Clinton Toned Down Her Hawkishness

Exclusive: Hillary Clinton’s strongest point in Monday’s debate may have been what she didn’t say, as she avoided a return to her hawkish rhetoric that has alienated many anti-war Democrats, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

By most traditional standards of marshaled facts and detailed proposals, Hillary Clinton “won” the first presidential debate over a sometimes rattled and erratic Donald Trump, but perhaps her best decision was what she chose not to say: she steered clear of her most hawkish rhetoric that has unnerved the anti-war Democratic base.

Except for some relatively restrained comments about Russia’s alleged role in hacking the Democratic National Committee’s emails, Clinton didn’t do what she has in some other venues, which is to engage in extreme Russia-bashing and to call for escalated U.S. military involvement in Syria.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. (Photo by Lorie Shaull, Wikipedia)

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. (Photo by Lorie Shaull, Wikipedia)

In her last debate with Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton also continued to use hyperbole to justify her key role in the U.S.-backed “regime change” in Libya in 2011. Last April, she called the ousted, tortured and murdered Muammar Gaddafi “genocidal” to justify his fate – when that was clearly untrue (as a recent British parliamentary report concluded).

Earlier this year before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Clinton promised to take the U.S.-Israeli relationship to “the next level.” That and her courtship of American neoconservatives have driven a number of anti-war Democrats away from her candidacy. Her bellicose rhetoric has sounded to some of these usually reliable Democratic voters like fingernails on a chalkboard. On Monday night, Clinton chose not to annoy them again, at least as much.

She even cleverly went on the offensive against Trump for allegedly supporting the Iraq War, which she also supported as a U.S. senator in 2002 and backed until 2006 when she reversed herself in hopes of winning the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

Trump has claimed repeatedly that he opposed the Iraq War although some pre-war comments suggested otherwise. By raising the issue first, Clinton forced Trump onto the defensive and into a convoluted explanation of his position. Clinton’s more substantive support for the disastrous war went largely unaddressed.

Clinton also got to skate away from her promotion of the Libyan “regime change” that has left that oil-rich country in north Africa in political chaos five years later and has given radical jihadists another foothold in the region.

Though largely ignored by the mainstream U.S. media, the British report and its blunt conclusions about Iraq-War-like deceptions on Libya could have become a damaging club to use against Clinton’s diplomatic credentials and her trustworthiness. If pressed, would she continue to repeat the anti-Gaddafi exaggerations that were debunked by a bipartisan British parliamentary foreign policy committee?


On Iran, Clinton even posed as the relative peace candidate by claiming a role in President Obama’s diplomacy to ensure that Iran didn’t develop a nuclear weapon, although her actual position was more hawkish than Obama’s and more in line with Israel’s desire to provoke another “regime change” in Tehran. Obama’s diplomacy succeeded only after she left the job as secretary of state.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaking to the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. on March 21, 2016. (Photo credit: AIPAC)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaking to the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. on March 21, 2016. (Photo credit: AIPAC)

But Trump instead held to the tough-guy Republican position, denouncing the Iranian nuclear deal as a mistake, making himself look like the relative warmonger. For voters who are fed up with endless warfare and who are tired of Israel manipulating U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, Trump’s belligerence on Iran didn’t help with them.

Yet, whether Hillary Clinton’s reticence on war talk represents a conscious decision or was simply driven by the dynamics of Monday’s debate is unclear. She has seemed determined to ingratiate herself with Official Washington’s neocons, apparently thinking that they are an influential opinion bloc or perhaps she is just one of them.

Whatever the outcome of the Nov. 8 election, there is little reason for celebration among Americans who want to pull back from the precipice of ever-wider and more dangerous wars.

Trump represents a wild card who favors negotiations with Russia and China but calls for an intensified war on “terrorism,” including the reinstitution of torture and promises to “knock the hell” out of the Islamic State.

Clinton has a long record of pushing for wars behind the cloak of “humanitarianism,” bloodshed rationalized by phony propaganda. She seems to have bought into the demonization of Vladimir Putin and the idea of a costly and dangerous New Cold War with Russia. She also has called for more electronic spying at home and abroad and for the assassination of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

So, whoever wins, anti-war Americans may have no choice but to organize to challenge the war policies of the new president even before he or she takes office.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

31 comments for “Clinton Toned Down Her Hawkishness

  1. GeorgyOrwell
    September 29, 2016 at 22:55

    I’m the antiwar left and I am voting for Jill. I have said consistantly from the beginning I will not vote for HRC no matter what!

  2. Nancy
    September 28, 2016 at 19:51

    Clinton’s transition team, VP, Russia bashing, love for Ash, American Legion speach, scolding for marching the General on stage at DNC..she’s just silent – not changed.

  3. Abe
    September 28, 2016 at 14:59

    Today, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) consisting of Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine presented the first results of the criminal investigation into the downing of flight MH17 on 17 July 2014.

    The JIT report claims that its conclusions are “supported by the material which the investigation team recently obtained from the United States and the European Space Agency”

    The JIT preliminary conclusion is that “flight MH17 was shot down on 17 July 2014 by a missile of the 9M38 series, launched by a BUK-TELAR, from farmland in the vicinity of Pervomaiskiy (or: Pervomaiskyi). At that time, the area was controlled by pro-Russian fighters. Furthermore, the investigation also shows that the BUK-TELAR was brought in from the territory of the Russian Federation and subsequently, after having shot down flight MH-17, was taken back to the Russian Federation.”

    The JIT acknowledged the earlier investigation results presented by the Dutch Safety Board, and noted that “many journalists carried out their own investigations, as did research collectives like Bellingcat”.

    In fact, the JIT conclusions are substantially if not entirely based on discredited “evidence” presented in “investigations” by Eliot Higgins and Bellingcat.

    • Evangelista
      September 28, 2016 at 19:30

      “the JIT conclusions are substantially if not entirely based on discredited “evidence” presented in “investigations” by Eliot Higgins and Bellingcat”…

      They are, however, since the Neo-Con enforced, Neo-Nazi maintained Citizenized Internationals governed Ukraine Government was given veto-right over any JIT conclusions unsatisfactory to it, the only conclusions possible, or permissible, for the JIT to draw…

  4. OH
    September 28, 2016 at 08:38

    Note to some: the DNC was hacked by Russia, several times in the last few years. What is not clear is whether the Bernie Sanders revelations out of the DNC came from the Russians, which it should be clear if it were from the Russians. Therefore, Democrats use that as a basis for saying that it was proven that Russia supposedly did it.

    2 things about Clinton. Is she aware that Trumps best hope is to push Clinton to the right especially on war, because if the voters want another stupid war why not have the Republicans do that. Worse, is Clinton patriotic at all or is she a neocon. Who knows. Let me be the devils advocate and I’ll say that Clinton is not a neocon but she is doing what she can. We must recall that Bill Clinton as we have heard, was not willing to implement PNAC – but Bill Clintons demonization of Saddam Hussein in the 1992 election season helped Bush get his war in 2002.

  5. Joe Tedesky
    September 27, 2016 at 21:54

    Watching the first debate, was like watching the ‘Super-Bowl’, when your teams not in it. At least for me that’s the the way it felt. You see, and if you have ever read some of my comments, I’m not at all thrilled with either of these two candidates. I’m not sure if my opinion should even matter, since that’s how disassociated I have become while watching these two narcissistic buggers go at it over the last two years. Nothing substantial with any depth was ever even probed on any of the important issues, was my take away after watching what has been called a debate. The debates success hinged on mannerisms, snorts and sniffles, Donald looked so skeptical as to appear stupid when Hillary talked, plus he interrupted her enough of times to get a boat load of media attention, and to me Hillary looked ‘high’. You’ll all have to excuse me, and I will be the first to admit I have a bad attitude. Where I once believed we could do much better, I now believe that this is the best we can do, and that is the saddest part to accept.

  6. Michael
    September 27, 2016 at 21:39

    I tend to agree with the many voices who state or suggest Trump is playing with Hillary much as he might do in any negotiation in his world. No doubt she prepared for a nasty night and may have been caught off guard by his lack of brutishness. Unable to announce any presidency winning solutions to the world’s problems to woo independents was her biggest failure of the night. Her sound bites of taxing the rich were weak and her personal attacks childish. Sure wish we had the Libertarian candidate on stage to do what the moderator and his overseers wouldn’t allow to happen. Bill knows that with triangulation his wife is toast.

  7. Evangelista
    September 27, 2016 at 21:13

    Viewing the Clinton-Trump debate situation in ‘strategy-perspective’, Trump appears to have played a soft game, taking it easy and letting Hillary play through. For this, the points of debate and the positions would be of secondary importance to the demonstration, by Trump, of an ability to be ‘diplomatic’ and play nice.

    Not launching a full attack on Clinton, of the kind he demonstrated his ability to carry on in his Republican Primary debates, Trump proved to watchers that he is able to play a moderate game, and restrain himself. To show professionalism and dignified consideration for his ‘smaller’, ‘weaker’, ‘perhaps not entirely well’, and, of course, woman, opponent.

    To have thrown his weight and hooked and jabbed and sparred with Hillary as he did with his Republican Primary opponents would have loosed a storm of Femme-Chauvinist fury, outrage and self-righteous indignation in which he would have been branded ‘unfeeling gorilla’, ‘unenlightened Neanderthal’, ‘Exactly the jerk we’ve been saying he was’ and so on.

    With all of that defused in the first debate, when it was undoubtedly most expected (Trump being a ‘brainless boor’ and all that in the ‘World-Wrestling-Weighing-In-At-The-Mic’ style of his opposition’s depictions of him), the second debate may be a better show, with, at the least, maybe some spikey-studs on the knuckles of the kid-gloves…

    As with everything in this 2016 election year, the contest is the best ‘inflight entertainment’ that any of us can ask for as our hand-basket sails the vertical route toward the Infernal Future.

    Between rounds, for projective player stats, previous play in the league, background information on the game and players who have played before in the most nearly like historical playoffs, I recommend reading in Aurthur Schlessinger, Jr.’s “The Age of Jackson”, first published in 1944. It starts out with the Elite of the day facing “The End of the World”, seeing the Presidency of the Republic high-jacked by a half-educated buffoon out of the wilds of Tennessee… Schlessinger isn’t any better historical reporter than any other, when he is narrating highlight events, but he keeps that to a minimum by filling in between with contemporary opinions and views drawn from notes, newspapers, memoirs and documents of the era, including some great blow-by-blow exposé of the famous “Battle of the Bank” (in those simpler times there was only one giant private-capital bank leading the Elite of the country with quid pro quo and fear of collapse, the banking world equivalents of carrot and stick)…

  8. Bill Bodden
    September 27, 2016 at 20:57

    That Clinton and Trump can go on television and say whatever they consider politically expedient even if their statements are totally divorced from reality is deplorable, but it is nationally a sign of political and moral decadence when tens of millions of people believe anything and everything that comes out of their mouths.

  9. John
    September 27, 2016 at 20:44

    At this point in time a discussion of he said she said is lol….. useless……President Clinton = war…..President Trump = war. Is there a 5th grader in the house ??….. It’s not a question of will there be war, the great USA has been at war for 15 years. The coming war will be at your door step exceptional citizens….The real question ? How to survive the war….Calling on all the talking head journalist for direction….I’m betting you have nothing….to offer

  10. Bill Bodden
    September 27, 2016 at 20:33

    Remember the old saw about how can you tell if a politicians is lying? Watch to see if his or her lips are moving. If so, he or she is lying. In the case of Clinton and Trump and their sidekicks regard anything and everything they say before November 8th with complete skepticism. It’s what the winning mountebank says after that day that counts and that will begin a series of many alarming and fateful pronouncements.

  11. Tom
    September 27, 2016 at 20:26

    Good points Robert.

  12. Abe
    September 27, 2016 at 20:19

    Anti-war Americans did not effectively mobilize to challenge the war policies of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning first black president.

    Both the Sanders campaign and the Trump bogeyman candidacy have functioned to dissuade, limit or restrict any pre-election organizing to challenge the unabashed war policies of the presumptive first woman president.

  13. evelync
    September 27, 2016 at 15:55

    We’re fixed.
    When Bernie was running I thought that Americans were “finally sick and tired of being had and taken for idiots” (to borrow from Mikhail Gorbachev’s comment about Russian protesters in an LA Times interview, March 24, 2012)

    And that people finally had lost faith in the current power structure thanks to its endless costly wars and its cheating banking practices and were ready to take their chances and trust a candidate whom Noam Chomsky called “a decent, honest, New Deal democrat”.

    But here we are with presidential candidates who will not stand up against the mindless foreign policy propaganda and aggression.
    According to Randolph Bourne’s highly satirical essay from 2019, on foreign policy, we are not a democracy.We don’t have a chance to demand open, transparent, foreign policy discussions. We’re kept in the dark, ignored and a herd mentality takes over.
    Not sure whether someone else posted this here or not, but it’s a great read.

    “The State” by Randolph Bourne

    Thanks once again to Robert Parry for his thoughtful analysis.

    • evelync
      September 27, 2016 at 23:32

      Sorry Randolph Bourne’s piece was written in 1919 shortly after WWI not 2019!

    • Shelia
      September 29, 2016 at 03:04


      Thanks so much for the link to the Bourne essay. It is as timely today as when it was written.


    • rosemerry
      September 29, 2016 at 15:19

      And thank YOU for the link to Randolph Bourne, whose work I had never before encountered. I have just read Part One of “The State”. What a difference from the present day “soundbites” and fourth-grade language our “leaders” use to talk to the populace. What have we learnt in the last century? Bourne manages to underline all the factors making our present situation, much worse of course than in 1918, something which could be avoided were we to consider the “Country” or the “Nation” as he pictures it.

  14. Jay
    September 27, 2016 at 15:55

    Hillary Clinton explicitly claimed that Russia had hacked the DNC, not exactly restrained there. She lied. Trump sounded much better on the “hacking”–if not the prescription for deterring serious hacking. Clinton also used the bogus claim of “made a mistake” regarding the private email server–of course it wasn’t a mistake. It was to avoid scrutiny.

    Right, she avoided outright lies about say Ukraine or Syria. So better than an average day in the pages of the NY Times for the last 18 months.

  15. ltr
    September 27, 2016 at 15:31

    Clinton falsely claimed to know Russians directed by President Putin were stealing data in America. I find these sorts of claims to be very harmful in creating a hostility to Russia. Clinton has done much to create a new Cold War atmosphere and that could easily trap her as president should she actually wish to soften.

    • rosemerry
      September 29, 2016 at 14:33

      Clinton’s anti-Russia lies, like those of Obama, are dangerous and will only lead to more conflict. The demonizing of Iran while supporting Saudi Arabia and Israel just emphasize the hypocrisy of the Dems as well as the Repubs.

  16. Winston Denker
    September 27, 2016 at 14:50

    Good points. But to be fair, many “anti-war” Democrats only are anti-war when there is a Republican in the White House. So while anti-war Americans should “organize to challenge the war policies of the new president even before he or she takes office” too many loyal Democrats will have to wait and see which party is in office first.

  17. bill
    September 27, 2016 at 14:42

    It may now just emerge after the recent killings/ murders of 62 Syrian soldiers at Deir Ezzer where there is allegedly a tape recording of the US Military talking with Daesh just before the attacks and following NY Times reports from 2012 that she and Petraeus went together to Obama to seek to arm rebel groups that Clinton at least knows that the US has been arming Daesh and al Qaida ….. it may come out in drips and drops and armed with the British Parliamentary Report Trump might deliver a fatal blow over her competence,moral standing indeed humanity especially were he to highlight her infamously foul rejoicing over anothers dreadful murder. Will Trump have the gall to tell the American people that NATO planes not only destroyed Gaddafis Great Water Project which would have supplied 1,000,000s and is a massive war crime in itself but even blew up the factories where replacement parts were manufactured? He might then screw her to the wall as one believes nearly all Americans must see the huge benevolence of this project! .One hopes so though of course a vote for either,especially as you wouldnt sensibly trust wild card Trump around your wife, is a choice of poisons….
    Indeed today the WH has been forced to state that it has never armed al Nusra following a German interview with an al Nusrah commander in Aleppo but people know there is so much more behind the poker face, that the WH is hiding important things from them. Other evidence emerges as well that the Red Crescent convoy was certainly not hit by bombs as people may begin to gather that this false flag is by its timing just too convenient as the walk-out was too hysterical and may indeed recognise it as a deliberate distraction from events at Deir Ezzor, an intentional desire to destroy the peace process The US is indeed in its direst predicament in history since the Civil War which can only but worsen unless theres a miracle and voters hugely demand another voice as these 2 arent the most unpopular candidates ever for no reason…..

  18. Kim Dixon
    September 27, 2016 at 14:19

    The Megathatcher did not focus upon her insane plans for more war and for risking all our lives in a nuclear showdown (or showdowns) with Russia. To do that would have been to be honest, and to severely lessen her chances to actually win the Offal Office and to do these horrible, evil things.

    Obama did not focus upon his plans to expand Cheney’s wars, to offshore millions more jobs, and to sell out Single Payer healthcare when he was running, either. Because if he had been honest, he’d never have had the chance to hurt America, and America’s victims abroad, so badly.

    Like Obama, Clinton is a sociopath, and a pathological liar.

    I wonder what her ignorant, tribalist supporters will have to say, once Hillary’s missiles are in the air? I’m guessing that they will shrug, and chant, “USA! USA! USA!”

    • Antiwar7
      September 27, 2016 at 19:08

      Well said!

    • September 28, 2016 at 07:46

      Hillary sounded like a robot reading her cards, memorized lines and who knows if the questions were coordinated prior to the debate anything is possible with the Clintons. How can Bernie Sanders supporters forget how they were scammed by the DNC.

      Promising free college and rainbows to the young voters. They need jobs for Christ sake.

      They will be fools to buy what Hillary is selling them. After 26 years of Killary business, the American people are put on food stamps. It’s no joke!

      Hillary on Trump’s tax returns. “Maybe he’s not as rich as he claims to be.”

      He did not get rich on bribes from “Special Interests” with strings attached Madame Secretary.

      The most compromised politician and the first presidential candidate in history of America to be under FBI Investigation.

      Instead of disqualifying her, Shame on Dems for continuing to dignify her.

      If Trump Wins, Hillary and Bill Clinton could Go To Jail!

  19. marius jacob
    September 27, 2016 at 14:16

    Enough Orwellian word games. Obama did not engage in “diplomacy” with Iran. He waged a cruel economic war that devastated the lives of many Iranians. It was that war that brought Iran to the table.

    In modern speak, aka lies, embargoes and sanctions have become acts of diplomacy and bombing another country, arming rebels, supplying weapons to proxy armies who will fight on behalf of spreading american corporate interests are not acts of war as long as there are no american boots on the ground. Obamanothercountry and his media sycophants are responsible for this devious shift away from honor, and truth. Knock it off.

    The corporate duopoly candidates are equally despicable. They are dangerous to all people and all forms of life on the planet. “No” on them.

    • Chris Chuba
      September 27, 2016 at 15:34

      It was that war that brought Iran to the table.

      This is a myth being pushed by Hillary Clinton. Iran never left the negotiating table, we did by insisting that Iran had to eliminate their entire nuclear infrastructure. Iran’s position was that they have a right to enrich uranium to produce their own fuel. In the end this is what we agreed to. So in Hillary’s revisionist history, she slapped on Draconian sanctions in order to bring Iran back to the negotiating table to give them what they originally asked for.

    • Evangelista
      September 27, 2016 at 20:19

      marius jacob,

      It was Russia that brought Iran to the negotiating table. And it was Iran’s pursuit of its nuclear fuel refining that brought the U.S. to the negotiating table. The U.S. had ‘stalemated’ itself with its sanctions program against Iran: There was nothing for the U.S. to put on the table in the negotiations except relief of the sanctions and return of ‘impounded’ Iranian funds (and interest on the U.S. held funds, its concession to pay which the U.S. did not publicize).

      Iran’s nuclear development activity being within “legal” bounds, Iran had no ‘necessary concessions’ it had to make. The U.S. (and Israel) were against a wall: The more they (Israel especially) threatened aggression, the more obviously Iran needed its nuclear program, and the moment a real attack occurred Iran would have legal justification to ‘divert’ its peaceful-purposes refined nuclear-reactor fuel to defensive weapons making purposes..

      By offering backing to Iran Russia was able to relieve the stand-off, providing a way out from the impasse the ‘Western’ threats were creating and escalating, so that Iran could ‘concede’ to reduce its nuclear fuel stockpile by transferring it to Russian sade-keeping, in return for Russia guaranteeing its safety from Israeli-American assault the moment its ‘guard’ was down.

      The parties then having room to move and maneuver, negotiations could begin, which were ‘concessions’ by Iran to hold its nuclear program activities to a lower level, in exchange for the U.S. cranking back its sanctions, which had caused the Iranian nuclear escalating, and the the first place. The U.S. could claim success, for having ‘made the world safer’ (after its actions had made it more dangerous) and Iran got back its ‘impounded’ dollar revenues, with interest, as it turned out, which the U.S., to maintain its ‘tough’ image, was allowed to keep secret, and Iran shut down a negotiated portion of its nuclear fuel processing capability, meaning put it in mothballs, which means the world came out of the sanctions-nuclear-development-negotiations-resolution process with Iran having a ‘bank-account’ of nuclear fuel in Russia and way more fuel processing capability than it needs for its peaceful nuclear needs on hand and readily returned to line, if ever the capacity should be needed.

      Net results: The U.S. was able to back out of a tangle it got itself into making one of its trade-mark stupid gestures, Iran got itself out from under the Great Goofball Nation’s Frankesteinian Foot, with a nuclear build-up investment acquired, and Russia came out the reasonable guy on the sideline helping the Colossal Clutz back itself out of another of its Quicksand Quagmires…

      The fact that Iran has a decade of oil sales revenues to recoup, for losses while under the Colossal Clutz’s sanctions, and is damned if it will cut back its production until it has, making control of oil markets impossible for anybody to negotiate, is an ‘aftermath’ effect.

  20. September 27, 2016 at 14:14

    America has a recent history of having Presidents who have not served in the military or are draft-dodgers. Is military service necessary? Maybe not necessary, but very helpful. Hillary seems to think that being macho makes her more attractive, politically-speaking, to men. It also helps to ingratiate her to the Zionist Neo-Cons so that she can take our relationship with Israel to the “next level” , whatever that is. Unfortunately, if she becomes President, her ignorance of Russia, as with Obama, will be very hurtful.

  21. Drew Hunkins
    September 27, 2016 at 14:04

    Excellent points Mr. Parry. Killary did indeed tone down (not completely though) her warmongering past and future agenda.

    • September 28, 2016 at 07:44

      Hillary sounded like a robot reading her cards, memorized lines and who knows if the questions were coordinated prior to the debate anything is possible with the Clintons. How can Bernie Sanders supporters forget how they were scammed by the DNC.

      Promising free college and rainbows to the young voters. They need jobs for Christ sake.

      They will be fools to buy what Hillary is selling them. After 26 years of Killary business, the American people are put on food stamps. It’s no joke!

      Hillary on Trump’s tax returns. “Maybe he’s not as rich as he claims to be.”

      He did not get rich on bribes from “Special Interests” with strings attached Madame Secretary.

      The most compromised politician and the first presidential candidate in history of America to be under FBI Investigation.

      Instead of disqualifying her, Shame on Dems for continuing to dignify her.

      If Trump Wins, Hillary and Bill Clinton could Go To Jail!

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