by Shelley Pineo-Jensen, Ph.D. One of the attacks against Senator Bernie Sanders is that he lacks the kind of foreign policy experience claimed by the former Secretary of State. And yet for me, Bernie’s principled approach to foreign policy is one of the many reasons I am a Berniac.
Experience versus Judgement First I would like to dispel the notion that Bernie Sanders doesn’t have enough foreign policy experience to be president. In fact, Bernie Sanders has more foreign policy experience than Barack Obama did when he became president and more than the former first lady had when she became secretary of state.
On Jan 18, 2016 Bernie talked about experience versus judgement, saying that Hillary supported the 2002 Iraq War, “the most crucial foreign policy issue of our time.” He went on to say: “I think on the crucial foreign policy issue of our time, it turns out that Secretary Clinton, with all of her experience, was wrong and I was right. Experience is important. Dick Cheney had a lot of experience. A whole lot of people have experience but do not necessarily have the right judgment. I think I have the right judgment to conduct sensible foreign policy.”
Sanders on Clinton's Foreign Policy Experience: 'Dick Cheney Had a Lot of Experience'
As Bernie hammered away at this point in the debates, the Hillary crowd grew restive and invented a drinking game that offended Veterans for Bernie. The group wrote on their website that “In a brief moment of clarity, supporters of Hillary Clinton have revealed their genuine disdain for military men and women, and are now mockingBernie Sandersfor his vote against the invasion of Iraq (which Clinton voted in favor of).” The article posted tweets from Clinton supporters saying things like “Take a drink every time #Bernie says Iraq war.... You'll be drunk.”
The article went on to claim that “People who joke about America’s invasion of Iraq (aka the biggest foreign policy disaster in decades) have no business labeling themselves Progressive.” Supporters of Hillary turn a blind eye to the disaster that was the Iraq War. This issue is important to me; I flew from the West Coast to Washington D.C. to join a 100,000-citizen-strong protest the Sunday before the preemptive attack that has so far killed half a million Iraqi citizens and over 4,000 American troops. Watch Hillary admit that she “made a mistake, plain and simple” and laugh while she says “It just goes to show how hard it is to make these choices.”
Hillary Clinton calls Iraq a "Business Opportunity" Warning: Video contains graphic images#FewMayKnow
Hillary Clinton calls Iraq a "Business Opportunity" by Nate Mezmer
Poor Choices in Advisers: Henry Kissinger At the 2/11/16 debate, Bernie brought up Hillary’s poor choice in advisers, singling out her identification of Henry Kissinger as an esteemed advisor or mentor. Bernie replied: “Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country.” The exchange turned ugly when Hillary, attempted to defend Kissinger by claiming him as an important figure in opening up trade to China. To this Bernie retorted, “You’re right, he opened up relations with China, and now pushed various type of trade agreements, resulting in American workers losing their jobs as corporations moved to China. The terrible, authoritarian, Communist dictatorship he warned us about, now he’s urging companies to shut down and move to China. Not my kind of guy.”
SANDERS: Where the secretary and I have a very profound difference, in the last debate — and I believe in her book — very good book, by the way — in her book and in this last debate, she talked about getting the approval or the support or the mentoring of Henry Kissinger. Now, I find it rather amazing, because I happen to believe that Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country. I am proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend. I will not take advice from Henry Kissinger. And in fact, Kissinger’s actions in Cambodia, when the United States bombed that country, overthrew Prince Sihanouk, created the instability for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge to come in, who then butchered some 3 million innocent people, one of the worst genocides in the history of the world. So count me in as somebody who will not be listening to Henry Kissinger.
CLINTON: Well, I know journalists have asked who you do listen to on foreign policy, and we have yet to know who that is.
SANDERS: Well, it ain’t Henry Kissinger. That’s for sure.
CLINTON: That’s fine. That’s fine. You know, I listen to a wide variety of voices that have expertise in various areas. I think it is fair to say, whatever the complaints that you want to make about him are, that with respect to China, one of the most challenging relationships we have, his opening up China and his ongoing relationships with the leaders of China is an incredibly useful relationship for the United States of America. So if we want to pick and choose — and I certainly do — people I listen to, people I don’t listen to, people I listen to for certain areas, then I think we have to be fair and look at the entire world, because it’s a big, complicated world out there.
SANDERS: It is.
CLINTON: And, yes, people we may disagree with on a number of things may have some insight, may have some relationships that are important for the president to understand in order to best protect the United States.
SANDERS: I find — I mean, it’s just a very different, you know, historical perspective here. Kissinger was one of those people during the Vietnam era who talked about the domino theory. Not everybody remembers that. You do. I do. The domino theory, you know, if Vietnam goes, China, da, da, da, da, da, da, da. That’s what he talked about, the great threat of China. And then, after the war, this is the guy who, in fact, yes, you’re right, he opened up relations with China, and now pushed various type of trade agreements, resulting in American workers losing their jobs as corporations moved to China. The terrible, authoritarian, Communist dictatorship he warned us about, now he’s urging companies to shut down and move to China. Not my kind of guy.
Poor Choices in Advisers: Madeline Albright Hillary has also trotted out Madeline Albright to highlight her foreign policy experience as well as her feminism. Unfortunately, Madeline is no longer the poster child for either case. She has attracted criticism for her advocacy of sanctions on Iraq, particularly for a comment she made on 60 Minutes in 1996. She was asked by Lesly Stahl about the half a million children who died as a result of U.S. sanctions against Iraq, “more than died in Hiroshima . . . Is the price worth it?” Madeline responded “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.”
Madeline drew the wrath of women of all ages with a poorly worded attempt to shame young female voters into voting for a woman, saying “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” Whether it is rationalizing bad foreign policy or threatening young women who support Bernie Sanders with eternal damnation, bringing Madeline out as an icon we can trust is further indication of Hillary’s insensitivity to the results of her actions. Part of her response to the “place in hell” remark was ““Good grief, we’re getting offended by everything these days! People can’t say anything without offending somebody.”
Immigration Law: Legalized Slavery At the Milwaukee Debate on 2/11/16, Bernie was forced to defend his 2007 vote against immigration reform. Hillary said: “I voted for comprehensive immigration reform in 2007. Senator Sanders voted against it at that time.” Bernie came back strong, with an apt critique of the hidden harms of the law: “In terms of 2007 immigration reform, yeah, I did vote against it. I voted against it because the Southern Poverty Law Center, among other groups, said that the guest-worker programs that were embedded in this agreement were akin to slavery. Akin to slavery, where people came into this country to do guest work were abused, were exploited, and if they stood up for their rights, they’d be thrown out of this country. So it wasn’t just me who opposed it. It was LULAC, one of the large Latino organizations in this country. It was the AFL-CIO. It was some of the most progressive members of the United States Congress who opposed it for that reason.”
Immigration Law: Honduras Sanders: “Secretary Clinton, I do have a disagreement here. If my memory is correct, I think when we saw children coming from these horrendous, horrendously violent areas of Honduras and neighboring countries, people who are fleeing drug violence and cartel violence, I thought it was a good idea to allow those children to stay in this country. That was not, as I understand it, the secretary’s position.
Clinton: “. . . we also had to send a message to families and communities in Central America not to send their children on this dangerous journey in the hands of smugglers.”
Sanders: “. . . But in terms of the children, I don’t know to whom you’re sending a message. Who are you sending a message to? I think we welcome them into this country and do the best we can to help them get their lives together.”
War Monger: Serving the Military Industrial Complex Bernie has a record of advocacy for a foreign policy that serves the interests of the American people rather than monied interests. His political money comes from workers and their unions. He has said, “If you can’t afford to take care of your veterans, then don’t go to war” and was presented with The American Legion’s “Patriot Award” in recognition of “great deeds and exemplary acts of service.”
"Sanders’ 'dedication to those who have borne the battle and their families is unquestionable,' the citation said. 'When systemic problems plaguing the Veterans Health Administration were brought to your attention, you immediately ordered hearings and introduced legislation to improve the lives of patients and those trying to access care. While supportive of the temporary use of vouchers for veterans who live in remote areas or have waited too long to receive a VA medical appointment, you are a true champion of the need for a strong Veterans Affairs health-care system and have been a powerful critic of attempts to privatize the Department of Veterans Affairs and its essential services. Your commitment to bringing accountability, transparency and accessibility to VA is highly commendable.'" Hillary on the other hand, has received more money from arms and military service companies than any other candidate during the 2016 presidential campaign, data from Open Secrets shows. The biggest donors were Northrop Grumman and two of the top ten arms companies in the world, Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
"All but one of the world’s 10 biggest arms producers have contributed to Clinton’s previous campaigns, giving her — along with the top Republican receiver Ted Cruz — a significant margin over the other candidates. . . . Most of the funding is channeled through Political Action Committees, which have no limits to how much they donate. About 18 percent comes from individual contributions, totaling almost US$10 million between all of the companies." Hillary’s campaign released a letter in January in which 10 foreign policy experts criticized Bernie Sanders. An inspection of the experts returned the information “that fully half of the former State Department officials and ambassadors who signed the letter, and who are now backing Clinton, are now enmeshed in the military contracting establishment, which has benefited tremendously from escalating violence around the world, particularly in the Middle East.”
Bernie’s Foreign Policy Orientation On his website, Bernie has taken positions on a variety of issues, including foreign affairs policy. On War and Peace, he wrote: "We live in a difficult and dangerous world, and there are no easy or magical solutions. As President and Commander-in-Chief, I will defend this nation, its people, and America’s vital strategic interests, but I will do it responsibly. America must defend freedom at home and abroad, but we must seek diplomatic solutions before resorting to military action. While force must always be an option, war must be a last resort, not the first option." He further established a list of four principle ideas. “As President, Sen. Sanders will:
Move away from a policy of unilateral military action, and toward a policy of emphasizing diplomacy, and ensuring the decision to go to war is a last resort.
Ensure that any military action we do engage in has clear goals, is limited in scope, and whenever possible provides support to our allies in the region.
Close Guantanamo Bay, rein in the National Security Agency, abolish the use of torture, and remember what truly makes America exceptional: our values.
Expand our global influence by promoting fair trade, addressing global climate change, providing humanitarian relief and economic assistance, defending the rule of law, and promoting human rights.
Bernie Sanders has both the experience and the judgement to lead us into a future where the United States no longer engages in peremptory attacks on other nations that serve the key purpose of enriching the Military Industrial Complex, at the cost of the lives of U.S. soldiers and other humans. This is a candidate worth fighting for.
Fang, Lee; The Intercept; Half the Foreign Policy Experts Signing Clinton’s Anti-Sanders Letter Have Ties to Military Contractors; (1/21/16); https://theintercept.com/2016/01/21/clinton-foreign-policy-experts/
Goodman, H.A.; Huffpost Politics; 4,486 American Soldiers Have Died in Iraq. President Obama Is Continuing a Pointless and Deadly Quagmire.; (11/17/15); http://www.huffingtonpost.com/h-a-goodman/4486-american-soldiers-ha_b_5834592.html
Mahajan, Rahul; FAIR Farness & Accuracy in Reporting ‘We Think the Price Is Worth It: Media uncurious about Iraq policy's effects--there or here; (1/1/01); http://fair.org/extra-online-articles/we-think-the-price-is-worth-it/
Manker, Tyson; Veterans for Bernie; Clinton Supporters Mock Iraq: “Take a Drink”; (February 2016); http://vetsforbernie.org/2016/02/clinton-fans-mock-iraq-vote/
Ross, Chuck; The Daily Caller; Madeleine Albright Tells Young Women Voters ‘There’s A Special Place In Hell’ For Them If They Don’t Support Hillary; (2/6/16); http://dailycaller.com/2016/02/06/madeleine-albright-tells-young-women-voters-theres-a-special-place-in-hell-for-them-if-they-dont-support-hillary-video/#ixzz40A3GhGJ0
Sanders, Bernie; berniesanders.com; War and Peace; https://berniesanders.com/issues/war-and-peace/
teleSUR; Mint Press News; Clinton Tops List Of Arms Company Campaign Contributions: U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was also a favorite of the arms producing giants during her 2006 senate campaign; (12/15/15); http://www.mintpressnews.com/clinton-tops-list-of-arms-company-donations-this-content-was-originally-published-by-telesur-at-the-following-address-httpwww-telesurtv-netenglishnewsclinton-tops-list-of-arms-company-donat/212084/
The American Legion; Sanders, Miller receive Legion’s Patriot Award; (6/30/15); http://www.legion.org/pressrelease/224420/sanders-miller-receive-legion%E2%80%99s-patriot-award
The New York Times; Transcript of the Democratic Presidential Debate in Milwaukee; (2/11/16); http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/12/us/politics/transcript-of-the-democratic-presidential-debate-in-milwaukee.html?smid=fb-share
Vergano, Dan; National Geographic, Half-Million Iraqis Died in the War, New Study Says; (10/16/13); http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/10/131015-iraq-war-deaths-survey-2013/
Wagner, John; The Washington Post; Clinton blew ‘the most crucial foreign policy issue,’ Sanders says in Iowa; (1/19/16); https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/01/19/clinton-blew-the-most-crucial-foreign-policy-issue-sanders-says-in-iowa/
Yuhas, Alan; The Guardian; Clinton defends Albright and Steinem apologises as sexism claims dominate Democratic race; (2/7/160; http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/feb/07/hillary-clinton-defends-madeleine-albright-women-female-voters