Hillary Clinton’s War Whoop

by MARC WEISBROT

In a visit to Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Hillary Clinton recently  said that Iran “is moving toward a military dictatorship” and continued the Administration’s campaign for tougher sanctions against that country.
What could America’s top diplomat hope to accomplish with this kind of inflammatory rhetoric? It seems unlikely that the goal was to support human rights in Iran. Because of the United States’ history in Iran and in the region, it tends to give legitimacy to repression. The more that any opposition can be linked to the United States’ actions, words or support, the harder time they will have.

Second, it is tough for anyone – especially in the region – to believe that the United States is really concerned about human rights abuses. In addition to supporting Israel’s collective punishment of the Palestinians in Gaza, Washington has been remarkably quiet as the most important opposition leaders in Egypt were arrested as part of the government’s preparations for October elections. Amnesty International stated that the arrestees were "prisoners of conscience, detained solely for their peaceful political activities."

So what is the purpose of a speech like this? The most obvious conclusion is that it is to promote conflict and to convince Americans that Iran is an actual threat to their security. Americans generally have to be prepared and persuaded for years if they are to accept that they must go to war. The groundwork for the Iraq war was laid during the Clinton presidency. President Clinton imposed sanctions on the country that devastated the civilian population, carried out bombings and publicly declared that Washington’s intention was to overthrow the government. Although, as we now know, Iraq never posed any significant security threat to the United States, President Clinton spent years trying to convince Americans that it did.

President Bush picked up where President Clinton left off; and President Clinton publicly supported his campaign for the war. So did Hillary, and she defended her decision in 2008 even as it looked like it might cost her the presidency.

President Obama is unlikely to start a war with Iran – which would likely begin as an air war, not a ground war – not least because he already has two wars to deal with. But, as in the case of the Iraq war, his Secretary of State is preparing the ground for the next president that may have a stronger desire or better opportunity to do so. There is a strong faction of our foreign policy establishment that believes it has the right and obligation to bomb Iran in order to curtail its nuclear program, and they have a long-term strategy.

The public relations campaign is working. A new Gallup poll finds that 61 percent of Americans see Iran as “as a critical threat to U.S. vital interests,” with an additional 29 percent believing that it is “an important threat.” It is not clear why anyone would believe this; even if Iran did obtain a nuclear weapon, which is still a ways off, they would not have the capacity to deliver it as far as the United States. Nor is it likely that they would want to commit national suicide, any more than a number of other countries that currently have nuclear weapons.

The Obama team’s messaging is not nearly so successful with regard to the issues that the vast majority of the electorate will base their votes on in this year’s elections: the most recent ABC News/Washington Post Poll (Feb. 4-8) finds that 53 percent disapprove of his handling of the economy.

For the immediate future, foreign policy concerns will likely rank low, far behind the economy, for the electorate. But the Obama team’s foreign policy will hurt Democrats in the future. If I believed what Hillary Clinton and the Democratic leadership are telling me, I would have to consider voting Republican. If it’s really true that all these people just want to kill us for no reason; that it has nothing to do with our foreign policy or wars; that we can effectively reduce terrorism by bombing and occupying Muslim countries; and that terrorism is the country’s most urgent security threat – then why not vote for the party that looks tougher? This will inevitably come back to haunt the Democratic Party, as it did in the 2002 and 2004 elections.

Meanwhile, U.S. military spending – by the Congressional Budget Office’s relatively narrow definition of the Department of Defense budget – reached 5.6 percent of GDP in 2009. Just before September 11, 2001, the Congressional Budget Office projected this spending for 2009 at 2.4 percent of GDP.

The difference, over 10 years, is more than four times the ten-year cost of proposed health care reform.

Mark Weisbrot is an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
This article originally appeared in the Guardian.

 

 

 

 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 03, 2015
Sal Rodriguez
How California Prison Hunger Strikes Sparked Solitary Confinement Reforms
Lawrence Ware
Leave Michael Vick Alone: the Racism and Misogyny of Football Fans
Dave Lindorff
Is Obama the Worst President Ever?
Vijay Prashad
The Return of Social Democracy?
Jeralynn Bluford
Quantitative Easing for People: Jeremy Corbyn’s Radical Proposal
Paul Craig Roberts
The Rise of the Inhumanes: Barron, Bybee, Yoo and Bradford
Lynn Holland
For the Love of Water: El Salvador’s Mining Ban
Geoff Dutton
Time for Some Anger Management
Jack Rasmus
The New Colonialism: Greece and Ukraine
Norman Pollack
American Jews and the Iran Accord: The Politics of Fear
John Grant
Sorting Through the Bullshit in America
David Macaray
The Unbearable Lightness of Treaties
Chad Nelson
Lessig Uses a Scalpel Where a Machete is Needed
September 02, 2015
Paul Street
Strange Words From St. Bernard and the Sandernistas
Jose Martinez
Houston, We Have a Problem: False Equivalencies on Police Violence
Henry Giroux
Global Capitalism and the Culture of Mad Violence
Ajamu Baraka
Making Black Lives Matter in Riohacha, Colombia
William Edstrom
Wall Street and the Military are Draining Americans High and Dry
David Altheide
The Media Syndrome Between a Glock and a GoPro
Yves Engler
Canada vs. Africa
Ron Jacobs
The League of Empire
Andrew Smolski
Democracy and Privatization in Neoliberal Mexico
Stephen Lendman
Gaza: a Socioeconomic Dead Zone
Norman Pollack
Obama, Flim-Flam Artist: Alaska Offshore Drilling
Binoy Kampmark
Australian Border Force Gore
Ruth Fowler
Ask Not: Lost in the Crowd with Amanda Palmer
Kim Nicolini
Remembering Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America