How Hillary Clinton used liberalism to justify war

Hillary Clinton’s has been a steadfast proponent of aggressive war throughout her career in national politics.  The interesting thing is how she has justified this in the language of liberalism, humanitarianism and human rights.

As unofficial adviser to her husband, President Bill Clinton, she pushed for military intervention in the former Yugoslavia.  As a U.S. Senator, she joined with Senator John McCain in pressing for military confrontation with Russia.   As Secretary of State, she talked President Obama into the disastrous intervention in Libya.

Unprovoked attacks on foreign nations were defined by the Nuremberg Tribunal as a war crime.   But Clinton and other militaristic liberals have found a way to justify such crimes in terms of preventing crimes against humanity.

Diana Johnstone

Diana Johnstone

Diana Johnstone, an experienced American freelance journalist living in Paris, has written a new book,  QUEEN OF CHAOS: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton, which is about Clinton’s foreign policy record.  I read it last week.

Johnstone has one chapter each on Secretary of State Clinton’s support of a brutal military coup in Honduras, the destruction of Libya and military confrontation with Russia.

But the heart of the book is her account of the Bill Clinton administration’s intervention in the former Yugoslavia, and how this constituted a field test of methods used by subsequent administrations for leading the American and European publics into support of war.

The key step on the path to war, according to Johnstone, is Hitlerization—designating an enemy as a new Hitler who has to be dealt with as the original Hitler was.  This goes along with charges of genocide.

Western public opinion agrees that the Holocaust of the Jews was the ultimate crime.  Public opinion mostly agrees that all the mass killing in World War Two was justified because it was necessary to prevent the ultimate crime.

But what the crime consisted of was the attempted extermination of a people based on their race, religion and culture.

It follows from this that any attack on an ethnic or religious group is in a different and higher category of evil than, say, killing labor leaders or bombing cities because the latter are not potentially genocidal.

It also follows from this that, once you have identified a situation as genocide, any attempt at peacemaking represents appeasement, as at Munich.

If one side, such as the Hutus, is equivalent to the Nazis, and another, such as the Tutsis, is equivalent to the Nazi’s victims, compromise is not only impossible, but wicked.  Fighting has to go on until Nazi-equivalent side is crushed.

Furthermore, since the nations of Eastern Europe, the Near East, South and Southeast Asia and Africa are patchworks of different nationalities and religions, often lumped together within arbitrary boundaries down by colonial powers, there is always some ethnic conflict going on almost anywhere.

The path to war includes (1) a propaganda campaign against a foreign leader, who is identified as the equivalent of Hitler, (2) funding and arms for discontented groups, who are identified as victimes of genocide, followed by (3) economic sanctions and maybe (4) protests from human rights organizations or (5) some sort of resolution from an international body.

Any international body will do, but the best outcome would be an indictment by the International Criminal Court (even though the USA does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC) because diplomacy becomes a matter of law enforcement.

Economic sanctions almost always fail, and rebel groups almost never win, so next comes (6) a “no fly” zone and then (7) a bombing campaign.  If and when they fail, as is probable, there seems to be “no choice” but to send in troops, rather than give up.

HIllaryClintonQueenofChaos410GsPu3iRL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Hillary Clinton once said that the U.S. government wants a lawful world order with democratic governments, free markets and independent civil societies.

In practice, democratic government means alignment with U.S. foreign policy, free markets mean openness to American and global corporations, and civil society means free rein to political organizations funded by the CIA or the National Endowment for Democracy.  All this is very like the old Soviet Union’s definitions of freedom and democracy.

The ironic thing is that governments the United States has overthrown have often been more tolerant of minorities, and also given more rights to women, than the forces the U.S. has replaced them with, or tried to replace them.

I’m thinking of the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya and Bashar al-Asad’s Syria.

Nor are Russia or Iran worse than Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates, who are the core U.S. allies.  I call them core U.S. allies, along with Israel, because the U.S. government takes their rulers’ wishes into account when setting policy, rather than simply demanding they follow the U.S. lead, as with Britain, France and Germany.

Condemning Russia as anti-gay for not tolerating Pussy Riot’s disruptions while keeping silent about Saudi Arabia, where gay people are put to death, is either hypocrisy, or moral blindness so obtuse as to constitute the same thing.

What makes Hillary Clinton so war-like?  Johnstone speculates that it is her way of proving that she is just as tough as any of her male counterparts.  The main voices for war in the Obama administration were Clinton, Susan Rice, Samantha Power and Victoria Nuland—not Robert Gates or Admiral Mike Mullen.

I don’t claim that the American foreign policy record would necessarily have been better without Clinton’s participation.  She is no different and no worse than others, such as Condoleeza Rice or Madaleine Albright, let alone Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld.   She is not one of the architects of this bad system, as Henry Kissinger was.  But she helps keep it going, and will help keep it going in the future.


Hillary Goes to War by Diana Johnstone for Counterpunch.

A Note on Hillary Clinton, the Queen of Chaos by Diana Johnstone for Counterpunch.

Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resume: What the Record Shows by Gary Leupp for Counterpunch [added 5/5/2016]

International Injustice: the Conviction of Radovan Karadzic by Diana Johnstone for Counterpunch.  Not sure this tells the whole story, but it’s worth reading.

The Srebrenica Precedent by David N. Gibbs for Jacobin.  Not sure this does either, but also worth reading.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey) [added later]


I made some minor edits to the last paragraph an hour or so after this was first published.

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