An excerpt from Presidents' Body Counts: The Twelve Worst and Four Best American Presidents Based on How Many Lived or Died Because of Their Actions.
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If Hillary Clinton Had Won: Continuing GW Bush's Wars and More
It is difficult to think of a recent figure that more people have unrealistic ideas about than Hillary Clinton. To much of the right, she is a dragon woman, to much of the left a heroine. The right tends to ignore that Hillary Clinton thinks and acts much like them, especially on war and peace issues. Much of the left ignores that she is not, in fact, anything close to being one of them on virtually any issue besides abortion rights.
On war and peace in particular, Ms. Clinton's own words show a history of being a neo conservative, an empire builder and reckless warmonger the equal of GW Bush. Some of her advisers were also GW Bush's, and indeed one Clinton adviser lobbied hard for support for a coup in Honduras. Clinton supported and voted for the invasion of Iraq, and refused to apologize or admit wrongdoing despite being pressed repeatedly by her own supporters.
The most striking words from her are her stance on Iran. In 2008, she called for “massive retaliation.” This is a Cold War nuclear doctrine that argues one should launch an all out attack on civilian populations. When pressed further, Clinton later followed up with the vow, “I want the Iranians to know, if I'm the president, we will attack Iran...” if there were an attack on Israel. Later in the same interview, she bragged, “We would be able to totally obliterate them.” It is clear that was more than just a military response, but threatening the mass murder of Iranian civilians. That was how it was interpreted around much of the world, with the UN Secretary General concerned. “If she becomes president and she keeps saying that, then we'll have to react."
Clinton's long history of saying belligerent things off the cuff delights her supporters and angers her opponents. Back in 1992 she made comments that appeared to denigrate housewives. The remarks themselves matter little in the long run. What is more relevant is her history of picking fights when she did not need to, alienating people who did not have an opinion of her before. For most conservative women in the US, these comments were the first time they heard of her. For many in the Mideast, her calls to “obliterate” Iran were the first comments they had heard from her. Much of the complaints against her by conservative opponents are fabricated, but others are genuine, for she keeps giving them easy targets.
Clinton would come into office already opposed by both conservatives and much of the left, almost all of one party and perhaps half of her own. Any healthcare efforts by her would be in the shadow of her previous one, a corporate welfare effort which still could not get passed though her own party had majorities in both houses. She has since opposed any immediate national healthcare, and proposed, along with Newt Gingrich a gradual approach. This is a thinly veiled way to say it would not be national, not be government run, and would be even more corporate welfare and thus inefficient.
On the Great Recession, her husband's deregulation played a major role in the
housing and banking collapses. She likely would have pushed for bailouts, and then failed to punish any Wall Street criminals, much like happened under Obama.
Overseas she would differ very little from GW Bush. As Secretary of State, she pushed for more troops to Afghanistan and the US invasion of Libya, often arguing against Vice President Biden. If she had been president, she no doubt would do the same.
Where she would go contrary to Obama and perhaps even beyond what GW Bush would have done is Syria. She and General Petraeus presented a plan for arming Syrian rebels. Obama rejected it, as many on both the left and right did, for drawing the US into a civil war. On one side is a brutal dictator, on the other fundamentalists allied with Al Qaeda. Potentially Clinton's plan could have backfired as badly as CIA support for Osama Bin Laden. Clinton or another president could have faced terrorist attacks from a former ally. Possibly victorious Syrian rebels may attack Israel or support terrorists doing the same.
On Iraq, Clinton's history is following the winds of popular opinion. She voted for the war to avoid appearing soft. She supported the war with numerous votes, even after most of her own party opposed it. It took until 2007, five years later and two years after most of the public opposed the war, for her to finally vote for a bill calling for a timetable for withdrawal. By that same standard, she may have waited two years longer than Obama did to finally pull US troops from Iraq.
Would she go to war with Iran? Or were her earlier words just bluster to win over pro-Israel voters? She has long supported sanctions, which she openly says are designed to bring down the Iranian government. She also has long pushed for diplomatic talks to halt Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, even though the CIA said the evidence shows Iran is not trying to develop nuclear weapons.
There has been a powerful lobby calling for war with Iran since the 1990s. Some are pro-Israel, some neo conservatives. Clinton's closest adviser was Richard Holbrooke, who likely would have been her Secretary of State. Holbrooke had a long history of humanitarian causes, but also two troubling episodes. Holbrooke was sent to press Indonesian dictator Suharto about the genocide he carried out in East Timor. Instead Holbrooke publicly praised Suharto. Holbrooke also successfully blocked a UN effort to create an envoy to negotiate with the Taliban in 2009. The evidence seems clear that she and her adviser prefer war to diplomacy, and thus an Iran war is quite possible.
Clinton is widely seen as most likely our next president. Her advisers continue to be neo conservatives, believers in American empire. It remains to be seen if she may act differently in office than indicated by her past statements and positions. If she does back away from war as the first solution for dealing with purported enemies, it most likely will be because of public opposition rather than deep conviction.
Al Carroll is Assistant Professor of History at Northern Virginia Community College and a former Fulbright Scholar. His other books are Medicine Bags and Dog Tags: American Indian Veteran Traditions from Colonial Times to the Second Iraq War and Survivors: Family Histories of Colonialism, Genocide, and War. He is a longtime activist and researcher for NewAgeFraud.org. More information on him can be found at http://alcarroll.com.