Hillary Clinton: Ilse Koch of Chappaqua

At first sight, the comparison between Hillary Clinton and Ilse Koch may seem farfetched, impudent, even hysterical, but I think not, for we are tapping a deep-lying thread of amoral cynicism common to both which leads to a desexualization of cruelty as each proudly enters the “man’s world” of identifying with war, violence, militarism—Koch’s familiarity with, influence in, and personal satisfaction from, playing an administrative role in the Nazi death camps, and Clinton’s advocacy of force, calling for surges in Afghanistan, boasting she can “belt ‘em down” with the best of the military class, and, as Secretary of State, leading the charge for US global hegemony helping to set the agenda for confrontation with Russia and China. Both can be seen as team players in an authoritarian framework of government. Both owed their prominence to complicity with the commission of atrocities, Koch, the Beast of Buchenwald (aka Die Hexe [Witch] von Buchenwald), who selected tattooed prisoners to be murdered and skinned, evidence pointing to the skins being used as lampshades, Clinton, less dramatically, promoting and/or endorsing the entire record of barbarism from Iraq onward fueling administration pugnacity (e.g., Libya), whether as First Lady, Senator from New York, Secretary of State, or now, the leading Democratic candidate for president, still unflinching in moving one or two steps ahead of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

I say desexualization because, ironically she skillfully plays the gender card and expects massive political support from women while simultaneously cultivating the image of the uber-mensch, toughness, combat-ready, experienced in the ways of geopolitical planning and thinking, in sum, a commander-in-chief in waiting, hard-as-nails, we can be sure, in protecting the American Homeland! (The difference between a Trump and Clinton presidency is miniscule, certainly in foreign policy, but also, given her closeness to Wall Street, in domestic as well.) I don’t have the stomach to dwell on Koch’s biography; her Nazi concentration camp record speaks for itself. But as a base line for analysis, she provides a grotesque example of what a power-driven ego can do with respect to riding roughshod over human rights. Under the cloak of respectability, our Hillary truly takes the cake, stalwartly marching in lockstep with, since her husband’s presidency down to the present (and we can assume the future), every intervention, regime change, covert action, distribution of military assistance to “friends and allies,” accompanying trade agreement to buttress US commercial penetration, all of the foregoing and more, the pivot to Asia, imposed austerity measures via the IMF and World Bank on nations struggling with debt, as part of the vision she shares with political-military leaders of American unilateral global dominance.

Hillary has desexualized her presidential candidacy and ambitions by transcending gender in favor of demonstrating an iron will, toughness, the art of realpolitik, all on behalf of US financial-military power directed to shaping the global structure to America’s advantage. This Wall Street-Pentagon integration of national identity would ordinarily mark a Rightist ideology and practice, which in any case summarizes the bipartisan consensus/coalition on war, intervention, regime change she personifies, but in this case she skillfully obfuscates through playing the gender card as well, in hopes of winning the women’s vote and making that a sign of liberalism, indeed progressivism, cancelling out in the public mind the promotion of the governing synthesis of militarism and advanced capitalism. Whether she poses a greater danger to world peace and domestic social welfare measures than, say, Trump, Cruz, or Rubio, is, to me, a moot question. We’ve heard enough in the current campaign about the lesser-evil-argument (Sanders, I contend, is no better, when it comes to foreign policy, itself decisive as a determinant of democratic prospects at home and abroad), to be put off guard by her record of consistent support for the social and structural foundations of corporate wealth and an active posture of confrontation in foreign policy. Yes, a Democrat through and through, hiding behind seemingly just causes, not to balance out but cover over a Warfare State in expansionist mode.

Hillary has proudly entered a “man’s world” valuing an amoral cynicism which has allowed her to politicize gender to suit her convenience while desexualizing the framework and atmosphere of POWER so as to sanction yet exonerate cruelty and violence because acting in the name of American democracy and exceptionalism. This goes a long way in defining the cornerstone of a unitary domestic-foreign policy which, as her record of silence on massive surveillance, drone assassination, economic embargoes destructive of health and well-being, suggests an affinity toward authoritarian governance most recently highlighted by her repudiation of transparency in maintaining a private email account while serving as Secretary of State. In that position, she led the charge on global hegemony, calling for confrontation and containment with respect to Russia and China, the surge of troop strength in Afghanistan exceeding the requests of the Joint Chiefs, and the overthrow of Gaddafi and Assad resulting in the widespread devastation of both Libya and Syria and its attending human misery. Ukraine, too, following neocon dictates, was a case of regime change having extreme consequences for the reawakening of Cold War tensions.

But whether as First Lady, Senator from New York, Secretary of State, or the leading Democratic candidate for president, we see a continuity of pugnacious behavior harnessed to a larger-than-life ego-formation which gives vent to (again my theme of a desexualization of power/politics) her cultivation of the uber-mensch imagery, simultaneous with using the gender card in the expectation of gaining massive political support from women. This opportunistic contradiction features themes of toughness, combat readiness, experience in geopolitical ways of planning and thinking, in sum, a commander-in-chief in waiting, hard-as-nails, which is then softened by a no doubt genuine regard for health and children’s issues (the Democrats’ peculiar mix of welfare-warfare) that nonetheless creates a context harmful to both health and children as in the weakening of the social safety net at home and carnage affecting children abroad. This is less a matter of hypocrisy than a self-justifying arrogance of power, exceptionalism its public-relations exterior, of which Hillary merely exemplifies what the nation at large believes, hence a hidden source of her appeal, the confidence reposed in her to protect the American Homeland and, be it noted, in concert with a comforting liberalization (in ideology) of the practice of war.

Under the cloak of respectability, Hillary marches in lockstep, since her husband’s presidency to the present (and we can assume the future), with every intervention, regime change, or covert action, every distribution of military assistance to “friends and allies” along with accompanying trade agreement to buttress US commercial penetration, all of the foregoing and more, the pivot to Asia, imposed austerity measures via the IMF and World Bank on nations struggling with debt, as part of the vision she shares with political-military leaders of American unilateral global dominance. In her various roles, she has not been an original thinker (especially in failing to develop and hone an alternative policy-construct to her party’s interventionism, which is only slightly less retrograde than that of Republicans, and even on health care, favoring the private insurance forces over a single-payer system). Instead, she is a team player; she smells out the centers of power, muscles in, intuitively senses what sells, what public image she should and could strike, and thus an ever-alert perpetual machine of personal advancement convinced that with each step a milestone she is destined for greatness.

Wellesley, Yale Law, the march for honors and office begins, if not sooner. Our Goldwater Girl discovers early on the political and career advantages of liberalism, advocacy for children (for which I grant her sincerity) a pathway to policymaking which had the effect of strengthening both the military and corporate business, neither of which, as noted, helped to democratize the social system on which children’s rights and welfare depend. Though child advocacy and health care may have been well-intended, they were also the perfect gloss for advancing a Corporate Agenda in which government supported capital accumulation, whether through an aggressive policy of market penetration or a regulatory framework sympathetic to banking and business. We see this, e.g., in her acceptance of Robert Rubin’s policies as Bill’s Treasury secretary, and in her own closeness (as well as her husband’s) to the relevant communities of interest, which, as reported, enabled her to give 20-minute speeches to financial and business groups at $200,000 a throw. Needless to say, the couples’ facility for raising large sums of money is legendary. Hillary, like Bill’s more-folksy image, is the ideal public face of Wall Street and qua woman that of the Pentagon, granted, a shattering of gender stereotypes, but for that reason an effective voice, particularly as Secretary of State, for torture, regime change, the infliction of collateral damage on civilian populations. (Gender rights as recently established by the Pentagon confers equal participation on women in prosecuting US war aims, and though I do not wish to engage in stereotypy or gender-profiling, this invites complicity in imperialism, intervention, and crimes against humanity, a co-optative move ultimately to the disparagement of freedom for men and women alike.)

Hillary never considered resigning in moral protest against her administration’s policies, nor has she subsequently disavowed them, her belligerent tone a hallmark underpinning her national and party appeal in the current race. Admittedly, in law school there seemed the promise of better things, as in working at Marian Wright Edelman’s Washington Research Project, which brought her into contact with the plight of migrant labor, and, in her post-Law School year, at the Yale Child Study Center, which led to arguing for the legal competence of children. Too, she did a stint in Washington researching conditions for impeachment for the Judiciary Committee on Watergate. Then began Arkansas, where Bill preceded her, their marriage, after his many proposals, consummated finally, because she feared a loss of identity detracting from the credit she would receive for her achievements. From 1975 to 1982 she remained Rodham. I have no quarrel with that, only with what in this case it pointed to, a somewhat Nietzschean will to power which played to win, ran roughshod over opponents, and rationalized a tendency to graze the truth. Within Arkansas her ambition flourished, first, joining a prestigious law firm, then Carter’s appointment to the Legal Services Corporation board, and a mixed record of investments (Whitewater).

As First Lady, however, she takes off; her interest in child development and health care issues appears genuine, and this combined with active foreign travel and speaking internationally on behalf of women’s rights (the Beijing Conference on Women, 1995) raises her political visibility. Wouldst that she paused there, laid a foundation for authentic human concerns, and channeled her ambitions therein, we would have a very different Hillary today, perhaps one who posed an alternative to the bipartisan consensus on war, ethnocentrism, business consolidation. Instead, no such luck, and rather, the White House years and consequent exposure to power bent her in the direction that we presently see, a synthesis of corporatism and militarism which epitomizes the Democratic party itself, making it a pale carbon copy of the Republicans. Amid the salutary work on behalf of children and women, we already find disquieting signs of, at the very least, political hanky-panky, and possible wrongdoing, on the order of the Whitewater Development Corporation, where investment losses had been improperly subsidized through the efforts of Hillary’s law firm, the so-called Travelgate scandal, in which financial irregularities of the White House travel office (the relevant memo had been buried for two years) served as the pretext for firing staff to be replaced by Arkansas loyalists, etc., all resulting in avoidance of criminal prosecution and raised eyebrows, while Hillary emerged squeaky-clean. On the Lewinsky Affair Hillary stayed the dutiful wife, one consideration being her own future political career.

In the US Senate she supported the Patriot Act, its reauthorization, war in Afghanistan, and in Iraq, visiting troops in both theaters, and helped introduce legislation enlarging the US Army beyond what the Chiefs had called for. That was the first term; the second was a shoo-in due to a weak opponent, despite which, she raised prodigious sums so as to win big (2/3 of the vote). She was part of a large majority that passed the Troubled Asset Relief Program, a $700 billion bailout of the banking system following the 2007-08 financial crisis. (Her support of Wall Street, from the days of Rubin, Summers, Geithner, in Bill’s Cabinet on, has never wavered.) Still in the US Senate, and reportedly since 2003, Hillary was making active plans for a presidential run, setting up an exploratory committee for 2008, and, locked in primary battles with Obama, the two political fakirs of the first water, neither revealing actual or latent tendencies toward war (Obama under the guise of Exceptionalism, Hillary, Liberalism), the campaign turned in Obama’s favor, Hillary at the convention strongly endorsing him.

But it was as Secretary of State that her hegemonic sympathies were fully revealed, a hawk among hawks, whether among neocons or the military, expressing the doctrine of so-called soft power which combined the bluntness of military force with the sophistication of NGO activities, claims of commitment to human rights, development funds, etc., i.e., liberal humanitarianism at gunpoint. Here gender rights became the fulcrum for continued Afghan intervention, thus placing America on the side of the angels. (Politicizing gender rights, Hillary’s signature in the conduct of foreign policy, and now for base support in the coming election, is a classic case of ideological obfuscation while all else remains constant if not, as in global military unilateralism, actually accelerated.) Ah, she got behind the drive to give cookstoves to the world’s poor, as though that would alter fundamental power arrangements in these countries as well as in the international setting. More to the point, as Secretary, has been her silence in the face of war crimes committed by the Obama administration, as in regime change, drone assassination, and embargoes designed to inflict privation and suffering. Silence is consent, if not indeed an active role in designing policy, particularly since foreign policy is the area of State’s responsibility and cannot be shrugged off. A team player, she represents the cog-in-the-wheel facilitation of human deprivation. The better part of honor, once the record is apparent, would be to resign, and go into opposition—wholly unthinkable to her, on both counts, as well as to Washington in general, not to say the vast majority of the public.

Hillary’s interest in the Far East, perhaps because her term as Secretary was still early, is largely unnoticed and then later overshadowed by the Middle East, but her pointed criticisms of China presaged the full articulation of the Obama pivot, as did her cultivation of friendship with the neighbor’s of China. Libya though became her baby, all-out intervention, partly to depose Gaddafi, but also bring the Arab Spring under manageable control, with results with which we are still contending. She also supported the Special Ops mission to kill bin Laden, whatever the cost to US-Pakistan relations. And coming more up to date, one finds Hillary even more anti-Assad in Syria than Obama, this already in 2012. She also, going back to Libya, toughened out her response to the Congressional investigation into Benghazi, a look at how she takes criticism which indirectly bears on her contempt for government transparency through her handling of the email imbroglio, which caught her flat-footed in deception and the suppression of evidence.

I think we’ve seen enough, a trail of war-appropriate public policy and failure to speak out at the abuses of the present government, whether on massive domestic surveillance, regulatory paralysis, ever-expanding Pentagon activism (new bases added to the hundreds in operation), or more of the same when it comes to wealth concentration and respect for the environment, a hardly viable alternative to Trump-Cruz-Rubio and the Republicans. Hillary stands at the top of the slippery slope of fascism, the others already in the process of sliding down, she about to join them at the bottom should she be successfully elected. And yes, not to forget Ilse Koch, I did not mean a point-by-point comparison, but that she and Hillary have respectively pushed their existing frameworks of society to their outer boundaries as the enablers of a political-economic system underwritten by monopolistic organization and fueled by military power, detrimental to the world’s population and the instincts of social decency.

Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.