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I was beaten, cuffed, and arrested a year ago at George Washington U.
for silently protesting Secretary of State Clinton, many folks asked me
why I stood and turned my back to her. The critique I wrote looked well
beyond her remarkable display of callousness in watching me brutalized
right in front of her without missing a syllable. Her reaction (more
precisely, her dismissive lack of reaction) struck me as a metaphor
pointing to a remarkable absence of any sign of empathy for the
suffering and death caused by her callously macho policies. Compared
the millions being brutalized by those policies, I got off easy.
In my commentary after the
event last year, I addressed Clinton's behavior toward Iran, which is
even more on the front burner this year. In my view, whether or not
there will be war depends largely on whether Israel's hard-line leaders
think they can suck the Obama administration into such a war in support
of Israel. Our own military is cringing -- and for very good reason -- at
the thought of getting involved in a war with Iran, and Defense
Secretary Leon Panetta and the generals have been begging the Israelis,
pretty please, not to start one.
Standing Up to War and Hillary Clinton
It was not until Secretary of State Hillary Clinton walked to the George Washington University podium on Feb. 15 to enthusiastic applause that I decided I had to dissociate myself from the obsequious adulation of a person responsible for so much death, suffering and destruction.
I was reminded of a spring day in Atlanta almost five years earlier when then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld strutted onto a similar stage to loud acclaim from another enraptured audience.
Introducing Rumsfeld on May 4, 2006, the president of the Southern Center for International Policy in Atlanta highlighted his "honesty." I had just reviewed my notes for an address I was scheduled to give that evening in Atlanta and, alas, the notes demonstrated his dishonesty.
I thought to myself, if there's an opportunity for Q & A after his speech I might try to stand and ask a question, which is what happened. I engaged in a four-minute impromptu debate with Rumsfeld on Iraq War lies, an exchange that was carried on cable TV. That experience leaped to mind on Feb. 15, as Secretary Clinton strode onstage amid similar adulation.
The fulsome praise for Clinton from GW's president and the loud, sustained applause also brought to mind a phrase that -- as a former Soviet analyst at CIA -- I often read in Pravda. When reprinting the text of speeches by high Soviet officials, the Communist Party newspaper would regularly insert, in italicized parentheses: "Burniye applaudismenti; vce stoyat" -- Stormy applause; all rise.
With the others at Clinton's talk, I stood. I even clapped politely. But as the applause dragged on, I began to feel like a real phony. So, when the others finally sat down, I remained standing silently, motionless, wearing my "Veterans for Peace" T-shirt, with my eyes fixed narrowly on the rear of the auditorium and my back to the Secretary.
I did not expect what followed: a violent assault in full view of madam secretary by what we Soviet analysts used to call the "organs of state security." The rest is history, as they say. A short account of the incident can be found here.
As the video of the event shows, Secretary Clinton did not miss a beat in her speech as she called for authoritarian governments to show respect for dissent and to refrain from violence. She spoke with what seemed to be an especially chilly sang froid, as she ignored my silent protest and the violent assault which took place right in front of her.
The experience gave me personal confirmation of the impression that I reluctantly had drawn from watching her behavior and its consequences over the past decade. The incident was a kind of metaphor of the much worse violence that Secretary Clinton has coolly countenanced against others.
Again and again, Hillary Clinton -- both as a U.S. senator and as Secretary of State -- has demonstrated a nonchalant readiness to unleash the vast destructiveness of American military power. The charitable explanation, I suppose, is that she knows nothing of war from direct personal experience.