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Trick or Treat: the 2016 Presidential Elections

Halloween began early this year. The 2016 presidential campaign is in full swing, with an array of “trick or treat!” candidates. Like Donald Trump promising to deport 11 million scary undocumented Mexicans, and build a “beautiful” giant 1900-mile wall to keep them out. And Jeb Bush saying that his brother George– who launched unnecessary, devastating, costly criminal wars against Afghanistan and Iraq after the 9/11 attacks — “kept us Safe.” But the “trick or treat!” behavior that takes the pumpkin this Halloween is shared by the Republican-led House Benghazi committee and Hillary Clinton: in their performances during the recent hearing on the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

One after another, the Republican-dominated Benghazi committee members tried to pin responsibility for the deaths of the four Americans on Hillary Clinton, then Secretary of State—denying all the while that they were not on a witch hunt to undermine her Democratic presidential campaign. If that was their aim, it backfired. Clinton handled their grueling, 11-hour, attempted “gotcha!” questions with cool, calm and collected presidential-like ease—with a little help from her Democratic friends on the committee. That whole, $4.5 million tax-payer-costing, partisan fiasco did much to solidify Clinton’s presidential campaign and chances of winning the presidency.

The Benghazi committee’s media feeding-frenzy hearing effectively diverted attention from a major war crime—a crime implicating Hillary Clinton and Republicans hawks themselves: the 2011 military intervention in Libya and overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi’s government. Freelance foreign policy journalist Joel Gillin unmasked the bull elephant in that House committee hearing room in an article called “Benghazi Won’t Stick to Hillary Clinton, But the Disastrous Libyan Intervention Should.” He wrote that Clinton, along with U.N. ambassador Susan Rice and National Security Council staff person Samantha Power and then Senator John Kerry were complicit in the unlawful toppling of Gaddafi: they helped to convince President Obama that a “humanitarian intervention– in the form of military force– was needed “to stop the imminent slaughter of civilians in Benghazi.”—the intervention opposed by Robert Gates, then Secretary of Defense, “and other top national security officials.” (New Republic, May 27, 2015)

Contrary to Hillary Clinton’s assessment, Joel Gillin states that, “no solid intelligence existed to back up Clinton’s statements of the impending bloodbath in Benghazi” calling for “humanitarian” military intervention. That intelligence included “Human Rights Watch (HRW),” which “also didn’t find strong evidence suggesting an impending slaughter by the time NATO intervened.” (Ibid)

Helpful in seeing through the Benghazi committee/Hillary Clinton “trick or treat!” masquerade hearing is the analysis of Hugh Roberts, professor of North African and Middle Eastern History at Tufts University and Director of the International Crisis Group’s North Africa Project from 2002 to 2007, and in 2011. “What was decided,” Roberts wrote, “was to declare Gaddafi guilty in advance of a massacre of defenseless civilians and instigate the process of destroying his regime and him (and his family) by way of punishment of a crime he was yet to commit, and actually unlikely to commit, and to persist with this process despite his repeated offers to suspend military action” (Italics added). (“Who said Gaddafi had to go?,” London Review of Books, Nov. 17, 2011)

Why Libya? Professor Roberts pointed to U.S. imperialism. He stated, “The Libyan drama is rather an addition to the list of Western or Western-backed wars against hostile, ‘defiant,’ insufficiently ‘compliant,’ or ‘rogue’ regimes” – including “Afghanistan [and] Iraq.” (Ibid) Hillary Clinton’s “trick or treat!” fingerprints are now found on two countries torn apart by illegal U. S. military intervention.

Ironically, and sadly, Professor Roberts wrote that it was the U.S.-led NATO forces that committed a “blood bath” against the Libyan people, not Muammar Gaddafi. The “Nato bombing campaign to protect civilians has occasioned several thousand (5000? 10,000? 25,000) deaths,” he said, with “many thousands of injured and hundreds of thousands of displaced persons, as well as massive damage to infrastructure.” (Ibid)

Joel Gillin provides a similar analysis of the “trick” played on Libya, which neither the House Benghazi committee nor Hillary Clinton wanted to unmask. Gillin wrote that “fours years” after the U.S.-led military intervention “the situation in Libya could hardly be worse. The Islamic State (ISIS) has established a presence within the country’s chaotic borders where two competing ‘governments’ have vied for dominance.” Also, “militias that were armed to overthrow Gaddafi have wreaked havoc. “ And, “neighboring countries still feel the strain of hosting refugees, and the region is awash in weapons.” (“Benghazi Won’t Stick to Hillary Clinton, But the Disastrous Libyan Intervention Should,” Ibid)

The Benghazi-fixated House committee members’ questions to Hillary Clinton were not about to inform anyone about the historical reality in oil-rich Libya described by Garikai Chengu, fellow of the DuBois Institute for African Research at Harvard University. In a June 14, 2013 article at Brave New World, Chengu wrote, “During the NATO bombardment of Libya, western media conveniently forgot to mention that the United Nations has just prepared a lengthy dossier praising Mr. Gaddafi’s human rights achievements. The UN report,” he continued, “commended Libya for bettering its ‘legal protections’ for citizens, making human rights a ‘priority,’ improving women’s rights, educational opportunities and access to housing.” Libyans also enjoyed “free health care and free education . . . free electricity and interest free loans.” Gaddafi “put an end to . . . Standard Oil essentially writ[ing] Libya’s petroleum laws,” and “money from oil proceeds was deposited directly into every Libyan citizen’s bank account.” (“Gaddafi’s Libya Was Africa’s Most Prosperous Democracy,” reprinted by Information Clearing House)

That kind of democracy is enough to frighten any capitalist regime into using the disguise of a “humanitarian” intervention to crush it. Garikai Chengu identified a major threat Libya posed to capitalist America: “With regards to health care, education and economic justice, is America in any position to export democracy to Libya or should America have taken a leaf out of Libya’s book?” (Ibid) “Trick or treat!”

When Colonel Gaddafi was killed, the real Hillary Clinton got on TV, laughed heartily in response to his death, and chuckled, “We came, we saw, he died!” (See Flashback 2011: Hillary Clinton Laughs About Killing Moammar Gaddafi: ‘We Came, We Saw, He Died!’,” www.realclearpolitics.com/video, Posted June 19, 2015)

Nor is it just Libya. Hillary Clinton voted for President George W. Bush’s U.N.-condemned as “illegal,” falsely based, horribly destructive war against Iraq. Much later, when no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, she said that her vote for the war was a “mistake.” Hindsight that betrayed a lack of insight– but demonstrated political foresight as she began her 2016 presidential campaign.

Democratic presidential candidate Lincoln Chafee—then a Republican senator and the only member of his party to vote against invading Iraq– was quoted as saying that Hillary Clinton’s “vote in the Senate authorizing the Iraq war ‘disqualifies’ her from becoming president.” Chafee said, “I went to the CIA and asked them for a full briefing, and what I learned was there was really no intelligence that supported the rush to war based on weapons of mass destruction. So,” he continued, “when you hear these candidates talk about basing their decisions on faulty intelligence that is completely inaccurate. There was never any intelligence at all, never mind faulty intelligence. It was all rhetoric about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.” (“11 Questions for Lincoln Chafee: The Democrat Who Thinks Hillary Clinton Shouldn’t Be President (and Might Run Against Her),” By Mary Alice Parks, abcnews.go.com, May 21, 2015)

During the recent Democratic presidential debate, CNN moderator Anderson Cooper asked Lincoln Chafee if he would say to Hillary Clinton’s face that she is unqualified ethically to be president. Chafee replied, “Absolutely. We have to repair American credibility after we tell the world that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, which he didn’t. So there’s an issue of American credibility out there,” he said. “We need someone that has the best ethical standards being the president.”   Cooper then turned to Clinton and asked if she wanted to reply. She said, “No,” and the mostly Democratic audience erupted in applause. (“The CNN Democratic debate transcript, annotated,” The Washington Post, Oct. 13, 2015)

Ten days after the Democratic presidential debate, Lincoln Chafee ended his candidacy. In announcing the termination of his campaign, he was reported to have “called on voters to reject Republicans’ foreign policies, saying they ‘prefer to espouse more bellicosity, more saber rattling and more blind macho posturing.’” His parting words: “Do we want to be remembered as a bomber of weddings and hospitals? . . . Or do we want to be remembered as peacemakers, as pioneers of a more harmonious world?” (“Lincoln Chafee ends quixotic presidential bid,” By Gabriel Debenedetti, POLITICO, Oct. 23, 2015) Trick or treat!”

Jesus provides a helpful warning here about “trick or treaters.” He cautioned his followers to “beware” of those who engage in hypocritical piety and prayers “before others to be seen by them.” (Matthew 6: 1-14) That is a lesson for the 2016 presidential campaign. A lesson for United Methodists especially, since Hillary Clinton proudly touts her Methodist upbringing. Beware of any United Methodist bishops who may take pride in Clinton’s presidential candidacy because she is one of their own.

Like Bishop Peter D. Weaver, new bishop of the New England Conference at the time and President of the denomination’s Council of Bishops. A 2004 Boston Globe profile of Weaver begins with a Gallup Poll stating that, “George W. Bush and US Senator Hillary Clinton were the most admired man and woman in America last year.” Then the story reports that Weaver “proudly cites Gallup’s findings to honor the president and former first lady for their testimony of faith. That faith,” Weaver continues, “can put people ‘in touch with the presence of God through Jesus Christ, which in my own personal experience is transforming.’” (“Methodist bishop keeping the faith,” By Rich Barlow, Oct. 9, 2004) In Bush and Clinton’s case, their “faith” put countless innocents in Iraq and Libya in touch with death and destruction, and transformed their countries into failed states.

“Trick or Treat!”

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Rev. William E. Alberts, Ph.D., a former hospital chaplain at Boston Medical Center, is both a Unitarian Universalist and United Methodist minister. His new book, The Counterpunching Minister (who couldn’t be “preyed” away) is now published and available on Amazon.com. The book’s Foreword, Drawing the Line, is written by Counterpunch editor, Jeffrey St. Clair. Alberts is also author of A Hospital Chaplain at the Crossroads of Humanity, which “demonstrates what top-notch pastoral care looks like, feels like, maybe even smells like,” states the review in the Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling. His e-mail address is wm.alberts@gmail.com.

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