Once again sensationalistic charges of genocide were used to justify NATO action. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic had (foolishly, in deference to Serbian nationalism) revoked the autonomous status of the Serbian province of Kosovo. Regarded as the historical Serbian homeland, it had become overwhelmingly inhabited by ethnic Albanians. The Kosovar Albanians like the Slovenians, Croats, Bosniaks and Macedonians before them sought to secede from the Yugoslav state entirely. The Kosovo Liberation Army (once frankly characterized by U.S. diplomats as a terrorist organization) responded to Milosevic’s move by attacking state police, causing Belgrade to send in military forces that killed both militants and unarmed civilians.

Madeleine Albright (Forerunner of Madame Secretary Clinton)

The U.S. secretary of state at this time was Hillary Clinton’s good friend Madeleine Albright. (Recall how Albright recently, in February, in championing Hillary’s presidential campaign, controversially declared that there was “a special place in hell for women who don’t vote for women.”) This is the person who had told 60 Minute’s Lesley Stall in May 1996 that the “price” of causing the deaths of half a million Iraqi children due to UN sanctions Washington refused to lift had “been worth it.”

Because Albright is so similar to Clinton, and so politically close to her, it’s worth discussing her record at length here as it pertains to the First Lady years.

Albright is almost surely the person who had told the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Hugh Shelton, at a White House breakfast in 1998, “What we really need in order to go in and take out Saddam is a precipitous event—something that would make us look good in the eyes of the world.” According to Shelton’s memoir, his interlocutor (a cabinet member) then asked, “Could you have one of our U-2s fly low enough—and slow enough—to guarantee that Saddam could shoot it down?”

Gen. Shelton, incensed, replied that it could be done “as soon as we get your ass qualified to flying it,” causing the official to back off. (But isn’t interesting that the general was so appalled about a fellow cabinet member’s indifference to human life—including the life of a U.S. pilot—-that he included this incident in his book?)

The dishonesty and inhumanity of Bill Clinton’s secretary of state were again manifest in the U.S. reaction to violence in Kosovo. In April the U.S. State Department claimed that up to 500,000 Kosovars had been killed by Serbian forces in acts of ethnic cleansing in the province. Defense Secretary William Cohen used a 100,000 figure. After the war researchers concluded that from 2,500 to 10,000 Kosovars and Serbs were in fact killed—perhaps 1,500 after NATO began to bomb. The chairwoman of the British Parliaments Balkans committee, Labour MP Alice Mahon, stated in October “When you consider that 1,500 or more civilians were killed during the NATO bombing, you have to ask whether the intervention was justified.”

While a campaign of disinformation not dissimilar in some ways to that preparing public opinion for the coming Iraq War in 2003 proceeded apace, Albright organized a gathering of U.S., Russian, Yugoslav and Kosovar representatives in Rambouillet, France. The Kosovars included an obscure figurehead who has since disappeared and leaders of the KLA since implicated in drug smuggling and worse crimes.

At the meeting Albright gave Belgrade an ultimatum: either withdraw forces from Kosovo, accept the stationing of 30,000 NATO troops in the province; allow NATO forces unhindered passage through the whole of Yugoslavia (at this point, whittled down to Serbia and Montenegro)—essentially a demand for military occupation; and accept NATO troops’ immunity from prosecution under Yugoslav law—or be bombed mercilessly until you surrender.

No government could accept these terms. Belgrade and Yeltsin’s Russia rejected them, appalled at their arrogance. Even the foreign minister of key NATO member France opined that the U.S. was behaving like an “hyper-puissance”—more than a superpower, a hyper-power.

A Republican official later told a think tank that a certain “top official” had explained the U.S. position as follows: “We intentionally set the bar too high for the Serbs to comply. They need bombing, and that’s what they’re going to get.”  This was probably again Albright speaking, expressing the concept of statesmanship that prevails within the Clinton circle.

Even Henry Kissinger commented at the time, “The Rambouillet text, which called on Serbia to admit NATO troops throughout Yugoslavia, was a provocation, and excuse to start bombing. Rambouillet is not a document that an angelic Serb could have accepted. It was a terrible diplomatic document that should never have been presented in that form.”

From March 24 to June 10, NATO—lacking any UN mandate, and confronting opposition from most of the world, including the populations of many NATO states—did the unthinkable. It bombed a European capital for the first time since 1945. This war crime produced, according to Human Rights Watch, around 500 civilians deaths. Others put the civilian death toll as a result of the bombing of Yugoslavia (excluding the province of Kosovo) at up to 5,700.

The bombing ended when Russia mediated an agreement whereby Belgrade would do what it had already promised to do: withdraw its forces from Kosovo. But it still did not agree to NATO occupation of the whole country. The U.S., having wreaked havoc, accepted a deal it could have accepted before the bombing. It established Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, the largest U.S. army base outside the U.S. And in 2008—having long accepted the fact that Kosovo remained a province of Serbia under international law, the U.S. and many of its allies recognized Kosovo as an independent state. (Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described Kosovo as a “sui generis” case.)

Russia, now under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, expressed outrage at this move at the expense of a traditional Slav ally, warning that if the U.S. could do that, Russia might accept the claims of independence of the breakaway Georgian republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (as it since has).

Today Kosovo’s main exports are economic refugees and heroin from Afghan opium. It is one of the most corrupt societies on earth, and a failed state. Naturally it has applied for NATO membership. What role did Hillary play in all this? She boasts about it, in interviews and in her memoir. While traveling in Africa in March 1999, she called Bill and, as she declares: “I urged him to bomb.”

One must also mention the Clintons’ bombing of Iraq in December 1998. Recall that Albright was agitating for war at this time, suggesting a staged U-2 incident. Iraq had acceded to intrusive visits of UN arms inspectors since the end of the first Gulf War but suspended cooperation in January 2008 charging (validly) that the UNSCOM inspectors included spies for the U.S. Diplomatic intervention by UN chief Kofi Annan restored the inspections regime. But when inspectors demanded access to Baath party headquarters in August, Baghdad balked. President Clinton then used this as a pretext to bomb Iraq as his predecessor had.

Clinton first ordered the UN inspectors out (so as to escape the immanent bombing campaign), falsely telling the world that Saddam had expelled them. Dozens of civilians were killed in the three-day otherwise inconsequential mission.

In the interim (October 31) Bill Clinton signed the neocon-authored Iraq Liberation Act declaring it U.S. policy to “support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.” This directly paved the way to the law authorizing the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The Senate Years (2001-2008)

Hillary Clinton was an unremarkable senator, sponsoring 363 bills, only three of which (inconsequential ones at that, renaming or designating historic sites) became law. She sat on five committees, including the Armed Services Committee. In her latter capacity she garnered the designation (in 2005, from the Village Voice) of “Mama Warbucks.” She was commended by fellow committee member (and fellow hawk) Republican Rep. Newt Gingrich, as “very competent, very professional, very intelligently moving towards the center, very shrewdly and effectively serving on the Armed Services Committee.”

Curiously, in her recent book Hard Choices, she says almost nothing about her Senate years. As Byron York in the Washington Examiner puts it, “Clinton was a lackluster, team-player senator. There was just one big moment in her career as a lawmaker—her vote to authorize U.S. forces to go to war in Iraq—and it’s one many of her supporters would like to forget.”

She was not just a supporter, she was an avid supporter and a strong proponent of now discredited lies. In a speech on the Senate floor in 2002 she declared: “I believe the facts that have brought us to this fateful vote are not in doubt. Saddam Hussein is a tyrant who has tortured and killed his own people, even his own family members, to maintain his iron grip on power. He used chemical weapons on Iraqi Kurds and on Iranians, killing over 20,000 people.”

And: “In the four years since the inspectors left [she doesn’t mention that they left because Bill Clinton told them to, before he bombed], intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members… “

Hillary began backing off on her vote to authorize war in 2005 but didn’t truly repudiate it until the political requirements of the campaign against Obama forced to confess error as late as 2008. 

Madame Secretary (2009-2012)

The newly elected President Obama, thinking to emulate the example of Abraham Lincoln (who had appointed his archrival William H.  Seward in the 1860  Republican primaries) chose his rival Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state after his own election. He perhaps came to regret it, and has implicitly criticized her recommendations for war in Syria and her role in the (disastrous) NATO destruction of the Libyan state in 2011. But compared to her insignificant record (her vaunted “experience” to support her current power aspirations) as senator, her history as Madame Secretary is rich.

This after all was her main gig, her main opportunity to show her stuff. What she showed was the same old propensity to use military force and threats. She was encouraged in this by her newfound friend Henry Kissinger, secretary of state under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and associated with the secret bombing and invasion of Cambodia in 1970; the 1971 “tilt towards Pakistan” in which U.S. arms were used to slaughter civilians in what became Bangladesh; the Christmas bombings of Hanoi and Haiphong in 1972; the coup that brought down President Allende in Chile in 1973; the bloody Indonesian seizure of East Timor in 1975, etc. He is widely perceived in the world as a war criminal.

But Clinton has written that while secretary of state she “relied on [Kissinger’s] counsel. He checked in with me regularly, sharing astute observations about foreign leaders and sending me written reports on his travels.” Clinton has even praised Kissinger’s most recent book, concluding a laudatory review with this paean to his wisdom: “America, [Kissinger] reminds us, succeeds by standing up for our values, not shirking them, and leads by engaging peoples and societies, the sources of legitimacy, not governments alone.”

Would these be, for example, the values of the bombing of dikes during the Vietnam War? The Nixon tapes include a conversation before the Christmas bombing between Nixon and Kissinger. The president asks, “How many did we kill in Laos?” Kissinger replies: “In the Laotian thing we killed about ten, fifteen [thousand].”

Nixon turns to “the attack in the North that we have in mind, power plants, whatever’s left — petroleum, the docks. And, I still think we ought to take out the dikes now. Will that drown people?” Kissinger replies: “About two hundred thousand people.” This is presumably what Hillary calls not shirking from your values.

And how does Kissinger, this champion of coups and invasions, engage peoples as the source of legitimacy? Following the election of the socialist Salvador Allende in Chile in 1970 Kissinger declared that he “didn’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.” The CIA set about planning the bloody military coup of September 11, 1973. Years of fascism ensued under Augusto Pinochet.

How can candidate Clinton so validate this discredited figure? Kissinger for his part returns the compliments, telling USA Today that “I’ve known [Clinton] for many years now, and I respect her intellect.” He declares that she ran the State Department “in the most effective way” he had ever seen.

But to turn to Hillary’s record as secretary of state.   Among her achievements one must list further provocations of Russia, further havoc in the Middle East, the blessing of a coup in Honduras, and unnecessary confrontation with China. Let us begin with her advocacy of more war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Iraq. At the end of his presidency George W. Bush negotiated, with the government the U.S. had midwifed into power after the invasion, an agreement to withdraw all U.S. troops by the end of 2011. This agreement reflected the opposition of Iraqi politicians and civil society to the continued, unwelcome U.S. presence. (Wasn’t a new poll just published, showing that over 90% of Iraqi youth regard the U.S. as an enemy?) Obama was obliged by law to withdraw the troops as scheduled, because the people had never liked them and did not want them there, in their country.

Still, he and his secretary of state tried to convince Baghdad to agree to a remnant force of 10,000 troops. Only in October 2011, after President Nouri al-Maliki stated unequivocally that no troops could be accepted if they were shielded from Iraqi law, did Washington relent. Obama had in any case called the war “dumb” and focused from his first days in office on the “war of necessity” in Afghanistan.

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