Let’s face it: No matter how much many of us who oppose the war in Iraq would also love to elect a female President, Hillary Clinton is not a peace candidate. She is an unrepentant hawk, à la Joe Lieberman. She believed invading Iraq was a good idea, all available evidence to the contrary, and she has, once again, made it clear that she still does.
“If the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast a vote [to authorize the war] or has said his vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from,” she said in New Hampshire last week, confusing contempt for antiwar Americans–now a majority–with the courage of her indefensible conviction that she bears no responsibility for the humanitarian, economic and military disaster our occupation has wrought.
As a candidate for ’08, Hillary clearly calculates that her war chest, star power, gender and pro-choice positions will be sufficient for her to triumph in the primaries, while being “tough,” pro-military and “supporting our President” will secure her flank in the general election against those who would paint her as that horrible beast, “a liberal.”
A winning strategy? That remains to be seen. It certainly does not bode well for the future of the nation, however, should it be. Consider the parallel case of President Lyndon Johnson, who can be heard on tapes of his White House conversations ruminating that he never believed in the Vietnam War and pursued it only to deny Barry Goldwater and the Republicans a winning campaign issue.
In fact, whether out of such callous political calculations or sincere beliefs, mindless militarism has been a bipartisan majority position in Washington for a half-century, and counting. With the end of the cold war, its acolytes went searching for a new enemy to serve as a foil. When one emerged, those with aspirations to the presidency fell in line quite easily.
“Now, I believe the facts that have brought us to this fateful vote are not in doubt,” New York Sen. Clinton stated in her October 2002 speech when voting to authorize a war the White House had already decided to launch for bogus reasons, and which Clinton dutifully endorsed. “In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members … .”
That none of this was true is now airily dismissed by Clinton as the result of her being mislead by “false intelligence.” Yet Clinton had to be aware that the case for Saddam’s WMD and ties to Al Qaeda was weak, when not obviously misrepresented. Surely she was in contact with the intelligence and diplomatic sources from her husband’s administration who were telling anyone who would listen that the Bush team was obsessed with invading Iraq.
Leaving aside the absurdity that Democratic senators such as Clinton and ’04 presidential candidate John Kerry didn’t have the access and means to do the same basic fact-checking of Bush Administration claims that independent journalists, intelligence analysts and published skeptics such as ex-arms inspector Scott Ritter undertook, how is that they could have ignored the historical evidence that occupying Iraq with the vague goal of “fostering democracy” was a phenomenally dangerous endeavor? Had Clinton caught the “fever” for invading Iraq that Secretary of State Colin Powell attributed to Vice President Dick Cheney?
If not, Clinton certainly forgot her role as a senator to balance the power of the President, instead blindly following his lead: “I will take the President at his word that he will try hard to pass a UN resolution and will seek to avoid war, if at all possible,” she said. Yet, when the President clearly broke his word five months later, blindsiding the UN inspectors on the ground in Iraq who had found no evidence of WMD, Clinton simply cheered him on.
No, Congress failed to take seriously the obligation built into its constitutionally mandated exclusive power to declare war, and Senator Clinton’s refusal to admit that is not a minor issue. This paired with her strident support, ever since the invasion of Iraq, for a huge increase in the standing army to fight other wars, including a possible confrontation with Iran, shows a fondness in Clinton for war and bullying adventurism that vastly overshadows her sensible stances on many domestic issues. As Barry Goldwater supporters stated in kicking off the Republican revolution, what we need is a choice, not an echo.