by rahnuma ahmed
The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton while on a surprise visit to embattled Libya, shows the V-sign as she poses with NATO-funded Libyan “rebels.” October 2011.
The US secretary of State Hillary Clinton is coming to Dhaka today, on a two day visit. Press reports inform us that her initial itinerary had involved attending the fourth round of US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing on May 3-4. That, the decision to visit Bangladesh (May 4-5) and India (May 7-8) was “sudden.” A ”surprise stopover.”
Ms Clinton’s visit to Beijing was preceded by the Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng’s escape from house arrest to the US Embassy; while the western media furore has abated somewhat after US officials stepped in and brokered a deal on his behalf with the Chinese government, deep concern in western circles over his safety and security continue to be expressed.
Forty-year old blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng — who has suffered intimidation, beatings, jail and extralegal house arrest — escaped from being confined at home on April 22, 2012 and took refuge in the US embassy. He has since been escorted to a Beijing hospital where he was reunited with his family. The deal was brokered by US officials with the Chinese government. Chen’s release led Hillary Clinton to state, ”I am pleased that we were able to facilitate Chen Guangcheng’s stay and departure from the US Embassy in a way that reflected his choices and our values” (May 2, 2012).
After being released, Chen, on May 3, phoned into a Congressional hearing to detail his predicament. He has also “begged” that he wants to leave China with his family “for the US on Hillary Clinton’s plane.” This has been followed by a Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry statement on its website which says that the blind human rights activist may apply to “study abroad.” Interestingly, his dramatic journey to the US embassy — described as “mission impossible” — was aided by US officials. The Guangcheng story has generated international headlines; while China experts, journalists and human rights activists discuss how the conflict may be further resolved, Chen has expressed his desire to meet Ms Clinton in person. To seek “more help from her.” To “thank her face to face.” The New York University meanwhile, has been kind enough to extend an invitation to Chen. (ABC News, May 4, 2012).
When Ms Clinton mouths “our values,” one is forced to ask, pray, what may these be? Or, more pointedly, how far do these extend? Whom do they exclude?
Obviously not to the Palestinians, in whose case, as Philip Weiss reminds us, the US chooses its “interests,” over its (purported) “values.” Former State Department official Anne-Marie Slaughter had said this spring, “Whenever I send out a [twitter] message about the suffering, the detention without trial, civilian deaths by armed force in all these countries, I now get messages back that say to me, What about the Palestinians?”
Scores of Palestinian prisoners are on hunger strike presently but not a peep out of the US embassy there. No dramatic “mission impossible” rescue efforts either. Nor do State Department officials dare write about the rights of the Palestinians, when they are in its employ.
Clinton’s “our values” statement also reminds us, writes Weiss, that Israel has blocked the investigation of the massacre of 21 members of the al-Samouni family during the 2009 Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. That the US has helped Israel by quashing the UN’s Goldstone Report which had characterised the attack on the family as a “war crime.”
According to the B’Tselem’s summary of the events that led to the family’s massacre:
“On 4 January 2009, soldiers gathered about 100 members of the extended a-Samuni family in the house of Wael a-Samuni, in the a-Zeitun neighborhood of Gaza City. The next morning, at 6:30 A.M., when a few members of the family tried to leave the house, the military fired a missile or shell at them, killing Muhammad a-Samuni and wounding two other persons. A few seconds later, the military fired two more shells or missiles that hit the house directly. The house collapsed on its occupants, killing 21 persons, including many women and children, and injuring dozens of other family members.”
The Red Cross, B’Tselem and other human rights organisations had repeatedly requested that they be allowed to help remove injured persons, but permission had been granted two days later. By then, four wounded family members had bled to death. Of the 21 killed, nine were children, ranging in ages from 6 months to 16 years (Richard Silverstein, “IDF Closes Book on al-Samouni Killings, Whitewashes Massacre,” May 3, 2012).
On May 2, 2012 the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) informed B’Tselem that it intended to close the investigation. While “mistakes [had been] made [which had] led to unfortunate consequences,” these had been “inadvertent.” In other words, “not culpable.”
Similar bouts of amnesia which exclude people selectively from “our values” occurred when Ms Clinton, while testifying before a Senate committee on February 28, 2012, stated that Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad could be branded a “war criminal.”
“Based on definitions of war criminal and crimes against humanity, there would be an argument to be made that he [Assad] would fit into that category.”
But this is part of the American political and media establishment’s rhetoric, writes Bill Van Auken, aimed at winning western public support for “yet another imperialist intervention in the Middle East.” A regime change venture dressed up as a “crusade for human rights.”
When the US Secretary of State speaks of war criminals and war crimes, which definition does she rely on? It could well be the International Criminal Court’s legislation, largely drawn from the Nuremberg tribunal, where war crimes are defined as a number of acts—including murder, extermination, torture, imprisonment and enforced disappearance of persons—knowingly “committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population…” (Bill Van Auken, Hillary Clinton and Middle East War Crimes, Global Research, March 3, 2012).
Further, it could well be that the urge to define Assad as a war criminal gained ground after the 27-day seige of the Baba Amr neighbourhood of Homs, seized by armed militias, who, it must be noted, abducted and murdered non-Sunni residents of the city — had ended. The US-backed rebels were forced to pull out on March 1, since Syrian military strength had proven to be superior.
Hundreds of Syrians were undoubtedly killed in the month-long siege. Many of them had been unarmed civilians.
But when twenty times as many unarmed civilians had been killed over a shorter period, only 400 miles away from Homs, had similar outrage been expressed by Ms Clinton?
When the entire city of Fallujah in Iraq had been turned into a free-fire zone? When inhabitants had been warned to leave but men and boys had been turned back? Had been “forced to face an onslaught of napalm, cluster bombs, white phosphorus shells and other munitions” which had incinerated their victims? Had brought their homes crashing down on them?
Of the fifty thousand Fallujans who had been either unwilling or unable to flee, more than 6,000 had died.
Seven years on, Fallujans suffer an “epidemic of birth defects, childhood cancers and other ailments caused by depleted uranium shells and other ordnance dumped on the city.”
There are greater war criminals around than Syria’s Assad. Before you start pointing fingers, make sure your hands are clean.
While it is true that the Bush administration was in power when the Falluja massacre had taken place, it is also true that one woman had agreed with all the lies uttered by president Bush, as a YouTube video available here demonstrates http://prisonplanet.com/articles/november2007/271107Warmonger.htm.
Bush: [the] Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons (July 10, 2002).
Hillary Clinton: Saddam Hussein has worked, rebuilt his chemical and biological weapon stock (October 10, 2002).
Bush: Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists including members of al-Qaeda (January 28, 2003).
Hillary Clinton: He [Saddam] has also given aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists including al-Qaeda members (October 10, 2002).
Bush: [the] regime is seeking a nuclear bomb (January 28, 2003).
Hillary Clinton: and [Saddam] will, keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. So, it is with conviction that I support this resolution as being in the best interest of our nation, it is a vote that puts awesome responsibility in the hands of our President (October 10, 2002).
Bush: this war will end in the defeat of totalitarians (August 31, 2006).
Hillary Clinton: any vote that might lead to war should be hard. But I cast it with conviction (October 10, 2002).
It is also true that Hillary Clinton later lied. That, as a Democratic contendor for the post of president in the 2008 elections, she had said, “If I had been president in October of 2002, I would never have asked for authority to divert our attention from Afghanistan to Iraq and I certainly would never have started this war.”
Hillary Clinton’s feminism has been called to question as well, for, when servile commentators gush over her “feminist foreign policy”, over how she “has gone out of her way to press feminist issues” — the growing gender imbalance in China because of the high abortion rate of female foetuses, sexual violence as a weapon of war (Democratic Republic of Congo), the need to provide clean cooking stoves to save women from smoke inhalation which kills 1.9 million per year (Madeleine Bunting, “Clinton is proving that a feminist foreign policy is possible — and works,” Guardian, January 16, 2011), others point out how, over 4 million Iraqis, mostly women and children, have been turned into refugees. How, Ms Clinton seems gung-ho ready to do it to Iranian women as well, having recently warned Iran that time is “running out for diplomacy” (Guardian, March 31, 2012).
Despite the fact that the IAEA’s latest reports on Iran’s nuclear programmes, and congressional testimony from the director of National Intelligence, asserts that “there is no strong evidence that Iran has decided to restart its nuclear program” (Reuters, March 23, 2012).
Warmonger, or, maybe, as some insist, a war criminal? I leave it to you to decide.
Published in New Age, Monday, May 5, 2012, a special writeup on the occasion of Hillary Clinton’s visit to Bangladesh.
Hillary Clinton’s address to Bangladeshi youth. Live at www.drik.tv at 11:00 am BST. 6th May 2012Show