Hillary Clinton is coasting towards the presidency. Purveyors of the conventional wisdom assure us that Democrats are wildly enthusiastic about the prospect of a Clinton coronation in 2016. Other candidates representing other communities within the party don’t even have to show up, we are told. But there are cracks in the Clintonian facade. And an article in the New Republic suggests that the Clintons themselves are so invested in creating an impression of inevitability because they are afraid.
Their biggest fear, it seems, is that a real progressive, in tune with the needs of our country might step forward and offer something more substantive than Clintonian homilies (we know that in the Clintons’ world, loyalty to their donor base comes before loyalty to the country). Their fear, in other words, is of Elizabeth Warren.
But Hillary Clinton should be afraid of something else. She should be worried that the public will remember that she joined nearly all Congressional Republicans and many Democrats in casting a vote for a war which has cost thousands of lives, will cost trillions of dollars, provided an assist to terrorists, and ruined the reputation of our country abroad.
This illegal war of aggression, based on a series of outright lies and intelligence fabrications, took the lives of thousands of U.S. soldiers. Driven by an unhinged administration to which Clinton handed a blank check, the U.S. military razed Iraqi cities and destroyed the country’s infrastructure in what we were told was a “war of liberation”. U.S. occupying forces dismantled Iraq’s institutions, killed journalists, and waged a war of occupation that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. They turned trigger-happy contractors loose on the people we were supposedly “saving”, and those contractors cost the public far more than better-trained and more accountable U.S. soldiers. The cost of this war—which no Republican likes to talk about when they bring up debt—will total in the trillions. And we must remember that Al Qaeda was not operating in Iraq before Hillary Clinton voted to send our soldiers there, presenting the opportunistic organisation with a propaganda coup courtesy of the U.S. Congress.
Clinton has various excuses for this shocking and costly “lapse” in judgment. One is that she didn’t have all the necessary information, which is as good an argument as any for withholding support. Another is that there was something of a consensus about the need for war in Iraq. But this was a consensus whipped up by neoconservatives, permitted to burn by a quiescent press, and fanned by bloodthirsty jingos who demonised anyone who questioned the premise of the war. But some representatives had the strength of character to oppose Bush and Cheney: Nancy Pelosi voted against the resolution; Barbara Boxer voted against the resolution; Russ Feingold and Ted Kennedy voted against the resolution. (Many Republicans will dismiss these people as representatives of the “far left”, but I would suggest to them: if there is something in the logic of leftist politics which allowed people to oppose a now universally-discredited war, maybe the left has something going for it.)
A third excuse is that poor Hillary Clinton was misled and hoodwinked by the scandalous Bush Administration. But the Bush Administration overplayed its hand dramatically. Dick Cheney lied openly and shamelessly about connections between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. These lies were so transparent that any thinking person should have seen through them. But Hillary Clinton, instead of providing leadership, put her head down and went along with the Republican bullies. At a time when Republicans in Congress are clamouring for a war in Iran and are eager to “take out” Syria, we don’t want a slack-jawed, idle-minded President in the White House.
The difference between Clinton and other Democrats is that she was preparing a run for President and needed—more, apparently, than the country needed her leadership—to refashion herself as “tough on terror”. In those days, that meant setting aside the use of your brain cells and going along with whatever the Bush Administration demanded, utterly unaffected by the advice of those savants Cause and Effect.
In her run for the presidency in 2008, Hillary Clinton went to extraordinary lengths to repudiate her backing of the Iraq War, but as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton demonstrated that her support for the Iraq War was no aberration by clinging to the fantasy that waging relentless war and adopting the tools of terror can “win” the War of Terror. She advocated for the surge in Afghanistan which claimed the lives of thousands of U.S. troops for no discernible purpose, to say nothing of the lives of Afghan citizens who were subjected to drone attacks and night-time raids irrespective of their “guilt”. She was party to the expansion of that war into Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and beyond, even as our military-intelligence apparatus used increasingly scurrilous methods to “win”.
We’ve paid an extraordinary price in lives and money for Hillary Clinton’s vote. Clinton cleverly outsourced the cost of her careless political transformation to all those Americans who know a friend or family member who died in Iraq or Afghanistan, and to those generations who will be paying for a vote that was based on personal political gain rather than an examination of the facts or the public interest.
The crackpot wing of the Republican Party has conspiracies to explain why we shouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton should she run for President in 2016. But the rest of us don’t need conspiracies. We have her blood-soaked record, in all of its sanguinary glory, and that should be more than enough to keep Clinton from the White House.
The Iraq War represents the ultimate betrayal of the public by the professional political class, by the national security apparatus, by our military leadership, and by our system of checks and balances. And no single person better represents the scale of that betrayal—and the impunity with which our betrayers continue to operate—than Hillary Clinton.