Hillary Clinton’s ‘Hitler’ Overreach

Senior U.S. politicians, including Hillary Clinton and John McCain, are unleashing the “Hitler analogy” and siccing it on Russian President Putin in a reckless display of hyperbole, one with a troubling history of justifying unnecessary wars, writes Norman Solomon.

By Norman Solomon

The frontrunner to become the next President of the United States is playing an old and dangerous political game — comparing a foreign leader to Adolf Hitler. At a private charity event on Tuesday, in comments preserved on audio, Hillary Clinton talked about actions by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in the Crimea. “Now if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the ’30s,” she said.

The next day, Clinton gave the inflammatory story more oxygen when speaking at UCLA. She “largely stood by the remarks,” the Washington Post reported. Clinton “said she was merely noting parallels between Putin’s claim that he was protecting Russian-speaking minorities in Crimea and Hitler’s moves into Poland, Czechoslovakia and other parts of Europe to protect German minorities.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Clinton denied that she was comparing Putin with Hitler even while she persisted in comparing Putin with Hitler. “I just want people to have a little historic perspective,” she said. “I’m not making a comparison certainly, but I am recommending that we perhaps can learn from this tactic that has been used before.”

Yes indeed. Let’s learn from this tactic that has been used before — the tactic of comparing overseas adversaries to Hitler. Such comparisons by U.S. political leaders have a long history of fueling momentum for war.

“Surrender in Vietnam” would not bring peace, President Lyndon Johnson said at a news conference on July 28, 1965, as he tried to justify escalating the war, “because we learned from Hitler at Munich that success only feeds the appetite of aggression.”

After Ho Chi Minh was gone, the Hitler analogy went to other leaders of countries in U.S. crosshairs. The tag was also useful when attached to governments facing U.S.-backed armies.

Three decades ago, while Washington funded the Contra forces in Nicaragua, absurd efforts to smear the elected left-wing Sandinistas knew no rhetorical bounds. Secretary of State George Shultz said on Feb. 15, 1984, at a speech in Boston: “I’ve had good friends who experienced Germany in the 1930s go there and come back and say, ‘I’ve visited many communist countries, but Nicaragua doesn’t feel like that. It feels like Nazi Germany.’”

Washington embraced Panama’s Gen. Manuel Noriega as an ally, and for a while he was a CIA collaborator. But there was a falling out, and tension spiked in the summer of 1989. Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger said that drug trafficking by Noriega “is aggression as surely as Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland 50 years ago was aggression.” A U.S. invasion overthrew Noriega in December 1989.

In early August 1990, the sudden Iraqi invasion of Kuwait abruptly ended cordial relations between Washington and Baghdad. The two governments had a history of close cooperation during the 1980s. But President George H. W. Bush proclaimed that Saddam Hussein was “a little Hitler.” In January 1991, the U.S. government launched the Gulf War.

Near the end of the decade, Hillary Clinton got a close look at how useful it can be to conflate a foreign leader with Hitler, as President Bill Clinton and top aides repeatedly drew the parallel against Serbia’s president, Slobodan Milosevic. In late March 1999, the day before the bombing of Kosovo and Serbia began, President Clinton said in a speech: “And so I want to talk to you about Kosovo today but just remember this — it’s about our values. What if someone had listened to Winston Churchill and stood up to Adolf Hitler earlier?”

As the U.S.-led NATO bombing intensified, so did efforts to justify it with references to Hitler. “Clinton and his senior advisers harked repeatedly back to images of World War II and Nazism to give moral weight to the bombing,” the Washington Post reported. Vice President Al Gore chimed in for the war chorus, calling Milosevic “one of these junior-league Hitler types.”

Just a few years later, the George W. Bush administration cranked up a revival of Saddam-Hitler comparisons. They became commonplace. Five months before the invasion of Iraq, it was nothing extraordinary when a leading congressional Democrat pulled out all the stops.

“Had Hitler’s regime been taken out in a timely fashion,” said Rep. Tom Lantos, “the 51 million innocent people who lost their lives during the Second World War would have been able to finish their normal life cycles. Mr. Chairman, if we appease Saddam Hussein, we will stand humiliated before both humanity and history.”

From the Vietnam War to the Iraq War, facile and wildly inaccurate comparisons between foreign adversaries and Adolf Hitler have served the interests of politicians hell-bent on propelling the United States into war. Often, those politicians succeeded. The carnage and the endless suffering have been vast.

Now, Hillary Clinton is ratcheting up her own Hitler analogies. She knows as well as anyone the power they can generate for demonizing a targeted leader.

With the largest nuclear arsenals on the planet, the United States and Russia have the entire world on a horrific knife’s edge. Nuclear saber-rattling is implicit in what the prospective President Hillary Clinton has done in recent days, going out of her way to tar Russia’s president with a Hitler brush. Her eagerness to heighten tensions with Russia indicates that she is willing to risk war — and even nuclear holocaust — for the benefit of her political ambitions.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. Information about the documentary based on the book is at www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org.

9 comments for “Hillary Clinton’s ‘Hitler’ Overreach

  1. Ruth-Ann Radcliff
    March 15, 2014 at 21:42

    It is always amazing to me what short memories Americans have. We are still in the middle of the perpetual wars brought to us by Bush and Obama which have depleted not only human resources in the U.S., Iraq and Afghanistan and several other middle eastern countries, but also the monetary resources here and abroad. Another war should just about bankrupt our country, because we haven’t paid off our debt to the Chinese, and some others, yet. The only winners in another foreign adventure fiasco will be the military industrial complex. Of course, it is an election year so all of the cockroach politicians are crawling out the woodwork and blessing us with idiotic observations laced with plenty of self-righteous, sanctimonious indignation. Our country does not need to be involved in another useless war.

  2. D
    March 9, 2014 at 15:08

    She hit it on the head–this is EXACTLY what Hitler did

  3. Sharon Toji
    March 9, 2014 at 05:04

    While I agree that making generalized statements about every dictator on the block who indulges his cruel side being “a little Hitler,” is less than helpful in conducting diplomacy, historical references as specific as Hillary Clinton’s about the granting of citizenship to ethnic minorities in another country, as a possible pretext for invading that country, as Hitler did to Poland and Czechoslovakia, are helpful reminders. What else do we think Putin has in mind, especially since he has already sent in his troops and asked the Ukranian soldiers to give up their arms?

    F.G. Sanford’s comment about Hillary that “it takes one to know one,” (assuming he means that HIllary should possibly be equated with Hitler because she dares to make a correct historical reference in regard to a historical character) is the really reckless one. Hillary hatred seems to know no bounds, and men appear to love indulging in it.

    • F. G. Sanford
      March 9, 2014 at 10:10

      You seem to have little knowledge about actual “history”. By treaty agreement, Russia has the option to keep 25,000 troops in Ukraine. When the coup occurred, there were only 16,500 there. By supporting a neo-Nazi coup in Ukraine, the current authors of this disaster have given Putin the “green light” to send an additional 8,500 troops. By the way, do you really support the idea of providing aid to Nazis while our cities are crumbling, schools are closing and people are unemployed?

      • Jonny James
        March 9, 2014 at 16:56

        You are quite right sir. Amazing how effective the propaganda is. I believe the agreement you refer to is the “Budapest Memorandum” agreement of 1994.

        • JonnyJames
          March 9, 2014 at 23:56

          sorry, that would be the Partition Treaty in 1997

    • Dr. Frans B. Roos, Ph.D., J.D.
      March 9, 2014 at 14:45

      Another devote of Hillary Rodham Clinton a.k.a Madam Israel.
      Right or Wrong we women must stick together.
      No devote of Putin, just The Truth how thing really are or of how the handle fits in the spade.
      Unfortunately for neophytes there still are people around who know unadulterated History and will take time to bring it into the public domain.
      Thanks to F. G. Sanford.

  4. F. G. Sanford
    March 8, 2014 at 04:35

    Hillary’s hyperbole, if examined in real historical perspective, espouses a foreign policy doctrine with goals for Europe remarkably similar to those espoused by Karl Haushofer. Many of Haushofer’s ideas found their way into Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”. Ideas retooled, repackaged and resuscitated for today’s political marketplace appear to be flowing from Hillary’s mouth through the conduit of CFR thanks to Zbigniew Brzezinski. I often wonder that some meticulous researcher, some tireless and determined graduate student or some intrepid historian might even be able to find examples of Brzezinski’s work which suggest direct connection to the musings of Karl Haushofer. Strategic control of Eurasia is an idea unique to German “Geopolitik” of that era, and Brzezinski’s political imperatives seem to have Haushofer’s fingerprints all over them. So, when Hillary talks about Hitler, perhaps that old adage applies: “It takes one to know one”.

  5. Jonny James
    March 8, 2014 at 02:22

    Yes and speaking of the absurd
    The BBC jumped on the bandwagon and is stooping pretty low here. This is truly shameful, complete with pictures of Nazis and swastikas. Hillary must be well pleased.

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