Diana Johnstone Counterpunch Books 2015
Review by Edward S. Herman
Diana Johnstone has written an extremely valuable book on Hillary Clinton, which not only examines in detail Mrs. Clinton’s political history and record, but places them in their evolving political context, which enlightens readers on the domestic and international political environment within which she works and into which she adapts.and serves. Mrs. Clinton played an important role in the termination of Honduran democracy in 2009 and in the war on Libya in 2011, during her term as Secretary of State, and she had a lesser role but staked out definite positions in the 1999 war on Yugoslavia and the escalating hostilities against Russia in more recent years. Johnstone has excellent analyses of these cases: in her introductory chapter (a section on “A Taste of Hillary in Action: Hypocrisy on Honduras”) and in separate chapters on Yugoslavia (“Yugoslavia: the Clinton War Cycle”), Libya (“A War of Her Own”) and Russia (“Not Understanding Russia”).
As Johnstone indicates Mrs.Clinton quickly and clearly displayed her regressive, intellectually lightweight and hypocritical policy agenda in connection with the June 28, 2009, military coup in Honduras. She attended an OAS meeting in Honduras just a few weeks earlier, where she saw as her first order task how to prevent the lifting of the 47-year-old ban excluding Cuba, which a large majority of the OAS now considered “an outdated artifact of the Cold War”. Johnstone notes that Hillary and staff solved the problem by pouring the old wine into a new bottle. “No more Cold War, no more ‘communist threat’. ‘Given what President Obama had said about moving past the stale debates of the Cold War,’ Hillary wrote in her memoir Hard Choices, ‘it would be hypocritical of us to continue insisting that Cuba be kept out of the OAS for the reasons it was first suspended in 1962, ostensibly its adherence to ‘Marxism-Leninism’ and alignment ‘with the communist bloc.’ It would be more credible and accurate to focus onCuba’s present-day human rights violations, which were incompatible with the OAS charter.’”
As Johnstone points out, Hillary sees nothing hypocritical in inventing a transparent device to keep Cuba out while pretending to let Cuba in: “What if we agreed to lift the suspension, but with the condition that Cuba be reseated as a member only if it made enough democratic reforms to bring it in line with the charter? And, to expose the Castro brothers’ contempt for the OAS itself, why not require Cuba to formally request readmittance?” Indeed, this proved just hypocritical enough to persuade the fence-hangers,Brazil and Chile, to go along. Thus Hillary began her diplomatic career in Latin America by rebranding hostility to any independent socio-economic policy from “anti-communism” to defense of “human rights”, by transparent hypocrisy enforced by arm-twisting, and by enforcing the Monroe Doctrine in both domestic and international affairs.
During and after the Honduran coup that followed, the Clinton State Department refused to call it a coup, and engaged in steady apologetics and protection of the coup leaders and their terroristic and corrupt new order. As Johnstone concludes, following a useful account of the negative outcome: “When a white hat appears on the horizon of a wretched place like Honduras proclaiming his intention to try to improve conditions [here the ousted president Manuel Zelaya], couldn’t the rich and powerful United States react otherwise than stigmatizing him as a potential ‘dictator’? Instead of giving an advocate of change the opportunity to try, Hillary’s State Department connived to help bundle him out of power. All is back to normal; however below normal that particular normal happens to be….As we will see throughout this book, the foreign policy of Hillary Clinton amounts to the application of an enlarged Monroe Doctrine to the entire world.”
Mrs. Clinton has portrayed herself as an employer of “soft power,” but in reality Johnstone shows that she has had a strong proclivity toward the use of force. She hasn’t been bothered by its extensive use in post-coup Honduras, she pushed for it in Yugoslavia in 1999, she supported the invasion of Iraq, and it was central in her own war in Libya in 2011. She has been extremely hostile to Putin and seems to be anxious to fight with him in Ukraine and possibly elsewhere..She was a strong supporter of the war-mongering Madeleine Albright during Bill Clinton’s tenure, and her own appointments have included a string of militant women –Victoria Nuland, Susan Rice, and Samantha Power. Johnstone observes that “A salient trait of the new school of women diplomats is that they are strikingly undiplomatic. Indeed, Madeleine Albright’s greatest diplomatic success [in the Yugoslavia war]. was to obstruct diplomacy.” Secretary of State Clinton also appointed the notorious neocon husband of Victoria Nuland, Robert Kagan, as an adviser.
One of her soft power triumphs was the intense politician-media-human rights organizations’ campaign on the trials and tribulations of the Pussy Riot group in Russia. This group achieved notoriety by arrests following their occupation and interruption of the service in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, which offended worshipers on the spot with anti-Christian obscenities, not by any “political messages.” They had their escapade videotaped, with a post-occupation addition of an attack on Putin. This was made in the West into a telling proof of a free speech crackdown, and by Putin, although the police had been called in by Church officials. And this group had been carrying out similar antics for some years without arrest or trial. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch made this into major campaigns in defense of Russian freedom, although these same organizations put up no defense at all for Chelsea Manning, Thomas Drake or Edward Snowden. A similar group Semen, specializing in female bare breast exhibition, had similar success in France. Hillary Clinton was proud to be photographed with the Pussy Riot heroines, and her former State Department associate Susan Nossel, pushed the Pussy Riot-anti-Putin campaign aggressively from her position as head of Amnesty International (a low point in AI history). Johnstone has a valuable analysis of this episode and campaign.
Johnstone places Mrs. Clinton in the context of the triumph of the military-industrial complex and the derived forward actions of the warfare state. The gradual triumph of the MIC and rising inequality have made domestic reform out of bounds for political leaders in this country. But aggressive actions abroad are actually required to demonstrate belief in the “exceptional” nation called upon to “shape” the world in accord with U.S. free market ideology, and to feed the demands of the MIC. Johnstone argues that “The United States no longer even makes war in order to win, but rather to make sure that the other side loses.” Thus the fact that Mrs. Clinton’s wars were not won in any meaningful sense has not dented her popularity where it counts. She has kept the MIC busy and dealt blows to proper targets.
The American people swallow this nonsense because the wars are kept at a distance, no U.S. homes are blown up, and “for most Americans, U.S. wars are simply a branch of the entertainment industry, something to hear about on television but rarely seen.” Popular illusions are maintained by the “political branch of the entertainment industry: politicians, mass media news coverage, defense intellectuals, commentators.” These are sponsored by members of the underlying power structure, and Johnstone suggests that we can learn about these sponsors by examining the list of Clinton Foundation donors who have contributed millions of dollars, supposedly for charity:
“Eight digit donors [10 million or more] include: Saudi Arabia, the pro-Israel Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk, and the Saban family.”…Seven digit sponsors include: Kuwait, Exxon Mobil, ‘Friends of Saudi Arabia,’ James Murdoch, Qatar, Boeing, Dow, Goldman Sachs, Walmart, and the United Arab Emirates,” Earlier in her book Johnstone notes that billionaire Haim Saban was especially taken with Mrs. Clinton, declaring in a Bloomsberg interview in July 2014 that he would contribute “as much as needed” to elect her to the presidency; also mentioning that “I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.”
Johnstone asks “What is it about the Clintons that makes them so popular, particularly with Saudi Arabia?” She answers: “With friends like that, you need enemies. And Hillary knows where to find them – in countries these friendly donors don’t like. In her driving ambition to be the First Woman President of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton has made herself a figment of the collective imagination by fitting herself into the role of top salesperson for the ruling oligarchy:
• She has shifted her interest from children’s rights, a field with no big money backers, to promotion of military power (also known as ‘the only language they understand’).
• She has spread the message that U.S. interference in other countries is motivated by the generous impulse to spread ‘our ideals’ to the dark corners of elsewhere.
• She readily treats foreign heads of state with dehumanizing contempt, declaring that they have ‘no soul’, or ‘no conscience’, and dismissing them as lowly creatures that ‘must go’.
• She ‘misspeaks’, but sees nothing wrong with that. In politics, who doesn’t ‘misspeak’? She is not there to tell the truth, but to tell her story.
• She can still pose as a woman whose only aspiration is to ‘break the glass ceiling’ for the benefit of all women, who will now be able to fill all the top jobs in the country… thanks to Hillary!”“ In short, she has used all the stereotypical clichés of the ‘exceptional America’ narrative as rungs in her ladder to the top. Hillary Clinton’s performance as Secretary of State was a great success in one respect: it has made her the favorite candidate of the War Party. This appears to have been her primary objective. But Hillary Clinton is far from being the whole problem. The fundamental problem is the War Party and its tight grip on U.S. policy.”
Diana Johnstone has written an exceptional book that enlightens on Hillary Clinton’s history, role and threat and the war system context in which she thrives.