“A deception that elevates us is dearer than a host of low truths.” Alexander Pushkin
The mainstream media in most English speaking countries, with occasional exceptions, move quickly from one story to the next without providing readers and viewers with much historical context. As a result of this, many of our news sources fail to explain that events and decisions taken in the past are having unforeseen consequences today.
A good example of this phenomenon is the surprise shown by many journalists regarding the rise of the Sunni militant group Daesh (ISIS) out of the ashes of Al Qaida in Iraq (AQI). War planners like former General David Petraeus probably didn’t anticipate this particular result from some of their actions during the war, including implementing the “Salvador Option” in the country, creating Shia death squads who tortured and murdered many of their Sunni victims with power tools.
Although bad decisions can’t always be excused, they should at least be remembered so they aren’t repeated. Intellectual laziness and ideological devotion has led many Western commentators, especially establishment pundits, to rely on peoples’ ignorance or lack of memory to sell a narrative in which their countries, and especially their elites, are not held to account for their failures. In the United States, Hillary Clinton has benefited greatly from this kind of historical amnesia over the years.
What’s most strange about the US’ top diplomat during Obama’s first term, is that she seems to have learned so little about diplomacy. For example, while out of office in 2014 she compared Russian President Vladimir Putin to Hitler, an almost unbelievable insult to the leader of a country that sacrificed some 20,000,000 of its people fighting Nazi Germany. She’s also called Russia’s elected leader a “tyrant” and a “dictator” in what was billed as a major foreign policy speech last week before a friendly crowd in San Diego, home to the US Navy’s largest base.
The former Senator from New York began with a laugh line, noting that Donald Trump’s foreign policy ideas are “dangerously incoherent” and this is for the most part true. However, I would argue that Clinton’s own foreign policy thinking is dangerously coherent. That is, it makes perfect sense if one subscribes to the alternate reality lived in by hawks in both major American political parties but not to people who routinely supplement official sources with alternative media and try to make sense of the world.
In her speech, Secretary Clinton said that, “America stands up to countries that treat women like animals or people of different races, religions or ethnicities as less human.” These are very fine words and we may hope that any future Clinton administration will live up to such rhetoric but these noble sentiments lead us to ask where we might find her denunciations of Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women and their Shia minority? Her rebukes to the leadership in Turkey for their brutalization of the country’s Kurdish population? Her condemnation of NATO’s Libyan proxies when it became clear they were murdering darker skinned Africans in Misrata? To say nothing of her over the top defense of Israel’s treatment of Palestinian civilians, which featured prominently in the San Diego speech. One can be forgiven for thinking that, like many politicians, she’s a humanitarian of convenience.
Perhaps she told these people to “cut it out” behind closed doors, as she claimed she told Wall Street bankers in the lead up to the 2008 crash, but there is nothing I could find in the public record to bolster this theory.
In her remarks about the Obama presidency’s most significant diplomatic achievement, the Iran deal, Clinton claimed that that country was “racing” toward a nuclear weapon when she became Secretary of State. However, American intelligence agencies along with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who issued a fatwa (religious edict) against pursuing such arms, dispute this version of events. She also failed to credit her successor John Kerry for doing most of the heavy lifting in crafting the deal.
To her credit, Secretary Clinton did devote some time to discussing the importance of diplomacy in her speech, mostly to contrast her rationality with the “thin-skinned” style of Donald Trump. Still, as Phyllis Bennis, Director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies wrote regarding the San Diego speech, “…instead of asserting a clear preference for diplomacy over war she described diplomacy as essentially another weapon in Washington’s war arsenal.”
She returned several times to the idea that the United States is an exceptional nation with a duty to lead the world. This is a line one often hears from neoconservatives and liberal interventionists alike, and, if it isn’t meant to pander to listeners, it’s seriously delusional. This neoconservative version of the idea, as opposed to its origins in the American Revolution is, in this Canadian’s opinion, profoundly un-American .
In an earlier Democratic debate on March 14th, Clinton claimed that the intervention in Libya that she unwisely took credit for was a great success only marred by the citizens of that country themselves who doubted NATO’s good intentions, showing a hubris that rises to the level of Greek tragedy.
Even more dangerous than the chaos visited on that North African nation is the possibility of a confrontation with Russia or, less likely, China, leading to a war that could go nuclear with terrifying consequences for the entire planet. In fairness to Secretary Clinton, she did mention the US’ nuclear arsenal in her address, but not to talk about the steps she would take to eliminate the threat they pose but rather to criticize some of Donald Trump’s more insane pronouncements on the subject of nukes and demonstrate why she should be the one entrusted with the nuclear codes.
Barring an indictment for the email scandal or a successful come from behind insurgency on the part of Green Party candidate Jill Stein or Libertarian Gary Johnson, American voters will likely choose Clinton to ward off the potential dangers of a Trump presidency. Votes for progressive, anti-war voices down ticket will be vital to stop Clinton and her circle of hawks from dominating the conversation in Washington and imposing a Clinton Doctrine of peace through violence, especially in the Middle East and Africa. This is how Bernie Sanders supporters can continue their political revolution absent his presence on the ballot.
In closing, it is important to clearly state that the nomination of Hillary Clinton is truly a historic first regardless of how we feel about her policies. Glenn Greenwald put this much more eloquently than I could recently, saying, “(The) nomination of the first female presidential candidate of a major party is significant in shaping how people all over the world, especially children,view their own and other people’s potential and possibilities”.
It will be up to the American people to push Hillary Clinton if she’s elected to realize this promise and not damage it with yet more intervention and military violence. Judging by her speech in San Diego, it might require that thousands of peaceful people make themselves ready to take to the streets in protest.