Hillary and McCain Singing the Same Tune on Iran

Dan Petegorsky

This week Hillary Clinton appears to have joined John McCain’s “Bomb Iran” chorus. In an interview on ABC, Clinton took what she has called her “aggressive diplomacy” to a new level, threatening to “totally obliterate” Iran should it attack Israel.

Perhaps this was a tactical move, seeking to undo the standard canard that Democrats are “weak on defense” by sounding as bellicose or “tough” as possible. But her remarks are particularly alarming in view of her recent record on Iran, especially her October vote (alone among the Democratic Presidential contenders) to declare Iran’s Republican Guard a terrorist organization.

If ever there were a time for a more nuanced and intelligent approach to Iran, this is it. Not only is Iran a close ally of the Iraqi government, it has also been a strong enemy of the Taliban (unlike the U.S., Iran supported the Northern Alliance in fighting both the Soviets and the Taliban). With the Taliban mounting increasingly effective attacks inside Afghanistan (witness this morning’s near assassination of President Karzai) and Pakistan again ready to mollify pro-Taliban and Al Qaeda forces in the tribal areas, Iran and the U.S. actually share critical strategic interests.

The failures of U.S. policy towards Iran have been going on now for more than 50 years. Though McCain may have passed Clinton’s bizarre “Commander in Chief” threshold, he has also shown that when it comes to actual policy in the region he can’t tell Shiite from Shinola. Clinton can claim no such ignorance – which makes her statements that much more distressing.

I don’t expect she’ll reprise her Pennsylvania remarks in Oregon. But Oregonians should push her hard on these positions.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    I'm not impressed with anyone, much less someone aspiring to be the leader of the so-called free world, who decides to brag about obliterating anyone.

  • J12 (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I'm sorry, Hillary's actual comment was:

    "In the next 10 years, during which [Iran] might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them."

    Senator Clinton did not say that she would totally obliterate Iran, she said that the U.S. "would be able" to totally obliterate Iran if the country was foolish enough to attack Israel. There is a difference.

    Moreover, should Iran attack Iraq, what does Senator Obama suggest that the Commander in Chief do? Shake his finger in Iran's direction??

    While Iraq is an example of exactly how and why a leader should not use military force, a real leader knows that there are times when force -- or at least the threat of force -- is necessary. (Force was the necessary response to Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. Kennedy's masterful threat of force was critical to the peaceful resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis.) There will unfortunately be a tendency - as Senator Obama demonstrates -- in the wake of the disaster that is U.S. involvement in Iraq to err too far in the opposite direction and never consider the use of force as an option, even when threatening it might be the best option. A true leader will not fall victim to that trap and will know how to navigate the balance of when to use carrots and when to use sticks. Senator Clinton demonstated that acumen here and should be applauded for giving the right answer even when she knew she would be attacked, by narrow-minded partisans who will always take her words out of context. I personally thought that it was refreshing for a politican in the middle of the biggest race of her life to give the right answer to a question rather than the poll-tested carefully worded one.

    But if you still feel compelled to attack her, at least get the quote right.

  • ray (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I think HIllary has already demonstarted that she has been bought By Isreal & Jewish Lobby. BY making such a stupid comment she only proved that she is more interested in serving the interest of Isreal rather then the US. Shame on you HIllary for selling out America.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
    (Show?)

    J12 said: "Kennedy's masterful threat of force was critical to the peaceful resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis."

    Kennedy's "masterful threat" almost destroyed the hemisphere. A Soviet submarine commander refused the order to launch nuclear weapons against us. This is another example of selective memory.

    I think too much is being made of the "difference" between "bomb, bomb Iran", "all options are on the table", and "totally obliterate". McCain, Clinton, and Obama are all militarists who want to increase military spending and to terrorize those who "threaten our interests". Real progressives can't be happy with this choice.

  • (Show?)

    “J12” – First, I did link to the article that gave Clinton’s full quote. More to the point: Do you honestly think that an Iranian who heard those words would see them as anything but a direct threat? And how exactly does such a threat help support forces opposed to the leadership of Ahmadinejad? I think Juan Cole has it right:

    “Clinton has unfortunately fallen into a typical Washington fear-mongering fantasy. Iran does not have a nuclear weapon. As of last fall, US intelligence determined that it was not trying to get a nuclear weapon. There is no realistic likelihood of Iran having a bomb 'in the next ten years.’”

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
    (Show?)

    ray said: "I think HIllary has already demonstarted that she has been bought By Isreal & Jewish Lobby. BY making such a stupid comment she only proved that she is more interested in serving the interest of Isreal rather then the US. Shame on you HIllary for selling out America."

    What's most disturbing to me about this obviously anti-Jewish screed, is that I think many of you agree with it, even if you don't have the guts to say it (well, "ray" didn't exactly have the guts, either, did he?).

    Hillary is a corporatist and a militarist. Her ideology is the same as the racist and expansionist Israeli elites. She recognizes that Israel and its lobby play important roles in U.S. control of Middle East resources. She knows that Israel is the client state of the U.S., and not the reverse. She is pandering, not to Israel, zionists, the Jews, or the Israel lobby, but rather to the center of real power, the policy-making U.S. elites whose support really matters.

  • RKS (unverified)
    (Show?)

    My question is how come this "obliterate" comment hasn't gotten more MSM scrutiny? It's sad that essentially threatening to bomb another nation gets such a blase response. Maybe if she had called Iranians bitter ...

  • Bill R. (unverified)
    (Show?)

    "Obliterate" means a massive destruction of a country, a nuclear strike on civilian populations. It's much more than saying we would aid our ally in the event they are attacked. Israel is more than able to defend itself.

    Clinton went beyond what McSame and Bush have said. She said she would extend a "security shield" to all friendly countries in the region. Meaning a military intervention in every conflict where one country is fighting another. This is aggressive and intemperate speech, and implies an aggressive military posture and commitment much beyond what the American people are willing to sustain. It belies a basic insecurity that says she has to be more macho than anyone else just to prove she's up to it. Shame on her! We're talking about millions of lives of civilians and soldiers. This is exactly the same kind of mindset she used in getting us into Iraq. Military action as first resort, not last.

  • J12 (unverified)
    (Show?)

    OK, Dan, I missed your having linked to the full text of her remarks. I would still argue that you selectively quoted her and are contributing to the impression that Hillary is no different from John McCain on this issue. I think there is a big difference between someone who joyfully sings a tune about bombing Iran and someone who expresses a very strategic and serious policy position, but I will take your point on how such a coment would be interpreted in Iran. We always must consider these ramification - this is one of the bg problems w/ our current President.

    (I don't usually like to argue things out in comments, but I wanted to address this point.)

    Yes, U.S. intelligence revealed that Iran is not actively in pursuit of nuclear weapons. We could debate the fact that Iran has in the past sought nuclear weapons and is somewhat of a bad actor (to say the least), but I will concede that the reality appears that they are not currently pursuing nuclear weapons at this time. However, there is a very real fear throughout the Middle East and around the world, that Iran might attack Israel even without nuclear weapons. Such an attack would not just impact Israelis and the "Jewish Lobby" within the United States, rather such an attack has the potential to devolve into a full-scale Middle Eastern war. The last thing that the United States or any peaceloving person wants is for Middle Eastern countries (fearful of this possiblity) to start arming in preparation. By saying that the U.S. would be capable of totally obliterating Iran if Iran attacks Israel, Hillary is sending a clear signal to the rest of the Middle East (not just Ahmadinejad and the less extreme factions of Iran, but countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan) that such action will not be tolerated and that they do not have to arm-up for such a war. We can argue about whether or not it is fair for the U.S. to have to play world police officer, but there are definitely times when an authoritative statement from the U.S. could offset the escalation of conflict. And I think we can all agree -- or at least I hope that we can all agree -- that avoiding such an escalation would be a good thing.

    Anyway, whether you like Hillary or not, I appreciated her nuanced answer on this. She's clearly being attacked for it, but I nonetheless thought she was brave to say it, knowing that such attacks were inevitable.

  • ray (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Harry kreshner just proved my point perfectly, that if you don't agree to what Isreal & Jewish people say then you are labeled as Anti-Semitic. Quite contrary to the fact that we ( majority) oppose Jewish sentiment ( they think they are the chosen people & better then everyone else), does not mean we are anti-semetic, it simply means that we differ with them and do not beleive their point of view. The Continuous use of labeling people who differ from the jewish point as "anti-semtic" is itself discriminatry & only proves that they use this Phrase to eliminate their opponents point of view. We are tired
    of hearing people being called Anti-semtic because we don't agree with them. The slogans are not very effective anymore.

  • (Show?)

    J12 - If tough talk and the promise of a U.S. "shield" to protect regional allies really did serve as an alternative to a Middle East arms race, that'd be great. The fact is, though, that it only serves to escalate things - and the U.S. is actually the chief supplier of arms to the Saudis & other Gulf states.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
    (Show?)

    J12 said: "We can argue about whether or not it is fair for the U.S. to have to play world police officer, but there are definitely times when an authoritative statement from the U.S. could offset the escalation of conflict."

    What if we were to substitute "Russia" for "U.S." in the above? So "we can argue" whether or not it is fair for Russia to play world police and invade us or make "an authoritative statement" (i.e., terrorize us by threatening to obliterate us)?

    Basic morality demands that we follow what Christians call "the golden rule". You can't do to others what you wouldn't have them do to you.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Quite contrary to the fact that we ( majority) oppose Jewish sentiment ( they think they are the chosen people & better then everyone else)

    Actually, we KNOW we're better than everyone else. More modest, too.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Senator Clinton did not say that she would totally obliterate Iran, she said that the U.S. "would be able" to totally obliterate Iran if the country was foolish enough to attack Israel. There is a difference.

    This indicates that Hillary is amenable to obliterating Iran which would be utter madness. Anyone voting for her or McCain for president can forget about making any claim to being progressive.

    J12 said: "Kennedy's masterful threat of force was critical to the peaceful resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis."

    "Kennedy's masterful threat of force" was for public consumption. U.S. and Russian diplomats behind the scenes negotiated a responsible resolution to the crisis.

  • james r bradach (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Nobody is going to obliterate Iran. The shelves at Walmart would be bare. American women would lose their function in the world economy. Hillary was dialing for dollars! I mean to bug you! What Hillary said was absurd,if my neck is in a noose for Isreal, how do I get the hell off this ride?

  • (Show?)

    Thanks Dan for putting this up top at BlueOregon. And well said, Bill R.

    It is not "nuanced" but grossly irresponsible to threaten nuclear genocide against anyone. I had intended to sit out the primary because of seeing so little difference between Clinton and Obama on matters of substance, but this bizarre, unconscienable threat has pushed me into voting for Obama.

    Speaking of context, the article you link, Dan, says:

    Her comments appeared harder than a week ago, when during a presidential debate she promised "massive retaliation" against any Iranian attack on Israel.

    Clinton's escalation to rhetoric of genocidal obliteration is disturbing. So too is the repeated media fantasy of Iranian nuclear attack -- are they laying more groundwork for ginning up another war?

    <hr/>

    An actually nuanced response would have begun by challenging the premise of the question: "Well, you know, that's highly unlikely, since Iran has no nuclear weapons. Even if Iran acquired them, Israel possesses its own nuclear deterrent, which the Iranians know Israel would not hesitate to use. Such unrealistic questions don't aid the cause of sober foreign and military policy. The real goal we would focus on is preventing such a situation from ever arising."

    Ideally such and might continue "I don't deal with wild hypotheticals."

    More likely would be something like: "But if Iran did pursue such a suicidal and self-destructive course while I was president, it would face severe retaliation from the U.S. as well as from Israel. We would ensure that any regime committing such a crime against humanity as nuclear aggression was swiftly removed from power and that any of its surviving leaders were tried for their crimes."

    <hr/>

    To your excellent point about arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and, of course, Israel, should be added Egypt, Turkey, and on a smaller scale the Gulf states. The arming J12 claims the U.S. doesn't want actually is proceeding apace with U.S. encouragement to the profit of U.S. arms manufacturers (and on the Iranian side, Russian and Chinese arms makers). Loud bellicosity doesn't quiet such fears, but intensifies them.

    <hr/>

    Harry, you are just disturbing yourself, with stuff you are making up about the rest of us. If you'd stop making stuff up, you might be less disturbed.

    But you are right that J12 is off-base about Obama. Obama's Iraq policy is explicitly based on expanding the war in Afghanistan, including threats to invade Pakistan in pursuit of al Qaeda, and he plans to enlarge the military. Up to now the difference in his bellicosity toward Iran from Clinton's has been greater tempering with talk about a genuinely diplomatic approach.

    But J12's idea that Obama is or would be unwilling to "use force" is a canard, as is the idea that the U.S. has any "problem" with insufficient willingness to use force. Our problem is quite the opposite -- inability to think about collective security and less militarized ways of achieving it.

    The U.S. policy of spending more than the rest of the world put together on arms will hollow out our economy as surely as it did the British Empire's.

  • anonymous (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Being anti-Neocon or anti-Likud is not necessarily anti-Jewish or anti-Israel. According to a recent poll by the American Jewish Committee, most American Jews do not support any preemptive action against Iran. Furthermore, the ruling Likud Party in Israel is just one party and it's hawkish attitude and hard line approach to Palestine are not shared by all Jews in that country. And scientists have concluded that even tactical nuclear weapons used against Iran would cause radioactive particles to contaminate Israel's water supply and have disasterous health effects on its own people.

    The greater question is why the U.S. should give such unconditional support to Israel, especially when we know American Jews and many Israeli citizens don't agree with Israel's policies? So two of the presidential candidates have pledged total war, NUCLEAR WAR (!!!!). If Israel is attacked by Iran, the President can go to congress and ask for a declaration of war, but Hillary and McCain are not saying that. They are promising total war on behalf of the American people. The U.S. people should not sacrifice their constitutional principles for any nation or any foreign lobby.

    Somebody needs to put the question to the candidates, "What kind of behavior do you expect on the part of Israel's government in order to earn America's support?" When do we turn to Israel and say, "Enough, if you want our support you need to work through the UN before bombing places like Syria or bulldozing Palestinian villages, because all that does is make the situation worse." I would love to hear the candidates answer that one.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
    (Show?)

    "First things first. She has yet to dispose of Mr Obama. Of course, Mrs Clinton’s reinvention of herself as the mad general in Dr Strangelove is not unconnected to this ambition. Her comments on Iran were all of a piece with the effort to undermine Mr Obama’s national security credentials....We have left behind that period of history when it was deemed reasonable to visit the sins of tyrannical rulers on entire nations."

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Clinton's escalation to rhetoric of genocidal obliteration is disturbing. So too is the repeated media fantasy of Iranian nuclear attack -- are they laying more groundwork for ginning up another war?

    One of the major problems with political rhetoric is that it can paint the speaker into a corner, especially if that person lacks the character to admit to having been wrong. Hillary is now boxed in that corner and has demonstrated an inability to admit to being wrong.

    As to the question about building a case for war on Iran, it would be judicious to consider the media guilty until it and its corporate owners prove themselves innocent. The problems that a war on Iran would create would be horrendous and the chaos would give Bush and Cheney an excuse for canceling the presidential election in November. A traditionally gullible populace and a morally bankrupt Congress would buy into the argument that this would be no time to change the government even if it was the most obvious thing that needed to be accomplished.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Pepe Escobar on Hillary, the war chick. Pepe Escobar in the "Roving Reporter" for the Asia Times On Line and one of the best covering the Middle East and Asia.

  • Greg D (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I am no Hillary supporter, but her comments re: obliterating Iran do not worry me too much. I assume her current position is based upon information provided to her by the Bush administration, and that as soon as she has the real facts and finds that she has been mislead by the Bush administration's flawed intelligence reports, her position on bombing Iran will change 180 degrees.

    <h2>Oh, wait. That was something else, wasn't it.</h2>

connect with blueoregon