Sunday, August 10, 2014

Thank You For Explaining Yourself Mrs. Clinton

If you are a human rights activist, a peace activist or a person sympathetic to the principles by which such people are guided, then you should read Jeffrey Goldberg’s interview with Hillary Clinton, published in The Atlantic today.  If you are none of the above, but rather a person who wants to see the end of US foreign interventionism and war-making under the guise of “peace-making and Democracy” then Mrs. Clinton has made the clearest statement to date that she is not seeking your vote. Perhaps she considers you merely naïve and then hopes that if you listen to her long enough you will be persuaded to see things her way.

 Oh Mercy, another presidential election looms. 

 Once again, US citizens will be placed within a propagandized media spectacle that pits one set of elitist, top-down political strategies against another (the word doctrine would incorrectly connote material differences), without ever including an analysis and understanding of the gap between actual voters’ opinions and the stated policies.  Alternatives beyond the two standard options on offer will be cast aside by the networks and corporate media in general and dismissed.  Perhaps a charismatic third party figure will be given some exposure for their People-Magazine-appeal, but then ultimately, they will be punditized out of the game.

 Once the absurdities of the primary process are completed, the talking heads, using their powers of armchair discernment, will place the emphasis of the election on the purported qualities of leadership and political skill of the candidates.  When discrepancies between stated policy positions and large majorities of American opinion become apparent, this will be placed in the context of political gamesmanship and “winning them over,” not of addressing the problem of unfulfilled democracy; a challenge in a sporting event to be overcome, not a reason to stop and question the legitimacy of the policies being advanced.  The issue of complexity, a problem for a nation state with a diverse and changing population, will be consigned to the “too difficult to explain” category.

 Mrs. Clinton, responding to the suggestion that Americans are wary of more “international commitment-making,” said “You know, when you’re down on yourself, and when you are hunkering down and pulling back, you’re not going to make any better decisions than when you were aggressively, belligerently putting yourself forward,” she said. “One issue is that we don’t even tell our own story very well these days.”

 This is precisely the kind of elitist thinking that has brought so much bewilderment to America and so much grief to the world.  I am not talking about comparing the decisions of Presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama, but rather, the underlying attitude and posture of such a statement.  In the world of power elites, the People’s opinion – their will – is at best a secondary consideration of policy making.  Mrs. Clinton offers a continuation of a top-down, paternalistic form of nation-state governing which offers lip service to the idea of a democratically formed plebiscite, but in fact, looks down on citizens as simply naïve or unaware of what their nation’s interests actually are. It’s as if to say “they hold those views because we haven’t done a good job convincing them that we are right.”  This turns the democratic process into a battle of salesmanship and propaganda at the expense of all else.

 Mrs. Clinton’s comment shows her offering a vision that goes back at least as far as Woodrow Wilson and Walter Lippmann and the propaganda system they put in place to justify US entry into the catastrophe of WWI at a time when Americans had no interest in it. 

 The same could be seen in the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations to justify war in Vietnam under the carefully crafted and fear-generating propaganda of the Cold War.  The Reagan Administration held a similar attitude when justifying slaughter in Latin America as the US armed and trained death squads who wiped out entire indigenous communities and murdered priests, nuns and archbishops, all in the name of Cold War valor.   In the interview, Mrs. Clinton identifies these atrocities and war crimes as “things we’re not proud of” and seems to ascribe them to necessity as part of an “over-arching” policy that places US power at the center of world affairs: Textbook American Exceptionalism.  We cause lots of really bad things to happen, but our intentions are good.  Never mind the crisis of trust this has created around the world or our own violations of international law.

 With regard to the human catastrophe in Gaza, Mrs. Clinton muddled her way though a rambling defense of Israel and its “right to defend itself.”  Not a mention of the massive civilian casualties directly caused by Israeli bombing or a recognition of the clear violations of international and human rights law.  Her unimaginative logic is a carbon copy of Netanyahu’s own: the death and maiming of hundreds of civilians is the fault of Hamas.  No acknowledgement that most of the weapons used, some proscribed under the International Weapons Convention, were supplied by the United States.  No acknowledgement that Israel broke the ceasefire by sending troops into Gaza in June to destroy buildings and kill people before a single Hamas rocket was fired in July.  No acknowledgement that Gaza has been illegally isolated by force, cut off from water supplies and blockaded economically so that children are suffering from malnutrition and dehydration.  No acknowledgement that the Palestinian’s modest demands – and end to the brutal blockade – are not being met.  No acknowledgement that UNESCO believes that the IDF intentionally targeted civilians.

 In short, Mrs. Clinton took the easy way out: suck up to Netanyahu and AIPAC and secure J Street support now, before a GOP candidate can outflank you.  In this calculus the prescribed messaging must be clear: I am a “friend of Israel.”  The translation of such niceties is this: I support Israel unconditionally, not matter what they do.

 Mrs. Clinton went on to conflate the resurgence of European anti-Semitism with opposition to Israeli policies.  In an awkwardly crude twist of logic she claimed that all of this outrage across the world against Israeli aggression and cruelty is due to the cleverness of Hamas and their having “stage-managed” the invasion and the coverage of the atrocities that took place.  Never mind that this internationally isolated but democratically elected group is no match for the Israeli media system and its censorship laws or the well-funded political organizations in the US supporting Israeli policies.  The whole affair is simply the fault of Hamas.  The likelihood that Anti-Semitism is being fueled by the continued brutalization of Palestinians as suggested by Rabbis Michael Lerner and Henry Siegman among others, is not given any notice.

 She distinguishes herself from her former boss by suggesting that she will bring into play the “over-arching US policy” that must be missing despite the fact that an over-arching policy is in place and has been for decades.  It is an over-arching, one-sided policy that favors Israeli dominance and occupation over Palestinian basic rights.

 Congress, just before its summer recess, approved a $225 million package to aid Israel’s already-US-funded Iron Dome missile defense system.  The US has converted past Israeli loans for military equipment into grants.  Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign aid.  The relentless expansion of illegal settlements, which have dramatically shrunk Palestinian land and resources and cut off the West Bank from Gaza, is called “unhelpful,” but no policy change is ever made by the US with regard to Israeli violations of the UN Charter or Humanitarian Law.  No money is ever withheld or called into question.  If ever there was an over-arching policy, the one in place is it.

 When asked about the continued military occupation and brutalization in the West Bank, Mrs. Clinton staunchly defended the Israeli Prime Minister’s right to carry on.  The fact that Israel is illegally occupying land there seems to not concern her.  The rights of occupied peoples under international law, and their legal right to resist is apparently not legitimate to her and their plight not a consideration.

 With regard to Iran, Mrs. Clinton takes a similar hawkish line.  She forcefully aligns herself with neoconservatives who hold that Iran does not have the right to a nuclear program.  “I’ve always been in the camp that held that they did not have a right to enrichment,” Clinton said. “Contrary to their claim, there is no such thing as a right to enrich. This is absolutely unfounded. There is no such right.”

 In fact, as Mrs. Clinton surely knows, Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has the clear right under international law to enrich uranium.  She is also aware that Israel, known to possess some of the most sophisticated nuclear weaponry and delivery systems on the planet, is not a signatory to the treaty, placing them outside of international law, an outlaw nation.

 For the Former Secretary of State, President Obama is apparently too soft, despite his radical escalation of drone warfare bringing death to innocent civilians and the extrajudicial killing of American citizens abroad.

 So, Hope and Change came and went.  It appears now, that hope has been deferred, if not obliterated.  The well-crafted rhetoric of the pre-election Obama campaign appears to have been replaced by this putative Democratic nominee and a retrograde movement toward get-tough American Empire to outflank those on the right.  Kind of like Netanyahu.

 We must give her credit for her forthrightness.  For those on the Left, consider yourselves dismissed.