Saturday, October 11, 2014

Why Do We Want to Hear From Hillary Clinton?

The Republican Party is constantly in search of a scandal to pin on Hillary Clinton as the former Senator and Secretary of State maneuvers towards a presidential run in 2016.  They struggle to come up with anything worse than Benghazi, which was a failure of collective intelligence and judgment, not of one individual.
But the real scandal is that anyone is interested in hearing what Hillary Clinton has to say.  The University of Nevada, Las Vegas is paying for the privilege next week, when Clinton will give the keynote speech at the UNLV Foundation’s Annual Dinner at the Bellagio Hotel.
The University has come in for stinging criticism from students for paying a tremendously rich former politician a considerable sum of money to come and address donors.  The University has protested that the payment is coming from foundation rather than general funds, but at a time when the University has recently raised tuition and is lobbying the state for reinvestment after hard times, I’m not sure what the decision to enrich Clinton or her family’s foundation says about the priorities of a public institution.
In any case, the point remains that I’m not sure that people at UNLV or elsewhere have much to learn from a Clinton speech.  All we need to do to know how she thinks the world should work is look around us: to a large degree, the last decade and a half has been shaped by debates and decisions in which Clinton was a key player.
We are preparing to re-commit ourselves to a war in Iraq.  It is a war spawned by our illegal, immoral war of aggression launched over a decade ago.  Hillary Clinton provided a key vote for that war and has since said that she only later turned against it because she was running for President.  That war claimed the lives of thousands of U.S. soldiers and tens if not hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens, victims of a campaign to “shock and awe”.  It also helped to spread terrorism around the Middle East. 
We have been unable to extricate ourselves from a war in Afghanistan that will be 13 years old this month.  As Senator, Clinton voted to give President Bush the powers to wage an ill-judged war there, and as Secretary of State she was the most powerful advocate for the escalation of that war, backing the President into a corner and encouraging treacherous military commanders with political ambitions of their own to run roughshod over him.
People across the Middle East live uncertain lives under the thumbs of vicious autocrats and colonial powers.  During the Arab Spring, Clinton argued that the U.S. needed to back dictators and autocrats against the democratic aspirations of their people, and she has offered unconditional support to Israel in its illegal, immoral, and counter-productive colonial project.
Clinton has doubled-down on her view that supporting “really nasty guys” abroad, while perhaps not pleasant, should be essential to the conduct of our international affairs.  She cited historical examples of dictators in Latin America and Southeast Asia, and might also have mentioned the apartheid regime in South Africa, the Shah in Iran, and other anti-democratic, colonial, and authoritarian rulers. 
Clinton has been a formidable advocate for the use of brute force, leading the charge to bomb Libya, and attempting to pressure the President into bombing Syria last year.  Since leaving office, she and her hangers-on have repeatedly attacked the President—the man who uses extrajudicial killings as his foreign policy tool of choice—of being insufficiently bloodthirsty when it comes to wielding American military power.
Only last week, Leon Panetta, a longtime Clinton associate and staunch defender of the criminal behavior of our security services, crawled out of the woodwork to say that we should have maintained an aggressive occupying force in Iraq, precisely the kind of action which is a boon to non-state terrorist organizations which can then cast themselves as anti-colonial fighters.
At home, corporate plutocrats prepare ever more unconscionable assaults on what remains of our democratic edifice, in part because the presumed Democratic presidential candidate in 2016 has let them know behind closed doors that she has their back, and has no time for people who complain about economic inequality.  Upon being elected to the Senate in New York, Clinton pivoted to the right on economic and financial issues, genuflecting to Wall Street.  Her political network has ever since been tightly connected to the financial sector and the right wing of the Democratic Party, which has abandoned all commitment to social democratic progress in the U.S.
Our country is currently a wreck because for the past 40-50 years it has been run by neo-conservative and neo-liberal Presidents and/or Congresses.  The policies associated with these twisted ideologies have warped the management of our economy in a way that privileges the super-rich and have kept our country mired in a series of wars that are not only counter-productive, but shockingly brutal. 

Hillary Clinton appears to have signed up to both facets of this political consensus.  Whether she has done so from conviction or convenience it is difficult to say, but we are already living the sad legacy of her votes in the Senate and her lobbying from the State Department.  I’m not sure the country can handle another four to eight years of such devastation, or that the world can withstand the unleashing of more terror that a Clinton administration would promise, and I wish we could hear from other, less cynical and less morally compromised voices. 

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