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Debunking Clinton’s apologist rhetoric

Milam's Musings, milambc@miamioh.edu

My assessment of Democrats' trade-off on war and foreign policy seems to have been off, if the Executive Board of Miami Students for Hillary's Letter to the Editor is any indication.

I wrote in my column last week that the "trade-off for Democrats seems to be that they can tolerate Clinton's hawkishness, just as they have Obama's (although he's certainly less so, but that's not much of a compliment), so long as she's solid on health care, the environment and the economy. And they can certainly tolerate it more than they could a similarly destructive Republican president that's much less 'solid' on those same domestic issues."

However, the Executive Board didn't present it as a trade-off, rather, an apologist, distorted view of Clinton's hawkish record, which is something much worse.

First, it should be pointed out that in an 830-word letter, they devoted a mere 141 words of it to defending her record on foreign policy, leaving out her troubling rhetoric on Iran and unconditional support of Israel.

Let's unpack it with those facts the Executive Board is interested in.

With regard to Clinton's vote for the 2002 Iraq War, they say she was faced with a "hard choice and, with the information presented to her, made a decision with the support of the majority of Democrats in the Senate."

Prior to the vote on the war, then-President George W. Bush sent two documents to the Senate for review: a 92-page classified National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and a five-page, unclassified version.

Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence voted against the Iraq resolution, citing the classified intelligence report, which contained strong dissent from the State Department and the Department of Energy.

Clinton never read the classified intelligence report, instead relying on in-person briefings. So I guess with the (skewed) information presented to her, she did make the "hard choice" to go to war.

Fred Kaplan argues in Slate his own apologist defense of Clinton, saying she voted for the war on the premise that the vote would be Bush's leverage against Saddam to finish the U.N. inspections into whether he possessed weapons of mass destruction. The problem, then, was that Bush went back on his word.

You see, Clinton's mistake wasn't voting for a war that led to the deaths of 4,486 Americans and nearly 500,000 Iraqis, destabilized the region and lead to the rise of ISIS; it was putting trust in the hands of Bush.

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But even that weak shifting of blame to Bush doesn't hold up to scrutiny. According to a CNN article in April of 2004, the same month that was the deadliest for U.S. forces since the war began, Clinton had no regrets about her Iraq vote.

It was well known at the time that the U.S. had not found any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

"No, I don't regret giving the president authority because at the time it was in the context of weapons of mass destruction, grave threats to the United States, and clearly, Saddam Hussein had been a real problem for the international community for more than a decade," Clinton said.

She didn't formally offer her flimsy, deflecting apology until it became a sticking point in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.

Even richer is the language of calling her vote a "mistake." There are many things I would consider a mistake, voting for the worst foreign policy decision since Vietnam hardly qualifies.

It's further generous to say Clinton, since then, has "dedicated her efforts toward diplomacy as a means of intervention, with military options remaining a last resort."

In a New York Times assessment of Obama's decision to surge in Afghanistan in 2009, Clinton was noted among his cabinet as being "increasingly aligned behind a more robust force." Clinton, the Times said, wanted to make sure she was a formidable player in the process.

She was "comfortable" with General McChrystal's request for 40,000 more troops.

Despite Libya's fall into civil war since 2011, the Executive Board says Clinton acted cautiously to "lessen what would have been a much larger crisis in northern Africa without the policies she advanced."

There's no way to back that claim up and it's often the refrain of those favoring intervention that "it could have been worse."

According to the Washington Post, "The North African nation [Libya] has become a primary outpost for the Islamic State, which has exploited the chaos to take territory, train soldiers and prove its strength outside Syria and Iraq."

I find it hard to imagine how it could have been worse.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates was against the Libyan bombing, but Clinton, along with U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice and White House adviser Samantha Power pressed Obama to support it.

In that 2004 CNN article, Clinton lambasted Bush for poor post-war planning in Iraq. But Clinton had no plan for what would happen after U.S. and NATO bombs stopped dropping on Libya and after they overthrew the government.

Most absurdly, Clinton has maintained that the Libyan intervention was a use of "smart power," which makes it clear that Clinton hasn't learned anything.

How long will we have to wait before she at least offers another deflecting apology on Libya?

The Executive Board, however, tells me that Clinton's plan in Syria is an "appropriately nuanced, balanced plan to combat both the scourge of ISIS and the tyrannical Assad regime," but they never tell me what that plan is.

I'm getting the sense that they don't know what it is since they didn't even grapple with her support for a no-fly zone in Syria. At least the New York Times editorial board acknowledged it.

Unfortunately, much of the article reads this way. The last 10 sentences are soaring campaign speech platitudes about how wonderful Clinton is. One would think with her great experience and record she has, there would be ample evidence to back those soaring platitudes up.

There are further uncomfortable facts to consider. For instance, nations and companies that had donated to the Clinton Foundation saw an increase in arms deals when Clinton was Secretary of State.

According to an International Business Times investigation, governments and corporations involved in the arms deals approved by Clinton's State Department have delivered between $54 million and $141 million to the Clinton Foundation, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to the Clinton family.

Gun control doesn't seem to apply in foreign policy.

Or the fact that interventionists, like historian Robert Kagan, according to the New York Times, sees Clinton as the "vessel into which many interventionists are pouring their hopes."

I could continue, like how Clinton is appreciative of Henry Kissinger's praise (one of the most notorious purveyors of terrible American interventions) or that Clinton has Madeleine Albright stumping for her in New Hampshire, the same woman who said in a 1996 60 Minutes interview that, despite sanctions on Iraq reportedly killing 500,000 Iraqi children, the "price was worth it."

Later in her memoirs, Madam Secretary, she would apologize for those remarks.

It was just a mistake, she said. Sounds familiar.

You can tell a lot about someone by the company they keep, it is said. You can also tell a lot about someone by the record they have.

Clinton's record is clear: she's a hawk and I maintain, a vote for her is a vote for an even more hawkish White House.

Real progress would be changing the perpetual war paradigm we've been plagued by since 9/11. But don't expect that sort of change from Clinton.

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