When Senator Hillary Clinton voted on October 11, 2002, to turn over to President George W. Bush the power that the Constitution vested in her and congressional colleagues to decide whether or not to wage war – or, quoting House Joint Resolution 114, whether an attack on Iraq was “necessary and appropriate” – she appeared to have a conflict of interest:
Her husband, Bill, was of course the former chief of the executive branch. And during her eight years as first lady, Mrs. Clinton never objected to Bill’s eight wars, attacks, or interventions: in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Colombia, Haiti, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, and Yugoslavia. He bombed Iraq in 1993 soon after taking office, again in 1996, and from 1998 till he left office. For a time, he was dropping bombs on Iraqis and Yugoslavs simultaneously in 1999.
None of those acts of war were authorized by Congress. The House of Representatives even voted its opposition to the undeclared bombing war on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, i.e. Serbia and Montenegro (4-28-99). Bill paid no attention and carried on his one-sided warfare for eleven weeks.
Mrs. Clinton had been instrumental in persuading Bill to attack Yugoslavia, according to multiple writers. Biographer Gail Sheehy wrote in “Hillary’s Choice” (p. 345): “On March 21, 1999, Hillary expressed her views by phone to the president. ‘I urged him to bomb [Yugoslavia].’ ” Bill was indecisive. She invoked the Holocaust, alluding to claims of mass killings by Milosovic and his men, and asked, “What do we have NATO for if not to defend our way of life?” (Originally it was to defend western Europe against a possible Soviet attack.) Days later the president gave the go-ahead for war, thereby usurping the constitutional prerogative of Congress.
The Milosovic-massacre tale (which Senator Clinton repeated in her 2002 Senate speech) was subsequently debunked by several European pathological teams. The Clinton-NATO air raids, however, killed a couple of thousand civilians. A year later Amnesty International charged that international law was violated by indiscriminate bombings.
Calls aggression defense
Speaking in behalf of the Iraq war resolution Senator Clinton praised her husband’s bombing of Iraq and argued that “undisputed” facts linked Saddam Hussein to weapons of mass destruction, including a nuclear weapons program, and to ties to Al-Qaeda. But such a contention was indeed disputed by facts presented by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Knight Ridder newspaper chain, buried stories in the leading papers, and many Internet sites. She denied that the resolution amounted to a rush to war, though it came from the White House, which had already decided to wage war on Iraq.
When Bush invaded Iraq in March 2003, Senator Clinton called it defense. Even after the supposed facts about WMD and terrorist ties were exposed as monstrous lies, the senator defended her vote for war, never renouncing it. She claimed it was just to support negotiation, but the resolution said nothing about negotiation. And she claimed she had been given incorrect intelligence, but cited no details. She opposed any timetable for withdrawal and advocated more troops and permanent U.S. bases in Iraq.
As of last September, that supposed defensive war was estimated, by the British polling agency Opinion Research Business, to have taken 1.2 million Iraqi lives.
Even if the lies she fell for had been proven true, the senator’s lack of concern for international law would still stand revealed. The Charter of the United Nations, which as a U.S. treaty has the force of law, says (in Article 2): “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state….”
The North Atlantic Treaty – the basis for the organization that Bill Clinton, with his wife’s encouragement, perverted from a defensive to an aggressive force – echoes that principle (in Article 1): “The Parties undertake … to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.”
Furthermore, before there was a UN or a NATO, there was the Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact of 1928, renouncing war as an instrument of national policy. It was used to convict Nazis of crimes against peace, and it remains in effect as a U.S. treaty.
Threatens Iran and others
Just as Senator Clinton accepted Bush and Cheney’s fiction about danger from Iraq and supported the 2003 aggression against that country, she tends to accept their drive for an encore against Iran. At Princeton University in January 2006, she said, “A nuclear Iran is a danger to Israel, its neighbors and beyond. The regime’s pro-terrorist, anti-American and anti-Israel rhetoric only underscores the urgency of the threat it poses.”
In her own, anti-Iranian rhetoric, she threatened a nation that had not attacked anyone for centuries and that – U.S. intelligence now states – had given up its atomic bomb program three years earlier: “We cannot take any option off the table in sending a clear message to the current leadership of Iran — that they will not be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons.” Three months later, Bush used nearly the same expression when asked if he planned a nuclear attack on that country: “All options are on the table” (AP, 4-8-06).
Last September 26, Senator Clinton voted for a Senate resolution urging Bush to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a major branch of the Iranian armed forces, as a foreign terrorist organization. She has echoed the proofless Bush charges of support for Iraqi insurgents (mostly Sunni) by Iran (Shiite).
She has refused to rule out presidential use of nuclear weapons, notwithstanding the 1996 World Court ruling that use of the weapons violates international humanitarian law because they blindly strike civilians and military targets alike. And she voted to end restrictions on countries violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Senator Clinton has called for more toughness on Syria and leftist regimes in Latin America, supported arms and training for various repressive dictatorships, opposed bans on land mines and cluster-bomb exports, and advocated even more military spending than Bush requested. More contributions from war contractors have reached Hillary for President than any competing campaign.
The senator boasts of her experience. She is indeed experienced in jumping to bellicose conclusions on the basis of meager facts and false information. If she wins, I expect her to follow the pattern of husband Bill in shooting from the hip in actions abroad, to ignore both the Constitution and international law, and to try to prove that a woman president can be just as warlike as any man.
PAUL W. LOVINGER, of San Francisco, has been a journalist, author, and antiwar activist. He was a newspaper reporter and columnist for over 20 years. His last published book was “The Penguin Dictionary of American English Usage and Style.” He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.