Last night, at yet another presidential town hall for the 2016 Democratic Party presidential candidates, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was confronted by MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews on her foreign policy record and ideology.
Using Clinton’s record of voting for the Iraq War and leading the charge for US intervention in Libya, Matthews asked Clinton why she was such a strong supporter of regime change.
Clinton responded by dishonestly claiming that Senator Bernie Sanders had supported regime change in Iraq by voting for a resolution in Congress condemning the Hussein government years prior to the war – a new and thoroughly desperate attempt to create a false equivalence between the two candidates. Clinton tried something similar with Libya.
Former Secretary Clinton also claimed her mistake with the Iraq War had been trusting President George W. Bush, saying “I believed President George W. Bush when he said ‘We are going to let the inspectors finish the job.'” According to her, that trust was the result of Bush supporting Clinton’s efforts to rebuild New York after 9/11.
Matthews, likely channeling the audience, pushed past the smoke screen and asked Clinton why she was so in favor of regime change as a policy given that it has historically backfired on the US:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: We do you keep wanting to do these things of regime change? What’s in your thinking that says ‘The United States government has some right and duty to go to the Middle Eastern countries and knock-off their leadership’? I think you are more aggressive on knocking-off [Syrian President] Bashar Al-Assad too.
CLINTON: Well, let me tell you what I believe and then people can make their own judgement. I’ve said Iraq was a mistake. I’ve said what I thought the strategy was, which was to let the inspectors finish and find out, and put a different kind of pressure on Saddam Hussein, was not allowed to go forward. That we known.
Libya was very different. I think conflating the two does a disservice completely.
MATTHEWS: The principle of regime change – what do you make of it? Constantly trying to knock-off their leaders.
CLINTON: No, that is just an overstatement that doesn’t really reflect the situation.
MATTHEWS: Don’t you support knocking-off Assad, Bashar Assad?
CLINTON: I think given the blood he has spilled that would be a good outcome but Americans aren’t going to do it. That’s not us doing it. In Libya you had a dictator, who had American blood on his hands, remember Reagan tried to knock him off.
Clinton went on to explain that Libya was as personal to America’s European and Middle East allies as Afghanistan was to the US and claimed that the US provided support and let the Europeans run the war. Clinton then tried to spin Libya into a partial success story, saying the country conducted two “free and fair” elections, where people voted for “moderates.” She argued the US had to continue to “support the Libyan people” in developing a democracy and, furthermore, that the US “did not lose a single person” in the fighting.
In other words, Clinton offered a near-identical rhetorical justification for regime change and nation building in Libya as was offered for Iraq. She has learned nothing.
Matthews responded by trying to broaden the question in hopes of finally getting an answer. He asked what Clinton thought of the history of US-backed regime change. Matthews cited US-backed overthrows in Iran, Guatemala, Chile, Congo, Dominican Republic, and South Vietnam, and asked Clinton, “Should we be doing that kind of thing, knocking off leaders?”
HILLARY CLINTON: In the vast majority of cases the answer is no, but there is always these historical games you can play. Somebody could have assassinated Hitler before he took over Germany, would that have been a good thing or not? You can not paint with a broad brush. Individual situations, and most of the ones you named, are ones that I think in retrospect did not have a very defensible kind of calculation behind them.
But I think it’s a mistake to say you can’t ever prevent war. You can’t ever save people. You know if there had been a way to go after the leaders of the massacres in Rwanda to stop that before 800,000 people were killed. We do, target terrorists. We target them because we believe they are plotting against us.
While the conflation of terrorists with heads of state (including democratically-elected ones) is problematic, this exchange does give a rather detailed view of Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy views. She is, to the core, a liberal imperialist well in-line with the neoconservative agenda–which is why many neoconservatives are backing her.
A vote for Hillary Clinton is now, without a doubt, a vote for more wars.