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Home > Tamils - A Trans State Nation > Beyond Tamil Nation: One World > The Strength of an Idea > Nations & Nationalism > International Relations & the Age of Empires in Denial > "You Can't Lump All Terrorists Together" - Hillary Clinton

International Relations
in the Age of Empire

"You Can't Lump All Terrorists Together"
- Hillary Clinton Speaks Out

Michael Tomasky asks Hillary Clinton about Iraq,
the legacy of the Cold War, Mukasey and ceding executive powers

Guardian Unlimited, October 23, 2007

[Comment by tamilnation.org Hillary Clinton's remarks are welcome - and given the culture encouraged by the present US administration, her remarks are courageous and opportune.

Hillary Clinton is right to recognise that terrorism is a tool 'that has been utilized throughout history to achieve certain objectives' and she is right to spell out the need to consider separately the ends that may be sought to be achieved in each case - and to respond accordingly.

We can also empathise with her when she says that the US "can have an approach that tries to project power and authority in an appropriate way that draws on all aspects of American power, that inspires and attracts as much as coerces." Said that, we believe that a principle centered approach which will inspire and attract may also need to draw a distinction between violence and terrorism. The two words are not synonymous and much confusion arises by conflating the two. All violence is not terrorism and an US approach which liberates political language will also help liberate peoples who have taken up arms as a last resort in their struggle for freedom from oppressive alien rule.

We believe that the long term strategic interests of the US, whether in the Indian Ocean region or elsewhere will benefit by a foreign policy which 'inspires and attracts as much as coerces'. If the US aspires to play a lead role in an emergent multi lateral world, we believe that that leadership will not come simply by the display of military might and economic power. There is a need to defend the very real values that a people stand for and speak from the heart to their hearts. We need both mind and heart - neither a desiccated calculating machine nor a mindless emotion. It is the marriage of power with principle that will secure leadership. A leader needs to secure the trust and respect of those whom she seeks to lead - trust in her integrity and respect for the skills that she is able to bring to the task of achieving shared goals. The response that she will then receive will be overwhelming. This is true of individuals. It is true of business organisations. It is also true of countries.

See also The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation

Q. I want to start with some questions about foreign policy and terrorism. If you become president you'll enter the White House with far more power than, say, your husband had. What is your view of this? And what specific powers might you relinquish as president, or renegotiate with Congress - for example the power to declare a US citizen an enemy combatant?

Well, I think it is clear that the power grab undertaken by the Bush-Cheney administration has gone much further than any other president and has been sustained for longer. Other presidents, like Lincoln, have had to take on extraordinary powers but would later go to the Congress for either ratification or rejection. But when you take the view that they're not extraordinary powers, but they're inherent powers that reside in the office and therefore you have neither obligation to request permission nor to ask for ratification, we're in a new territory here. And I think that I'm gonna have to review everything they've done because I've been on the receiving end of that. There were a lot of actions which they took that were clearly beyond any power the Congress would have granted or that in my view that was inherent in the constitution. There were other actions they've taken which could have obtained congressional authorization but they deliberately chose not to pursue it as a matter of principle.

Q. I guess I'm asking, can a president, once in the White House, actually give up some of this power in the name of constitutional principle?

Oh, absolutely, Michael. I mean that has to be part of the review that I undertake when I get to the White House, and I intend to do that.

Q. Interesting. Liberal intellectuals and foreign policy thinkers have, since the start of the Iraq war, been engaged in debate about Iraq and the legacy of Cold War liberalism. Do you think the Iraq war was within the tradition we associate with Truman and Acheson?

You know, that's a very hard question to answer with any certainty or even full intellectual understanding because we are in a post-Cold War world, and I think that the argument has been missing that basic premise. It's hard to take what was a philosophy with respect to the use and containment of power during the Cold War and try to shoehorn it into a post-Cold War context. So I don't really think there is an easy or satisfying answer to that. You know, obviously, if you read my article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, I think we can have an approach that tries to project power and authority in an appropriate way that draws on all aspects of American power, that inspires and attracts as much as coerces, if we avoid false choices driven by ideology and theory. One of the lessons that I think we all should take out of the last six-and-a-half years is that ideologically driven foreign policy that is not rooted in a realistic assessment of the world as we find it today is not likely to result in any positive outcome.

Q. Yeah. Do you think that the terrorists hate us for our freedoms, or do you think they have specific geopolitical objectives?

Well, I believe that terrorism is a tool that has been utilized throughout history to achieve certain objectives. Some have been ideological, others territorial. There are personality-driven terroristic objectives. The bottom line is, you can't lump all terrorists together. And I think we've got to do a much better job of clarifying what are the motivations, the raisons d'�tre of terrorists. I mean, what the Tamil Tigers are fighting for in Sri Lanka, or the Basque separatists in Spain, or the insurgents in al-Anbar province may only be connected by tactics. They may not share all that much in terms of what is the philosophical or ideological underpinning. And I think one of our mistakes has been painting with such a broad brush, which has not been particularly helpful in understanding what it is we were up against when it comes to those who pursue terrorism for whichever ends they're seeking.

Q. It sounds like you're saying it's not particularly useful when Bush and others say terrorists hate us for our freedoms?

Well, some do. But is that a diagnosis? I don't think it's proven to be an effective one.

Q. Just quickly on Iraq. You know 67% of the respondents to a Washington Post poll said either cut off funding or attach it to timetables. Why is hard for Congress to do something 67% of American people say they want done?

Well, actually, I support that position, I have voted against funding, I have voted a number of times for timelines. But the bottom line is we don't have enough Republicans who are willing to depart from the president's policy. And we have a very narrow majority in the Senate, and until we can persuade enough Republicans to defeat a threatened filibuster we can't cut off funding, we can't attach timelines. I think the House could get a vote to attach timelines. I don't know whether they could take the step of cutting off funding, but they might be able to do it as a result of a series of actions. But in the Senate, you know, we have a 51-49 majority, and for most of the year, until Tim Johnson returned, we had a 50-49 majority. And you're not going to see the Republicans lining up until they're absolutely convinced that they have no alternative, and that's what we're trying to convince them of. We've got an election year coming up. I think we'll continue to try to push the president, but the political reality is we don't have the votes.

Q. I want to shift to a couple of domestic issues. In light of some of Michael Mukasey's comments Thursday on torture and waterboarding, will you vote to confirm him?

Well, I'm gonna look at the entire record of the hearing. His questions in a number of areas raised issues for me, so I have to look closely and see what I should do in terms of voting, and I will be doing that.

Q. What were you most concerned about?

Well there were a number of issues. Obviously, I do not believe in as expansive a definition of executive power, and some of the questions on the second day about presidential authority with respect to interrogation also concern me.

Q. Does his longtime friendship with Giuliani trouble you at all?


Q. You know one criticism among some progressives is that you're an overly cautious politician. Can you name one issue during your Senate tenure on which you risked political capital, really stuck your neck out in behalf of a progressive policy goal?

Well, I think, you know, voting against funding. What did we get, 12, 13, 14 votes? A lot of people who consider themselves very progressive who voted against authorizing the war in Iraq were not with me on that vote.

Q. Previously? On domestic issues?

Well, you know I've made so many votes, Mike, and I've tried to vote as I thought was the right thing to do, and if you look at my voting record as it's evaluated by most of the progressive organizations that look at voting records, I have a very, very high percentage of having voted with them, so I don't quite know what their concern is. You know, look what I'm doing in the campaign. I'm obviously running on my plans to change the country, I have very specific policies that I've rolled out day after day, I'm zeroing in on what I think should be done to restore America's leadership in the world and rebuild a strong and prosperous middle class and reform the government. And I think the results speak for themselves. We're getting an enormous amount of support because people understand that change is just a word if you don't have the strength and experience to make it happen.

Q. Last question. Will health reform come first in your administration before the 2010 midterms or will you start smaller?

A: It will be my highest priority as soon as I am inaugurated.

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