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Hillary Clinton, Israel and the White House

The following essay was first published in 2006.

There really is no way of getting around it. Sen. Hillary Clinton may well be future presidential material.

From Manhattan to Hollywood, Hillary Clinton is pocketing enormous amounts of cash across the country for her re-election campaign. Yet Hillary is facing what seems to be fierce opposition from within her own party, as well as from third parties here in New York. The main reason candidates have signed up to challenge Hillary is her position, er, non-position on the disgraceful “war on terror.”

Hillary, in a letter to constituents last November, expressed her belief that the war in Iraq shouldn’t be “open-ended,” but was clear that she would never “pull out of Iraq immediately.” She wrote that she wouldn’t accept any timetable for withdrawal and won’t even embrace a “redeployment” of U.S. troops along the lines of Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.).

“I take responsibility for my vote, and I, along with a majority of Americans, expect the president and his administration to take responsibility for the false assurances, faulty evidence and mismanagement of the war,” Clinton wrote in her lengthy letter that amounted to nothing short of denial for her own culpability in the mess.

Sen. Clinton soon after reiterated her position to a group of Democrats in Kentucky. “The time has come for the administration to stop serving up platitudes and present a plan for finishing this war with success and honor,” she said. “I reject a rigid timetable that the terrorists can exploit, and I reject an open timetable that has no ending attached to it.”

Translation: Clinton is all for an extended American stay in Iraq. She “takes responsibility” for her vote on the war, but won’t admit that it was wrong. And of course, Clinton is still for “winning” this war. Whatever that means.

In the same letter, Clinton hoped contingents of U.S. soldiers would remain in the region with “quick-strike capabilities…This will help us stabilize that new Iraqi government,” she attested. “It will send a message to Iran that they do not have a free hand in Iraq despite their considerable influence and personal and religious connections there.”

Messages, I guess, carry more weight when they are delivered at gunpoint. “Watch out Tehran,” Hillary seems to be declaring, “I’ll strike quick.”

***

Such neoconish attitudes have upset antiwar activists, and now many are rallying ’round any alternative they can find to challenge Hillary in her bid for re-election this year.

Jonathan Tasini, who is running against Clinton in the New York Democratic primary, is gaining the most visible support. His position on the Iraq war is solid, as he wants all U.S. troops home now. Tasini also believes that democracy in Iraq is a long way from developing and argues that there will be no such thing in Iraq’s future as long as the U.S. stays the course. “[The] invasion of Iraq has created a theocracy,” says Tasini. “The people of Iraq have the right to decide what law they choose to follow.”

The Green Party is also tossing its antiwar weight into the ring with veteran antiwar Green Howie Hawkins winning his party’s nomination. Hawkins still has to gather enough signatures to get his party’s line on the ballot. The Libertarian Party of New York recently nominated Jeff Russell, who says he’d bring soldiers home as soon as possible, and the Socialist Equity Party is running Bill Van Auken, who wants to bring U.S. troops home now.

None of the antiwar third-party candidates at this point in the campaign season have any real name recognition or financial backing. Even so, Tasini the Democrat does. Antiwar flyers plaster campuses throughout New York City touting his challenge to Hillary, and his campaign is being discussed on numerous antiwar blogs and e-mail discussion lists. Tasini’s drive may soon spark some real tension among antiwar activists in New York, however, as many believe supporting Tasini will fail the movement against the war and set up Clinton for a 2008 run for president.

For starters, they contend that Tasini is still a Democrat, which means that if he doesn’t beat Hillary in September’s primary election, he will most likely endorse her campaign and hand over his antiwar funds to the pro-war Democratic Party, something he denies.

Another problem is Tasini may not even appear on the Democrat’s ballot in September–he still has to turn in 15,000 Democratic signatures before that happens. And Hillary, despite her primary challenge, has already accepted her party’s nomination in typical establishment style: ignore any challenges and stay on message, no matter how misguided it may be.

The Working Families Party (WFP), the alleged labor party here in New York, endorsed Hillary on June 3 over Tasini, even though the WFP was one of the first third parties to oppose the Iraq invasion four years ago. No wonder the Democrats take us for granted.

If the antiwar movement is to truly take on Hillary this election season, we need to challenge her all the way up to November, and Tasini won’t cut it. The majority of New Yorkers who oppose the Iraq war aren’t even Democrats and can’t vote for Tasini in New York’s closed primary elections.

Supporting another antiwar candidate or voting “none of the above” may be the only way to hold Hillary Clinton accountable for her depraved Iraq war stance on Election Day 2006.

Fortunately, antiwar activists can all agree on one thing: Hillary Clinton doesn’t deserve our votes. And there are plenty of reasons why, including her atrocious position on Israel and Palestine.

***

Senator Clinton, along with her husband Bill, paid a visit to Israel last fall. The former president was a featured speaker at a mass rally that marked the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. It was Hillary’s second visit to Israel since she was elected to office in 2000.

The senator did manage to take time out of her voyage to meet with the then semi-conscious Ariel Sharon to discuss “security matters.” Hillary also made her way to the great apartheid wall, which separates Palestine from Israel. As of now, the barrier is nearing completion, and when all is said and done, the monstrosity will stretch to well over 400 miles in length.

Palestinians rightly criticize the obtrusive wall on the grounds that it cuts them off from occupied land in the West Bank. Thousands have also been cut off from their jobs, schools and essential farmland.

Hillary and her Israeli allies don’t get it. When you put powerless Palestinians behind a jail-like wall where life in any real economic sense is unattainable, you wreak pain and anguish, which in turn leads to more anger and resentment toward Israel’s brutal policies. Indeed, the wall will not prove to be a deterrent to resistance, but an incitement to defiance.

“This is not against the Palestinian people,” Clinton said as she gazed over the massive wall. “This is against the terrorists. The Palestinian people have to help to prevent terrorism. They have to change the attitudes about terrorism.”

The senator’s comments seem as if they were taken word-for-word from an American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) position paper.

They may well have been. Last May 2005, Sen. Clinton spoke at an AIPAC conference where she praised the bonds between Israel and the United States. “[O]ur future here in this country is intertwined with the future of Israel and the Middle East,” she said. “Now there is a lot that we could talk about, and obviously much has been discussed. But in the short period that I have been given the honor of addressing you, I want to start by focusing on our deep and lasting bonds between the United States and Israel.”

Clinton went on to wail about the importance of disarming Iran and Syria as well as keeping troops in Iraq for as long as “it” takes. It was textbook warmongering–and surprise, surprise, Hillary got a standing ovation for her repertoire.

It is no matter that Iraq will never see true democracy. The U.S. won’t allow that. The imperial powers would never let an Iraqi government form that embodied even the slightest hatred toward Israel or the U.S. Democracy in Iraq, like democracy in Israel, has clear limitations.

Sen. Clinton’s trip down to Israel was just one of many more to come. Like her husband and the current Republican president, Hillary will never alter the U.S.’s Middle East policy that so blatantly favors Israeli interests.

Sadly, Clinton, if elected president in 2008, will praise and embolden the occupations–both in Iraq and Palestine. She won’t pull out U.S. troops and she won’t cut U.S. funding to Israel.

As I said, Hillary Clinton may well be presidential material after all.

JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. He is author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush (Common Courage Press, 2005), and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland and Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, both published by AK Press. He can be reached at brickburner@gmail.com. You can follow him on Twitter@brickburner

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JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book, co-authored with Jeffrey St. Clair, is Big Heat: Earth on the Brink. He can be reached at joshua@counterpunch.org. You can troll him on Twitter @joshua__frank

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