Sarah Lazare / AlterNet & Conn Hallinan / Foreign Policy in Focus – 2016-02-15 01:39:01
Dear Hillary, Madeleine and Gloria:
Full Feminism Demands We Say No to America’s Deadly Imperial Wars
Sarah Lazare / AlterNet
(February 8, 2016) — Two powerful backers of Hillary Clinton attracted headlines — and outrage — this weekend when they uttered sweeping statements under the banner of “feminism,” calling on young women to back the former Secretary of State’s presidential bid.
Madeleine Albright, the first woman to serve as US Secretary of Sate, introduced Clinton in New Hampshire on Saturday by declaring, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”
In the days following, many have scrutinized the hawkish track record of Albright, who also served as the US ambassador to the United Nations. In just one example, Albright told “60 Minutes” in 1996 that half a million children who died as a result of US sanctions against Iraq were “worth” the price.
“Albright has a hell of a lot of nerve telling young women who may be very concerned about Clinton’s support for virtually all US wars of recent years that they should vote for her because she’s a woman,” Phyllis Bennis, senior fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, told AlterNet.
Meanwhile, speaking with HBO’s “Real Time” host Bill Maher on Friday, feminist icon Gloria Steinem claimed that young women are backing presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in order to meet guys. Women get “more activist as they grow older,” she said. “And when you’re younger, you think: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.'” Steinem later apologized for the comment on her Facebook page, writing that she “misspoke.”
Nonetheless, the statement rightfully provoked rebuke, including from some who grew up respecting Steinem. “The good news is that more and more of us are ready to change the whole system, and fewer and fewer are willing to believe that imperial feminism is the best we can do,” declared Philadelphia-based writer Sarah Grey.
These recent controversial comments stem from a broader campaign strategy, with Clinton leveraging high-profile (and often white and wealthy) self-avowed feminists to bolster her campaign. Among them is Lena Dunham, the creator of the hit series “Girls,” who has sought to win support for Clinton among young women.
Feminists should unequivocally declare that Clinton’s policies of war and empire that kill, wound and traumatize women around the world are not compatible with feminism. Of course we defend any woman, including Clinton, against sexism. But that defense must not lead to reflexive embrace of an entire platform, nor claims that elite politicians like Clinton somehow have a monopoly on feminism.
As Rania Masri, an activist and professor, put it in an interview with AlterNet, “Feminism demands a critique of US policies, both domestically and internationally. It demands a critique of all wars and all hegemonies and of all structures of oppression.”
Masri noted that these concepts are not new, and in fact, have been built up by powerful and visionary feminists, many of them people of color, including the poet and organizer Audre Lorde, who urged nuanced and intersectional movements. “There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives,” Lorde famously said.
Clinton’s foreign policy, however, falls in line with policies of war and empire. As a US senator for New York, Clinton cast one of the most influential votes in favor of the 2003 Iraq war, signaling to other Democrats to back the invasion. She has since acknowledged this decision was a mistake, but her actions indicate she has learned nothing.
Under the Obama administration, Clinton consistently represented the pro-war wing, advocating military aggression and escalation from Iraq and Libya to Afghanistan and Ukraine. She was cautious on the global nuclear deal, saying she would “not hesitate” to take military action against Iran, and during her campaign declared her unbreakable bond with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In her memoir Hard Choices, Clinton took credit for the military pivot to the Asia-Pacific, which continues to escalate military buildup and aggression region-wide to hedge against China.
Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, Clinton has been conspicuously silent about close US ally Saudi Arabia’s brutal military assault on Yemen, now into its tenth month. She has said nothing about ethnic cleansing and war crimes perpetuated by Israel, while vowing to donors to crush the Palestinian human rights movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).
Foreign Policy in Focus columnist Conn Hallinan recently took on the grim task of attempting to tally those killed in foreign policy disasters related to Clinton. According to some calculations, the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq killed over one million people due to war-related causes. Nearly a quarter million Afghans have died since the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan, and millions more have been forced to flee their homes and become refugees. [See Hallinan’s article below — EAW.]
In June 2014, I spoke with Yanar Mohammed of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, who warned against further US military intervention in the country. “These wars are against women,” Mohammed said, “and women are becoming the first victims.”
Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, Sarah co-edited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.
Adding Up the Costs of Hillary Clinton’s Wars
Clinton’s foreign policy is more polite than the “make the sands glow” atavism of the GOP. But in the end, it’s death and destruction in a different packaging
Conn Hallinan / Foreign Policy in Focus
(February 1, 2016) — The Greek playwright Aeschylus — who fought at Marathon in 490 BC, the battle that defeated the first Persian invasion of Greece — had few illusions about the consequences of war. No wonder, in the tragedy Oresteia, he gave his character Agamemnon these verses:
They sent forth men to battle.
But no such men return;
And home, to claim their welcome
Comes ashes in an urn.
His ode is one the candidates for the US presidency might consider, though one doubts that many of them would think to find wisdom in a 2,500 year-old Greek play.
And that, in itself, is a tragedy.
Historical blindness has been much on display in the primary season. On the Republican side, candidates promised to “kick ass” in Iraq, make the “sand glow” in Syria, and face down the Russians in Europe. While the Democratic aspirants were a little more measured, they generally share the pervasive ideology that binds together all but “cranks” like Ron Paul: America has the right, indeed the duty, to order the world’s affairs.
This peculiar view of the role of the US takes on a certain messianic quality in candidates like Hillary Clinton, who routinely quotes former Secretary of State Madeline Albright’s line about America as “the indispensible nation” whose job is to lead the world.
A Failure of Imagination
At a recent rally in Indianola, Iowa, Clinton said that “Senator [Bernie] Sanders doesn’t talk much about foreign policy, and when he does, it raises concerns because sometimes it can sound like he really hasn’t thought things through.”
The former secretary of state was certainly correct. Foreign policy for Sanders is pretty much an afterthought to his signature issues of economic inequality and a national health care system.
But the implication of her comment is that she has thought things through. If she has, it isn’t evident in her memoir, Hard Choices, or in her campaign speeches.
Hard Choices covers her years as secretary of state and seemingly unconsciously tracks a litany of American foreign policy disasters: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Georgia, Ukraine, and the “Asia pivot” that’s dangerously increased tensions with China.
At the heart of Hard Choices is the ideology of “American exceptionalism,” which for Clinton means the right of the US to intervene in other countries at will. As historian Jackson Lears, in the London Review of Books, puts it, Clinton’s memoir “tries to construct a coherent rationale for an interventionist foreign policy and to justify it with reference to her own decisions as Secretary of State. The rationale is rickety: the evidence unconvincing.”
Clinton is undoubtedly an intelligent person, but her book is remarkably shallow and quite the opposite of “thoughtful.” The one act on her part for which she shows any regret is her vote to invade Iraq. But even here she quickly moves on, never really examining how it is that the US had the right to invade and overthrow a sovereign government. For Clinton, Iraq was only a “mistake” because it came out badly.
She also demonstrates an inability to see other people’s point of view. Thus the Russians are portrayed as aggressively attempting to re-establish their old Soviet sphere of influence rather than reacting to the steady march of NATO eastwards. The fact that the US violated promises by the first Bush administration not to move NATO “one inch east” if the Soviets withdrew their forces from Eastern Europe is treated as irrelevant.
Along with much of the Washington establishment, Clinton doesn’t seem to get that a country that’s been invaded three times since 1815 — and lost tens of millions of people — might be a tad paranoid about its borders. There’s no mention of the roles US intelligence agencies, organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy, and openly fascist Ukrainian groups played in the coup against the elected (if corrupt) government of Ukraine.
Clinton takes credit for the Obama administration’s “Asia Pivot,” which she boasted “sent a message to Asia and the world that America was back in its traditional leadership role in Asia.” But she doesn’t consider how this might be interpreted in Beijing.
The United States, after all, never left Asia — the Pacific basin has long been home to major US trading partners, and there’s a huge US military presence in Japan, Korea, and the Pacific. So to the Chinese, the “pivot” means that the US plans to beef up its military presence in the region and construct an anti-China alliance system. It’s done both.
The Butcher Bill
Clinton often costumes military intervention in the philosophy of “responsibility to protect,” or “R2P.” But her application is selective.
She takes credit for overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, for example. But in her campaign speeches she’s not said a word about the horrendous bombing campaign being waged by Saudi Arabia in Yemen. She cites R2P for why the US should overthrow Bashar al-Assad in Syria, but is silent about Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Bahrain to crush demands for democracy by its majority Shiite population.
Clinton, along with Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, and Susan Rice, the Obama administration’s national security advisor, has pushed for muscular interventions without thinking — or caring — about the consequences.
And those consequences have been dire.
Afghanistan: Somewhere around 220,000 Afghans have died since the 2001 US invasion, and millions of others are refugees. The US and its allies have suffered close to 2,500 dead and more than 20,000 wounded, and the war is far from over. The cost to the treasury alone runs close to $700 billion, not counting long-term medical bill that could run as high as $2 trillion.
Libya: Some 30,000 people died and another 50,000 were wounded in the intervention and civil war. Hundreds of thousands have been turned into refugees. The cost to Washington was cheap at a cool $1.1 billion, but the war and subsequent instability created a tsunami of weapons and refugees — and the fighting continues. It also produced one of Clinton’s more tasteless remarks. Referring to Gaddafi, she said, “We came, we saw, he died.” The Libyan leader was executed by having a bayonet rammed up his rectum.
Ukraine: The death toll now exceeds 8,000, some 18,000 have been wounded, and several cities in the eastern part of the country have been heavily damaged. The fighting has tapered off, although tensions remain high.
Yemen: Over 6,000 Yemenis have been killed and another 27,000 wounded. According to the UN, most of them are civilians. Ten million Yeminis don’t have enough to eat, and 13 million have no access to clean water. Yemen is highly dependent on imported food, but a US-Saudi blockade has choked off most imports. The war is ongoing.
Iraq: Anywhere from 400,000 to over 1 million people have died from war-related causes since the 2003 invasion. Over 2 million have fled the country and another 2 million are internally displaced. The cost: close to $1 trillion, but it may rise to $4 trillion once all the long-term medical costs are added in. The war grinds on its latest incarnation: a bloody turf war with the Islamic State, which emerged from the Sunni insurgency against the US-installed government.
Syria: Over 250,000 have died in the war, and half the country’s population has been displaced — including four million Syrian refugees abroad. The country’s major cities have been ravaged. The war, like the others, is ongoing.
There are other countries — like Somalia — that one could add to the butcher bill. Then there are the countries that reaped the fallout from the collapse of Libya. Weapons looted after the fall of Gaddafi largely fuel the wars in Mali, Niger, and the Central African Republic.
And how does one calculate the cost of the Asia Pivot — not only for the United States, but for the allies we’re recruiting to confront China? Since the “Pivot” got underway prior to China’s recent assertiveness in the South China Sea, is the current climate of tension in the Pacific basin a result of Chinese aggression, or US provocation?
Death and Destruction
Hillary Clinton is hardly the only Democrat who thinks American exceptionalism gives the US the right to intervene in other countries. That point of view it is pretty much bi-partisan.
And while Sanders wisely voted against the Iraq War and has criticized Clinton’s eagerness to intervene elsewhere, the Vermont senator did back the Yugoslavia and Afghan interventions. The former re-ignited the Cold War, and the latter is playing out like a Rudyard Kipling novel.
In all fairness, Sanders did say, “I worry that Secretary Clinton is too much into regime change and a bit too aggressive without knowing what the unintended consequences may be.”
Would Hillary be more inclined toward an aggressive foreign policy?
Certainly more than Obama — Clinton pressed the White House to intervene more deeply in Syria, and was far more hardline on Iran. On virtually every foreign policy issue, in fact, Clinton is said to have led the charge inside the administration for a more belligerent US response.
More than the Republicans? It’s hard to say, because most of them sound like they’ve gone off their meds. For instance, a number of GOP candidates pledge to cancel the nuclear agreement with Iran. While Clinton wanted to drive a harder bargain than the White House did, in the end she supported it.
However, she did say she’s proud to call Iranians “enemies,” and attacked Sanders for his entirely sensible remark that the US might find common ground with Iran on defeating the Islamic State. Sanders then backed off and said he didn’t think it was possible to improve relations with Tehran in the near future.
The danger of Clinton’s view of America’s role in the world is that of old-fashioned imperial behavior wrapped in the humanitarian rationale of R2P. It’s more polite than the “make the sands glow” atavism of the Republicans. But in the end, it’s death and destruction in a different packaging.
Aeschylus got that: “For War’s a banker, flesh his gold.”
Foreign Policy In Focus columnist Conn Hallinan can be read at Dispatches from the Edge and The Middle Empire Series.
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