During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama relentlessly criticized Hillary Clinton for supporting the Iraq War. Today, he can’t say enough good things about his hawkish former secretary of state.
“Nothing truly prepares you for the demands of the Oval Office,” Obama said last month in his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. “You don’t know what it’s like to manage a global crisis or send young people to war. But Hillary’s been in the room. She’s been part of those decisions.”
An array of former generals, secretaries of state, and CIA ghouls — including some Republicans — agree with Obama’s assessment. They’re gathering in Clinton’s corner, confident she has the know-how to be commander in chief.
Will Henry Kissinger be the next one to endorse? Bill Clinton boasted at a campaign event earlier this year, “Henry Kissinger, of all people, said she ran the State Department better and got more out of the personnel at the State Department than any secretary of state in decades.”
Yes, the man behind the secret bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War; covert actions that fueled slaughters in Chile, East Timor, and Argentina; and countless other war crimes. Impressed with Clinton.
And indeed, Clinton does have a little experience of her own — escalating wars, green-lighting coups, and generally maintaining and expanding US power around the globe. She racked up quite the rap sheet during her time as secretary of state.
Here’s the short list of her crimes.
1. Backing “Humanitarian” War in Afghanistan
Today, Clinton supports the Obama administration’s reversal of its plans to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan. This means continuing the misery and violence of a US occupation that Clinton helped escalate during her years as secretary of state.
In 2009, Clinton stood with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a Republican, and called for thirty thousand more troops in Afghanistan. US officials said the aim of the surge was to stabilize Afghanistan, turn back the Taliban, and bring the war to an end.
But it did the opposite. Two years after the increase in US troops — and ten years after the initial invasion — Afghanistan was still mired in chaos, suffering through a jump in attacks on Afghan civilians and aid workers.
The real motivation for the surge wasn’t to hasten the end of the US military presence, much less bring democracy to the Afghan people. It was to tighten the US’s grip. The resulting violence and war hardly factored into the decision.
On most foreign policy decisions — including Libya, after the US turned against sometime-ally, sometime-enemy Muammar Qaddafi — Clinton was in favor of equally aggressive action, if not more so, than former Bush appointee Gates. But Clinton and Obama got away with hawkish policies Bush never would have because they stuck to the language of “humanitarian intervention” and “liberation.”
In Libya, Clinton argued for intervention against the backdrop of a popular uprising against a dictator. But the end game for the US was little different from the Bush Doctrine of unilateral regime change across the Middle East. Clinton helped assert the “right” of the US government to intervene in any country of its choosing, using the most brutal means possible to achieve its ends.
2. Green-Lighting Killer Drones
Clinton was also an enthusiastic supporter of Obama’s decision to step up the use of drone warfare in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. In her memoir Hard Choices, Clinton writes that the secret drone strikes quickly became “one of the most effective and controversial elements” of the “war on terror” under the Obama administration, “but in 2009 all I could say was ‘No comment’ whenever the subject came up.”
The US government’s drone war may have been a state secret in the US, but it was well-known to its victims in Pakistan. As Clinton admits in her memoir, she was greeted in Lahore, Pakistan with signs that read, “Hillary go back” and “Drone attack is terror.”
Clinton and the Obama administration sold the drone program as a precise and effective way to target terrorists, with fewer risks of “collateral damage.” But the numbers tell a different story.
Contrary to the Obama administration’s claims in July that it had killed between 64 and 116 “non-combatants” in drone strikes between January 2009 and the end of 2015, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that a more accurate estimate of civilian casualties is between 380 and 801.
In his investigative report entitled “The Drone Papers,” The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill demonstrates that the drone program is far from precise, and that the death of civilians is a common gamble the US willingly makes. According to documents Scahill obtained:
a special operations campaign in northeastern Afghanistan, Operation Haymaker, show that between January 2012 and February 2013, U.S. special operations airstrikes killed more than 200 people. Of those, only 35 were the intended targets. During one five-month period of the operation, according to the documents, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets.
Beginning in 2011, through a secret arrangement with the CIA, the State Department was given the power to green-light drone strikes. Clinton’s State Department approved the CIA’s requests in all but one or two instances.
And for Clinton, the authorization process was optimized for convenience: she could okay drone strikes straight from her cellphone.
3. Supporting Israel’s War on Palestine
A longtime backer of Israel, Clinton devoted herself as secretary of state to strengthening Israel’s already powerful military and consistently took the side of the Israeli government — even when it was carrying out punishing attacks against Palestinians.
As her campaign website notes, Clinton supported increasing aid to Israel every year she was secretary of state — “from $2.55 billion when she took office to $3.1 billion in FY2013, a nearly 20 percent increase. She worked to build stronger defense programs for Israel, including upgraded Patriot missiles and the Iron Dome system.”
In July 2014, after the Israeli government shelled the Jabaliya refugee camp, destroying a United Nations school, Clinton defended Israel’s crimes. “I think Israel did what it had to do to respond to the rockets,” Clinton said. “Israel has a right to defend itself.”
Asked about the targeting of a school, Clinton acknowledged that Israel makes mistakes, but like the United States, it tries to “be as careful as possible in going after targets to avoid civilians.” Clinton continued: “We’ve made them. I don’t know a nation, no matter what its values are — and I think that democratic nations have demonstrably better values in a conflict position — that hasn’t made errors, but ultimately the responsibility rests with Hamas.”
Clinton has coupled her pro-Israel zeal with a disdain for the Palestinian rights movement.
Earlier this year Foreign Policy magazine reported on a Clinton letter to billionaire Haim Saban, written on “Hillary for America” stationary, in which she vowed to fight the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement.
“I know you agree that we need to make countering BDS a priority,” she wrote, adding that she wanted Saban’s advice on how they could work together across party lines to “fight back against further attempts to isolate and delegitimize Israel.”
4. Selling Corporate America Abroad
As secretary of state, Clinton made it her business to make sure the world was open for US business.
From securing defense contracts for Lockheed Martin to brokering deals to build nuclear power plants for Westinghouse, Clinton and her ambassador-CEOs travelled the globe to bring foreign governments and US companies together.
“We have to position ourselves to lead in a world where security is shaped in boardrooms and on trading floors as well as on battlefields,” Clinton said, explaining her “Economic Statecraft” approach.
Clinton set up a chief economist’s office headed by former Lehman Brothers banker Heidi Crebo-Rediker. She promoted embassy economic officers based on the belief that “we need to be a Department where more people can read both Foreign Affairs and a Bloomberg Terminal.”
It appears her foundation also got in on the action. According to a report by David Sirota at Truthdig, American military contractors and their affiliates who donated to the Clinton Foundation were awarded some $163 billion worth of arms deals authorized by the Clinton State Department.
And governments seeking to buy arms got the same preferential treatment if they sent money the foundation’s way — no matter their human rights record. Clinton’s department authorized $151 billion in Pentagon-brokered deals for sixteen of the countries that gave to the Clinton Foundation. This included “toxicological agents” to the government of Algeria.
Clinton’s State Department also used its international access to increase the use of fracking around the globe. Working with energy companies, Clinton promoted “energy diplomacy,” devoting extra resources to integrating energy into every aspect of foreign policy and encouraging governments to embrace shale gas production.
“This is a moment of profound change,” she told a crowd at Georgetown University in 2012. “Countries that used to depend on others for their energy are now producers. How will this shape world events? Who will benefit, and who will not? . . . The answers to these questions are being written right now, and we intend to play a major role.”
Of course, the ecological destruction and health dangers for the people living in the affected areas weren’t part of the equation.
5. Supporting the Coup-Makers in Honduras
When Manuel Zelaya, the democratically elected president of Honduras, was overthrown by right-wing golpistas in 2009, Hillary Clinton cheered on the coup.
At the time, the Obama administration said it supported returning Zelaya to power. But according to e-mails released in July, Clinton was trying to set up a line of communication with Roberto Micheletti, the leader installed after the coup.
In an e-mail chain, she discussed a meeting between State Department officials and Lanny Davis, a longtime Clinton confidant who was working as a consultant to a group of Honduran businessmen who had backed the coup. Clinton asked, “Can he help me talk w Micheletti?”
Clinton pretended to be brokering a deal to bring Zelaya back to power through a national unity government, but the accord fell apart, and the coup-makers organized a sham election denying Zelaya’s return.
Clinton’s State Department cheered them on, as Lee Fang reported at The Intercept:
In an e-mail titled “Notes from the Peanut Gallery,” Thomas Shannon, the lead State Department negotiator for the Honduras talks, gushed over the election results in a message that was sent to Secretary Clinton.
“The turnout (probably a record) and the clear rejection of the Liberal Party shows our approach was the right one,” wrote Shannon, who recommended that the U.S. should “congratulate the Honduran people” and “connect today’s vote to the deep democratic vocation of the Honduran people.” Shannon, then the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, expressed gratitude that Zelaya was out of power, referring to the ousted president as a “failed” leader.
In July 2015, Zelaya appeared on Democracy Now! to talk about the coup and the US’s attitude:
On the one hand, they condemned the coup, but on the other hand, they were negotiating with the leaders of the coup. And Secretary Clinton lent herself to that, maintaining that ambiguity of US policy toward Honduras, which has resulted in a process of distrust and instability of Latin American governments in relation to US foreign policies.
Since the coup, poverty and gang violence have skyrocketed in Honduras, causing thousands of families to make the desperate decision to flee the country for the US, in spite of the many dangers.
Clinton’s response? Deport them.