Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been running on what can arguably be described as predatory pragmatism, and this involves a heavy stream of push-back against so-called “pie in the sky” idealism on the part of Bernie Sanders. Clinton’s appeal, according to many of her most ardent supporters, is her sobering and unembellished realism. After all, why fret over even the slightest possibility of systemic change when you can have the hard-boiled promise of none whatsoever?
Despite the overwhelming number of tired and all too similar let’s-get-real think pieces about why voters should invest in a Clinton presidency, there’s been little said about what this means for those who have already tasted the bitter fruits of Hillary Clinton’s political legacy as Secretary of State.
The shallow language of concessions and “realism” while undoubtedly beneficial to the capitalist class, remains a material threat to the world’s most vulnerable populations, who are left facing the barrel of a gun, fields of landmines, long-range weapons, and fighter jets—weapons likely to be manufactured or supplied by the United States to the governments of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Turkey, and others.
From 2009 to 2013 Hillary Clinton served as U.S. Secretary of State, and those few years were mired with blood-letting.
Clinton’s enthusiastic hawkishness first appeared during the beginning weeks of her tenure in 2009, wherein she supported General Stanley A. McChrystal’s request for 40,000 more troops to be deployed to Afghanistan. According to Bob Woodward’s book, “Obama’s Wars,” Clinton not only backed the troop surge but concluded that it was necessary. “I endorse this effort,” Clinton said. “It comes with enormous cost, but if we go half-hearted we’ll achieve nothing. We must act like we’re going to win.” A report by Neta C. Crawford for The Watson Institute of International Studies determined the number of direct civilian war deaths in Afghanistan for 2009 was 2,412. The total direct civilian war deaths in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2013 amounts to 14,075.
In 2010, Hillary Clinton visited Haiti as part of a public relations stunt that allowed her to see firsthand the devastation wrought by the earthquake that killed at least 100,000. This performance was primarily meant to demonstrate solidarity and show the international community that the United States would be there to help in reconstruction efforts. Yet, her visit came less than a year after the U.S. State Department, then led by Clinton, had pressured the government of Haiti into denying laborers a wage increase of $0.62.
Dan Caughlin and Kim Ives of Haïti Liberté reported the U.S. Embassy in Haiti aggressively pressured “factory owners [in Haiti] contracted by Levi’s, Hanes, and Fruit of the Loom to block a paltry minimum wage increase for Haitian assembly zone workers, the lowest paid in the hemisphere.” In statements reminiscent of the Clinton campaign’s recent charges against Sanders, Deputy Chief of Mission David E. Lindwall called the proposed $5 minimum wage for Haitian assembly zone workers one which “did not take economic reality into account” but that was meant to appeal to the “unemployed and underpaid masses.”
Haiti has long been a kind of pet project for the Clintons, and they’ve often spoken of “falling in love with Haiti” during their honeymoon. But the love isn’t mutual by any means, and Haitians across the U.S. have made this increasingly clear by way of protests spotlighting the catastrophe the Clintons have left behind. Dahoud Andre, a radio host who has organized protests in New York, is quoted by the New York Times as saying that “a vote for Hillary Clinton means further corruption, further death and destruction for our people.”
Another victim of Hillary Clinton’s pragmatism is Libya, a nation still reeling from an open intervention best summarized by a jovial statement given to CBS News by Clinton about the killing of Muammar Gaddafi by rebels: “We came, we saw, he died.” In 2011, Black Libyans and sub-Saharan Africans were lynched in the streets by rebels and dehumanized to such a degree that they were hunted down and abused by those who believed them to be loyal to Gaddafi. This meant that anyone Black was a target.
The town of Tawergha was emptied after rebels, supported by Clinton’s State Department, gave inhabitants 30 days to leave. “We said if they didn’t go, they would be conquered and imprisoned. Every single one of them has left, and we will never allow them to come back,” one rebel officer was quoted as saying. But Clinton’s eagerness to support the war in Libya has cost her little, and to this day she defends her role largely by invoking the dictator bogeyman.
If one were to examine pro-Clinton circles, you’d quickly find that internationalism is the stuff of fairy tales. It’s almost illusory. Those resisting policies implemented and brokered by Clinton, both at and across the border, exist for one purpose, if they exist at all: they are political furnishings. The consequences of the occupation of Iraq have not ended and will likely never end, as more and more infants are born with horrific birth defects. The congressional vote to invade Iraq is still widely framed as a “mistake,” instead of a conscious decision made by men, and women, who hold a great deal of power over countless people across the region. Clinton’s path is lined with cases of military interventionism that she’s called “necessities,” and Iraq simply was another footstep along this path.
Hillary Clinton’s formulaic support of regime change, and the knee-jerk arming of rebel factions, has had cataclysmic, material impact. While her campaign and supporters rail against Sanders for gun control, they are conveniently silent about how deeply involved Clinton is in the global arms industry. In an article for the International Business Times, David Sirota and Andrew Perez break down a number of arms deals between the United States and countries like Saudi Arabia made during her tenure as Secretary of State. According to the report, not only did the U.S. State Department approve $165 billion in commercial arms sales to 20 nations but these nations also gave millions to the Clinton Foundation: “The 143 percent increase in U.S. arms sales to Clinton Foundation donors compares to an 80 percent increase in such sales to all countries over the same time period.”
Honduras is yet another country to experience the devastating impact of Hillary Clinton’s pragmatism. In early March, indigenous environmental activist Berta Cáceres was murdered by unknown gunman. Days later Nelson Garcia, a member of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, which was co-founded by Cáceres, was also murdered.
Clinton’s role in “rendering the question of Zelaya moot”, as she admits in her book “Hard Choices,” subsequently led to not only the deaths of Cáceres and Garcia but further violence throughout Honduras. Her admission was later removed from the latest paperback edition of her autobiography. The ongoing militarization of U.S. policy across Latin and Central America by way of, for example, the “drug war” and inhumane border security measures has led to untold horrors, one of which is the child refugee crisis (a crisis that Clinton is unmoved by).
Bernie Sanders, who is “not a fan of regime change“, has, to his credit, publicly denounced U.S. involvement in the overthrow of Allende, Mosaddegh, Árbenz, and others. Detractors have characterized Sanders as being overwhelmingly inexperienced when it comes to foreign policy, especially in comparison with Hillary Clinton, despite the staggering consequences of her voracious appetite for war. There’s been no authentic cross-examination of her actions in terms of what they will mean for countries who have still been unable to escape the violent U.S. policies which Clinton and those before her have so aggressively pushed for. Sanders’ “pie in the sky” campaign is undoubtedly baffling to those who’ve chosen a candidate that has the support of the likes of Madeline Albright and Henry Kissinger.
The “pragmatic” policies implemented and backed by politicians have consequences. There is an aftermath, and in the case of Hillary Clinton, it usually is a bloody one. Despite the powerful magnetism of a possible “Madame President” overseeing one of the most destructive empires in living existence, another Clinton presidency will mean another four years of terror for communities already on the margins.