” and ties to Al-Qaeda were not the determining factors in her decision to support the war authorization. Indeed, many months after the U.S. invasion and the Bush administration’s acknowledgement that Iraq had neither any WMDs nor any ties to Al-Qaeda, she declared in a speech at George Washington University, “I was one who supported giving President Bush the authority, if necessary, to use force against Saddam Hussein. I believe that that was the right vote” and it was one that “I stand by.”

Indeed, she did not express any regret for her vote until just prior to candidacy for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, after public opinion had swung decidedly against the war. She has yet to formally apologize.

Not only could Clinton’s support for the Iraq War undermine her prospects for the 2016 presidential nomination, should she become the nominee, it could threaten her chances that November. The Republicans will likely make as a key argument during the fall campaign, that Bush had effectively won the Iraq war in 2008 but the Obama administration recklessly withdrew U.S. troops, resulting in the rise of ISIS, a major threat to our national security. While there are a number of ways this line of attack can be refuted, by far the most important one is that the U.S. should have never invaded Iraq in the first place.

Clinton, as a supporter of the invasion, will be unable to make this argument.

The Troubling Implications of Hillary’s Anti-BDS Letter

On July 2, former secretary of state and frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination Hillary Clinton wrote a letter to Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban, a strong supporter of the right-wing Netanyahu government, denouncing human rights activists who support boycott/divestment/sanctions (BDS) against the Israeli occupation.

In the letter, made public a few days later, Clinton made a number of statements which are not only demonstrably false but raise serious concerns regarding what kind of policies she would pursue as president.

She claimed that the BDS movement was working to “malign and undermine Israel and the Jewish people.” Though some BDS activists target Israel as a whole, most efforts on college campuses and elsewhere focus solely on the Israeli occupation, particularly companies that profit from that occupation and support illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. In any case, the BDS campaign does not “malign and undermine” Jews. This cynical effort to depict the movement as anti-Semitic could be an indication of the kind of rhetoric she would use as president to discredit human rights activists who challenge her policies elsewhere.

Clinton claims in the letter that initiatives through the United Nations critical of Israeli violations of international humanitarian law are inherently “anti-Israel,” thereby implying that those who raise concerns about a given country’s human rights record do so not because of a desire to uphold universally recognized ethical and legal principles, but because of an ideological bias against a particular country. Although some UN agencies have disproportionately targeted Israel for criticism, the vast majority of such reports and resolutions have been consistent with findings and concerns raised by reputable international human rights organizations (such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch) and Israeli groups (such as the B’tselem human rights group and the veterans’ organization Breaking the Silence.)

Clinton further argues that it is illegitimate to use sanctions to “dictate” that an occupying power should end its illegal colonization of occupied territory and withdraw to within its internationally recognized boundaries in accordance with UN resolutions and international law. Indeed, she rejects any kind of “outside or unilateral actions” against such flagrant violations of international legal norms. Instead, she insists that resolution to such conflicts be based solely on negotiations between an occupying power and those under occupation regardless of the gross asymmetry in power between the two parties and a series of UN Security Council resolutions, rulings of the International Court of Justice, and longstanding international legal principles that recognize the illegitimacy of any country expanding its borders by force and moving settlers into occupied territory.

Clinton’s lack of concern for international law is also evidenced in her reference to the predominantly Palestinian Old City of Jerusalem as being part of Israel, even though it was seized by Israeli forces in the 1967 war and is recognized by the UN and the international community as being under foreign belligerent occupation.

She also proudly references her condemnation of the 2009 report by the UN Human Rights Council—headed by the distinguished South African jurist Richard Goldstone (a Zionist Jew)—which documented war crimes by both Israel and Hamas. In the letter, she implies that the report denied Israel’s right to self-defense, when it in fact explicitly recognized Israel’s right to do so. The report’s only objections to Israeli conduct were in regard to attacks on civilian targets, not its military actions against extremist militias lobbing rockets into Israel. The implication, therefore, is that Hillary Clinton believes killing civilians can constitute legitimate self-defense.

Her reference to Israel as “a vibrant democracy in a region dominated by autocracy”—while certainly true on a number of levels—ignores Israel’s denial of democratic rights to Palestinians under occupation. Furthermore, it ignores her history as a senator and secretary of state of backing Arab dictatorships in the face of pro-democracy struggles by their own peoples, which has contributed to the predominance of autocratic rule in the Middle East.

In the letter, she also reiterates the romantic Western myth that Israel is “a vibrant bloom in the middle of the desert.” Although Israelis are certainly responsible for impressive advances in irrigation technology in the Negev region and elsewhere, it ignores centuries of agriculture and urban settlement in what is now Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan and Syria, long known as the “Fertile Crescent.” Indeed, Israel originally seized much of its fertile lands by force from Palestinian farmers.

There are other troubling aspects of the two-page letter as well: She boasts about her efforts to block UN recognition of Palestinian statehood. She pledges to work with Republicans to fight BDS activists, who are mostly registered Democrats. She links anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism and the terrorist attacks against Jews in France. In addition, by denouncing BDS because it “singles out Israel,” she is implying that any human rights group that focuses on one country (i.e., Tibet, Burma, Western Sahara, Syria, or Iran) is thereby illegitimate.

Finally, her pledge to “defend Israel at every turn” and that as president she will “always stand up for Israel” is particularly troubling, given her propensity to equate “Israel” with the policies of its right-wing government.

Taken altogether, this letter raises very troubling questions regarding the kind of president Hillary Clinton would be, not just in regard to Israel and Palestine, but in relation to human rights and international law overall and her reaction to those who support such principles.

Hillary Clinton, phosphates, and the Western Sahara

For more than a half-century, a series of United Nations resolutions and rulings by the International Court of Justice have underscored the rights of inhabitants of countries under colonial rule or foreign military occupation. Among these is the right to “freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources,” which “must be based on the principles of equality and of the right of peoples and nations to self-determination.”
As far back as 1962, the United Nations determined that “the right of peoples and nations to permanent sovereignty over their natural wealth and resources must be exercised in the interest of their national development and of the well-being of the people of the State concerned,” and “violation of the rights of peoples and nations to sovereignty over their natural wealth and resources is contrary to the spirit and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” This reflects the longstanding legal principle, reiterated subsequently by the General Assembly, that “the right of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories … to enjoyment of their natural resources and their right to dispose of those resources in their best interest.”

Similarly, a series of decisions by the International Court of Justice regarding Namibia, Nauru, East Timor and Palestine has further codified the rights of non-self-governing people to control over their own natural resources.

Perhaps the most serious contemporary violation of this longstanding international legal principle involves the nation of Western Sahara, the former Spanish colony invaded, occupied, and annexed by Morocco in 1975. Morocco has ignored a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions and a landmark World Court decision underscoring the right of the Western Saharan people — who are ethnically and linguistically distinct from most Moroccans — to self-determination. However, France and the United States, veto-wielding permanent members of that body and longstanding allies of Morocco, have blocked the United Nations from enforcing its resolutions.

The Moroccan government and its supporters point to the kingdom’s ambitious large-scale development projects in Western Sahara, particularly in urban areas. More than $2.5 billion has been poured into the territory’s infrastructure, significantly more than Morocco has procured from Western Sahara’s natural resources and more than they would likely obtain in the foreseeable future. For this reason, the regime’s supporters argue that they have fulfilled the requirements regarding interests, well-being, and development needs of the indigenous population.

However, most of the infrastructure development in the occupied territory has not been designed to enhance the standard of living of the Western Saharan people, but has instead involved the elaborate internal security system of military bases, police facilities, prisons, surveillance, and related repressive apparatuses; housing construction, subsidies, and other support for Moroccan settlers; and airport, seaport, and other transportation facilities designed to accelerate resource extraction. More fundamentally, the decisions on how to use the proceeds from the mines and fisheries are being made by the Moroccan government in the capital of Rabat, not by the subjugated population.

In 2002, then U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Hans Corell determined that the exploitation of natural resources in Western Sahara is a “violation of the international law principles applicable to mineral resource activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories.”

Unfortunately, this did not stop mining companies, oil companies, and fishing fleets from Morocco, Europe and the United States from effectively stealing from the people of Western Sahara — or from trying to influence political leaders.

For example, the Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP), a Moroccan government-owned mining company that controls one of the world’s largest phosphate mines in the occupied Western Sahara, is the primary donor to the Clinton Global Initiative conference last week in Marrakech. This and other support provided to the Clinton Foundation by OCP — now totaling as much as $5 million — has raised some eyebrows, given Hillary Clinton’s efforts as secretary of state to push the Obama administration to recognize Morocco’s illegal annexation of the territory through a dubious “autonomy” plan promoted by King Mohammed VI that would deny the people of Western Sahara the option of independence as international law requires.

About five years ago, opposition from Michael Posner, then assistant secretary of state for democracy and human rights, along with some key Democratic senators and members of the National Security Council convinced the White House to instead encourage further U.N.-led negotiations between Morocco and the Western Saharan government-in-exile, known as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR.) The SADR has been recognized by scores of governments and is a full member state of the African Union, whose Peace and Security Council has called for a “global boycott of products of companies involved in the illegal exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara.”

Since leaving office, Hillary Clinton — now the leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination — has continued her outspoken support for the autocratic monarchy. When she announced the Marrakesh meeting last fall, she praised Morocco as a “vital hub for economic and cultural exchange,” thanking the regime “for welcoming us and for its hospitality.” A number of key supporters, such as attorney Justin Gray and former Congressman Toby Moffett, are registered lobbyists for the Moroccan regime.

This has not gone unnoticed on Capitol Hill. “You’ve heard of blood diamonds, but in many ways you could say that OCP is shipping blood phosphate,” Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., said. “Western Sahara was taken over by Morocco to exploit its resources and this is one of the principal companies involved in that effort.”

Pitts and New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith, chair of the Human Rights Subcommittee of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, sent a letter to the Clinton Foundation, saying, “Out of respect for internationally recognized human rights norms, the Clinton Global Initiative should discontinue its coordination with OCP and return any accepted money from the enterprise.” The foundation did not respond.

As an attorney well-versed in international affairs, Clinton is no doubt aware of the legal and moral issues regarding the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara and the seeming impropriety of her foundation accepting money from a government-owned company illegally exploiting the natural resources of a non-self-governing territory.

That she is willing to do so anyway raises some troubling questions.

Hillary Clinton’s Legacy as Secretary of State

Hillary Clinton leaves her position as Secretary of State with a legacy of supporting autocratic regimes and occupation armies, opposing enforcement of international humanitarian law, undermining arms control and defending military solutions to complex political problems. She was appointed to her position following eight years in the US Senate, during which she became an outspoken supporter of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, lied about Iraq’s military capabilities to frighten the public into supporting the illegal war, unleashed repeated attacks against the United Nations, opposed restrictions on land mines and cluster bombs, defended war crimes by allied right-wing governments and largely embraced Bush’s unilateralist agenda.

Despite this, Clinton is receiving largely unconditional praise from liberal pundits and others for her leadership, some even claiming that she is some kind of role model for young women!

Part of this unlikely defense of the dishonest and hawkish outgoing Secretary of State may be in reaction to the onslaught of misleading, petty, and sexist attacks from the right, such as her recent grilling on Capitol Hill about last summer’s attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. Such spurious criticisms, particularly those motivated by sexism, certainly deserve to be challenged. However, this should not in any way be used as an excuse to fail to acknowledge the damage Clinton has done, or her embrace of much of the dangerous neo-conservative doctrines of the previous administration.

It is not unusual for a president to want to be his own secretary of state, but rarely has a secretary so badly wanted to be her own president. In assuming her position in 2009, she insisted on being able to effectively appoint most of the key political positions in the State Department, which she stacked with some of the more hawkish veterans of her husband’s administration. Obama, by contrast, appointed members of the White House-based National Security Council who – while still very much part of the foreign policy establishment – tended to be younger, more innovative, and politically liberal. As a result, unlike most administrations – in which the State Department would sometimes challenge the hawks in the National Security Council – it has been the other way around under Obama, as the NSC was forced to play the moderating voice to the hawkish Secretary of State Clinton and her appointees.

During the Arab Spring, Clinton pushed for stronger US support for pro-Western dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain, as well as the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara. She successfully convinced the initially critical White House to support the right-wing golpistas in Honduras, who ousted that country’s democratically-elected government in 2009. She was a major proponent of NATO’s military intervention in Libya’s civil war and has encouraged a more active US role in the Syrian conflict.

Even when she was right – such as opposing the egregious human rights abuses by the Assad regime in Syria – her defense of human rights abuses by US allies and other brazen double-standards significantly weakened her ability to make a credible case. For example, she insisted that a Russian and Chinese veto of a UN Security Council resolution critical of Syria had “neutered” the Security Council’s ability to defend basic human rights, yet she has defended repeated US vetoes of resolutions critical of Israeli violations of human rights. Similarly, she has criticized the Russians for supplying Syria with attack helicopters which have been used against civilian targets, but has defended the US supplying Israel, Turkey and Colombia with attack helicopters despite their use against civilian targets.

Under her leadership in the State Department, the United States has become even less popular than it was under the Bush administration. Clinton, however, has insisted that it simply because of a failure to explain US polices better rather than the policies themselves.

Support for Women’s and LGBT Rights

To her credit, Hillary Clinton has been more outspoken than any previous Secretary of State regarding the rights of women and sexual minorities. This appears to be more rhetoric than reality, however.

One illustrative case comes in her support for the autocratic monarchy in Morocco, which she has praised for having “women’s rights protected and expanded.” The reality for women in Morocco and Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, however, is very different. For example, Article 475 of the Moroccan penal code absolves the rapist if he consents to marrying his rape victim. Just weeks after Clinton praised the Moroccan regime for its record on women’s rights, Amina Filali, a 16-year old Moroccan girl – who had been raped at the age of 15 and forced to marry her rapist, who subsequently battered and abused her – burned herself to death. Similarly, it was not long after a previous visit to Morocco, where she praised that autocratic monarchy’s human rights record, that the regime illegally expelled Aminatou Haidar, known as the Saharan Gandhi, for her leadership in the nonviolent resistance struggle to the illegal Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara. Haidar – a winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and other honors for her nonviolent activism, and who had previously spent years in Moroccan prisons, where she was repeatedly tortured – went on a month-long hunger strike that almost killed her before Morocco relented to international pressure and allowed her to return to her country.

Given Clinton’s backing of neo-liberal economic policies and war-making by the United States and its allies, her advocacy of women’s rights overseas within what is widely seen outside this country as being within an imperialist context, may have actually set back indigenous feminist movements in the same a way that the Bush administration’s “democracy-promotion” agenda was a serious setback to popular struggles for freedom and democracy. Just as US support for dictatorial regimes in the Middle East gave little credibility to President George W. Bush’s pro-democracy rhetoric, Hillary Clinton’s call for greater respect for women’s rights in Muslim countries never had much credibility while US-manufactured ordinance is blowing up women in Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Clinton’s Support for Arab Dictatorships

In the often contentious debates within the administration on how to respond to the civil insurrections in the Arab world challenging US-backed dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt in early 2011, Clinton was among the most reluctant to support the pro-democracy struggles.

Her first statement on Tunisia was nearly four weeks after the outbreak of the uprising, in which she expressed her concern over the impact of the “unrest and instability” on the “very positive aspects of our relationship with Tunisia,” insisting that the United States was “not taking sides” between the repressive dictatorship and the pro-democracy struggle. She went on to note that “one of my biggest concerns in this entire region is the many young people without economic opportunities in their home countries.” Rather than calling for a more democratic and accountable government in Tunisia, however, her suggestion for resolving the crisis was that the economies of Tunisia and other North African states “need to be more open.” Ironically, Tunisia under the US-backed Ben Ali dictatorship – more than almost any country in the region – had been following the dictates of Washington and the International Monetary Fund in instituting “structural adjustment programs,” privatizing much of its economy and allowing for an unprecedented level of “free trade.”

Another example of her failure to recognize the pro-democracy yearning in the Arab world, Clinton insisted during the early days of the Egyptian revolution that the country was stable. She further insisted that US-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak was “looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people,” despite the miserable failure of the regime in its nearly 30 years in power to do so. As the protests grew, Clinton called for the regime to reform from within rather than supporting pro-democracy protesters’ demand that the dictator step down, saying, “We believe strongly that the Egyptian government has an important opportunity at this moment in time to implement political, economic and social reforms to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.” As the repression increased, Clinton pressed for restraint by security forces and called for an “orderly, peaceful transition” to a “real democracy” in Egypt, but still refused to call for Mubarak to step down, insisting that “it’s not a question of who retains power. That should not be the issue. It’s how are we going to respond to the legitimate needs and grievances expressed by the Egyptian people and chart a new path.”

On the one hand, she recognized that whether Mubarak would remain in power “is going to be up to the Egyptian people.” On the other hand, she continued to speak in terms of reforms coming from the regime, stating that US policy was to “help clear the air so that those who remain in power, starting with President Mubarak, with his new vice president, with the new prime minister, will begin a process of reaching out, of creating a dialogue that will bring in peaceful activists and representatives of civil society to … plan a way forward that will meet the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people.”

Despite nearly 800 Egyptians being killed over the 18-day period by the US-supplied military and police, Clinton insisted, “There is no discussion of cutting off aid.” Up until the final days of the uprising, Clinton was publicly advocating a leadership role for General Suleiman, the notorious “torturer-in-chief” of the Egyptian regime, whom Mubarak had named as his vice-president.

Similarly, that March, when Saudi-backed forces of the repressive Bahraini monarchy brutally crushed nonviolent pro-democracy demonstrators in that Persian Gulf kingdom and the killings, torture and repression were being condemned throughout the world, the Wall Street Journal reported that Clinton had emerged as one of the “leading voices inside the administration urging greater US support for the Bahraini king.” While insisting that the United States back right-wing Israeli governments because Israel is “the sole democracy in the Middle East,” Clinton has done her best to make sure other Middle Eastern countries remain undemocratic.

Clinton’s fondness for autocratic allies includes those in Central Asia. For example, despite evidence to the contrary, Secretary of State Clinton has claimed that the Karimov dictatorship – which has massacred demonstrators by the hundreds, boiled opponents in oil and forced hundreds of thousands of children into forced labor – was “showing signs of improving its human rights record and expanding political freedoms.” Similarly, when asked about the dictator’s claim that he was committed to leave a legacy of freedom and democracy for his grandchildren, one of Clinton’s top aides responded, “Yeah. I do believe him. I mean, he’s said several times that he’s committed to this. He’s made a speech last November where he talked about this.” In response to some skeptical follow-up questions by journalists, the official replied that “we think that there is really quite an important opening now to work on that stuff, also work on developing civil society, which again President Karimov has expressed support for. So, yeah, I do take him at his word.”

During her first year as Secretary of State, Clinton visited Morocco during an unprecedented crackdown on human rights activists. Instead of joining Amnesty International and other human rights groups in condemning the increase in the already-severe repression in the occupied Western Sahara, Clinton instead chose to offer unconditional praise for the Moroccan government’s human rights record. Just days before her arrival, Moroccan authorities arrested seven nonviolent activists from Western Sahara on trumped-up charges of high treason, who were immediately recognized by Amnesty International as prisoners of conscience. Amnesty called for their unconditional release. Clinton decided to ignore the plight of these and other political prisoners held in Moroccan jails.

These activists were demanding implantation of a series of UN Security Council resolutions, endorsed by previous US administrations, for a referendum on the fate of the occupied territory. Clinton, however, has endorsed Morocco’s plans for annexing the territory under a dubious “autonomy” plan and simply called for “mediation” between the Moroccan kingdom and the exiled nationalist Polisario Front, a process that would not offer the people of the territory a say in their future.

Support for the Israeli Occupation

Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara was not the only foreign military occupation backed by Secretary of State Clinton.

As a Senator, Clinton was an outspoken defender of Israel’s colonization efforts in the occupied West Bank and highly critical of the United Nations for its efforts to uphold international humanitarian law, even taking the time to visit a major Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank in a show of support. She moderated that stance somewhat as Secretary of State in expressing concerns over how the right-wing Israeli government’s settlements policies harms the overall climate of the peace process, but she has refused to demand that Israel abide by international demands to stop building additional illegal settlements. An outspoken critic of Palestinian efforts for UN recognition, Clinton has even equated Palestine’s legal right to have its state recognized by the United Nations with Israel’s illegal settlements policy.

When the Netanyahu government reneged on an earlier promise of a temporary and limited freeze and announced massive subsidies for the construction of new settlements on the eve of a recent Clinton visit to Israel, she spoke only of the need for peace talks to resume. Indeed, Clinton refused to travel to nearby Ramallah to meet with Palestinian leaders and focused the discussions with Israeli officials on Egypt and Iran, not Palestine.

In 2011, Clinton successfully pushed for a US veto of a UN Security Council resolution reiterating the illegality of the settlement drive and calling for a settlement freeze, saying, “We have consistently over many years said that the United Nations Security Council – and resolutions that would come before the Security Council – is not the right vehicle to advance the goal.” She has never explained why the UN Security Council, which has traditionally been the vehicle for enforcing international law in territories under foreign belligerent occupation, should not continue to play such a role, particularly given the US failure to stop this right-wing colonization drive on its own.

Clinton has even opposed humanitarian efforts supportive of the Palestinians, criticizing an unarmed flotilla scheduled to bring relief supplies to the besieged Gaza Strip, claiming it would “provoke actions by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves.” Clinton did not explain why a country had “the right to defend themselves” against unarmed ships carrying relief supplies that were clearly no threat to Israel. Not only did the organizers of the flotilla go to great steps to ensure there were no weapons on board, the only cargo bound for Gaza on the US ship were letters of solidarity to the Palestinians in that besieged enclave who have suffered under devastating Israeli bombardments, a crippling blockade golpistas and a right-wing Islamist government. Nor did Clinton explain why she considered the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of the port of Gaza to be “Israeli waters,” when the entire international community recognizes Israeli territorial waters as being well to the northeast of the ships’ intended route.

Clinton’s State Department issued a public statement designed to discourage Americans from taking part in the flotilla to Gaza because they might be attacked by Israeli forces, yet they never issued a public statement demanding that Israel not attack Americans legally traveling in international waters. Indeed, Clinton spokesperson Victoria Nuland tried to position the United States to blame those taking part in the flotilla rather than the rightist Israeli government should anything happen to them. Like those in the early 1960s who claimed civil rights protesters were responsible for the attacks by white racist mobs because they had “provoked them,” Nuland stated, “Groups that seek to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions that risk the safety of their passengers.” Not only did Clinton never encourage caution or restraint by the Israeli government nor mention that the International Red Cross and other advocates of international humanitarian law recognize that the Israeli blockade is illegal, it appears she successfully convinced the Greek government to deny them the right to sail from Greek ports.

In short, Clinton’s legacy at the State Department has been one of continuing the policies of her predecessors in the Bush administration of opposing international law and human rights. It remains to be seen whether John Kerry, who joined Clinton as one of the right-wing minority of Congressional Democrats who supported the invasion of Iraq, will do much better. In any case, it is important to challenge the myth that Hillary Clinton is a figure who deserves support or admiration for her role of Secretary of State, or that she deserves another opportunity for influencing US foreign policy.

Hillary Clinton’s First 100 Days

Hillary Clinton has received mixed though generally favorable reviews, both internationally and domestically, during her first 100 days as secretary of state. Public opinion polls in the United States give her a more than 70 percent-positive rating.

Still, concerns linger regarding her eight years in the Senate, during which she supported some of the more controversial initiatives of the Bush administration, such as the U.S. invasion of Iraq, criticisms of the World Court and United Nations, and defense of Israeli occupation policies and military offenses against its neighbors.

Clinton has been slow to appoint a number of key officials, including regional assistant secretaries, and many of the appointments she has made have been of center-right veterans of the foreign policy establishment, many of whom were prominent in her husband’s administration — not the younger, more innovative figures many had hoped to see. Indeed, given that Barack Obama as a candidate promised not just to end the war in Iraq but to “end the mindset that led to the war in Iraq,” the prominent State Department roles given to supporters of the illegal invasion of that oil-rich country have been disturbing.

In certain ways, Clinton’s path has been made easier simply by the fact that her boss is not George W. Bush. Indeed, the enthusiasm overseas for Obama’s election has been unprecedented. Yet the penchant for unilateralism and disregard for the views of its allies for which the Bush administration became so notorious was also in evidence during her husband’s administration, such as the Clinton administration’s support for Israeli occupation policies, the enactment of the embargo of Cuba, and the continuation of draconian sanctions, accompanied by unauthorized air strikes, against Iraq, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths.

Despite this, Clinton has demonstrated that U.S. foreign policy under the Obama administration will be very different from that under Bush. In one of her first actions as secretary, she met with a large group of career State Department personnel — well-regarded experts in their respective fields who were consistently ignored under the previous administration — to thank them for their service and welcome their input.

On her trips abroad, she has put her experience as a campaigner to work, spending as much time listening as talking, trying to shore up the image of the United States, so badly damaged under the Bush administration. Her style is far more frank and open than the conservative intellectual Condoleezza Rice or the career military officer Colin Powell.

It is not unusual for a president to want to be his own secretary of state, but rarely has a secretary so badly wanted to be her own president. Despite this, she has demonstrated an ability to be a willing subordinate to the commander in chief.

Despite her decidedly hawkish record while on Capitol Hill, Clinton has shown herself willing to adjust to the more moderate policies of Obama. For example, despite her harsh criticism during the primary campaign of Obama’s call to negotiate with Iran, it was Clinton herself who invited the Islamic Republic to take part in multiparty talks on Afghanistan.

Similarly, while in Israel, she raised concerns about Israel’s mass demolition of Palestinians’ homes and construction of new settlements in the occupied West Bank.

While referring to policies that constitute flagrant violations of international humanitarian law and a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions as simply being “unhelpful” is certainly an understatement, this was still more criticism of Israel than she ever said publicly during her eight years in the U.S. Senate.

Still, while most of the international community recognizes that a unified Palestinian Authority — which would include moderate members of Hamas — is necessary for the peace process to move forward, Clinton told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on that same trip that a coalition government with a party that does not recognize Israel’s right to exist would be unacceptable, even threatening to cut off all humanitarian aid. By contrast, she has expressed no similar concern that Israel’s new coalition government is dominated by hard-line parties that oppose Palestine’s right to exist, and has even pledged to continue sending billions of dollars in unconditional military and economic aid to that right-wing government.

Human-rights activists were disappointed in her deliberate downplaying of human-rights violations during her visit to China. And she has had awkward moments during her travels responding to questions about U.S. military bases, now in more than 130 countries around the world.

Yet she has also emphasized the importance of “soft power” — the use of America’s political, diplomatic, economic and human capital to advance the country’s strategic interests — rather than reliance primarily on military means. She has stressed the need for international action to fight climate change. And she gained the respect of many in Latin America by acknowledging, during a trip to Mexico, U.S. culpability in the violence in the northern part of that country resulting from the insatiable appetite of Americans for illegal drugs.

Unfortunately, the fundamental problems with U.S. foreign policy in the early 21st century, rooted in hegemonic aspirations and imperial designs, go far beyond what Secretary of State Clinton or even President Obama can change on their own. Even the most enlightened foreign affairs minister or prime minister in 19th-century London could not fundamentally change the character of the British Empire. For those of us desiring a more radical change in the United States’ role in the world, we cannot simply hope for change emanating from Washington.

Instead, we must recognize our responsibility as citizens to bring about the change ourselves.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-zunes/hillary-clintons-first-10_b_207345.html

Hillary Clinton Brings Hawkish Record to State Department

The appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State is nothing less than a betrayal of the anti-war constituency responsible for Barack Obama winning the Democratic Party nomination and his subsequent election as president of the United States. The quintessential Democratic hawk, Senator Clinton has proven to be one of the leading militarists on Capitol Hill and her appointment as the country’s chief foreign policy representative serves notice to the international community that the change they had hoped for will not be forthcoming.

Clinton has demonstrated a marked preference for military confrontation over negotiations. In a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations last year, she called for a “tough-minded, muscular foreign and defense policy.” Similarly, when her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination Senator Barack Obama expressed his willingness to meet with Hugo Chavez, Raoul Castro or other foreign leaders with whom the United States has differences, she denounced him for being “irresponsible and frankly naive.”

What alarms most international observers, however, is her penchant for military solutions to complex political problems and her longstanding propensity to lie and exaggerate about alleged threats against the United States and its allies in order to justify her militaristic policies. As Secretary or State, she would have extraordinary influence in assessing real or imagined threats which could be used to convince President Obama, Congress and the American public to engage in acts of war.

Clinton’s False Claims of Threats

In order to justify her vote to authorize the U.S. invasion of Iraq in October 2002, despite widespread and public skepticism expressed by arms control experts over the Bush administration’s claims that Iraq had somehow re-armed itself, Senator Clinton was insisting that Iraq’s possession of biological and chemical weapons was “not in doubt” and was “undisputed.” This was completely untrue, as Iraq had completely disarmed itself of such proscribed weapons years earlier.

She also claimed, despite the reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iraq’s nuclear program had been completely eliminated, that Iraq was “trying to develop nuclear weapons.” Again, it became clear after the U.S. invasion of Iraq revealed no nuclear program that Clinton had lied again.

This did not stop her from making similar false allegations against Iran. Even though the IAEA had similarly reported that Iran no longer had an active nuclear weapons program — a fact confirmed by a National Intelligence Estimate representing a consensus of the United States’ sixteen intelligence agencies, which reported that Iran had ended its nuclear weapons program back in 2003 — Clinton had been insisting for years that Iran did have an active nuclear weapons program. Less that a week before the release of the NIE, Clinton declared unequivocally that “Iran is seeking nuclear weapons.”

Non-existent WMDs were not the only false claims Clinton made to justify a U.S. invasion of Iraq. For example, she insisted that Saddam had given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to al Qaeda terrorists. This came despite top strategic analysts correctly informing her that there were no apparent links between Saddam Hussein’s secular nationalist regime and the radical Islamist al-Qaeda, despite doubts of such claims appearing in the National Intelligence Estimates made available to her, and despite a subsequent definitive report by the Department of Defense which noted that not only did no such link exist, but that no such link could have even been reasonably suggested based upon the evidence available at that time.

Clinton’s Subsequent Support for the War

Even after U.S. forces invaded and occupied Iraq and confirmed that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, active WMD programs, offensive delivery systems, or ties to al-Qaeda as she and other supporters of the war had claimed, Clinton defended her vote to authorize the invasion anyway. As a result, she essentially acknowledged that Iraq’s alleged possession of WMDs was not really what motivated her vote to authorize the war after all, but was instead a ruse to frighten the American people into supporting the invasion. Her actual motivation appears to have been about oil and empire.

During the first four years following the invasion, Clinton was a steadfast supporter of Bush administration policy. When Representative John Murtha (D-PA) made his first call for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq in November 2005, she denounced his effort, calling a withdrawal of U.S. forces a big mistake. In 2006, when Senator John Kerry sponsored an amendment that would have required the redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq in order to advance a political solution to the growing sectarian strife, she voted against it. She came out against the war only when she began her presidential campaign, recognizing that public opinion had turned so decisively in opposition that there was no hope of her securing the Democratic nomination unless she changed her position.

She has also decried Iran’s “involvement in and influence over Iraq,” an ironic complaint for someone who voted to authorize the overthrow of the anti-Iranian secular government of Saddam Hussein despite his widely predicted replacement by pro-Iranian Shiite fundamentalist parties. She has also gone on record repeating a whole series of false, exaggerated and unproven charges by Bush administration officials regarding Iranian support for the Iraqi insurgency, even though the vast majority of foreign support for the insurgency has come from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries and that the majority of the insurgents are fanatically anti-Iranian and anti-Shiite.

Iran

It is not likely just a coincidence that the other country whose offensive military capabilities about which Clinton has made false accusations in order to justify possible military action also happens to be sitting on top of huge oil reserves. For example, in response to the Bush administration’s ongoing obsession with the supposed “Iranian threat,” Senator Clinton argued that Bush has not been obsessive enough. In a speech at Princeton University in 2007, she argued that the White House “lost critical time in dealing with Iran,” and accused the administration of choosing to “downplay the threats and to outsource the negotiations” as well as “standing on the sidelines.”

She has insisted that “we cannot take any option off the table in sending a clear message to the current leadership of Iran — that they will not be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons.” During the campaign, she denounced Obama’s intentions to pursue negotiations with the Iranians, a clear indication of her preference to resolve such conflicts by military means.

Senator Clinton was the only Democratic member of Congress seeking the presidential nomination to support the Kyl-Lieberman amendment which, among other things, called on the Bush administration to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps — the largest branch of the Iranian military — as a foreign terrorist organization. To designate a branch of the armed forces of a foreign state as a terrorist organization would have been unprecedented and was widely interpreted to be a backhanded way of authorizing military action against Iran. Indeed, Virginia Senator Jim Webb referred to it as “Cheney’s fondest pipe dream.”

She initially justified her vote in part because of the Revolutionary Guard’s alleged involvement in Iran’s nuclear weapons program, a position she has had trouble defending since it was revealed such a program has not existed for at least four years prior to the resolution. In language remarkably similar to her discredited rationalization for her 2002 vote to authorize the U.S. invasion of Iraq, she claimed that it was not actually a vote for war, but simply to give Bush a means “to apply greater diplomatic pressure on Iran.” (Fortunately, Senator Clinton’s position was too extreme even for the Bush administration, which designated only the al-Quds Force — a sub-unit of the Revolutionary Guards which doesn’t always operate with the full knowledge and consent of the central government — as a terrorist organization.)

Though Iran’s threat to the national security of the United States is grossly exaggerated, it is a far more powerful country today in terms of its military prowess than was Iraq in 2002, when Senator Clinton supported invading that country because of its alleged danger to U.S. national security. It would be naïve, therefore, to ignore the very real possibility that, as Secretary if State, she would find reason to advocate an invasion of Iran as well.

Nuclear Issues

Senator Clinton has also shown little regard for the danger from the proliferation of nuclear weapons to other countries, opposing the enforcement of UN Security Council resolutions challenging the nuclear weapons programs of such U.S allies as Israel, Pakistan and India. Not only does she support unconditional military aid — including nuclear-capable missiles and jet fighters — to these countries, she even voted to end restrictions on U.S. nuclear cooperation with countries that violate the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

By contrast, Senator Clinton insists that the prospect of Iran joining its three southwestern Asian neighbors in developing nuclear weapons “must be unacceptable to the entire world” since challenging the nuclear monopoly of the United States and its allies would somehow “shake the foundation of global security to its very core.” Despite this, she refuses to support the proposed nuclear weapons-free zone for the Middle East, as called for in UN Security Council resolution 687, nor does she support a no-first use nuclear policy, both of which could help resolve the nuclear standoff. Indeed, she has refused to rule out the use of nuclear weapons against such non-nuclear countries as Iran, even though such unilateral use of nuclear weapons directly contradicts the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the same treaty she claims the United States must unilaterally and rigorously enforce when it involves Iran and other countries the U.S. government doesn’t like.

When Senator Obama noted back in August that the use of nuclear weapons — traditionally seen as a deterrent against other nuclear states — was not appropriate for use against terrorists, Clinton rebuked his logic by claiming that “I don’t believe that any president should make any blanket statements with respect to the use or nonuse of nuclear weapons.”

Senator Clinton also criticized the Bush administration’s decision to include China, Japan and South Korea in talks regarding North Korea’s nuclear program and to allow France, Britain and Germany to play a major role in negotiations with Iran, claiming that instead of taking “leadership to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of rogue states and terrorists … we have outsourced over the last five years our policies.” In essence, as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton would likely be even more unilateralist and less prone to work with other nations than the Bush administration on such critical issues as non-proliferation.

Latin America

In Latin America, Senator Clinton argues that the Bush administration should have taken a more aggressive stance against the rise of left-leaning governments in the hemisphere, arguing that Bush has neglected these recent developments “at our peril.” In response to recent efforts by democratically elected Latin American governments to challenge the structural obstacles which have left much of their populations in poverty, she has expressed alarm that “We have witnessed the rollback of democratic development and economic openness in parts of Latin America.”

Apparently wishing that the Bush administration could have somehow prevented the elections of leftist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and elsewhere, she argues that “We must return to a policy of vigorous engagement.” Though she has not clarified what she means by “vigorous engagement,” regional examples in recent decades have included military interventions, CIA-sponsored coups, military and financial support for opposition groups, and rigged national elections.

She has also supported Bush’s counter-productive and vindictive policy towards Cuba, insisting that she would not end the trade embargo — recently denounced in a 184-4 vote by the United Nations General Assembly — until there was a “democratic transition” in that country, even while supporting free trade agreements with undemocratic governments elsewhere. She has even backed Bush’s strict limitations on family visitations by Cuban-Americans and other restrictions on Americans’ freedom to travel.

The Balkans

Under her husband’s administration, Senator Clinton was an outspoken advocate of using the blunt instrument of military force to deal with complex international problems. For example, she was one of the chief advocates in her husband’s inner circle for the 11-week bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999 to attempt to resolve the Kosovo crisis.

Though she had not indicated any support for the Kosovar Albanians’ nonviolent campaign against Serbian oppression which had been ongoing since she had first moved into the White House six years earlier, she was quite eager for the United States to go to war on behalf of the militant Kosovo Liberation Army which had just recently come to prominence. Gail Sheehy’s book Hillary’s Choice reveals how, when President Bill Clinton and others expressed concerns that bombing Serbia would likely lead to a dramatic worsening of the human rights situation by provoking the Serbs into engaging in full-scale ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, Hillary Clinton successfully pushed her husband to bomb that country anyway. As predicted, the bombing campaign precluded a diplomatic settlement and vicious campaign of ethnic cleansing ensued.

Israel

Regarding Israel, Senator Clinton has taken a consistently right-wing position, undermining the efforts of Israeli and Palestinian moderates seeking a just peace that would recognize both the Palestinians’ legitimate national rights and the Israelis’ legitimate security concerns. For example, she has defended Israeli colonization of occupied Palestinian territory, has strongly supported Israel’s construction of an illegal separation barrier deep inside the occupied territory, and has denounced the International Court of Justice for its near-unanimous 2004 decision calling on Israel to abide by international humanitarian law.

Indeed, Senator Clinton has consistently put the onus of responsibility on the occupied Palestinians rather than their Israeli occupiers.

Senator Clinton was also an outspoken supporter of Israel’s massive military assault on the civilian infrastructure of Lebanon and the Gaza Strip in 2006, which took the lives of at least 800 civilians. She claimed that the carnage was justified since it would “send a message to Hamas, Hezbollah, to the Syrians [and] to the Iranians,” because, in her words, they oppose the United States and Israel’s commitment to “life and freedom.” Despite detailed reports from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch noting that there was no evidence to suggest that Hezbollah used Lebanese civilians as human shields, Senator Clinton has repeatedly insisted that they did, in an apparent effort to discredit these human rights groups and absolve Israel of any responsibility for the enormous civilian casualties inflicted during the assault.

Senator Clinton’s statements were challenged by her opponent in the 2006 Democratic primary for Senate in New York, union activist Jonathan Tasini, who pointed out that “Israel has committed acts that violate international standards and the Geneva Conventions.” Her spokesperson, however, dismissed Tasini’s concerns about Israeli violations of international humanitarian law as “beyond the pale.” Senator Clinton’s supporters also denounced him as “anti-Israel,” even though he is a former Israeli citizen who has lost close relatives in the Arab-Israeli wars and to Palestinian terrorism, his father fought with Zionist forces in the Israeli war of independence, and has repeatedly referred to himself as a “friend of Israel.”

Clinton even continues to defend Israel’s decision to launch the devastating 2006 war on Lebanon even though an Israeli government report released last year acknowledged it was a major setback to Israeli security. (See my article U.S. Role in Lebanon Debacle .)

Syria

Senator Clinton has also aimed her militaristic sights at Syria. In a typical example of her double-standards, she was a co-sponsor of the 2003 “Syrian Accountability Act,” which demanded — under threat of sanctions — that Syria unilaterally eliminate its chemical weapons and missile systems, despite the fact that nearby U.S. allies like Israel and Egypt had far larger and more advanced stockpiles of chemical weapons and missiles, not to mention Israel’s sizable arsenal of nuclear weapons. (See my article, The Syrian Accountability Act and the Triumph of Hegemony.)

Included in the bill’s “findings” were charges by top Bush Administration officials of Syrian support for international terrorism and development of dangerous WMD programs. Not only have most of these particular accusations not been independently confirmed, they were made by the same Bush Administration officials who had made similar claims against Iraq that have since been proven false. Yet Senator Clinton naively trusted their word over independent strategic analysts familiar with the region who have challenged many of these charges. Her bill also called for strict sanctions against Syria as well as Syria’s expulsion from its non-permanent seat Security Council for its failure at that time to withdraw its forces from Lebanon according to UN Security Council resolution 520.

This could hardly be considered a principled position, however, since she defended Israel’s 22-year long occupation of southern Lebanon that finally ended just three years earlier which was in defiance of this same resolution, as well as nine other UN Security Council resolutions. Nor had she ever called for the expulsion of Morocco, Turkey or Indonesia from the Security Council when they held non-permanent seats despite their violations of UN Security Council resolutions regarding their occupations of neighboring countries.

Despite the fact that Syria is far weaker than it was 20 years ago when it was being generously armed by the Soviet Union, Senator Clinton insists that it is now “among the most difficult and dangerous [countries] in the world” and that it somehow poses “direct threats to … neighbors … and far beyond the region.” She also offered her “strong support” for Israel’s unprovoked air strikes in northern Syria in September. She has echoed the administration’s charges that Syria is a major supporter of Hamas, even though the bulk of the Islamist Palestinian group’s foreign support has come from Saudi Arabia and Iran, not the secular regime in Damascus. And, despite Syria’s longstanding opposition to Sunni extremists and Iraqi Baathists — the major components of the insurgency fighting U.S. forces in Iraq — she has also accused Syria of backing anti-American forces in that country.

In short, it appears that the State Department under Hillary Clinton will not be unlike that of the State Department under Madeleine Albright, where — as with her successors in the Bush administration — U.S. foreign policy was based upon militarism, confrontation and unilaterialism. This is not what most voters were expecting in electing Barack Obama as president. As a result, the anti-war movement must continue to challenge U.S. foreign policy under an Obama administration just as vigorously as we did under the Bush administration.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-zunes/hillary-clinton-brings-ha_b_148786.html