Though it’s been almost three weeks, Hillary Clinton’s vote for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment still sours the stomach. In Sunday’s New York Times Week in Review, Helene Cooper terms it “more hawkish than even most of the Bush administration has been willing to venture so far.” The bill, of course, branded Iran’s 125,000-member Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization.
Why, Hillary, especially when you’ve been drifting toward the port side on Iraq?
For starters, the usual: It solidifies “crucial support from the pro-Israel lobby,” Ms. Cooper writes. Perhaps more to the point, according to Clinton backers she quotes, Hillary “has already shifted from primary mode, when she needs to guard against critics from the left, to general election mode, when she must guard against critics from the right.”
In effect, Hillary’s telling her base: “We’re all adults here. I just need to do this to win the election. You know I would never support war with Iran.” Emphasizing this, she said that the 2001 resolution authorizing force against Iraq “in no way” does the same for Iran. “Nothing in this resolution changes that.”
In other words, watch what I say, not what I do. Uh, hasn’t she got that backward?
Essentially, Hillary is asking us to just trust her on this. Too bad trust is an even more of an issue for her than her inferiority complex about national defense. As Andrew Sullivan wrote back in July, “It’s quite an achievement — to evoke distrust almost equally across the spectrum.”
The election aside, there’s a larger issue at play. Ms. Cooper quotes Karim Sadjapour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: “What Senator Clinton and the other legislators who voted for this bill don’t seem to realize is that the Revolutionary Guards are not Al Qaeda. Many are conscripts taken from the regular army.”
First of all, applying the word terrorist to what turns out be the largest branch of the Iranian army waters down the term terrorist. An army is large and diffuse; terrorists are few and concentrated. Everybody knows that.
Second, despite a claim by General Petraeus last Sunday that, “There’s no question, absolutely no question that Iran is providing advanced RPGs” (as well as a laundry list of weapons he cites), the jury is still out on if and with what the Iranian government is supplying Iraqi insurgents.
The day before the vote on the amendment, journalist Gareth Porter, as much a national resource in his own way as Seymour Hersh, summed it up best (edited for conciseness). “1. The administration has not come forward with a single piece of concrete evidence to support the claim that the Iranian government has been involved in the training, arming or advising of Iraqi Shiite militias. 2. The U.S. intelligence community has not endorsed the argument that the Iranian government was responsible for the rise in Shiite military activity in Iraq. 3. The allegation that only Iran had the capability to manufacture explosively formed penetrators has been proven to be untrue.”
To see how he fleshes out these and other points, read, “The Evidence against the Lieberman-Kyl Amendment.”
In other words, in its sheer ignorance, the amendment paves the way for the administration to ape Iraq with Iran. Why not attack another country on the unproven pretexts of nuclear weapon possession and sponsoring terrorism against us? And what’s a little blithe disregard for the consequences between friends?
The accusation against the Revolutionary Guard is a blot on the credibility of all associated with it. Recall that senators ranging from Democrats Feingold and Kerry to Republicans Lugar and Hagel disassociated themselves form the amendment. By having signed it, a possible future president does nothing to make foreign leaders think her intellect is a significant improvement over Bush’s.
Finally, in transitioning from “primary form” to “general election form” well before the first primary, Hillary jeopardizes her very nomination. If she’s not careful, she’ll find herself all dressed up to run with nowhere to go.