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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 8/23/16

What Do We Really Know About Clinton's or Trump's Foreign Policy?

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Message Steve Weissman

Reprinted from Reader Supported News

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

Whose foreign policy would pose a greater threat -- Hillary Clinton's or Donald Trump's? Few questions carry more weight. None put into sharper focus Clinton's history as the have-gun, will-travel paladin of American empire. But Trump has his own urge for Washington to be the world's bully boy. If he became president -- may the gods forfend -- he has given fair warning that he intends to wage a vigorous nationalistic and race-based war on multiple fronts, an all-out clash of civilizations that could become even more dangerous than anything from Hillary and her mixed flock of liberal and neo-con hawks.

Failing a divine double-bolt of lightning, Trump or much more likely Clinton will be America's next president. Both candidates suck, but differently. An unexpectedly helpful way to see this is by considering the way they each shade the truth.

Clinton is a frequent fabricator, often fibbing gratuitously. One glaring example came on Fox News Sunday at the end of July, in an interview about her private email server. FBI Director James Comey called her answers "truthful," she said. He did not. He said he had no evidence she had lied to the FBI, a far cry from saying that she had told the truth either to the bureau or to the American people. For her verbal sleight of hand, the Washington Post awarded Clinton Four Pinocchios.

A different example of Clinton's truth-shading is her handling of the emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) that WikiLeaks published in July. Did she ever deal with the substantive issue of how party chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her apparatchiks had worked to undermine the campaigns of both Bernie Sanders and Debbie's Congressional primary opponent Tim Canova? Don't be silly. Clinton never faced the substance of the scandal. She chose instead to blame the Russians for hacking the DNC and then leaking the emails.

So far, neither Clinton, nor the Obama administration, nor the mass media, nor the usual gaggle of conspiracy quacks left and right have provided any compelling evidence. None of them can even prove that the emails WikiLeaks published came from hackers. They could as easily have come from an inside whistleblower, possibly the 27-year-old Seth Rich, the DNC staffer who was shot and killed in Washington D.C. in the early morning hours of July 10.

The mystery remains. WikiLeaks's leader Julian Assange suggested on Dutch television, but would not confirm, that Rich might have been the source of the emails. Assange added to the speculation by offering a $20K reward for information leading to conviction for Rich's murder.

Why, then, does Clinton blame the Russians? In part, to tar Trump as at least an unwitting agent of Vladimir Putin, a refrain echoed by her amen corner in the mainstream media and think tanks. But this goes deeper than just an election ploy. Hillary Clinton's lack of candor on the emails and her all-too-easy Russia-baiting should alert us to look again at the underlying attitudes that have shaped her foreign policy thinking.

No matter how many George W. Bush-era neo-cons endorse Clinton against the rogue elephant Trump, she draws on her party's much older tradition of liberal imperialism, which reaches back to President Woodrow Wilson. Keep in mind that Wilson intervened militarily against the Russian revolution at a time when most Republicans were still hardcore isolationists. To this interventionist impulse, Clinton has added a longtime commitment to military solutions from China policy to Libya and Latin America.

As First Lady in the 1990s, she applauded as her husband turned NATO from a supposedly defensive alliance in the first Cold War into a force to extend Western power into Eastern Europe. She saw how Washington organized the overthrow of Serbian president Slobodan Milosevich, "the Butcher of the Balkans," and then created the color revolutions that provocatively extended Western power into the borderlands of the former Soviet Union.

As Secretary of State in Obama's first term, she laid the foundation for the second Orange Revolution in Ukraine, which led to the coup in Kiev that overthrew the legally elected but incredibly corrupt and Putin-dependent president Viktor Yanukovych. Even after she left State, Hillary and Bill travelled to Ukraine to support the buildup to the American-led coup.

Should Hillary Clinton beat Trump in November, as now seems likely, why would she not continue to pursue this kind of anti-Russian policy, both in Eastern Europe and Syria? This is a question her supporters need to ask themselves.

Trump's falsification, his "truthful hyperbole" as he called it in his bestselling Art of the Deal, is quite different from Clinton's. It goes to his deepest core. Lying is the way he presents himself, whether as high-dollar deal-maker or his country's would-be redeemer. An old-fashioned snake oil salesman, Trump does not give a damn whether or not he tells the truth. Neither do his nativist, Christian nationalist, and white supremacist supporters. Neither does his new campaign chief Stephen Bannon, a former Naval officer, investment banker, filmmaker, Tea Party enthusiast, and head of Breitbart News, an "Alternative Right" outlet for a new generation of Muslim-bashers, Jew-baiters, immigrant-haters, and fascists in waiting.

From early in his campaign, Trump has donned the mantle of foreign policy and counter-terrorist seer, making himself his own biggest lie. He claimed to know more about ISIS, or the Islamic State, than US generals do. "I alone can solve" the problem of Islamic radicalism, he twittered. He talked about using waterboarding and other torture against the jihadis. He talked of sending as many as 20-30 thousand ground troops to fight the Islamic State. He even toyed with the idea of using battlefield nuclear weapons to take them out.

"I was an opponent of the Iraq War from the beginning "' a major difference between me and my opponent," he repeated again in his big foreign policy speech last week. Trump cited an interview on Fox Business in which he claimed to have voiced his opposition in January 2003, two months before George W. Bush launched his invasion of Iraq. Fact-checkers at the Washington Post looked. What Trump had opposed was all the media babble in the lead-up to the invasion, which he feared would help the enemy. He did not oppose the war. "Either you attack or you don't attack," he told journalist Neil Cavuto. "So the point is either you do it or you don't do it."

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A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a (more...)
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