Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Hillary Clinton and the war in Iraq

Hillary Clinton’s announcement that she plans to run for the White House in 2008 has left anti-war campaigners cold. The Democratic Party senator from New York supported the 2003 invasion and, despite the fact that by a large majority the American people oppose the continuing occupation and the despatch of another 21,000 troops, has not changed her position. In November, the Democrats won control of both houses of Congress largely on the basis of the anti-war sentiment of the voters. This led Clinton to adjust her views ever so slightly, introducing a meaningless bill to put a cap on the number of soldiers that can be in Iraq. In essence, however, her position has not altered. Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq who in 2005 launched a militant anti-war movement against the Bush presidency, is one person who won’t cast her vote for Clinton should she succeed in winning the Democratic Party nomination. Sheehan recounts that in August 2005 she met with some Hollywood people who pretended that they supported her, but really were big money donors and supporters of Clinton. She was told that the senator was really against the war, but she was waiting for the "politically correct time" to come out against it. Sheehan, her sister and another mother who lost a son in Iraq, met Clinton in Washington the following month. Sheehan recounts: "We poured our hearts and souls out to her. We cried as we told her of our sons and our fear for the people of Iraq and the escalating body count of our brave young people. She sat there stone-faced and walked out and told Sarah Ferguson of the Village Voice, ‘My bottom line is that I don't want their sons to die in vain... I don't believe it's smart to set a date for withdrawal... I don't think it's the right time to withdraw’." By last November’s mid-term elections, the political clock’s ticking failed to overwhelm Clinton’s continuing silence. So Sheehan supported an anti-war candidate who, she says, "did amazing work dogging the senator and her supporters everywhere she went, and outing the fact that she is a Republican in Democratic clothing".

In the United States, like Britain, voters find it hard to distinguish between the major parties and Clinton’s political opportunism and cowardice only emphasises this point. On the eve of the State of the Union address by Bush, a new poll found Americans in a dark mood. Most believe the country is on the wrong track - a complete flip from five years ago, according to an AP-AOL News survey, when 68% thought the opposite. Only four in 10 think the country will be better off with Democrats in charge of the House and Senate, the poll suggests. Nearly two-third have no confidence that Congress and the White House can work together to solve the nation's problems. Meanwhile, as the death toll in Iraq grows, both in terms of civilians and US troops, two-thirds questioned disapprove of Bush’s handling of the situation. The last word goes to Sheehan, who wrote this week: "I again affirm my commitment to peace. I don't care if it is a man or a woman; Democrat or Republican; white or black; Christian, Jew or otherwise. I will only support a candidate who is courageously and uncompromisingly committed to peace. Hillary Clinton is not that person. She never will be. History speaks louder than words."

Paul Feldman, communications editor

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