Hillary Clinton: a letter to America

3 Aug
This post also features on offGuardian – a much needed antidote to the rightward drift of once liberal media.

I’ve seen numerous FB posts by liberal American friends saying it’s vital to back Hillary. It isn’t, and I’ve Facebooked several times to say so. Usually my comments are ignored but I keep at it because these are good people I’ve had a deep connection with, though our worldviews are now far apart, and because the question is burning. The other day I FB-linked to a previous post and had this back from someone I’m fond of.

mary FB comment re HRC

I replied 

Dear [friend]

I’ll start by asserting my moral right, as world citizen affected by her decisions, to critique HRC. Intellectual right too. I’m no expert but did read her autobiography, Hard Choices. More to the point, I’ve studied her record. I dare say I’ve ploughed more time into this than most Americans; that’s how much it matters. My concerns are her close proximity to big capital, like Exxon-Mobil, its support always conditional on payback, and her hawkish imperialism. The latter affects me more directly so I’ll focus on that. Note though that the case for saying both Clintons are venal is strong. Did you see the Clinton Cash film linked from that previous post? It can’t easily be dismissed as negative press when it makes specific accusations which are either true or false. If false, why no libel suit? While there are few smoking guns, circumstantial evidence of financial wrongdoing by and for the pair is damning. Circumstantial evidence is not inferior evidence: it just needs to be looked at with extra care. A good analogy is insider trading. Here too there are few smoking guns but offenders are successfully prosecuted when contingent facts point beyond reasonable doubt to their guilt.

So too with the Clintons, who in truth cannot be separated on many things, such as their Nigeria dealings and links with Frank Giustra, not least the Kazakh uranium connection as reported in the New Yorker. These and other examples are far from exhaustive; just what prosecutors call specimen charges. I had no a priori  desire to see HRC damned but came to my assessment on the back of hard evidence, not rumour or bad press. For instance I discount GOP and rightwing sources in general as untrustworthy here, but do not dismiss the Panama Paper revelations or PunditFact. (Though at least one pundit finds the latter unreliable due to pro  Clinton bias!)  We should also note that the revolving door, always corrosive of democracy, is especially significant with Bill and Hillary given the intimate relationship between these two past and present senior politicians, and between both and big money.

Again though, the above is in passing. My focus is less on HRC as venal than as warmonger. I see the two as inextricable, with that Nigeria trail – oil loot, Clinton Foundation, Boko Haram – a case in point, but to back this up I’d need a few thousand words on really existing capitalism in the post Soviet era. I’ll pass, and for now simply review the record on foreign policy. On this and much else, Hillary and Bill can’t be separated. In contests with Obama then Sanders, Hillary bigged up her stint as First Lady to show her greater experience. That’s odd – the role is traditionally associated with Good Works on uncontroversial causes – but makes sense once we factor in the problems posed by other aspects of her CV. Her senatorial record, 2001-08, is unremarkable – can you cite a single memorable piece of legislation* she saw through? – while that as Secretary of State earned her, this side of the Atlantic, the Queen of Chaos moniker.

In Hard Choices she brags of urging Bill, March 1999, to bomb Belgrade. You and I may differ on what motivated Washington to destroy Yugoslavia. Many take at face value the humanitarian intervention rationale. I do not but, unless you request it, won’t go into the why, begging as it does a class and anti-imperialist perspective you may not share. I’ll focus instead on outcomes. The Kosovo “rescued” by the first bombing of a European capital since WW2 is one of the most corrupt nations on earth; its main exports, chiefly to Western Europe, being sex slaves, criminal gangs and heroin from the opium output of another part Clintonian legacy; Afghanistan. In this, Kosovo anticipates other chaos inflicted directly on her watch. I mean Iraq’s devastation, which she voted for and enthused over to the delight of Gingrich and Kissinger. I mean Libya, for whose mayhem and birth of ISIL she bears prime responsibility. (And who could forget her vile gloating pastiche, after Gaddafi’s sodomisation by knife blade, of Julius Caesar’s veni vidi vici – ‘we came, we saw, he died’?) And I mean Syria, where her hawkishness pushed a more cautious Barrack Obama into a demolition job on that country in the name, as ever, of democracy.

I’ll skip Honduras. I mean no disrespect to those so cruelly treated on her say so – in defiance of the UN General Assembly – but want to keep things short. (Do check out Honduras though. Try this Al-Jazeera piece, a reliable source when Gulf State interests aren’t involved; but really, you’re spoilt for choice on what happened to Zelaya.) I’ll even skip Palestine! My number one worry concerns Russia, where the frighteningly maverick and philistine Trump actually looks the saner of the two front runners. I’m no fan of Reagan but will give him this: he genuinely thought the cold war ended with the fall of the USSR. Some of his key advisors – Russia experts like Stephen Cohen, and US Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts – thought so too. Both were appalled by what they (naively in my view) saw as lost opportunities for rapprochement with Putin. These began when the Clintons – again, no separation for the reason already given – took advantage of both Russia’s post USSR weakness and Yeltsin’s buffoonery to push NATO eastwards (breaking its promises not to “advance an inch”) in a manner the USA would not for a moment tolerate anywhere near its own doorstep. That push continued under Dubya with HRC’s vociferous approval. And of course it was HRC who fast-tracked Victoria “fuck the EU” Nuland, a key mover in the Maidan coup that ousted Yanukovych in the name of – what else? – democracy, a claim flatly contradicted by the fascist make up of Ukraine’s current regime.

NATO, which is Washington, is playing an insanely dangerous game on and close to the borders of a nuclear power. For all his bluster, Trump looks on this matter the more statesmanlike with his willingness to get real and talk to Putin. Compare that with an all too likely scenario wherein Clinton tries to push through her no fly zone in Syria – which would in effect restore the status quo to before Russia entered the fray: i.e. ISIS, Al Nusrah and the ‘moderate’ head-choppers in the ascendant; Assad on the ropes. Putin will say no because, having accepted regime change and homicidal chaos in Baghdad and Tripoli, Russia drew a line in the sand on Damascus. Since Russia is a nuclear power – and the EU already resentful over sanctions that hurt its energy hungry members as much as they do Moscow – she cannot be bullied the way most countries are by the USA. So how many steps, do you think, before a HRC who loves to talk tough takes this to the  brink?

That in brief is why I say HRC may not even be the lesser evil. And that if she is, it’s by so narrow a margin as to make it a non consideration in electoral choice. Don’t assume I back Trump. He’s unleashed humanity’s basest instincts, as rightwing populists do. But what would I do if I were an American? I’d throw heart and soul into exposing a phoney democracy that promises more of the same: imperialist wars and a trail of chaos across the globe, the continuing export of American jobs to Asia, and the continual subordination of tackling climate change to the needs of profit. It’s to the undying shame of Bernie that, as many foresaw, he urged his supporters to swing behind Hillary when he could have begun the task of building a real alternative, within and without the established machinery. American democracy, even by Britain’s low standards, is broken and crying out for a real alternative. Hillary as president couldn’t advance that project even if she wanted to – and why would  she want to? In the face of this bleak binary choice, American progressives should back Jill Stein and build strong grass roots movements for change.

Warm regards, Phil

* An obvious comparator for HRC’s senatorial record (four pieces of new law on the designation of historic sites) is her erstwhile rival and boss. In this summary, from Wiki, my aim is not to comment on the progressiveness or otherwise of Obama’s work – simply to show what the CV of a presidential hopeful might look like when the candidate has only his/her record in office to offer.
ILLINOIS STATE SENATOR (from 1997)
Obama gained bipartisan support for legislation that reformed ethics and health care laws .. sponsored a law that increased tax credits for low-income workers, negotiated welfare reform, and promoted increased subsidies for childcare. In 2001, as co-chairman of the bipartisan Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, Obama supported Republican Governor Ryan’s payday loan regulations and predatory mortgage lending regulations aimed at averting home foreclosures …
He sponsored and led unanimous, bipartisan passage of legislation to monitor racial profiling by requiring police to record the race of drivers they detained, and legislation making Illinois the first state to mandate videotaping of homicide interrogations …
On October 2, 2002, the day Bush and Congress agreed on the joint resolution authorizing the Iraq War,[70] Obama addressed the Chicago anti-Iraq War rally,[71] and told another anti-war rally in March 2003 “it’s not too late” to stop the war.[73]
U.S. SENATOR FROM ILLINOIS (2005–08)
Obama cosponsored the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act.[84] He introduced two initiatives that bore his name: Lugar–Obama, which expanded the Nunn–Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction concept to conventional weapons;[85] and the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, which authorized the establishment of USAspending.gov, a web search engine on federal spending.[86] On June 3, 2008, Senator Obama—along with Senators Tom Carper, Tom Coburn, and John McCain—introduced follow-up legislation: Strengthening Transparency and Accountability in Federal Spending Act of 2008.[87]
Obama sponsored legislation that would have required nuclear plant owners to notify state and local authorities of radioactive leaks, but the bill failed to pass in the full Senate after being heavily modified in committee.[88] Regarding tort reform, Obama voted for the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which grants immunity from civil liability to telecommunications companies complicit with NSA warrantless wiretapping operations.[89]
In December 2006, Bush signed into law the Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act, marking the first federal legislation to be enacted with Obama as its primary sponsor.[91] In January 2007, Obama and Senator Feingold introduced a corporate jet provision to the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, signed into law in 2007.[92] Obama also introduced two unsuccessful bills: the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act to criminalize deceptive practices in federal elections,[93] and the Iraq War De-Escalation Act of 2007.[94]
Later in 2007, Obama sponsored an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act to add safeguards for personality-disorder military discharges.[95] This amendment passed the full Senate in the spring of 2008.[96] He sponsored the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act supporting divestment of state pension funds from Iran’s oil and gas industry, which has not passed committee; and co-sponsored legislation to reduce risks of nuclear terrorism.[97] Obama also sponsored a Senate amendment to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, providing one year of job protection for family members caring for soldiers with combat-related injuries.[98]

2 Replies to “Hillary Clinton: a letter to America

  1. “the ‘moderate’ head-choppers in the ascendant; ..”
    Yesterday I saw them called “throat cutters” we have a perfectly good word for these allies of the US: cut throats. Let us use it.

    I agree wholeheartedly with the post itself. I know lots of American ‘rednecks’ and fascists they aren’t. As Margaret Kimberley reminds us in her excellent Freedom Rider column, the billionaires, industrialists and financiers who back fascists aren’t backing Trump, they are lining up behind Clinton.

    The modern American intellectual tends to be scared of working class people the way that their ancestors were scared of blacks. And for similar reasons: the members of what Americans call the “middle class” are very angry about the way that successive governments, of both parties, have traded away their living standards, their jobs and their aspirations towards equality (social mobility) in the interests of the tiny elite which has been amassing the wealth stolen from the poor. And from no part of ‘the poor’ more than those, with Union jobs, medical insurance and pensions thought that poverty had passed them by.
    Not unlike the people who used to work in manufacturing in the UK or even Germany.

  2. Thanks bevin – I’ll check out her Freedom Rider column.

    Your final paragraph interests me, and a recent post on this site touches on overlapping terrain. Many Ukippers are economically to the left of New Labour, while Mosley founded his British Union of Fascists after his Labour colleagues had cold shouldered his radical Keynesian policies. My reading of the Nazis’ – not Macmillen’s! – Night of the Long Knives is that Eric Rohm was taking the ‘socialism’ part of National Socialism too seriously for a Hitler wooing big business. In sum, liberals the world over do well to look under the bonnet of blue collar racism and other seemingly reactionary forms. Few will do this, I fear.

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