It Takes a Village to Start World War III

On September 26, 2007, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton voted yes on the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment that effectively labeled the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a “terrorist organization.” The Revolutionary Guard Corps is the largest branch of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s military. It is unprecedented in American history that the armed forces of a sovereign nation have been named “a terrorist organization.” In response to the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment, Iran’s Foreign Ministry and parliament have designated the U.S. Army and CIA as terrorist organizations.

Clinton was the lone Democratic presidential candidate to support this legislation that many view as giving President Bush authority to launch an air war against Iran. Senator Chris Dodd, in explaining his negative vote, said, “We learned in the run up to the Iraq war that seemingly nonbinding language passed by this Senate can have profound consequences. We need the president to use robust diplomacy to address concerns with Iran, not the language in this amendment that the president can point to if he decides to draw this country into another disastrous war of choice.” He added, “We shouldn’t repeat our mistakes and enable this President again.”

In her statement released the same day as the vote, Clinton claimed, “I voted for this resolution in order to apply greater diplomatic pressure on Iran. This resolution in no way authorizes or sanctions military action against Iran and instead seeks to end the Bush Administration’s diplomatic inaction in the region.”

Does this sound familiar? It is an uncanny echo of statements Clinton had made about her 2002 Iraq War authorization vote. At the time she said, “So it is with conviction that I support this resolution as being in the best interests of our nation. A vote for it is not a vote to rush to war; it is a vote that puts awesome responsibility in the hands of our President and we say to him – use these powers wisely and as a last resort. And it is a vote that says clearly to Saddam Hussein – this is your last chance – disarm or be disarmed.”

As we now know, and some of us recognized at the time, there were no weapons of mass destruction. The President used the powers granted to him by Senator Clinton and her colleagues neither wisely nor as a last resort. He instead plunged Iraq and the United States into an illegal and catastrophic war and occupation that has cost, in human terms, over a million Iraqi lives, displaced over four million Iraqi civilians, killed over 3,800 U.S. troops and injured over 26,000 of them.

In December 2006, Hillary Clinton said of the War Authorization vote, “Obviously, if we knew then what we know now, there wouldn’t have been a vote, and I certainly wouldn’t have voted that way.'” When the bombs start dropping on Teheran, without Congressional authorization, what will Hillary Clinton say then? “That is not what I intended by my vote, that is not what I intended at all. Who knew the President would abuse his power and misread the will of Congress and the people?”

On October 1st, in a characteristic move of playing both sides of an issue, Hillary announced, “Given recent reports about Administration military planning toward Iran and to ensure that Congress plays a proper role in the authorization of any potential military force, today I have added myself as a co-sponsor of a bill introduced by Senator Jim Webb which prohibits the use of funds for military action in Iran without authorization by Congress.” Hillary is the first and only co-sponsor of Webb’s bill more than six months after its introduction, making its passage unlikely and her co-sponsorship a largely symbolic gesture designed to quiet criticism of her Kyl-Lieberman vote.

Indeed, if Clinton were determined to keep Bush from starting the next war with Iran, it would be simple for her, as one of the most powerful people in the Senate and the Democratic Party, to get the bill onto the Senate floor. But as she made clear as far back as January 2005 in a now-infamous speech at Princeton, “…we cannot take any option off the table in sending a clear message to the current leadership of Iran.”

Last month Hillary Clinton announced via her campaign web site that the number one reason to support her for President was “To end the war in Iraq.” But what exactly does this mean?

In a March 2007 interview with the New York Times Hillary foresaw a “remaining military as well as political mission” in Iraq; she stated that if elected president, she would keep a reduced military force there to fight Al Qaeda, deter Iranian aggression, protect the Kurds and support the Iraqi military. The implication is that there will be “enduring” bases and American boots on the ground in Iraq far beyond the 2008 elections if Hillary becomes president. In fact, in June 2006 in a piece on NPR, Ted Koppel reported that an anonymous senior military advisor quoted Hillary as having predicted a U.S. “military presence”-read occupation-in Iraq through her second Presidential term.

Not since Lyndon Baines Johnson have the Democrats had an “anti-war” presidential candidate so hell-bent on continuing-and perhaps catastrophically expanding-a disastrous war.

Originally published in Common Dreams,

October 1, 2007