Monday, July 30, 2007

Clinton and Empire

Clinton, Kissinger and the Corruptions of Empire

By John Nichols

The Nation - July 26, 2007

Of all the corruptions of empire, few are darker than
the claim that diplomacy must be kept secret from the
citizenry.This hide-it-from-the people faith that only a
cloistered group of unelected and often unaccountable
elites - embodied by the nefarious and eminently
indictable Henry Kissinger - is capable of steering the
affairs of state pushes Americans out of the processes
that determine whether their sons and daughters will die
in distant wars, whether the factories where they worked
will be shuttered, whether their country will respond to
or neglect genocide, whether their tax dollars will go
to pay for the unspeakable.

It allows for the dirty game where foreign countries are
included or excluded from contact with the U.S. based on
unspoken whims and self-serving schemes, where trade
deals are negotiated without congressional oversight and
then presented in take-it-or-leave-it form and where war
is made easy by secretive cliques that are as willing to
lie to presidents as they do to the people.

Unlike the excluded and neglected people, however,
presidents have the authority to break this vicious
cycle by making personal contact with foreign leaders,
by publicly meeting with and debating allies and rivals,
by taking global policymaking out of the shadows and
into the light of day. When the president is personally
and publicly in contact with the world, diplomacy is

As the most scrutinized figure on the planet, an
American president who meets and maintains contact with
leaders who may or may not follow the U.S. line on any
particular issue involves not just him- or herself in
the discussion but also the American people. The
president lifts the veil of secrecy behind which
horrible things can be done in our name but without our
informed consent.

So it matters, it matters a great deal, whether those
who seek the presidency promote transparent and
democratic foreign policies or a continuation of a
corrupt status quo that has rendered the United States
dysfunctional, misguided and hated by most of the world
- and that has caused more than 80 percent of Americans
to say the country is headed in the wrong direction.
In the race for the Democratic nomination for president,
the two frontrunners are lining up on opposite sides of
the question of whether foreign policy should be
conducted in public or behind the tattered curtain of
corruption that has given us unnecessary wars in Vietnam
and Iraq, U.S.-sponsored coups from Iran to Chile, trade
policies designed to serve multinational corporations
and a seeming inability to respond to the crisis that is

Hillary Clinton, the candidate of all that is and will
be, wants there to be no doubt that she is in the
Kissinger camp.

The New York senator’s campaign is attacking her chief
rival, Illinois Senator Barack Obama ¤, for daring to
suggest that, he would personally meet with foreign
leaders who do not always march in lockstep with the
U.S. government.

In Monday’s night’s YouTube debate, candidates were
asked it they would be willing to meet "with leaders of
Syria, Iran, Venezuela during their first term," Obama
immediately responded that, yes, he would be willing to
do so. He explained that "the notion that somehow not
talking to countries is punishment to them " which has
been the guiding diplomatic principle of this
administration " is ridiculous."

Clinton disagreed in the debate and now her camp is
declaring that, "There is a clear difference between the
two approaches these candidates are taking: Senator
Obama has committed to presidential-level meetings with
some of the world’s worst dictators without precondition
during his first year in office."

Leaving aside the fact that Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, a
popularly elected leader, is not one of the "world’s
worst dictators," it is particularly galling that
Clinton - in her rush to trash Obama - is contradicting
her own declaration in an April debate that, "I think it
is a terrible mistake for our president to say he will
not talk with bad people."

Unfortunately, Clinton’s vote to give Bush a blank check
for war in Iraq and her defense of that war, her support
for neo-liberal economics and a Wall Street-defined free
trade agenda and her general disregard for popular
involvement in foreign-policy debates suggests that the
senator is showing true self when she dismisses the
value of presidential engagement with the leaders of
foreign lands.

Clinton is playing politics this week. But in a broader
sense she is aligning herself with a secretive and anti-
democratic approach to global affairs that steers the
United States out of the global community while telling
the American people that foreign policy is the domain
only of shadowy Kissingers.

She is not just wrong in this, she is Bush/Cheney wrong.
John Nichols’ new book is The Genius of Impeachment: The
Founders’ Cure for Royalism. Rolling Stone’s Tim
Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately
argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich
examination of the parliamentary roots and past use of
the ‘heroic medicine’ that is impeachment with a call
for Democratic leaders to ‘reclaim and reuse the most
vital tool handed to us by the founders for the defense
of our most basic liberties.’"

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