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

Hillary Clinton’s Disdain for International Law — PART TWO

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.alternet.org/world/109359/hillary_clinton’s_disdain_for_international_law_–_part_ii/

Hillary Clinton’s Disdain for International Law — PART ONE

For those hoping for a dramatic change in U.S. foreign policy under an Obama administration — particularly regarding human rights, international law, and respect for international institutions — the appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State is a bitter disappointment. Indeed, Senator Clinton has more often than not sided with the Bush administration against fellow Democrats on key issues regarding America’s international legal obligations, particularly international humanitarian law.

This will be particularly disappointing for those in the international community who were so positive about Obama’s election as president. The selection of Hillary Clinton, at best, represents a return to the policies of her husband’s administration.

Because the Bush administration had taken things to new lows, many seem to have forgotten the fact that the Clinton administration had also greatly alienated the international community. Regarding Iraq, Iran and Israel, the Clinton administration engaged in a series of policies which put the United States sharply at odds with most of its Western allies and a broad consensus of international legal scholars. And these were not the only issues during the Clinton years over which the United States found itself isolated from the rest of the international community: there was U.S. opposition to the land mine treaty, the strengthening of the embargo against Cuba, support for Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara, foot-dragging on the Kyoto Protocols, support for Turkey’s vicious military offensive in the Kurdish regions of that country, among others.

Even worse, Hillary Clinton allied herself with the Bush administration on many its most controversial actions, such as the 2003 invasion of Iraq, threats of war against Iran, support for Israel’s 2006 offensive against Lebanon and 2002 offensive in the West Bank, opposition to the International Criminal Court, attacks against the International Court of Justice, and support for the unrestricted export of cluster bombs and other anti-personnel munitions used against civilian targets.

Hostility Toward Human Rights

Senator Hillary Clinton has opposed restrictions on U.S. arms transfers and police training to governments that engage in gross and systematic human rights abuses. Indeed, she has supported unconditional U.S. arms transfers and police training to such repressive and autocratic governments as Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Pakistan, Equatorial Guinea, Azerbaijan, Cameroon, Kazakhstan, and Chad, just to name a few.

Senator Clinton voted to send tens of billions of dollars unconditionally to Baghdad to prop up Iraq’s U.S.-backed regime during the height of its repression, apparently unconcerned about the well-documented reports of death squads being run from the Interior Ministry that were killing many thousands of unarmed Sunni men.

She has also refused to join many of her Democratic colleagues in signing a letter endorsing a treaty that would limit arms transfers to countries that engage in a consistent pattern of gross and systematic human rights violations.

Not only has she been willing to support unconditional military assistance to repressive regimes, she has little inclination to control weapons that primarily target innocent civilians. Senator Clinton has refused to support the international treaty to ban land mines, which are responsible for killing and maiming thousands of civilians worldwide, a disproportionate percentage of whom have been children.

She was also among a minority of Democratic Senators to side with the Republican majority in voting down a Democratic-sponsored resolution in 2007 restricting U.S. exports of cluster bombs to countries that use them against civilian-populated areas. Each of these cluster bomb contains hundreds of bomblets that are scattered over an area the size of up to four football fields and, with a failure rate of up to 30 percent, become de facto land mines. Civilians account for as much as 98 percent of the casualties caused by these weapons.

Senator Clinton also has a record of dismissing reports by human rights monitors that highlight large-scale attacks against civilians by allied governments. For example, 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, claiming that 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 re-conquest of Palestinian cities in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

Similarly, when Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other reputable human rights groups issued detailed reports regarding Israeli war crimes during that country’s assault on Lebanon in the summer of 2006, Senator Clinton insisted they were wrong and that Israel’s attacks were legal. Furthermore, though these groups had also criticized the radical Lebanese group Hezbollah for committing war crimes by firing rockets into civilian-populated areas in Israel, exhaustive investigations revealed absolutely no evidence that they had used the civilian population as “human shields” to protect themselves from Israeli assaults. Despite this, Senator Clinton, without providing any credible evidence to the contrary, still insists that they in fact had used human shields and Hezbollah, not the U.S-supplied Israeli armed forces, were therefore responsible for the deaths of more than 800 Lebanese civilians.

In Senator Clinton’s world view, if a country is considered an important strategic ally of the United States, any charges of human rights abuses — no matter how strong the evidence — should be summarily dismissed. Indeed, despite the Israeli government’s widespread and well-documented violations of international humanitarian law, Senator Clinton has praised Israel for embracing “values that respect the dignity and rights of human beings.”

Clinton’s Opposition to the United Nations

Senator Clinton has also been one the Senate’s most outspoken critics of the United Nations, even appearing outside the UN headquarters in New York twice during the past five years at right-wing gatherings to denounce the world body. For example, she has falsely accused the UN of not taking a stand against terrorism, even though terrorism has become — largely at the insistence of the United States — a major UN focus in recent years.

Senator Clinton’s hostility to international law and the UN system is perhaps best illustrated by her opposition to the International Criminal Court. In 2002, Senator Clinton voted in favor of an amendment by right-wing Senator Jesse Helms that prohibits the United States from cooperating in any way with the International Criminal Court 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. Nicknamed the “Hague Invasion Act,” the bill 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,” including military force.

The International Court of Justice (also known as the World Court, which essentially serves as the judicial arm of the United Nations) has also been a target of Senator Clinton’s hostility toward international law. For example, in 2004, the ICJ 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. Affronted that an important U.S. ally would be required to abide by its international legal obligations and that the United States should help ensure such compliance, Senator Clinton strongly condemned the decision.

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 illegally annexing occupied Palestinian territory. 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 even the then-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 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. 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 addition, in what was apparently an effort to misrepresent and discredit the UN, 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 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.

Senator Clinton’s resolution also represented a departure from any previous congressional resolution in that it referred 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, Senator Clinton must have recognized that such wording had the affect of legitimizing the expansion of a country’s territory by force, a clear violation of the UN Charter.

Support for the Illegal Use of Force

The UN Charter forbids its member states from using military force unless under direct attack or authorized by the UN Security Council. Customary international law allows for pre-emptive war only in cases of an imminent threat, such as troops massing along the border or missiles being loaded onto launchers. Senator Clinton, however, believes that the United States had the legal right to invade Iraq, even though it constituted no threat to the national security of the United States and there had been no authorization by the UN Security Council to use force. Indeed, when the United States launched its invasion of Iraq in March 2003 in defiance of widespread global condemnation of this act of aggression, she voted for a Republican-sponsored resolution categorically declaring that the war was “lawful.”

Senator Clinton has tried to rationalize her support for this illegal war by claiming that the UN authorized member states to take military action against Iraq in November of 1990. However, that resolution (687) only referred to using such means to enforce resolution 678, which demanded that Iraq withdraw its occupation forces from Kuwait. Once Iraqi forces withdrew — which took place more than a dozen years prior to the 2003 invasion — the resolution was moot.

Similarly, her claim that invading Iraq constituted a legitimate act of self-defense is particularly disturbing. Even if Saddam Hussein had been developing chemical and biological weapons as Senator Clinton falsely alleged, Iraq would have been just one of 40 countries to have developed such arsenals and Iraq had no delivery systems left that were capable of attacking other countries, much less the United States. Her belief that the United States somehow has the right to invade another country simply on the suspicion that it might be developing weapons for future use constitutes a radical departure from international legal norms and is a clear violation of the UN Charter. Hillary Clinton, however, believes the United States should not be bound by such restrictions and that the United States has the right to invade any country that the president believes could even potentially be a threat some time in the future.

Senator Clinton claims that she voted to authorize war against Iraq in October 2002 because “we needed to put inspectors in.” However, Saddam Hussein had by that time already agreed to a return of the weapons inspectors. Furthermore, Senator Clinton 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, Senator 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. Indeed, 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 that Senator Clinton had voted to authorize.

Clinton also claimed that the absence of UN personnel in Iraq during the preceding four years was because Saddam “threw out inspectors.” In reality, the inspectors were ordered out in December 1998 by President Bill Clinton in anticipation of the four-day U.S.-led bombing campaign, which was widely condemned at that time as a flagrant violation of international law. (See my article Hillary Clinton Again Lies about Iraq.)

A politician who supported preventive war in the past might do so in the future as well. Indeed, Senator Clinton has criticized Bush for allowing the Europeans to lead the diplomatic efforts with Iran over their nuclear program, insisting that the United States should keep “all options on the table,” presumably meaning military force.

Implications of Clinton as Secretary of State

Though an overwhelming majority of Americans, according to public opinion polls, believe that human rights and international law should be a cornerstone of American foreign policy, Senator Clinton has repeatedly prioritized the profits of American arms manufacturers and the extension of Washington’s hegemonic reach in parts of the world. It is ironic that, with the long-awaited return of the Democratic Party to power, the new Secretary of State essentially advocates a clear break with the internationalist and law-based principles espoused by such previous Democratic leaders as Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman.

Hillary Clinton is not the first hawk to be appointed to a key position by Obama. The selection of Joe Biden as his vice-president, the pro-war militarist chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was seen as a slap in the face to his dovish constituency. (See my articles Biden’s Foreign Policy “Experience” and Biden, Iraq, and Obama’s Betrayal.) Obama’ defenders insisted that his appointment had more to do with political considerations that would enhance the likelihood of an electoral victory in November, that the vice-president does not have a formal role in foreign policy formulation, and should therefore not be interpreted as a harbinger of subsequent appointments.

Then came the selection of Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff. (See my article Is Obama Screwing His Base with Rahm Emanuel Selection?) Obama’s defenders emphasized that the White House position was more administrative than policy-oriented, that Emanuel was more a political operative than a policy-wonk, and that his appointment had more to do with his political skills than his political opinions.

Then came the word that Obama was going to keep Robert Gates, Bush’s current Secretary of Defense and a proponent of the Bush’s disastrous Iraq policy, as the Pentagon chief. Obama’s defenders then insisted that Gates wasn’t as bad as his predecessor Donald Rumsfeld, that continuity in such a position was important in time of war, and that Gates could provide cover from right-wing attacks in the face of an eventual U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

Then came the apparent selection of the recently-retired Marine General James Jones, a prominent hawk who supported John McCain for president, as Obama’s national security advisor. Obama’s defenders pointed out that his role would simply be that as an advisor, not a policy maker, and that someone with his strategic understanding and international contacts would be a positive influence.

With the selection of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, however, it is no longer possible to make any more excuses. It is getting harder to deny that Barack Obama intends to tilt his foreign policy to the right.

This is not simply a situation where Obama desires an opportunity to listen to alternative perspectives from hawks as a means of strengthening his dovish proclivities. These hawkish perspectives have long been dominant in Washington and in the mainstream media, so even without these appointments, Obama would be getting plenty of this kind of feedback anyway. It appears that he has appointed Clinton and these other hawks because he does not have any principled objections to their disdain for human right and international law.

It is important to remember, however, that it has been rare for elected Democratic officials to take the lead in building a more progressive foreign policy. From Vietnam to South Africa to the nuclear freeze to Central America to East Timor to Iraq it has been mass movements which have forced the Democrats away from their initially right-wing militarist agenda to one more supportive of human rights and international law. Hillary Clinton’s about-face on Iraq just prior to her run for president is but one example of how popular pressure can turn an unrepentant war hawk into an anti-war candidate.

As a result, while it is important to recognize the serious implications of the Clinton appointment, it is also important to realize that the ultimate direction of Obama’s foreign policy will not be determined by his Secretary of State, but by the American people.

http://www.alternet.org/story/109264/hillary_clinton%27s_disdain_for_international_law_–_change_we_can_believe_in/?page=entire

Clinton’s GWU Iraq Speech

On March 17, New York Senator and Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton gave a speech at George Washington University outlining her plans to de-escalate U.S. military involvement in Iraq. Though she called for the gradual withdrawal of U.S. combat brigades over the next several years, she continued to refuse to apologize for her 2002 vote authorizing the invasion, to acknowledge the illegality of the war, or to fully explain her false claims made at that time regarding Iraq’s military capabilities and alleged ties to al-Qaeda. Nor was she able to offer an explanation as to what led to her dramatic shift from a supporter of the ongoing war and occupation as recently as a year and a half ago to her current more critical perspective.

Below are excerpts from her speech, followed by annotated comments:

“It has been five years this week since our president took us to war in Iraq.”

President George W. Bush was not solely responsible for taking the United States to war. He had accomplices, such as Hillary Clinton. Bush was only able launch the invasion as a result of being provided with the authorization to do so by a Congressional resolution. Clinton was among a minority of congressional Democrats who – combined with a Republican majority – provided sufficient votes to give the go-ahead for this illegal and disastrous war.

“Bringing lasting stability to the region will take a president with the strength and determination, the knowledge and confidence…to rebuild our military readiness, to care for our veterans, and to redouble our efforts against al-Qaeda. If you give me the chance, I will be that president.”

As predicted prior to the invasion, the over-extension of the U.S. armed forces, the enormous costs, and the high casualty rates resulting from the war has greatly harmed U.S. military readiness, the ability to care for veterans, and the struggle against al-Qaeda. It’s hard to imagine how someone who supported the invasion can be trusted to be the kind of president who will be able to address those needs.

“Nearly 4,000 of [our troops] have, by now, made that ultimate sacrifice. Tens of thousands more have suffered wounds both visible and invisible to their bodies, their minds, and their hearts. Their families have sacrificed, too, in empty places at the dinner table, in the struggle to raise children alone, in the wrenching reversal of parents burying children… Our armed forces are stretched to near the breaking point with many of our troops on their second, third, or fourth tours of duty. … Taking into consideration the long-term costs of replacing equipment and providing medical care for troops and survivors’ benefits for their families, the war in Iraq could ultimately cost well over $1 trillion.”

In scholarly journals, in newspaper columns, in congressional testimony, on this web site, and elsewhere, there were ample warnings of just such disastrous consequences resulting from a U.S. invasion of Iraq. Regardless, Clinton apparently believed at the time that seizing control of that oil-rich country was worth the sacrifice. Only since public opinion polls indicated that she had no hope of winning the Democratic presidential nomination if she continued to support the war, did she start talking about the war’s negative consequences.

“I have met with our soldiers and military leaders [in Iraq]. I have met with Iraqi local, regional, and national elected and other influential officials.”

During her one trip to Iraq, in February 2005, she insisted that the U.S. occupation was “functioning quite well,” although the security situation had deteriorated so badly 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. Though 55 Iraqis and one American soldier were killed during her brief visit, she insisted – in a manner remarkably similar to statements by Vice President Dick Cheney – that the rise in suicide bombings was evidence that the insurgency was failing.

“The American people don’t have to guess whether I’m ready to lead or whether I understand the realities on the ground in Iraq or whether I’d be too dependent on advisers to help me determine the right way forward. I’ve been working day-in and day-out in the Senate to provide leadership to end this war.”

In reality, until very recently, Clinton was one of the leading senators supporting the war. Even after the U.S. forces invaded and occupied Iraq and confirmed that – contrary to Clinton’s initial justification for the U.S. conquest – 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, she defended her vote to authorize the invasion anyway. 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.

“Now, my Democratic opponent talks a great deal about a speech he gave in 2002. He is asking us to judge him by his words, and words can be powerful, but only if the speaker translates them into action and solutions. Senator Obama holds up his original opposition to the war on the campaign trail, but he didn’t start working aggressively to end the war until he started running for president. So when he had a chance to act on his speech, he chose silence instead.”

It’s ironic that Clinton, in a desperate effort to cover up for her support for the war and her lies to justify it, would belittle Obama’s accurate and prescient understanding that invading Iraq was wrong. Back in October 2002, Obama publicly acknowledged that “Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors” and that “even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.” He also recognized that “an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.” That same month in Washington, however, Clinton was insisting incorrectly that Iraq was such a dire threat to U.S. national security that it required her, “in the best interests of our nation,” to vote to authorize the invasion.

Furthermore, Obama did a lot more than give a speech: he gave interviews, lobbied members of Congress, and made a series of other statements in which he warned of the violent sectarian and ethnic divisions which could emerge following a U.S. invasion and occupation, the risks of a long-term U.S. military commitment, and the dangerous precedent of giving a carte blanche for a pre-emptive war.

It was true that, much to the disappointment of many of his supporters, Obama did not initially take leadership in opposition to the war once he was elected to the U.S. Senate, though it is customary for freshman senators to take a back seat on foreign policy issues during the early part of their first term. Yet, by November of his first year in office, while Clinton was still backing Bush administration policy, Obama was calling for a reduction in U.S. forces. Within a year, Obama introduced legislation setting a date for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, well prior to Clinton supporting such legislation.

“As we bring our troops and contractors home, we cannot lose sight of our strategic interests in this region. The reality is that this war has made the terrorists stronger. Well, they may not have been in Iraq before the war, they are there now, and we cannot allow Iraq to become a breeding ground and safe haven for terrorists who seek to attack us and our friends and allies. So let me be clear – under my plan, withdrawing from Iraq will not mean retreating from fighting terrorism in Iraq. That’s why I will order small, elite strike forces to engage in targeted operations against al- Qaeda in Iraq. This will protect Iraqi citizens, our allies, and our families right here at home.”

Clinton did not always acknowledge the absence of terrorist operations in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion and occupation. Indeed, in order to justify her vote to authorize the invasion, she insisted that Saddam had “given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members.” 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. Now, as a direct consequence of the invasion and occupation she helped make possible, Clinton uses the very real presence of terrorist groups, including at least major faction which identifies with al-Qaeda, as an excuse to continue prosecuting the war.

http://www.fpif.org/articles/clintons_gwu_iraq_speech

Behind Obama and Clinton

Voters on the progressive wing of the Democratic Party are rightly disappointed by the similarity of the foreign policy positions of the two remaining Democratic Party presidential candidates, Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama. However, there are still some real discernable differences to be taken into account. Indeed, given the power the United States has in the world, even minimal differences in policies can have a major difference in the lives of millions of people.

As a result, the kind of people the next president appoints to top positions in national defense, intelligence, and foreign affairs is critical. Such officials usually emerge from among a presidential candidate’s team of foreign policy advisors. So, analyzing who these two finalists for the Democratic presidential nomination have brought in to advise them on international affairs can be an important barometer for determining what kind for foreign policies they would pursue as president. For instance, in the case of the Bush administration, officials like Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle played a major role in the fateful decision to invade Iraq by convincing the president that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat and that American forces would be treated as liberators.

The leading Republican candidates have surrounded themselves with people likely to encourage the next president to follow down a similarly disastrous path. But what about Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton? Who have they picked to help them deal with Iraq war and the other immensely difficult foreign policy decisions that they’ll be likely to face as president?

Contrasting Teams

Senator Clinton’s foreign policy advisors tend to be veterans of President Bill Clinton’s administration, most notably former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger. Her most influential advisor – and her likely choice for Secretary of State – is Richard Holbrooke. Holbrooke served in a number of key roles in her husband’s administration, including U.S. ambassador to the UN and member of the cabinet, special emissary to the Balkans, assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian affairs, and U.S. ambassador to Germany. He also served as President Jimmy Carter’s assistant secretary of state for East Asia in propping up Marcos in the Philippines, supporting Suharto’s repression in East Timor, and backing the generals behind the Kwangju massacre in South Korea.

Senator Barack Obama’s foreign policy advisers, who on average tend to be younger than those of the former first lady, include mainstream strategic analysts who have worked with previous Democratic administrations, such as former national security advisors Zbigniew Brzezinski and Anthony Lake, former assistant secretary of state Susan Rice, and former navy secretary Richard Danzig. They have also included some of the more enlightened and creative members of the Democratic Party establishment, such as Joseph Cirincione and Lawrence Korb of the Center for American Progress, and former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke. His team also includes the noted human rights scholar and international law advocate Samantha Power – author of a recent New Yorker article on U.S. manipulation of the UN in post-invasion Iraq – and other liberal academics. Some of his advisors, however, have particularly poor records on human rights and international law, such as retired General Merrill McPeak, a backer of Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor, and Dennis Ross, a supporter of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

Contrasting Issues

While some of Obama’s key advisors, like Larry Korb, have expressed concern at the enormous waste from excess military spending, Clinton’s advisors have been strong supporters of increased resources for the military.

While Obama advisors Susan Rice and Samantha Power have stressed the importance of U.S. multilateral engagement, Albright allies herself with the jingoism of the Bush administration, taking the attitude that “If we have to use force, it is because we are America! We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall, and we see further into the future.”

While Susan Rice has emphasized how globalization has led to uneven development that has contributed to destabilization and extremism and has stressed the importance of bottom-up anti-poverty programs, Berger and Albright have been outspoken supporters of globalization on the current top-down neo-liberal lines.

Obama advisors like Joseph Cirincione have emphasized a policy toward Iraq based on containment and engagement and have downplayed the supposed threat from Iran. Clinton advisor Holbrooke, meanwhile, insists that “the Iranians are an enormous threat to the United States,” the country is “the most pressing problem nation,” and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is like Hitler.

Iraq as Key Indicator

Perhaps the most important difference between the two foreign policy teams concerns Iraq. Given the similarities in the proposed Iraq policies of Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama, Obama’s supporters have emphasized that their candidate had the better judgment in opposing the invasion beforehand. Indeed, in the critical months prior to the launch of the war in 2003, Obama openly challenged the Bush administration’s exaggerated claims of an Iraqi threat and presciently warned that a war would lead to an increase in Islamic extremism, terrorism, and regional instability, as well as a decline in America’s standing in the world.

Senator Clinton, meanwhile, was repeating as fact the administration’s false claims of an imminent Iraqi threat. She voted to authorize President Bush to invade that oil-rich country at the time and circumstances of his own choosing and confidently predicted success. Despite this record and Clinton’s refusal to apologize for her war authorization vote, however, her supporters argue that it no longer relevant and voters need to focus on the present and future.

Indeed, whatever choices the next president makes with regard to Iraq are going to be problematic, and there are no clear answers at this point. Yet one’s position regarding the invasion of Iraq at that time says a lot about how a future president would address such questions as the use of force, international law, relations with allies, and the use of intelligence information.

As a result, it may be significant that Senator Clinton’s foreign policy advisors, many of whom are veterans of her husband’s administration, were virtually all strong supporters of President George W. Bush’s call for a U.S. invasion of Iraq. By contrast, almost every one of Senator Obama’s foreign policy team was opposed to a U.S. invasion.

Pre-War Positions

During the lead-up to the war, Obama’s advisors were suspicious of the Bush administration’s claims that Iraq somehow threatened U.S. national security to the extent that it required a U.S. invasion and occupation of that country. For example, Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security advisor in the Carter administration, argued that public support for war “should not be generated by fear-mongering or demagogy.”

By contrast, Clinton’s top advisor and her likely pick for secretary of state, Richard Holbrooke, insisted that Iraq remained “a clear and present danger at all times.”

Brzezinski warned that the international community would view the invasion of a country that was no threat to the United States as an illegitimate an act of aggression. Noting that it would also threaten America’s leadership, Brzezinski said that “without a respected and legitimate law-enforcer, global security could be in serious jeopardy.” Holbrooke, rejecting the broad international legal consensus against offensive wars, insisted that it was perfectly legitimate for the United States to invade Iraq and that the European governments and anti-war demonstrators who objected “undoubtedly encouraged” Saddam Hussein.

Another key Obama advisor, Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment, argued that the goal of containing the potential threat from Iraq had been achieved, noting that “Saddam Hussein is effectively incarcerated and under watch by a force that could respond immediately and devastatingly to any aggression. Inside Iraq, the inspection teams preclude any significant advance in WMD capabilities. The status quo is safe for the American people.”

By contrast, Clinton advisor Sandy Berger, who served as her husband’s national security advisor, insisted that “even a contained Saddam” was “harmful to stability and to positive change in the region,” and therefore the United States had to engage in “regime change” in order to “fight terror, avert regional conflict, promote peace, and protect the security of our friends and allies.”

Meanwhile, other future Obama advisors, such as Larry Korb, raised concerns about the human and material costs of invading and occupying a heavily populated country in the Middle East and the risks of chaos and a lengthy counter-insurgency war.

And other top advisors to Senator Clinton – such as her husband’s former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright – confidently predicted that American military power could easily suppress any opposition to a U.S. takeover of Iraq. Such confidence in the ability of the United States to impose its will through force is reflected to this day in the strong support for President Bush’s troop surge among such Clinton advisors (and original invasion advocates) as Jack Keane, Kenneth Pollack, and Michael O’Hanlon. Perhaps that was one reason that, during the recent State of the Union address, when Bush proclaimed that the Iraqi surge was working, Clinton stood and cheered while Obama remained seated and silent.

These differences in the key circles of foreign policy specialists surrounding these two candidates are consistent with their diametrically opposed views in the lead-up to the war.

National Security

Not every one of Clinton’s foreign policy advisors is a hawk. Her team also includes some centrist opponents of the war, including retired General Wesley Clark and former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

On balance, it appears likely that a Hillary Clinton administration, like Bush’s, would be more likely to embrace exaggerated and alarmist reports regarding potential national security threats, to ignore international law and the advice of allies, and to launch offensive wars. By contrast, a Barack Obama administration would be more prone to examine the actual evidence of potential threats before reacting, to work more closely with America’s allies to maintain peace and security, to respect the country’s international legal obligations, and to use military force only as a last resort.

Progressive Democrats do have reason to be disappointed with Obama’s foreign policy agenda. At the same time, as The Nation magazine noted, members of Obama’s foreign policy team are “more likely to stress ’soft power’ issues like human rights, global development and the dangers of failed states.” As a result, “Obama may be more open to challenging old Washington assumptions and crafting new approaches.”

And new approaches are definitely needed.

http://www.fpif.org/articles/behind_obama_and_clinton

Hillary Clinton’s Militarism Exposed

While much attention has been given to Senator Hillary Clinton’s support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, her foreign policy record regarding other international conflicts and her apparent eagerness to accept the use of force appears to indicate that her fateful vote authorizing the invasion and her subsequent support for the occupation and counter-insurgency war was no aberration. Indeed, there’s every indication that, as president, her foreign policy agenda would closely parallel that of the Bush administration. Despite efforts by some conservative Republicans to portray her as being on the left wing of the Democratic Party, in reality her foreign policy positions bear a far closer resemblance to those of Ronald Reagan than they do of George McGovern.

For example, rather than challenge President George W. Bush’s dramatic increases in military spending, Senator Clinton argues that they are not enough and the United States needs to spend even more in subsequent years. At the end of the Cold War, many Democrats were claiming that the American public would be able to benefit from a “peace dividend” resulting from dramatically-reduced military spending following the demise of the Soviet Union. Clinton, however, has called for dramatic increases in the military budget, even though the United States, despite being surrounded by two oceans and weak friendly neighbors, already spends as much on its military as all the rest of the world combined.

Mama Warbucks

Her presidential campaign has received far more money from defense contractors than any other candidate — Democrat or Republican — and her close ties to the defense industry has led the Village Voice to refer to her as “Mama Warbucks.” She has even fought the Bush administration in restoring funding for some of the very few weapons systems the Bush administration has sought to cut in recent years. Pentagon officials and defense contractors have given Senator Clinton high marks for listening to their concerns, promoting their products and leveraging her ties to the Pentagon, comparing her favorably to the hawkish former Washington Senator “Scoop” Jackson and other pro-military Democrats of earlier eras.

Clinton has also demonstrated a marked preference for military confrontation over negotiation. In a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations, 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, Fidel Castro or other foreign leaders with whom the United States has differences, she denounced him for being “irresponsible and frankly naive.”

Senator Clinton appears to have a history of advocating 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 correctly 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.

Military Intervention

She has also defended the 1998 U.S. bombing of a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan which had provided that impoverished African country with more than half of its antibiotics and vaccines, falsely claiming it was a chemical weapons factory controlled by Osama bin Laden.

Immediately following the 9/11 attacks, Clinton went well beyond the broad consensus that the United States should go after al-Qaeda cells and their leadership to declare that any country providing any “aid and comfort” to al-Qaeda “will now face the wrath of our country.” When Bush echoed these words the following week in his nationally-televised speech, she declared “I’ll stand behind Bush for a long time to come.”

She certainly did. Clinton voted to authorize the president with wide-ranging authority to attack Afghanistan and was a strong supporter of the bombing campaign against that country, which resulted in more civilian deaths than the 9/11 attacks against the United States that had prompted them.

Despite recent pleas by the democratically elected Afghan president Harmid Karzai that the ongoing U.S. bombing and the over-emphasis on aggressive counter-insurgency operations was harming efforts to deal with the resurgence of violence by the Taliban and other radical groups, Clinton argues that our “overriding immediate objective of our foreign policy” toward Afghanistan “must be to significantly step up our military engagement.”

Nuclear Weapons

Particularly disturbing has been Senator Clinton’s attitudes regarding nuclear issues. For example, when Senator Obama noted 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 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.

She has a very different attitude, however, regarding even the possibility of a country the United States does not support obtaining nuclear weapons some time in the future. For example, Senator Clinton insists that the prospect of Iran joining its three Southwest 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.” 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 our government doesn’t like.

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 president, Hillary Clinton would be 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 take 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 also supports 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. She has even backed Bush’s strict limitations on family visitations by Cuban-Americans and other restrictions on Americans’ freedom to travel.

Israel and Palestine

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.

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

She has been particularly outspoken in her condemnation of the Palestine Authority, even prior to Hamas gaining the majority in their parliament, for publishing textbooks which she claims promotes “anti-Semitism,” “violence,” and “dehumanizing rhetoric” and thereby breeds a “new generation of terrorists.” On several occasions she has blamed this alleged anti-Semitic indoctrination — and not the Israeli occupation — for Palestinian violence.

The only source she has cited to uphold these charges, however, has been the Center for the Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP), a right-wing Israeli-based group whose board includes Daniel Pipes and other prominent American neo-conservatives, which was founded in 1998 as part of an effort to undermine the peace process by attempting to portray the Palestinians as hopelessly hostile to Israel’s existence. It has been directly challenged by other studies from more objective sources.

Senator Clinton’s insistence on repeating the propaganda of long-discredited reports by a right-wing think tank instead of paying attention to well-regarded investigations by credible scholars and journalists may be a dangerous indication of how little difference there is between her and Bush in terms of what sources she would rely upon in formulating her policies.

Israel and Lebanon

Senator Clinton was also an outspoken supporter of Israel’s massive military assault on the civilian infrastructure of Lebanon and the Gaza Strip last summer, 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 last year’s 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 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, whose 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 earlier this year acknowledged it was a major setback to Israeli security.

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 trusts 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.

Iran

In response to the Bush administration’s ongoing obsession with Iran, Senator Clinton’s view is that the Bush has not been obsessive enough. In a speech at Princeton University last year, 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.” Though going to war is still very high on her list of options, apparently supporting a nuclear weapons-free zone for the entire Middle East, normalizing economic and strategic relations in return for eliminating Iran’s nuclear weapons capability, and other possible negotiated options are not.

In defending her vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq in 2003, she has claimed that Bush “deceived all of us” in exaggerating the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s regime. Yet, when it comes to the similarly exaggerated Iranian threat, she has again repeated the Bush administration’s talking points almost verbatim. Indeed, as recently as last month she was insisting that “Iran is seeking nuclear weapons,” even though the consensus of the United States’ 16 intelligence agencies was that Iran ended its nuclear weapons program back in 2003.

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 be 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.

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.)

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.

Though Iran’s threat to the national security of the United States is grossly exaggerated, they are a far more powerful country today in terms of their 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, if elected president, she would find reason to invade Iran as well.

A Liberal?

Given Senator Clinton’s militaristic foreign policy, why are so many of her supporters apparently in denial of this unfortunate reality?

Part of the problem is that most of the public criticism of the former first lady has been based on false and exaggerated charges from the far right, often infused with a fair dose of sexism. As a result, many liberals become defensive and reluctant to criticize her. Many also ironically start believing some of the lies of the far right when they claim she is some kind of left-winger. There is also an understandable nostalgia for the eight years of relative peace and prosperity under her husband’s administration after the horrors of nearly seven years under President George W. Bush, which have made it easy to forget the lesser but very real failings of President Bill Clinton.

There is also the fact that after 43 male presidents, the prospect of finally having a woman as chief executive is understandably appealing. Yet, what’s the advantage of a female president if her foreign policies are still centered on patriarchal notions of militarism and conquest? What would it mean to the women of Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Lebanon and other countries who would suffer as a result of her policies? Did the position of British women improve as a result of the militaristic policies of their first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher?

These are the kinds of questions, along with a critical examination of her overall foreign policy record, that need to be considered by Democrats before making Hillary Clinton their nominee for president.

http://www.alternet.org/story/70860/hillary_clinton%27s_militarism_exposed/?page=entire

Hillary Clinton Can’t be Trusted on Iraq

Public opinion polls have consistently shown that the majority of Americans — and even a larger majority of Democrats — believe that Iraq is the most important issue of the day, that it was wrong for the United States to have invaded that country, and the United States should completely withdraw its forces in short order. Despite this, the clear front-runner for the Democratic Party nomination for president is Senator Hillary Clinton, a strident backer of the invasion who only recently and opportunistically began to criticize the war and call for a partial withdrawal of American forces.

As a result, it is important to review Senator Clinton’s past and current positions regarding the Iraq War. Indeed, despite her efforts in response to public opinion polls to come across as an opponent of the war, Hillary Clinton has proven to be one of the most hard-line Democratic senators in support of a military response to the challenges posed by Iraq. She has also been less than honest in justifying her militaristic policies, raising concerns that she might support military interventions elsewhere.

Pre-War Militarism

Senator Clinton’s militaristic stance on Iraq predated her support for Bush’s 2003 invasion. For example, in defending the brutal four-day U.S. bombing campaign against Iraq in December 1998 — known as Operation Desert Fox — she claimed that “[T]he so-called presidential palaces … in reality were huge compounds well suited to hold weapons labs, stocks, and records which Saddam Hussein was required by UN resolution to turn over. When Saddam blocked the inspection process, the inspectors left.” In reality, as became apparent when UN inspectors returned in 2002 as well as in the aftermath of the invasion and occupation, 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 at the time of the 1998 U.S. attacks. The inspectors were withdrawn for their own safety at the encouragement of President Clinton in anticipation of the imminent U.S.-led assault.

Senator Clinton also took credit for strengthening U.S. ties with Ahmad Chalabi, the convicted embezzler who played a major role in convincing key segments of the administration, Congress, the CIA, and the American public that Iraq still had proscribed weapons, weapons systems, and weapons labs. She has expressed pride that her husband’s administration changed underlying U.S. policy toward Iraq from “containment” — which had been quite successful in defending Iraq’s neighbors and protecting its Kurdish minority — to “regime change,” which has resulted in tragic warfare, chaos, dislocation, and instability.

Prior to the 2003 invasion, Clinton insisted that Iraq still had a nuclear program, despite a detailed 1998 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), subsequent studies that indicated that Iraq’s nuclear program appeared to have been completely dismantled a full decade earlier, and a 2002 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate that made no mention of any reconstituted nuclear development effort. Similarly, even though Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons programs had been dismantled years earlier, she also insisted that Iraq had rebuilt its biological and chemical weapons stockpiles. And, even though the limited shelf life of such chemical and biological agents and the strict embargo against imports of any additional banned materials that had been in place since 1990 made it physically impossible for Iraq to have reconstituted such weapons, she insisted that “It is clear … 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.”

In the fall of 2002, Senator Clinton sought to discredit those questioning Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Vice-President Dick Cheney, and others who were making hyperbolic statements about Iraq’s supposed military prowess by insisting that Iraq’s possession of such weapons “are not in doubt” and was “undisputed.” Similarly, Clinton insisted that Secretary of State Colin Powell’s February 2005 speech at the UN was “compelling” although UN officials and arms control experts roundly denounced its false claims that Iraq had reconstituted these proscribed weapons, weapons programs, and delivery systems. In addition, although top strategic analysts correctly informed her that there were no links between Saddam Hussein’s secular nationalist regime and the radical Islamist al-Qaeda, Senator Clinton insisted that Saddam “has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members.”

The Lead-Up to War

Though the 2003 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq was inaccurate in a number of respects, it did challenge the notion of any operational ties between the Iraqi government and Al-Qaeda and questioned some of the more categorical claims by President Bush about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD). However, Senator Clinton didn’t even bother to read it. She now claims that it wasn’t necessary for her to have actually read the 92-page document herself because she was briefed on the contents of the report. However, since no one on her staff was authorized to read the report, it’s unclear who could have actually briefed her.

During the floor debate over the resolution authorizing the invasion of Iraq, Clinton was the only Democratic senator to have categorically accepted the Bush administration’s claims regarding Iraq’s alleged chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs, Iraq’s alleged long-range missile capabilities, and alleged ties to al-Qaeda. (Some Democratic senators accepted some of those claims, but not all of them.)

In the months leading up the war, Senator Clinton chose to ignore the pleas of the hundreds of thousands of people demonstrating in her state and across the country against the war and similarly brushed off calls by religious leaders, scholars, community activists, and others to oppose it. Perhaps most significant was her refusal to consider the anti-war appeals by leaders of the Catholic Church and virtually every mainline Protestant denomination, which noted that it did not meet the traditional criteria in the Christian tradition for a just war. Instead, Senator Clinton embraced the arguments of the right-wing fundamentalist leadership who supported the war. This categorical rejection of the perspective of the mainstream Christian community raises concerns about her theological perspectives on issues of war and peace.

In March 2003, well after UN weapons inspectors had been allowed to return and engage in unfettered inspections and were not finding any WMDs, Senator Clinton made clear that the United States should invade that Iraq anyway. Indeed, she asserted that the only way to avoid war would be for Saddam Hussein to abide by President Bush’s ultimatum to resign as president and leave the country, in the apparent belief that the United States had the right to unilaterally make such demands of foreign leaders and to invade and occupy their countries if they refused. Said Senator Clinton, “The president gave Saddam Hussein one last chance to avoid war and the world hopes that Saddam Hussein will finally hear this ultimatum, understand the severity of those words, and act accordingly.”

When President Bush launched the invasion soon thereafter and spontaneous protests broke out across the country, Senator Clinton voted in favor of a Republican-sponsored resolution that “commends and supports the efforts and leadership of the President . . . in the conflict against Iraq.”

Aftermath of invasion

Even after the U.S. forces invaded and occupied Iraq and confirmed that — contrary to Senator Clinton’s initial justification for the war — Iraq did not have WMDs, WMD programs, offensive delivery systems, or ties to al-Qaeda, she defended her vote to authorize the invasion anyway. Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York that December, 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.”

In the face of growing doubts about American forces involved in a deepening counter-insurgency war, she urged “patience” and expressed her concern about the lack of will “to stay the course” among some Americans. “Failure is not an option” in Iraq, she insisted. “We have no option but to stay involved and committed.” Indeed, long before President Bush announced his “surge,” Senator Clinton called for the United States to send more troops.

During a trip to Iraq in February 2005, she insisted that the U.S. occupation was “functioning quite well,” although the security situation had deteriorated so badly 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 and a helicopter had to transport her to the Green Zone. Though 55 Iraqis and one American soldier were killed during her brief visit, she insisted — in a manner remarkably similar to Vice President Cheney — that the rise in suicide bombings was evidence that the insurgency was failing.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press” that same month, she argued that it “would be a mistake” to immediately withdraw U.S. troops or even simply set a timetable for withdrawal, claiming that “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.” Less than two years ago, she declared, “I reject a rigid timetable that the terrorists can exploit.” And, just last year, on an appearance on ABC’s Nightline, she described how “I’ve taken a lot of heat from my friends who have said, ‘Please, just, you know, throw in the towel and say let’s get out by a date certain. I don’t think that’s responsible.” When Representative John Murtha 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.”

As recently as last year, 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.

Rewriting History

Senator Clinton has never apologized for her vote to authorize the invasion. She insists that her eagerness for the United States to invade Iraq had nothing to do with its vast petroleum reserves. Like President Bush, she claims that she did not lie about her false accusations about Iraq’s weapons programs. She says she was misled by faulty intelligence, though she has refused to make public this intelligence that she claims demonstrated that Iraq had somehow reconstituted its WMD.

Senator Clinton has also claimed that Bush — at the time of the resolution authorizing the invasion — had misled her regarding his intention to pursue diplomacy instead of rushing into war. But there was nothing in the war resolution that required him to pursue any negotiations. She has tried to emphasize that she voted in favor of an unsuccessful amendment by Senator Byrd “which would have limited the original authorization to one year.” However, this resolution actually meant very little, since it gave President Bush the authority to extend the war authorization “for a period or periods of 12 months each” if he determined that it was “necessary for ongoing or impending military operations against Iraq.”

Despite the fact that Iraq had several weeks prior to the October 2002 vote already agreed unconditionally to allow UN inspectors to return, she categorically insisted that her vote “was a necessary step in order to maximize the outcome that did occur in the Security Council with the unanimous vote to send in inspectors.”

She has also subsequently claimed that her vote “was clearly intended to demonstrate support for going to the United Nations to put inspectors into Iraq” and was “not a vote for pre-emptive war.” The record shows, however, that Senator Clinton voted against an amendment by Senator Carl Levin that would have allowed for U.S. military action to disarm Iraq of any weapons of mass destruction and weapons systems pursuant to any future UN Security Council resolution authorizing such military actions, which would presumably have taken place had Iraq not allowed the inspectors back in as promised. In other words, she not only was willing to ignore U.S. obligations under the UN Charter that forbids such unilateral military actions by its member states, she tacitly acknowledged that she was unconcerned about supporting UN efforts to bring inspectors back into the country. Indeed, in her floor speech, she warned that this vote “says clearly to Saddam Hussein – this is your last chance – disarm or be disarmed” and the resolution that she did support clearly authorizes President Bush to invade Iraq at the time and circumstances of his own choosing, regardless of whether inspectors were allowed to return to Iraq and regardless of whether the Bush administration received UN support.

Senator Clinton has never criticized the Bush administration for its flagrant violation of the UN Charter or its responsibility for the deaths of the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians. She has limited her criticism to the way the administration handled the invasion, implying that, as president, she would do invasions better. Indeed, she insisted that while not regretting her vote to authorize the invasion, she did regret “the way the president used the authority.”

Senator Clinton has criticized the administration for not acting to gain more international support for the invasion, ignoring the fact that they actually had tried very hard to do so but failed. The Bush administration was unable to get authorization for the use of force from the UN or, with the exception of Great Britain, to get any substantial troop support from other countries not because they didn’t try, but because the vast majority of the international community recognized that an invasion of Iraq was illegal and unnecessary.

Current Policy

A careful look at her current policy toward Iraq reveals that Senator Clinton is not as anti-war as her supporters depict her.

She would withdraw some troops, just as President Bush has been promising to do eventually, but insists that the United States should maintain its “military as well as political mission” in Iraq for the indefinite future for such purposes as countering Iranian influence, protecting the Kurdish minority, preventing a failed state, and supporting the Iraqi military. On ABC’s “This Week” in September, she insisted that “withdrawing is dangerous. It has to be done responsibly, prudently, carefully, but we have said that there will be a likely continuing mission against al-Qaeda in Iraq. We have to protect our civilian employees, our embassy that will be there.”

If Senator Clinton were really concerned about the threat that al-Qaeda currently poses in Iraq, however, she would never have voted to authorize the invasion, which led to the predictable rise of al-Qaeda and other militant groups in that country. Similarly, there would not be the huge embassy complex nor would there be tens of thousands of civilian employees she insists that U.S. troops are necessary to defend if the United States had not invaded Iraq in the first place. In addition, only because the United States overthrew the stridently secular anti-Iranian regime of Saddam Hussein has Iran gained such influence. And since the risks of a collapse of Iraq’s internal security was one of the main arguments presented to her prior to her vote, Clinton should not have voted to authorize the invasion if a failed state was really a concern for hers.

Since most estimates of the numbers of troops needed to carry out these tasks range between 40,000 and 75,000, the best that can be hoped for under a Hillary Clinton presidency is that she would withdraw only about one-half to two-thirds of American combat forces within a year or so of her assuming office. Indeed, she has explicitly refused to promise, if elected president, to withdraw troops by the end of her term in 2013. As Senator Clinton describes, it, “What we can do is to almost take a line sort of north of, between Baghdad and Kirkuk, and basically put our troops into that region — the ones that are going to remain for our anti-terrorism mission; for our northern support mission; for our ability to respond to the Iranians; and to continue to provide support, if called for, for the Iraqis.” This hardly constitutes a withdrawal.

Senator Clinton tries to downplay the risk of keeping U.S. forces bogged down indefinitely by emphasizing that she would put greater emphasis on training the Iraqi armed forces. But much of the Iraqi armed forces are more loyal to their respective sectarian militias than they are to protecting Iraq as a whole. Nor has she expressed much concern that the Iraqi armed forces and police have engaged in gross and systematic human rights abuses. As with her backing of unconditional military assistance and security training to scores of other allied governments that engage in a pattern of gross and systematic human rights violations, she appears unconcerned not only with the immorality of such a policy but the long-term strategic risks from the blowback that would result from the United States becoming identified with repressive regimes.

Little Difference from Bush

As her record indicates, Senator Clinton’s position on Iraq differs very little from that of President Bush. For her to receive the nomination for president would in effect be an endorsement by the Democratic Party of the Iraq war.

In 2004, the Democrats selected a nominee who also voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq, falsely claimed that Iraq still had WMDs, and — at that time — insisted on maintaining U.S. troops in that country. As a result, Senator John Kerry failed to mobilize the party’s anti-war base and went down to defeat. What timid concerns Kerry did raise about President Bush’s handling of the Iraq war during the campaign were used by the Bush campaign to focus attention away from the war itself and highlight the Democratic nominee’s changing positions. Had the Democrats instead nominated someone who had opposed the war from the beginning, the debate that fall would have been not about Senator Kerry’s supposed “flip-flopping” but the tragic decision to illegally invade a country on the far side of the world that was no threat to us and the squandering of American lives and tax dollars that have resulted.

If the Democrats select another war supporter as their nominee in 2008, the result may well be the same as 2004. Large numbers of people will refuse to vote for the Democratic nominee as part of a principled stance against voting for someone who authorized and subsequently supported the Iraq war. And Republicans will highlight the Democratic nominee’s shifting positions on Iraq as evidence that their opponent is simply an opportunistic politician rather than the kind of decisive leader the country needs.

http://www.alternet.org/story/70416/hillary_clinton_can%27t_be_trusted_on_iraq/?page=entire

Hillary Clinton on Military Policy

While much attention has been given to Senator Hillary Clinton’s support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, her foreign policy record regarding other international conflicts and her apparent eagerness to accept the use of force appears to indicate that her fateful vote authorizing the invasion and her subsequent support for the occupation and counter-insurgency war was no aberration. Indeed, there’s every indication that, as president, her foreign policy agenda would closely parallel that of the Bush administration. Despite efforts by some conservative Republicans to portray her as being on the left wing of the Democratic Party, in reality her foreign policy positions bear a far closer resemblance to those of Ronald Reagan than they do of George McGovern.

For example, rather than challenge President George W. Bush’s dramatic increases in military spending, Senator Clinton argues that they are not enough and the United States needs to spend even more in subsequent years. At the end of the Cold War, many Democrats were claiming that the American public would be able to benefit from a “peace dividend” resulting from dramatically-reduced military spending following the demise of the Soviet Union. Clinton, however, has called for dramatic increases in the military budget, even though the United States, despite being surrounded by two oceans and weak friendly neighbors, already spends as much on its military as all the rest of the world combined.

Mama Warbucks

Her presidential campaign has received far more money from defense contractors than any other candidate – Democrat or Republican – and her close ties to the defense industry has led the Village Voice to refer to her as “Mama Warbucks.” She has even fought the Bush administration in restoring funding for some of the very few weapons systems the Bush administration has sought to cut in recent years. Pentagon officials and defense contractors have given Senator Clinton high marks for listening to their concerns, promoting their products and leveraging her ties to the Pentagon, comparing her favorably to the hawkish former Washington Senator “Scoop” Jackson and other pro-military Democrats of earlier eras.

Clinton has also demonstrated a marked preference for military confrontation over negotiation. In a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations, 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, Fidel Castro or other foreign leaders with whom the United States has differences, she denounced him for being “irresponsible and frankly naive.”

Senator Clinton appears to have a history of advocating 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 correctly 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.

Military Intervention

She has also defended the 1998 U.S. bombing of a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan which had provided that impoverished African country with more than half of its antibiotics and vaccines, falsely claiming it was a chemical weapons factory controlled by Osama bin Laden.

Immediately following the 9/11 attacks, Clinton went well beyond the broad consensus that the United States should go after al-Qaeda cells and their leadership to declare that any country providing any “aid and comfort” to al-Qaeda “will now face the wrath of our country.” When Bush echoed these words the following week in his nationally-televised speech, she declared “I’ll stand behind Bush for a long time to come.”

She certainly did. Clinton voted to authorize the president with wide-ranging authority to attack Afghanistan and was a strong supporter of the bombing campaign against that country, which resulted in more civilian deaths than the 9/11 attacks against the United States that had prompted them.

Despite recent pleas by the democratically elected Afghan president Harmid Karzai that the ongoing U.S. bombing and the over-emphasis on aggressive counter-insurgency operations was harming efforts to deal with the resurgence of violence by the Taliban and other radical groups, Clinton argues that our “overriding immediate objective of our foreign policy” toward Afghanistan “must be to significantly step up our military engagement.”

Nuclear Weapons

Particularly disturbing has been Senator Clinton’s attitudes regarding nuclear issues. For example, when Senator Obama noted 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 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.

She has a very different attitude, however, regarding even the possibility of a country the United States does not support obtaining nuclear weapons some time in the future. For example, Senator Clinton insists that the prospect of Iran joining its three Southwest 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.” 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 our government doesn’t like.

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 president, Hillary Clinton would be 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 take 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 also supports 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. She has even backed Bush’s strict limitations on family visitations by Cuban-Americans and other restrictions on Americans’ freedom to travel.

Israel and Palestine

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.

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

She has been particularly outspoken in her condemnation of the Palestine Authority, even prior to Hamas gaining the majority in their parliament, for publishing textbooks which she claims promotes “anti-Semitism,” “violence,” and “dehumanizing rhetoric” and thereby breeds a “new generation of terrorists.” On several occasions she has blamed this alleged anti-Semitic indoctrination – and not the Israeli occupation – for Palestinian violence.

The only source she has cited to uphold these charges, however, has been the Center for the Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP), a right-wing Israeli-based group whose board includes Daniel Pipes and other prominent American neo-conservatives, which was founded in 1998 as part of an effort to undermine the peace process by attempting to portray the Palestinians as hopelessly hostile to Israel’s existence. It has been directly challenged by other studies from more objective sources.

Senator Clinton’s insistence on repeating the propaganda of long-discredited reports by a right-wing think tank instead of paying attention to well-regarded investigations by credible scholars and journalists may be a dangerous indication of how little difference there is between her and Bush in terms of what sources she would rely upon in formulating her policies.

Israel and Lebanon

Senator Clinton was also an outspoken supporter of Israel’s massive military assault on the civilian infrastructure of Lebanon and the Gaza Strip last summer, 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 last year’s 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 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, whose 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 earlier this year acknowledged it was a major setback to Israeli security.

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 trusts 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.

Iran

In response to the Bush administration’s ongoing obsession with Iran, Senator Clinton’s view is that the Bush has not been obsessive enough. In a speech at Princeton University last year, 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.” Though going to war is still very high on her list of options, apparently supporting a nuclear weapons-free zone for the entire Middle East, normalizing economic and strategic relations in return for eliminating Iran’s nuclear weapons capability, and other possible negotiated options are not.

In defending her vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq in 2003, she has claimed that Bush “deceived all of us” in exaggerating the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s regime. Yet, when it comes to the similarly exaggerated Iranian threat, she has again repeated the Bush administration’s talking points almost verbatim. Indeed, as recently as last month she was insisting that “Iran is seeking nuclear weapons,” even though the consensus of the United States’ 16 intelligence agencies was that Iran ended its nuclear weapons program back in 2003.

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 be 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.

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.)

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.

Though Iran’s threat to the national security of the United States is grossly exaggerated, they are a far more powerful country today in terms of their 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, if elected president, she would find reason to invade Iran as well.

A Liberal?

Given Senator Clinton’s militaristic foreign policy, why are so many of her supporters apparently in denial of this unfortunate reality?

Part of the problem is that most of the public criticism of the former first lady has been based on false and exaggerated charges from the far right, often infused with a fair dose of sexism. As a result, many liberals become defensive and reluctant to criticize her. Many also ironically start believing some of the lies of the far right when they claim she is some kind of left-winger. There is also an understandable nostalgia for the eight years of relative peace and prosperity under her husband’s administration after the horrors of nearly seven years under President George W. Bush, which have made it easy to forget the lesser but very real failings of President Bill Clinton.

There is also the fact that after 43 male presidents, the prospect of finally having a woman as chief executive is understandably appealing. Yet, what’s the advantage of a female president if her foreign policies are still centered on patriarchal notions of militarism and conquest? What would it mean to the women of Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Lebanon and other countries who would suffer as a result of her policies? Did the position of British women improve as a result of the militaristic policies of their first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher?

These are the kinds of questions, along with a critical examination of her overall foreign policy record, that need to be considered by Democrats before making Hillary Clinton their nominee for president.

http://www.fpif.org/articles/hillary_clinton_on_military_policy

Hillary Clinton on International Law

Perhaps the most terrible legacy of the administration of President George W. Bush has been its utter disregard for such basic international legal norms as the ban against aggressive war, respect for the UN Charter, and acceptance of international judicial review. Furthermore, under Bush’s leadership, the United States has cultivated a disrespect for basic human rights, a disdain for reputable international human rights monitoring groups, and a lack of concern for international humanitarian law.

Ironically, the current front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president shares much of President Bush’s dangerous attitudes toward international law and human rights.

For example, Senator Hillary Clinton has opposed restrictions on U.S. arms transfers and police training to governments that engage in gross and systematic human rights abuses. Indeed, she has supported unconditional U.S. arms transfers and police training to such repressive and autocratic governments as Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Pakistan, Equatorial Guinea, Azerbaijan, Cameroon, Kazakhstan, and Chad, just to name a few. She has also refused to join many of her Democratic colleagues in signing a letter endorsing a treaty that would limit arms transfers to countries that engage in a consistent pattern of gross and systematic human rights violations.

Civilian Casualties

Not only is she willing to support military assistance to repressive regimes, she has little concern about controlling weapons that primarily target innocent civilians. Senator Clinton has refused to support the international treaty to ban land mines, which are responsible for killing and maiming thousands of civilians worldwide, a disproportionate percentage of whom have been children.

She was also among a minority of Democratic Senators to side with the Republican majority last year in voting down a Democratic-sponsored resolution restricting U.S. exports of cluster bombs to countries that use them against civilian-populated areas. Each of these cluster bomb contains hundreds of bomblets that are scattered over an area the size of up to four football fields and, with a failure rate of up to 30%, become de facto land mines. As many as 98% of the casualties caused by these weapons are civilians.

Senator Clinton also has a record of dismissing reports by human rights monitors that highlight large-scale attacks against civilians by allied governments. For example, 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 that 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 re-conquest of Palestinian cities in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

Similarly, when Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other reputable human rights groups issued detailed reports regarding Israeli war crimes during that country’s assault on Lebanon in the summer of 2006, Senator Clinton insisted they were wrong and that Israel’s attacks were legal. Furthermore, though these groups had also criticized the radical Lebanese group Hezbollah for committing war crimes by firing rockets into civilian-populated areas in Israel, exhaustive investigations have revealed absolutely no evidence that they had used the civilian population as “human shields” to protect themselves from Israeli assaults. Despite this, Senator Clinton, without providing any credible evidence to the contrary, still insists that they in fact had used human shields and were therefore responsible for the death of more than 800 Lebanese civilians.

Senator Clinton has voted to send tens of billions of dollars unconditionally to Baghdad to prop up that regime, apparently unconcerned about the well-documented reports of death squads being run from the Interior Ministry that have killed many thousands of unarmed Sunni men.

In Senator Clinton’s world view, if a country is considered an important strategic ally of the United States, any charges of human rights abuses – no matter how strong the evidence – must be summarily dismissed. Indeed, despite the Israeli government’s widespread and well-documented violations of international humanitarian law, Senator Clinton has praised Israel for its “values that respect the dignity and rights of human beings.”

Illegal Use of Force

The UN Charter forbids its member states from using military force unless under direct attack or authorized by the UN Security Council. Customary international law allows for pre-emptive war only in cases of an imminent threat, such as troops massing along the border or missiles being loaded onto launchers. Senator Clinton believes that the United States had the legal right to invade Iraq, even though it constituted no threat to the national security of the United States and there had been no authorization by the UN Security Council to use force. Indeed, when the United States launched its invasion of Iraq in March 2003 in defiance of widespread global condemnation of this act of aggression, she voted for a Republican-sponsored resolution categorically declaring that the war was “lawful.”

Senator Clinton has tried to rationalize for her support for this illegal war by claiming that the UN authorized member states to take military action against Iraq in November of 1990. However, that resolution (687) only referred to using such means to enforce resolution 678, which demanded that Iraq withdraw its occupation forces from Kuwait. Once Iraqi forces withdrew – which took place more than a dozen years prior to the 2003 invasion – the resolution was moot.

Similarly, her claim that invading Iraq constituted a legitimate act of self-defense is particularly disturbing. Even if Saddam Hussein had been developing chemical and biological weapons as Senator Clinton falsely alleged, Iraq would have been just one of 40 countries to have developed such arsenals and Iraq had no delivery systems left that were capable of attacking other countries, much less the United States. Her belief that the United States somehow has the right to invade another country simply on the suspicion that it might be developing weapons for future use constitutes a radical departure from international legal norms and is a clear violation of the UN Charter. Hillary Clinton, however, believes the United States should not be bound by such restrictions and that the United States has the right to invade any country that the president believes could even potentially be a threat some time in the future.

A politician who supported preventive war in the past might do so in the future as well. Indeed, Senator Clinton has criticized Bush for allowing the Europeans to lead the diplomatic efforts with Iran over their nuclear program, insisting that the United States should keep “all options on the table,” presumably meaning military force.

Attacks on UN Institutions

Senator Clinton has also been one the Senate’s most outspoken critics of the United Nations, even appearing outside the UN headquarters in New York twice during the past four years at right-wing gatherings to denounce the world body. She has falsely accused the UN of not taking a stand against terrorism, even though terrorism has become – largely at the insistence of the United States – a major UN focus in recent years.

Senator Clinton’s hostility to international law and the UN system is perhaps best illustrated by her opposition to the International Criminal Court. In 2002, Senator Clinton voted in favor of an amendment by right-wing Senator Jesse Helms that prohibits the United States from cooperating in any way with the International Criminal Court, 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. Nicknamed the “Hague Invasion Act,” the bill 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,” including military force.

The International Court of Justice (also known as the World Court, which essentially serves as the judicial arm of the United Nations) has also been a target of Senator Clinton’s hostility toward international law. For example, in 2004, the ICJ 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. Affronted that an important U.S. ally would be required to abide by its international legal obligations and that the United States should help ensure such compliance, Senator Clinton strongly condemned the decision.

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 even the then-Republican-controlled Senate failed to pass) 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.”

Hillary Clinton vs. the World Court

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. 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 what was apparently an effort to misrepresent and discredit the UN, 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 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.

Senator Clinton’s resolution also represented a departure from any previous congressional resolution in that it referred 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, Senator Clinton must have recognized that such wording had the affect of legitimizing the expansion of a country’s territory by force, a clear violation of the UN Charter.

Denying the Humanitarian Impact

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Red Cross, and a number of Israeli human rights groups had documented the devastating impact of the separation barrier on the economic and social lives of the Palestinians, including access to schools, health care, and employment, findings confirmed by the World Court 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 a negative impact on the civilian population under Israeli occupation, 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.” A longtime supporter of Israel’s colonization and annexation efforts in the West Bank, Senator Clinton took part in a photo opportunity at the illegal Israeli settlement of Gilo last year, 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.”

The Israeli Supreme Court has ordered the government to re-route a section 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.” And yet, Clinton’s resolution also claims that Israel’s barrier is a “proportional response to the campaign of terrorism by Palestinian militants.”

Dangers of a Hillary Clinton Presidency

Indeed, Senator Clinton’s response to the human rights abuses and violations of international law by this key strategic ally of the United States is emblematic of her disregard for international law and human rights overall.

Though an overwhelming majority of Americans, according to public opinion polls, believe that human rights should be a cornerstone of American foreign policy, Senator Clinton has repeatedly prioritized the profits of American arms manufacturers and the extension of Washington’s hegemonic reach in parts of the world. Similarly, a Hillary Clinton presidency would simply be a continuation of the efforts by the Bush administration to undermine the UN Charter and the basic international legal framework in place for much of the past century. Historically, it has been the right wing of the Republican Party that has opposed international legal restrictions on the activities of the United States and its allies to advance America’s hegemonic agenda. Now, however, the front runner for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination also shares this view, indicating a clear break with the internationalist and law-based principles espoused by such previous Democratic leaders as Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman. Indeed, Senator Clinton’s notions of what constitutes the legitimate use of force by the United States are so extreme, she would – if elected – likely become the most aggressive-minded Democratic president since James K. Polk.

The coming primaries and caucuses will test whether the Democratic Party can make a firm break with the hegemonic, unilateralist, and militaristic agenda of the Bush administration, or simply pursues an only somewhat nuanced version of the current dismissive attitudes toward human rights and international law that amounts to little better than Bush Lite.

http://www.fpif.org/articles/hillary_clinton_on_international_law

Hillary Clinton on Iraq

Public opinion polls have consistently shown that the majority of Americans – and even a larger majority of Democrats – believe that Iraq is the most important issue of the day, that it was wrong for the United States to have invaded that country, and the United States should completely withdraw its forces in short order. Despite this, the clear front-runner for the Democratic Party nomination for president is Senator Hillary Clinton, a strident backer of the invasion who only recently and opportunistically began to criticize the war and call for a partial withdrawal of American forces.

As a result, it is important to review Senator Clinton’s past and current positions regarding the Iraq War. Indeed, despite her efforts in response to public opinion polls to come across as an opponent of the war, Hillary Clinton has proven to be one of the most hard-line Democratic senators in support of a military response to the challenges posed by Iraq. She has also been less than honest in justifying her militaristic policies, raising concerns that she might support military interventions elsewhere.

Pre-War Militarism

Senator Clinton’s militaristic stance on Iraq predated her support for Bush’s 2003 invasion. For example, in defending the brutal four-day U.S. bombing campaign against Iraq in December 1998 – known as Operation Desert Fox – she claimed that “[T]he so-called presidential palaces … in reality were huge compounds well suited to hold weapons labs, stocks, and records which Saddam Hussein was required by UN resolution to turn over. When Saddam blocked the inspection process, the inspectors left.” In reality, as became apparent when UN inspectors returned in 2002 as well as in the aftermath of the invasion and occupation, 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 at the time of the 1998 U.S. attacks. The inspectors were withdrawn for their own safety at the encouragement of President Clinton in anticipation of the imminent U.S.-led assault.

Senator Clinton also took credit for strengthening U.S. ties with Ahmad Chalabi, the convicted embezzler who played a major role in convincing key segments of the administration, Congress, the CIA, and the American public that Iraq still had proscribed weapons, weapons systems, and weapons labs. She has expressed pride that her husband’s administration changed underlying U.S. policy toward Iraq from “containment” – which had been quite successful in defending Iraq’s neighbors and protecting its Kurdish minority – to “regime change,” which has resulted in tragic warfare, chaos, dislocation, and instability.

Prior to the 2003 invasion, Clinton insisted that Iraq still had a nuclear program, despite a detailed 1998 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), subsequent studies that indicated that Iraq’s nuclear program appeared to have been completely dismantled a full decade earlier, and a 2002 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate that made no mention of any reconstituted nuclear development effort. Similarly, even though Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons programs had been dismantled years earlier, she also insisted that Iraq had rebuilt its biological and chemical weapons stockpiles. And, even though the limited shelf life of such chemical and biological agents and the strict embargo against imports of any additional banned materials that had been in place since 1990 made it physically impossible for Iraq to have reconstituted such weapons, she insisted that “It is clear…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.”

In the fall of 2002, Senator Clinton sought to discredit those questioning Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Vice-President Dick Cheney, and others who were making hyperbolic statements about Iraq’s supposed military prowess by insisting that Iraq’s possession of such weapons “are not in doubt” and was “undisputed.” Similarly, Clinton insisted that Secretary of State Colin Powell’s February 2003 speech at the UN was “compelling” although UN officials and arms control experts roundly denounced its false claims that Iraq had reconstituted these proscribed weapons, weapons programs, and delivery systems. In addition, although top strategic analysts correctly informed her that there were no links between Saddam Hussein’s secular nationalist regime and the radical Islamist al-Qaeda, Senator Clinton insisted that Saddam “has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members.”

The Lead-Up to War

Though the 2003 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq was inaccurate in a number of respects, it did challenge the notion of any operational ties between the Iraqi government and Al-Qaeda and questioned some of the more categorical claims by President Bush about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD). However, Senator Clinton didn’t even bother to read it. She now claims that it wasn’t necessary for her to have actually read the 92-page document herself because she was briefed on the contents of the report. However, since no one on her staff was authorized to read the report, it’s unclear who could have actually briefed her.

During the floor debate over the resolution authorizing the invasion of Iraq, Clinton was the only Democratic senator to have categorically accepted the Bush administration’s claims regarding Iraq’s alleged chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs, Iraq’s alleged long-range missile capabilities, and alleged ties to al-Qaeda. (Some Democratic senators accepted some of those claims, but not all of them.)

In the months leading up the war, Senator Clinton chose to ignore the pleas of the hundreds of thousands of people demonstrating in her state and across the country against the war and similarly brushed off calls by religious leaders, scholars, community activists, and others to oppose it. Perhaps most significant was her refusal to consider the anti-war appeals by leaders of the Catholic Church and virtually every mainline Protestant denomination, which noted that it did not meet the traditional criteria in the Christian tradition for a just war. Instead, Senator Clinton embraced the arguments of the right-wing fundamentalist leadership who supported the war. This categorical rejection of the perspective of the mainstream Christian community raises concerns about her theological perspectives on issues of war and peace.

In March 2003, well after UN weapons inspectors had been allowed to return and engage in unfettered inspections and were not finding any WMDs, Senator Clinton made clear that the United States should invade that Iraq anyway. Indeed, she asserted that the only way to avoid war would be for Saddam Hussein to abide by President Bush’s ultimatum to resign as president and leave the country, in the apparent belief that the United States had the right to unilaterally make such demands of foreign leaders and to invade and occupy their countries if they refused. Said Senator Clinton, “The president gave Saddam Hussein one last chance to avoid war and the world hopes that Saddam Hussein will finally hear this ultimatum, understand the severity of those words, and act accordingly.”

When President Bush launched the invasion soon thereafter and spontaneous protests broke out across the country, Senator Clinton voted in favor of a Republican-sponsored resolution that “commends and supports the efforts and leadership of the President . . . in the conflict against Iraq.”

Aftermath of invasion

Even after the U.S. forces invaded and occupied Iraq and confirmed that – contrary to Senator Clinton’s initial justification for the war – Iraq did not have WMDs, WMD programs, offensive delivery systems, or ties to al-Qaeda, she defended her vote to authorize the invasion anyway. Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York that December, 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.”

In the face of growing doubts about American forces involved in a deepening counter-insurgency war, she urged “patience” and expressed her concern about the lack of will “to stay the course” among some Americans. “Failure is not an option” in Iraq, she insisted. “We have no option but to stay involved and committed.” Indeed, long before President Bush announced his “surge,” Senator Clinton called for the United States to send more troops.

During a trip to Iraq in February 2005, she insisted that the U.S. occupation was “functioning quite well,” although the security situation had deteriorated so badly 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 and a helicopter had to transport her to the Green Zone. Though 55 Iraqis and one American soldier were killed during her brief visit, she insisted – in a manner remarkably similar to Vice President Cheney – that the rise in suicide bombings was evidence that the insurgency was failing.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press” that same month, she argued that it “would be a mistake” to immediately withdraw U.S. troops or even simply set a timetable for withdrawal, claiming that “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.” Less than two years ago, she declared, “I reject a rigid timetable that the terrorists can exploit.” And, just last year, on an appearance on ABC’s Nightline, she described how “I’ve taken a lot of heat from my friends who have said, ‘Please, just, you know, throw in the towel and say let’s get out by a date certain. I don’t think that’s responsible.” When Representative John Murtha 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.”

As recently as last year, 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.

Rewriting History

Senator Clinton has never apologized for her vote to authorize the invasion. She insists that her eagerness for the United States to invade Iraq had nothing to do with its vast petroleum reserves. Like President Bush, she claims that she did not lie about her false accusations about Iraq’s weapons programs. She says she was misled by faulty intelligence, though she has refused to make public this intelligence that she claims demonstrated that Iraq had somehow reconstituted its WMD.

Senator Clinton has also claimed that Bush – at the time of the resolution authorizing the invasion – had misled her regarding his intention to pursue diplomacy instead of rushing into war. But there was nothing in the war resolution that required him to pursue any negotiations. She has tried to emphasize that she voted in favor of an unsuccessful amendment by Senator Byrd “which would have limited the original authorization to one year.” However, this resolution actually meant very little, since it gave President Bush the authority to extend the war authorization “for a period or periods of 12 months each” if he determined that it was “necessary for ongoing or impending military operations against Iraq.”

Despite the fact that Iraq had several weeks prior to the October 2002 vote already agreed unconditionally to allow UN inspectors to return, she categorically insisted that her vote “was a necessary step in order to maximize the outcome that did occur in the Security Council with the unanimous vote to send in inspectors.”

She has also subsequently claimed that her vote “was clearly intended to demonstrate support for going to the United Nations to put inspectors into Iraq” and was “not a vote for pre-emptive war.” The record shows, however, that Senator Clinton voted against an amendment by Senator Carl Levin that would have allowed for U.S. military action to disarm Iraq of any weapons of mass destruction and weapons systems pursuant to any future UN Security Council resolution authorizing such military actions, which would presumably have taken place had Iraq not allowed the inspectors back in as promised. In other words, she not only was willing to ignore U.S. obligations under the UN Charter that forbids such unilateral military actions by its member states, she tacitly acknowledged that she was unconcerned about supporting UN efforts to bring inspectors back into the country. Indeed, in her floor speech, she warned that this vote “says clearly to Saddam Hussein – this is your last chance – disarm or be disarmed” and the resolution that she did support clearly authorizes President Bush to invade Iraq at the time and circumstances of his own choosing, regardless of whether inspectors were allowed to return to Iraq and regardless of whether the Bush administration received UN support.

Senator Clinton has never criticized the Bush administration for its flagrant violation of the UN Charter or its responsibility for the deaths of the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians. She has limited her criticism to the way the administration handled the invasion, implying that, as president, she would do invasions better. Indeed, she insisted that while not regretting her vote to authorize the invasion, she did regret “the way the president used the authority.”

Senator Clinton has criticized the administration for not acting to gain more international support for the invasion, ignoring the fact that they actually had tried very hard to do so but failed. The Bush administration was unable to get authorization for the use of force from the UN or, with the exception of Great Britain, to get any substantial troop support from other countries not because they didn’t try, but because the vast majority of the international community recognized that an invasion of Iraq was illegal and unnecessary.

Current Policy

A careful look at her current policy toward Iraq reveals that Senator Clinton is not as anti-war as her supporters depict her.

She would withdraw some troops, just as President Bush has been promising to do eventually, but insists that the United States should maintain its “military as well as political mission” in Iraq for the indefinite future for such purposes as countering Iranian influence, protecting the Kurdish minority, preventing a failed state, and supporting the Iraqi military. On ABC’s “This Week” in September, she insisted that “withdrawing is dangerous. It has to be done responsibly, prudently, carefully, but we have said that there will be a likely continuing mission against al-Qaeda in Iraq. We have to protect our civilian employees, our embassy that will be there.”

If Senator Clinton were really concerned about the threat that al-Qaeda currently poses in Iraq, however, she would never have voted to authorize the invasion, which led to the predictable rise of al-Qaeda and other militant groups in that country. Similarly, there would not be the huge embassy complex nor would there be tens of thousands of civilian employees she insists that U.S. troops are necessary to defend if the United States had not invaded Iraq in the first place. In addition, only because the United States overthrew the stridently secular anti-Iranian regime of Saddam Hussein has Iran gained such influence. And since the risks of a collapse of Iraq’s internal security was one of the main arguments presented to her prior to her vote, Clinton should not have voted to authorize the invasion if a failed state was really a concern for hers.

Since most estimates of the numbers of troops needed to carry out these tasks range between 40,000 and 75,000, the best that can be hoped for under a Hillary Clinton presidency is that she would withdraw only about one-half to two-thirds of American combat forces within a year or so of her assuming office. Indeed, she has explicitly refused to promise, if elected president, to withdraw troops by the end of her term in 2013. As Senator Clinton describes, it, “What we can do is to almost take a line sort of north of, between Baghdad and Kirkuk, and basically put our troops into that region – the ones that are going to remain for our anti-terrorism mission; for our northern support mission; for our ability to respond to the Iranians; and to continue to provide support, if called for, for the Iraqis.” This hardly constitutes a withdrawal.

Senator Clinton tries to downplay the risk of keeping U.S. forces bogged down indefinitely by emphasizing that she would put greater emphasis on training the Iraqi armed forces. But much of the Iraqi armed forces are more loyal to their respective sectarian militias than they are to protecting Iraq as a whole. Nor has she expressed much concern that the Iraqi armed forces and police have engaged in gross and systematic human rights abuses. As with her backing of unconditional military assistance and security training to scores of other allied governments that engage in a pattern of gross and systematic human rights violations, she appears unconcerned not only with the immorality of such a policy but the long-term strategic risks from the blowback that would result from the United States becoming identified with repressive regimes.

Little Difference from Bush

As her record indicates, Senator Clinton’s position on Iraq differs very little from that of President Bush. For her to receive the nomination for president would in effect be an endorsement by the Democratic Party of the Iraq war.

In 2004, the Democrats selected a nominee who also voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq, falsely claimed that Iraq still had WMDs, and – at that time – insisted on maintaining U.S. troops in that country. As a result, Senator John Kerry failed to mobilize the party’s anti-war base and went down to defeat. What timid concerns Kerry did raise about President Bush’s handling of the Iraq war during the campaign were used by the Bush campaign to focus attention away from the war itself and highlight the Democratic nominee’s changing positions. Had the Democrats instead nominated someone who had opposed the war from the beginning, the debate that fall would have been not about Senator Kerry’s supposed “flip-flopping” but the tragic decision to illegally invade a country on the far side of the world that was no threat to us and the squandering of American lives and tax dollars that have resulted.

If the Democrats select another war supporter as their nominee in 2008, the result may well be the same as 2004. Large numbers of people will refuse to vote for the Democratic nominee as part of a principled stance against voting for someone who authorized and subsequently supported the Iraq war. And Republicans will highlight the Democratic nominee’s shifting positions on Iraq as evidence that their opponent is simply an opportunistic politician rather than the kind of decisive leader the country needs.

http://www.fpif.info/fpiftxt/4802

Hillary Clinton’s Hawkish Record

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has already assumed front-runner status for the Democratic Party nomination for president despite a foreign policy agenda that closely parallels that of the Bush administration.

Since most of the public criticism of the former first lady has been based on false and exaggerated charges from the right wing, often with a fair dose of sexism, many Democrats have become defensive and reluctant to criticize her. Some liberals end up believing conservative charges that she is on the left wing of the Democratic Party when in reality her foreign policy positions are far closer to Ronald Reagan than George McGovern.

For example, she opposes the international treaty to ban land mines. She voted against the Feinstein-Leahy amendment last September restricting U.S. exports of cluster bombs to countries that use them against civilian-populated areas. She opposes restrictions on U.S. arms transfers and police training to governments that engage in gross and systematic human rights abuses, such as Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Israel, Pakistan, Cameroon and Chad, to name only a few. She insists upon continuing unconditional funding for the Iraq war and has called for dramatic increases in Bush’s already bloated military budget. She has challenged the credibility of Amnesty International and other human rights groups that criticize policies of the United States and its allies.

Mrs. Clinton has been one of the Senate’s most outspoken critics of the United Nations, even serving as the featured speaker at rallies outside U.N. headquarters in July 2004 and last summer to denounce the world body. She voted to authorize the U.S. invasion of Iraq despite its being a clear violation of the U.N. Charter and in July 2004 falsely accused the United Nations of not taking a stand against terrorism when it has opposed U.S. policy. She was one of the most prominent critics of the International Court of Justice for its landmark 2004 advisory ruling that the Fourth Geneva Conventions on the Laws of War is legally binding on all signatory nations. She condemned the United Nations’ judicial arm for challenging the legality of Israel’s separation barrier in the occupied West Bank and sponsored a Senate resolution “urging no further action by the United Nations to delay or prevent the construction of the security fence.”

Mrs. Clinton has shown little regard for the danger from proliferation of nuclear weapons, not only opposing the enforcement of U.N. Security Council resolutions challenging Pakistan, Israel and India’s nuclear weapons programs but supporting the delivery of nuclear-capable missiles and jet fighters to these countries. This past fall she voted to suspend important restrictions on U.S. nuclear cooperation with countries that violate the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

At the same time, she insists that the prospect of Iran’s developing nuclear weapons “must be unacceptable to the entire world,” since 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.” Last year, she accused the Bush administration of not taking the threat of a nuclear Iran seriously enough, criticized the administration for allowing European nations to take the lead in pursuing a diplomatic solution and insisted that the United States should make it clear that military options were still being actively considered.

Meanwhile, she insists that the United States should maintain the right to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries.

Mrs. Clinton was an outspoken supporter of Israel’s massive military assault on the civilian infrastructure of Lebanon and the Gaza Strip last summer, which took the lives of over 1,000 civilians. She justified it by claiming it would “send a message to Hamas, Hezbollah, to the Syrians [and] to the Iranians” because they opposed the United States and Israel’s commitment to “life and freedom.”

There are questions regarding her integrity. Long after credible, well-documented published reports by American and Israeli newspapers and research institutes had refuted it, Sen. Clinton continued to cite a right-wing group’s 1999 report claiming the Palestinian Authority was publishing anti-Semitic textbooks. Like President Bush, she is more prone to believe ideologically driven propaganda than independent investigative reporting or scholarly research.

Similarly, ignoring substantial evidence that Iraq had already rid itself of its chemical and biological weapons and no longer had a nuclear program, Mrs. Clinton justified her calls for a U.S. invasion of Iraq on the grounds 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.” Even after it was discovered that Iraq no longer had “weapons of mass destruction,” Mrs. Clinton acknowledged last year that she would have voted to authorize the invasion anyway.

Should Hillary Clinton become the Democratic presidential nominee, we can expect to find little differences between her and her Republican rival. Except for long shots Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former Sen. Mike Gravel, none of the Democratic candidates have taken consistent positions supporting peace, human rights and international law. But with the possible exception of Sen. Joe Biden, Mrs. Clinton is the most hawkish Democrat in the presidential race.