Reprinted from Alternet
Hard choices, big losses: Hillary Clinton's book, San Francisco (2014)
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The following essay by Medea Benjamin appears in the forthcoming book, False Choices: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Clinton, on June 14 this year:
In March 2003, just before the US invasion of Iraq, about one hundred CODEPINK women dressed in pink slips weaved in and out of congressional offices demanding to meet with representatives. Those representatives who pledged to oppose going to war with Iraq were given hugs and pink badges of courage; those hell-bent on taking the US to war were given pink slips emblazoned with the words "YOU'RE FIRED."
When we got to Hillary Clinton's office, we sat down and refused to leave until we had a meeting with the Senator. Within an hour, Clinton appeared. "I like pink tulips around this time of the year; they kind of remind ya that there may be a spring," she began, looking out at the rows of women in pink. "Well, you guys look like a big bunch of big tulips!"
It got even more awkward after that. Having just returned from Iraq, I relayed that the weapons inspectors in Baghdad told us there was no danger of weapons of mass destruction and that the Iraqi women we met were terrified about the pending war and desperate to stop it. "I admire your willingness to speak out on behalf of the women and children of Iraq," Clinton replied, "but there is a very easy way to prevent anyone from being put into harm's way and that is for Saddam Hussein to disarm and I have absolutely no belief that he will."
We thought the easiest way to prevent harming women, children and other living things in Iraq was to stop a war of aggression, a war over weapons of mass destruction that UN inspectors on the ground couldn't find -- which were, in fact, never found because they didn't exist. Clinton, however, was steadfast in her commitment to war: She said it was our responsibility to disarm Saddam Hussein and even defended George W. Bush's unilateralism, citing her husband's go-it-alone intervention in Kosovo.
Disgusted, CODEPINK cofounder Jodie Evans tore off her pink slip and handed it to Clinton, saying that her support for Bush's invasion would lead to the death of many innocent people. Making the bogus connection between the September 11, 2001, attacks and Saddam Hussein, Clinton stormed out, saying, "I am the Senator from New York. I will never put my people's security at risk."
But that's just what she did, by supporting the Iraq war, draining our nation of over a trillion dollars that could have been used for supporting women and children here at home, which could have instead been rerouted to the social programs that have been systematically defunded over the last few decades of Clinton's own political career, and ultimately snuffing out the lives of thousands of US soldiers -- for absolutely no just cause.
If Clinton supported the Iraq war because she thought it politically expedient, she came to regret her stance when the war turned sour and Senator Barack Obama surged forward as the candidate opposed to that war.
But Clinton didn't learn the main lesson from Iraq -- to seek non-violent ways to solve conflicts. Indeed, when the Arab Spring came to Libya in 2010, Clinton was the Obama administration's most forceful advocate for toppling Muammar Gaddafi. She even out-hawked Robert Gates, the defense secretary first appointed by George W. Bush, who was less than enthusiastic about going to war. Gates was reluctant to get bogged down in another Arab country, insisting that vital US interests were not at stake, but Clinton nevertheless favored intervention.
When Libyan rebels carried out an extrajudicial execution of their country's former dictator, Clinton's response was sociopathic: "We came, we saw, he died," she laughed, and sent a message that the US would look the other way at crimes committed by allies against its official enemies.
In a weird bit of rough justice, the political grief Clinton has suffered over the September 11, 2012, attack on a US diplomatic outpost in Benghazi that killed four Americans might never have occurred had Clinton not supported the US intervention in Libya's civil war. While republicans have focused relentlessly on the terrible deaths of the US diplomats, the larger disaster is the ensuing chaos that left Libya without a functioning government, overrun by feuding warlords and extremist militants. In 2015, the suffering of desperate refugees who flee civil unrest -- many of whom drown in the Mediterranean Sea -- is a direct consequence of that disastrous operation.
Libya was part of a pattern for Clinton. On Afghanistan, she advocated a repeat of the surge in Iraq. When the top US commander in Kabul, General Stanley McChrystal, asked Obama for 40,000 more troops to fight the Taliban in mid-2009, several top officials -- including Vice President Joe Biden -- objected, insisting that the public had lost patience with a conflict that had already dragged on too long. But Clinton backed McChrystal and wound up favoring even more surge troops than Defense Secretary Gates did. Obama ultimately sent another 30,000 American soldiers to Afghanistan.
Clinton's State Department also provided cover for the expansion of the not-so-covert drone wars in Pakistan and Yemen. Clinton's top legal adviser, Harold Koh, exploited his pre-government reputation as an advocate for human rights to declare in a 2010 speech that the government had the right not only to detain people without any charges at Guantanamo Bay but also to kill them with unmanned aerial vehicles anywhere in the world.
Clinton advocated arming Syrian rebels long before the Obama administration agreed to do so. In 2012, she allied with CIA Director David Petraeus to promote a US-supplied-and-trained proxy army in Syria. As a US Army general, Petraeus spent enormous amounts of money training Iraqi and Afghan soldiers with little success, but that did not deter him and Clinton from seeking a similar project in Syria. Together, they campaigned for more direct and aggressive US support for the rebels, a plan supported by leading republicans like John McCain and Lindsey Graham. But few in the White House agreed, arguing that it would be difficult to appropriately vet fighters and ensure that weapons didn't fall into the hands of extremists.
Clinton was disappointed when Obama rejected the proposal, but a similar plan for the US to "vet and train moderate rebels" at a starting cost of $500 million was later approved. Some of the trained rebels were quickly routed and captured; others, more concerned with toppling Assad than fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIL), defected to the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra. In September 2015, Commander of US Central Command General Lloyd Austin told an incredulous Senate Armed Services Committee that the $500 million effort to train Syrian forces has resulted in a mere four or five fighters actively battling ISIL. Undeterred, Clinton said that as commander-in-chief, she would dramatically escalate the program.