Has Clinton Made Her Second Pro-War Mistake?

by James M. WallAtlantic Jonathan Ernest: Reuters

Cease fire talks between Israel and Hamas have been extended for an additional five days.

The extension in the talks was made possible because the Gaza Palestinians are standing firm in their humanitarian demand that Israel lift the siege on Gaza, while Israel is feeling the negative worldwide vibes over its massive military assault.

The vibes are negative everywhere, that is, except in the U.S., where in an Atlantic interview, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared to kick off her 2016 presidential campaign with a ringing endorsement of Israel’s massive assault on the Palestinians of Gaza.

For his part, as the man who holds the reins of responsibility, President Obama has called a halt to U.S. Hellfire missile shipments to Israel until arrangements are made to clear with the White House all future transfers of Hellfire missiles.

The President is clearly disturbed over his discovery of the free-flowing weapons pipeline from the U.S. to Israel via the Pentagon.

The story of his decision to halt sales, originated in the Wall Street Journal and was beamed into Israel and internationally on the internet by Haaretz.

The White House has instructed the Pentagon and the U.S. military to put on hold a transfer of Hellfire missiles that Israel had requested during its recent operation in the Gaza Strip, the Wall Street Journal reports.

According to the report, during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, White House officials were dismayed to discover how little influence they wield over the topic of Israeli arms shipments, against the backdrop of the U.S. government’s unhappiness with the widespread damage inflicted upon Palestinian civilians.

During the Gaza war, the report said, White House officials came to realize that large amounts of weaponry are being passed to Israel via direct channels to the Pentagon, with little oversight by the political arena. .  .  .

Against the backdrop of American displeasure over IDF tactics used in the Gaza fighting and the high number of civilian casualties caused by Israel’s massive use of artillery fire rather than more precise weapons, officials in the White House and the State Department are now demanding to review every Israeli request for American arms individually, rather than let them move relatively unchecked through a direct military-to-military channel, a fact that slows down the process.

The extended cease fire negotiations, and the President’s decision to halt missile shipments, are the good news during cease fire negotiations.

Is there more bad news on the political front?  It depends on reactions to the big political story in the U.S., which is either good or bad, depending on one’s political preferences.

Former Israeli active-duty soldier Jeffrey Goldberg’s well-timed conversation with Hillary Clinton, has been published in the Atlantic magazine.

Goldberg now hangs his media hat at the Atlantic, his latest media stop following the completion of his IDF tour of duty during the first Palestinian uprising in 1990. Earlier Goldberg assignments included a stint at The New Yorker.

After his tour with the IDF, Goldberg wrote a book about his role as an Israeli guard, Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. The book received supportive reviews in the U.S.

Clinton could have given her interview to any media outlet in the country. It is no accident that she chose a well-known Jewish journalist who has never hidden his pro-Israel proclivities.

Which is why, depending entirely upon one’s views of Clinton, and her impending race to become Obama’s successor, the interview in the Atlantic will either delight or dismay readers.

The New Yorker‘s John Cassidy, in an essay entitled, Can Hillary Play This Game?, examined media responses to Clinton’s interview. His conclusion: If her intent was to bolster her conservative credentials, she succeeded.

As for “progressives and centrists, she might need to think again”. Here are Cassidy’s conclusions:

One goes to the substance of her chat with Goldberg, in which she struck a tone that was hawkish, interventionist, and fiercely pro-Israel. The reactions to what she said have been interesting, and it’s not clear whether they are what the Clintonites hoped for.

The editors of the Weekly Standard loved the interview, and [conservative New York Times columnist] David Brooks also approved. James Fallows and Kevin Drum {writing for Mother Jones] expressed serious reservations; so did I {in an earlier New Yorker piece.}.

If Clinton’s intention was to extend her political reach and attract the support of conservatives, she succeeded. If she was seeking to present a foreign-policy vision attractive to progressives and centrists, she might need to think again.

What could she, and her handlers, have been thinking? Clinton already has the pro-Israel votes, media and money, strongly embedded in the Clinton orbit. As for winning progressive and centrist support, she herself has acknowledged that her Senate 2003 pro-war Iraq vote was wrong.

Is her Atlantic interview her second pro-war stumble that could derail her 2016 road to the White House the way her 2003 Iraq pro-war vote helped Obama defeat her in the 2008 primaries?

Clinton has been in and around the White House long enough to have known that when the president is deeply involved in foreign policy decisions, from Ukraine to Syria to Gaza, it is not a good time for his former Secretary of State to launch her 2016 presidential campaign by attacking his foreign policy.

She did not just critique his policy, she told a pro-Israeli interviewer that Obama lacks a coherent foreign policy strategy. After waiting for the media feedback and the word to spread, Clinton told Politico’s  Maggie Haberman she did not mean to “attack” the President:

Hillary Clinton called President Barack Obama on Tuesday to “make sure he knows that nothing she said was an attempt to attack him” when she recently discussed her views on foreign policy in an interview with The Atlantic, according to a statement from a Clinton spokesman. 

That sounds like a not so artful dodge especially when describing an interview in which she:

 dismissed the Obama administration’s self-described foreign policy principle of “Don’t do stupid stuff.” And while she also praised Obama several times, Clinton nonetheless called his decision not to assist Syrian rebels early on a “failure.”

Earlier Tuesday, longtime top Obama aide David Axelrod took a swipe at Clinton on Twitter, writing: “Just to clarify: ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ means stuff like occupying Iraq in the first place, which was a tragically bad decision.”

But wait, there is more from Politico.

In defending Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s deadly response to Hamas’s rocket attacks, she sounded almost like a spokesperson for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

In talking about the threat of militant Islam more generally, her words echoed those of Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, who has called for a generation-long campaign against Islamic extremism—a proposal that one of his former cabinet ministers dubbed “back to the Crusades”.Palestinian women walk by mosque and water tower Israeli air strikes and shelling Khuzaa, east of Khan Younis, in southern Gaza Strip. August 3, 2014.  AFP

Glenn Greenwald, writing in his new media outlet, Intercept, lifted quotes from Hillary Clinton in her Atlantic interview with Jeffrey Goldberg that mirror almost precisely the line Prime Minister Netanyahu has followed since this current conflict began. These are all Clinton quotes:

1) “Israel has a right to defend itself. The steps Hamas has taken to embed rockets and command-and-control facilities and tunnel entrances in civilian areas, this makes a response by Israel difficult.”

2) “Israel did what it had to do to respond to the rockets.”

3) On civilian casualties in Gaza: “That doesn’t mean, just as the United States [tries to] be as careful as possible in going after targets to avoid civilians, that there aren’t mistakes that are made. We’ve made them. I don’t know a nation, no matter what its values are — and I think that democratic nations have demonstrably better values in a conflict position — that hasn’t made errors, but ultimately the responsibility rests with Hamas.”

4) Asked about the bombing of UN schools and killing of Palestinian children: “It’s impossible to know what happens in the fog of war. Some reports say, maybe it wasn’t the exact UN school that was bombed, but it was the annex to the school next door where they were firing the rockets. And I do think oftentimes that the anguish you are privy to because of the coverage, and the women and the children and all the rest of that, makes it very difficult to sort through to get to the truth.”

5) On civilian casualties in Gaza: “There’s no doubt in my mind that Hamas initiated this conflict. … So the ultimate responsibility has to rest on Hamas and the decisions it made.”

And there you have the essential Hillary Clinton commenting on Israel’s assault against Gaza.

One leading political voice responding to the Atlantic interview came from Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, of Vermont. Sanders has hinted he might run for president himself.

He spoke in an interview with ABC’s Jeff Zeleny a day after The Atlantic published the Clinton interview.  Sanders indicated his respect for the former Secretary of State, while at the same time he cautioned against “assuming that she will be the Democratic nominee before she’s even announced her candidacy”.

“She has accomplished a lot of positive things in her career, but I’m not quite sure that the political process is one in which we anoint people,” he said.

Michael Cohen, of the progressive Century Foundation, spoke for many progressives and perhaps centrists as well, when he noted:  “She basically seems to be taking positions that are very similar to the vision of America’s role in the world that [in 2008] Democrats rejected.”

Democrats rejected candidate Clinton in 2008 in favor of Barack Obama. Now the 2016 Democratic nomination is hers to lose.

Will her endorsement of Israel’s war strategy embellish her political credentials for 2016, or will that endorsement become her second major pro-war political stumble?

 The picture of Hillary Clinton above, ran with the Atlantic interview. It was taken by Jonathan Ernest for Reuters.

The picture of a Palestinian women walking by a mosque and water tower was taken following Israeli air strikes and shelling of Khuzaa, east of Khan Younis, in southern Gaza Strip, August 3, 2014. An AFP photo. 

About wallwritings

James M. Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Jim launched this new personal blog April 24, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years.
This entry was posted in Hillary Clinton, Media, Middle East, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu, Obama. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Has Clinton Made Her Second Pro-War Mistake?

  1. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    Thanks, James. I was sympathetic to Hillary Clinton, before her latest hawkish pronouncements. I thought that she had learned something from her grave misjudgment regarding Iraq, but I was wrong.

    It seems to me that our entire American politics has become a “stage”, with mediocre actors.
    My take is that this campaign is part of actor Hillary Clinton’s “down-payment” to the Israel-Zionist Lobby, assuring them that she is staunchly pro-Israel right-or-wrong.

    She is also paying up, in advance, her “Protection Money” fees, against the anticipated, severe Republican actors’ onslaught, regarding her alleged role in Benghazi. She knows that the pro-Zionist media is capable of reducing, or increasing, the pain factor.

    And as far as President Obama’s “shocking discovery” of Pentagon “Terror-Tunnels” loaded with “Hellfire” missiles supplying Israel’s war mongers, it is as believable as the story of “Bush and the WMD’s”.

  2. Samia Khoury says:

    Amazing. The election campaign has not started yet, but Mrs. Clinton knows well enough that it is never too early to start singing the right song to the music of AIPAC.

  3. wpctest2 says:

    Israel wants Palestinian land. AIPAC wants what Israel wants. Congress wants what AIPAC wants. For God’s sake (and the sake of His children) Obama stand against the continued confiscation of Palestinian land and the displacement/killing of Palestinian people.

  4. Fred says:

    Hillary Clinton has always been one of the biggest warmongers and Israel Firsters on Capitol Hill. Her answers might as well have come from the Israeli propaganda office. Really disgusting. Israeli war crimes are evident. Hillary has sold her soul to israel and it’s Lobby.

    We need to get another Democrat. to run, or else the next presidential election will be the same as all the others, a contest on which candidate is more loyal to Israel. A national disgrace.

    Unless we get big money form AIPAC and Adelson from buying politicians and destroying the careers of those that don’t put Israel’s interests first, nothing will change in the United States of Israel. Our Mideast foreign policy is being sabotaged by a fifth column, which is the Israel Lobby.

    Fred.

  5. Marita Mayer says:

    Bill Clinton did nothing to stop the illegal settlements and neither will Hillary. Occupation is a way of life in the perpetual war on terror empires. Where is the true human rights for all, including Palestinians, candidate?

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