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Why Clinton’s Iraq decision matters

US Politics
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By one mid-range estimate, the Iraq War killed 500,000 people by 2011.  It created millions of refugees and out of its ashes ISIS was born. It was an unjust war pushed by an Administration that, to put it kindly, wildly exaggerated the evidence that Saddam had WMD’s. The timing was obvious–9/11 had happened and it was a golden opportunity for a demagogic demand for war. What America needed were calm voices of reason, foreign policy experts who could point out the massive holes in the Bush Administration’s case, along with voices of common decency who could point out the utter immorality of starting a war on non-existent evidence that would likely produce a gigantic catastrophe and in fact did so, just as many predicted.

Or rather, we needed that on the Senatorial level. Millions of ordinary Americans, using this newfangled contraption called the internet, already knew enough to see that the Bush people were lying. We just needed enough Senators to say this openly.

Hillary Clinton voted for the Iraq War. But that’s okay. She apologized.

Paul Krugman wrote that in his New York Times column Thursday, “Sanders Over the Edge”, referring to an article by Fred Kaplan from February, Hillary Clinton Told the Truth About Her Iraq War Vote (the piece by Kaplan is nonsense).

Hillary Clinton (Aslan Media / Flickr / Creative Commons)

Hillary Clinton (Aslan Media / Flickr / Creative Commons)

For a detailed antidote, try this from Stephen Zunes — The 5 Worst Excuses for Hillary Clinton’s Vote To Invade Iraq.

But you don’t need to read the pieces; anyone who remembers that period and wasn’t an idiot knew what was happening and so does Krugman. There was a lot of whipped up hysteria over WMD’s and it was obvious that the Bush Administration was distorting the evidence. The world badly needed enough American politicians to stand up and put a stop to the rush to war, but Clinton went along with it and was still refusing to apologize as late as 2007. Her later record strongly suggests a person who takes pride in being “tough”–on a personal level she even gushes over Henry Kissinger.

Clinton is a rather typical sort of politician, the kind who tells people what they want to hear if that will get them the votes they want or the donations they need. And that’s the problem. People start to accept this as the norm and adopt the values of the cynical politicians they support. During the Bush era Democratic partisans were constantly denouncing the Iraq War, calling Bush and Cheney war criminals, referring to it as the worst American policy decision in decades if not longer and yet– a few years later, it doesn’t seem to be all that important to some. It’s “moral purity” to think it matters. It was fine to use as a club with which to beat Republicans, but who cares about hundreds of thousands of Iraqi dead if people point to them as a reason why someone should not be running for the White House?

This isn’t just about Clinton or big name pundits like Paul Krugman. It’s everyone who thinks it is illegitimate to bring up the Iraq War during a political campaign. It’s everyone who thinks Hillary can be excused by claiming she was the innocent victim of Bush deception. Last I looked, the most popular comment under Krugman’s column at the NYT was by a self-described former Sanders supporter who was outraged that Clinton’s credentials were questioned. Of course she is qualified to be President! Credentials and experience, what you put on your resume–this is everything.

Thomas Frank is right — the Democrats are to some degree the party for the 10 percent, the affluent successful people who believe in the “meritocracy”, the best and the brightest who did well on their SAT’s. Little things like mass killings and refugee flows and air strikes and torture, all flowing from a decision supported by the “qualified” person–well, why should easily predictable consequences matter? How dare anyone question her qualifications? This is the choice of privileged people, Americans who live in a superpower and who, if they are well off and of course not in the military, suffer nothing if our leaders decide to start some stupid war somewhere for no good reason at all.

This isn’t about Sanders either. Sanders is not a perfect candidate by antiwar standards, not by a long shot. But his (long distance) speech to AIPAC at least acknowledged Palestinian suffering. Clinton’s speech was so pandering to Benjamin Netanyahu that even some in the mainstream press were embarrassed by it. “Hillary Clinton’s Speech to AIPAC Was a Symphony of Craven, Delusional Pandering.”

And what was she doing this for? How many potential Democratic voters would require her to swing that far right on Israel? She can’t be stupid enough to believe what she said. (If she is, that is terrifying.) Did she do that for money from a handful of rich bigots, or are there enough bigots that she needs their votes?

Again, though, the point is not Clinton herself. The point is about a party that took for granted that she would be its nominee before Sanders actually shook things up and did much better than expected. What is wrong with a party where the leading candidate has a ghastly record on foreign policy and yet runs as though her record is her strength? I am guessing it is because the Democratic Party is largely dominated by a collection of politicians and lobbyists who run a lucrative system that enriches those willing to play. If you retire from politics you can be a lobbyist or give speeches or both, and then you can, if you choose, go back into politics and this is seen as normal. “Mistakes” like the Iraq War are easily forgiven, or not even seen as something that needs to be forgiven. And pundits go along with it.

Krugman is very good at pointing out the intellectual and moral corruption when he can blame it on Republicans, but he turns into a defender of big banks and can barely bring himself to mention Iraq at all when it comes to the Democrats. He is outraged by Bernie’s flaws, real or imaginary. He forgives all of Clinton’s. He is comfortable with the system. And sadly, some ordinary people who are partisan Democrats start defending things as they are.

Note that I have not said anything about who to vote for in November. Personally I am a lesser of two evils voter. For me global warming is the biggest issue and I also think Republicans will cause more suffering on most of the others and people who argue that I have to vote Democratic on these grounds have convinced me. But I am not going to argue about it. My only point is this–if you accept the lesser of two evils argument, and I do, do not be surprised to find that people like Krugman will claim you have to take the next step and enthusiastically endorse the lesser evil as the greater good. No, you don’t.


28 Responses

  1. Kay24
    April 9, 2016, 1:20 pm

    I have yet to hear any politician (except Sanders I guess) who refers to the Iraq war as one of our worst blunders, that it resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, thousands more injured, and more than millions of refugees. No one speaks of it, and what our blunder cost that nation. We never saw scenes showing what our deadly bombs did to those poor people, their cities devastated, homes blown up, and no one every speaks of the terrorists who were never there during Saddam Hussein’s time, coming across open borders, making life impossible for the people, who could not go to the market, for fear of bombs exploding. All thanks to the Bush/Cheney war mongering regime, and the zio neocons who lied about WMD’s so that Senators like Clinton will send our poor kids to die in vain.

    It is a shame that our invasion of Iraq has resulted in millions and millions of refugees, and that the US being far away from the scene of the crime does not have to put up with the refugees that stream out of those regions, causing problems or neighboring nations. We are so good at that
    “not in our backyard” behavior.

    Looking at the devastation, and the loss of lives, we caused that nation, Clinton’s apology seems meaningless. If our war mongering Congress had it’s way, they would have pushed for Nutty’s war against Iran too, and today we may be dropping bombs over Iran, doing the same sh+t again.

    • Nicholas
      April 9, 2016, 6:13 pm

      While I am almost altogether on board with what Donald writes about this matter until he gets to the global warming issues, which I consider to be somewhat off topic here, Kay24’s points about the outrageous financial costs of the Iraq/Afghanistan/…upcoming Iran(?) debacles are absolutely essential to understanding what these mendaciously contrived military adventures have cost the American public.

      Hopefully this perspective will not be seen as going “off topic”, but I believe we should all remember back to Bill Clinton’s oft noted reminder as to what seems to be the highest priority of the American Public..”It’s the Economy Stupid.” Nearly 15 years after 9/11, the exorbitant costs of digging out that mess, and the subsequent military adventures, phony Homeland Security and TSA buffoonery, if we were to add up all the money spent by the US government in trying to put Humpty Dumpty together again, one might guesstimate the costs would proximate 3 or 4 years of American GNP. The costs have been almost entirely funded (“off budget”LMAO…voodoo accounting for sure) by Federal Reserve policies of exponential monetary expansion. Among other things, these short sighted policies have destroyed the value of savings, by ruining the capacity of retirees to obtain a safe rate of return at their local bank, and pushed the small retirement investor into stretching for returns which can only be obtained through unacceptable levels of risk. The Fed and huge deficits rung up to pay for these wars have robbed the public to a much greater extent than ‘Big Business’, although ‘Big Business’ does benefit from their capacity to latch on to all the government contracts being let while small business suffers from substantial economic retraction in terms of inflation adjusted dollars Of course it will be a cold day in hell before the fraud economist Paul Krugman, or any other so called mainstream outlets ever connect the dots between the all handouts to Israel(including cleanup associated with the provocation to Bin Laden), along with costs of subsequent wars, and the money that has been sucked out of the pockets of middle America for the last 15 years.

      In other words, it IS the economy, but the public needs to understand it’s the idiot foreign policy that got us here.

      • Brewer
        April 9, 2016, 8:25 pm

        “Kay24’s points about the outrageous financial costs of the Iraq/Afghanistan/…upcoming Iran(?) debacles are absolutely essential to understanding what these mendaciously contrived military adventures have cost the American public.”

        In my view it is essential to understand that the object of these campaigns, as intended by the promoters, has been achieved. Iraq, Libya and Syria have been degraded and ruined. Years of social and economic progress annihilated. That was the intent and it was successful.

        The potential economic cost was widely known, as was the potential for debacle. The promoters of these unprecedented crimes were not concerned in the least, they considered the effects on millions of civilians both in the subject states and the U.S. merely collateral damage. The promoters’ allegiance was not to the United States.

        The promoters are well known and many still hold high office and are involved in today’s politics. Cruz has Abrams, Woolsey and Chertoff associate Sweet on the team. Hilary has Kristol, Kagan since Rubio dropped out:
        link to nytimes.com

    • quercus
      April 10, 2016, 12:02 pm

      Correction. Donald Trump has several times called the Iraq war a huge blunder. He is absolutely spot on.

      • Citizen
        April 11, 2016, 6:40 am

        Yes, Trump has been explicit about lying us into war–don’t know why anyone has missed this, but the main media certainly NOT dwelled on it at all.

      • Citizen
        April 11, 2016, 6:51 am

        Yes, Trump did.

  2. Dutch
    April 9, 2016, 4:25 pm

    Actually it is hard to imagine that politicians who supported the Iraq war could run for any public position at all – let alone becoming the leader of the world’s strongest nation.

    • just
      April 9, 2016, 4:55 pm

      And then there’s Libya, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen … nobody can convince me that she doesn’t want to go after Iran, too!

      A multitude of sins and sinners that stretch from DC to Tel Aviv to Riyadh to Islamabad…

    • Kay24
      April 9, 2016, 11:08 pm

      Ideally it should be a disqualification, for making a tragic mistake, which cost hundreds of thousands of lives, and seems to have bankrupted our nation. There is no accountability in our nation, when it comes to these politicians.

      • echinococcus
        April 10, 2016, 12:58 pm

        First, it was not a “tragic mistake” but a hanging crime against humanity. That “mistake” talk by the single-party dictatorship followers, including Trump and Sanders, is horrible on its own.

        Then, I agree about the disqualification: it fully applies to all candidates but Trump (but only because he couldn’t vote.)

  3. pabelmont
    April 9, 2016, 6:13 pm

    Krugman! One imagines that he has an “iron rice bowl” as long as he supports the Institutional Democratic Party (the party, today, of Clinton) and is willing to spout any sort of nonsense to retain his position on NYT. Shouldn’t it be enough to be a professor with tenure, as I imagine, as for instance Chomsky is or was, and have a right to speak truth to power instead of feeling a need to speak falsehood to the editorial board of the NYT (and in public, too!).

  4. Sally Parker
    April 9, 2016, 7:08 pm

    Help me, Mondoweiss. What did AIPAC and Israel get out of the Iraq war? I don’t see that the war with Iraq had any immediate benefit for Israel’s economy and I’m not seeing any Israeli colonists living there in comfort.
    Was it arms sales, a distraction from attention to Palestinian rights, a future place to exile unwanted Palestinians, some future colonial land grab, or was it revenge for WW II even if Iraqis had nothing to do with that war? Who got rich off the Iraq war?

    • just
      April 9, 2016, 7:54 pm

      Ask Kristol and Kagan and the others in the PNAC cabal…

      link to en.wikipedia.org

      then look into the Foreign Policy Initiative, The Saban Forum/Brookings, and various other groupthink tanks ad nauseam and don’t forget AIPAC.

      “Barney Frank says Israel and AIPAC lobbied Congress to support Iraq war” – See more at: link to mondoweiss.net

      (Lots of people made money… all of it tainted with the blood of innocents.)

      • ritzl
        April 9, 2016, 8:43 pm

        Heh. You’re such a sincere person, just.

        I don’t think those questions were asked in good faith. The “Who got rich…?” tangent was the tell for me, but generally a pretty contrived obtuse-ness to it all.

      • ritzl
        April 9, 2016, 8:49 pm

        I take that back. I just looked at her comment history and she may have actually asked them in good faith.

        I guess I shouldn’t be so cynical. My bad.

      • Citizen
        April 11, 2016, 6:49 am

        @ ritzl

        It’s not a sign of basic political awareness of US foreign policy that one doesn’t know about PNAC. Much has been written about it, including best seller books, and it’s easy to discover on the internet, accompanied by credible sources. How can one see Bill Kristol appearing regularly as a pundit on cableTV news/infotainment shows–without thinking of PNAC?

    • ritzl
      April 9, 2016, 8:32 pm

      Is this meant to be self-satirizing? If not you shouldn’t ask sarcastic, rhetorical questions that you apparently don’t know the answers to.

      The answer is yes to those questions and yes to the vastly more fundamental questions of regional hegemony, aid justification, and a magnificently-crafted, self-fulfilling, perpetual-motion, contrast-generating Islamophobic propaganda backdrop to engineer and/or propel a US public/military/intelligence opinion move in Israel’s direction.

      Wars are easy to enter, hard to exit. Once “they” started killing “us” US support for Israel was assured for the foreseeable future. Brilliantly executed tactics, in a psychopathically murderous sort of way of course.

      At any rate, it doesn’t matter what I or anyone else thinks. AIPAC themselves made the decision to, and did, lobby for that disaster (for the US). Ya know…

      …ask THEM why.

    • Brewer
      April 9, 2016, 8:40 pm

      Money was not the object.
      “The plan operates on two essential premises. To survive, Israel must 1) become an imperial regional power, and 2) must effect the division of the whole area into small states by the dissolution of all existing Arab states. Small here will depend on the ethnic or sectarian composition of each state. Consequently, the Zionist hope is that sectarian-based states become Israel’s satellites and, ironically, its source of moral legitimation.
      link to informationclearinghouse.info

      “Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right”
      link to informationclearinghouse.info

    • Annie Robbins
      April 9, 2016, 9:09 pm

      the expanded illegal settlements like they were on steroids while the world’s attention was on iraq.

      but in the grander scheme of things, as brewer pointed out, breaking the ME into small statelets w/american bases throughout the ME is the over riding goal as articulated in rebuilding america’s defenses — written as a policy paper for israel’s security when netanyahu’s was first PM in the 90’s.

    • jeff_davis
      April 10, 2016, 11:22 am

      Oded Yinon. Google it. Israel seeks to destroy any country that opposes it, especially those nearby.

      It’s hard to believe your question is sincere, since the destruction of hostile arab neighbors has been the Zionist policy for nearly seventy years.

      • eljay
        April 10, 2016, 11:51 am

        || jeff_davis: Oded Yinon. Google it. … ||

        The “Promised Caliphate” reconstituted. “Jewish State” and “Islamic State”: Birds of a hateful and immoral feather.

  5. kalithea
    April 9, 2016, 10:52 pm

    My only point is this–if you accept the lesser of two evils argument, and I do.

    Hillary will do much more damage than good; same difference. Protesting and punishing the undemocratic Democratic Party if Sanders doesn’t make it, will have a much more beneficial long-term effect than the insignificant short term lesser evil that will ensure the corruption and status quo forever.

    Sometimes you have to give up something in the present to gain something greater in the future. Don’t you know that?

    If Sanders doesn’t make it; don’t cave to the so-called lesser evil, Hillary! She’s a risk not worth taking–ever; no matter the modicum of environmental benefit she might sustain for 4 or 8 years.

    It’s time to throw the Democrats under the bus! If not now; then when? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and getting betrayal each and every time.

    Don’t do the cowardly thing; send a clear message now, or it’ll be — never!

  6. kalithea
    April 9, 2016, 11:10 pm

    Hillary is a right-wing heartless witch who created a refugee catastrophe of staggering proportions. ‘Nuf said!

  7. ToivoS
    April 9, 2016, 11:32 pm

    Krugman is obviously angling for an appointment in the Hillary administration. He is willing throw away the support he gained from the progressive community by attacking the Bush admin. Right now a Sander’s win over Hillary has to be his worse nightmare. Donald is quite correct that Democrats can sound good when they are in opposition to Republicans (though Hill couldn’t ever bring herself to do that). However, when the Democrats start wars (Serbia, Libya, the Obama Afghan surge and Syria) they begin to sing from the humanitarian intervention hymnbook.

    In any case Krugman has now irreversibly aligned himself with the neocons/neoliberals and lost the respect of the progressive world. He isn’t the first one to travel that road.

    • just
      April 10, 2016, 10:56 am

      “In any case Krugman has now irreversibly aligned himself with the neocons/neoliberals and lost the respect of the progressive world. He isn’t the first one to travel that road.”

      Yep. JATF~ (just another Tom Friedman) Ugh.

      Another reason “Clinton’s Iraq decision” (full- throated support) matters:

      “Iran will not negotiate with US over missile program, …

      John Kerry says US is prepared to address Iran’s concerns if it halts missile launches, as Iran official suggests US allies are providing arms to Isis

      Iran’s foreign minister said on Sunday the country’s missile program was not up for negotiation with the US.

      The missile program and “defense capabilities of the Islamic Republic of Iran are not negotiable”, said Mohammad Javad Zarif after meeting his Estonian counterpart …

      He added that if Washington was serious about defensive issues in the Middle East, it should stop supplying arms to Saudi Arabia and Israel.

      A Saudi-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes and battling the Iran-backed Shia rebels in Yemen since March 2015. Iran also supports anti-Israeli militant groups.

      US secretary of state John Kerry said on Thursday the US and its partners were telling Iran that they were “prepared to work on a new arrangement to find a peaceful solution to these issues”.

      He said Iran first had to make it clear to all involved that it was prepared to cease provocative ballistic missile launches and tests.

      Zarif on Sunday also hinted that regional US allies were among those quietly supporting the extremist Islamic State group.

      “The US needs to view regional issues more seriously than raise baseless and threadbare allegations against Iran,” said Zarif. “Mr Kerry should ask US allies where the Islamic State’s arms come from.””

      link to theguardian.com

      Sing it, Mr. Zarif!

      Louder, please.

      • Kay24
        April 10, 2016, 11:44 am

        “He added that if Washington was serious about defensive issues in the Middle East, it should stop supplying arms to Saudi Arabia and Israel.”

        Truth hurts.

      • kalithea
        April 10, 2016, 1:44 pm

        The U.S. is the quintessential dishonest Zionist broker that keeps moving the goal post even with the signature not yet dry on the deal! No sovereign nation would accept being condescended this way and belittled into surrendering its security to such an extreme surrounded by hostile neighbors armed to the teeth by a superpower with bases practically on its borders.

        The stupidity of Kerry’s and Obama’s nagging insistence, nay Congress’s as well, gripe on Iran’s missiles is monumental. Iran’s response is the right and dignified one.

  8. kalithea
    April 10, 2016, 12:20 pm

    This article is up on Huffpo and Politico:

    link to politico.com

    I just have to comment on this over here; because people on those other sites are so in on Hillary; woe is anyone who writes the truth there!

    Here’s the truth: Why should Adelson spend a penny of his money; when he has three out of four candidates; two on the right and a Manchurian she-winger on the left who slobbered over Israel at the last Aipac convention? The bases are covered and he’s got nothing to lose holding back. Cruz, Trump and Hillary have made this election a bargain for him. Whichever becomes President will be a friend to Netanyahu and Zionism, his favorite project besides the gambling business.

    Zionism is the most significant corrupting force in American politics by a landslide!

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