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Clinton Hypocrisy By: Christopher Hitchens
Daily Mirror | Friday, October 04, 2002


WHETHER the celeb-struck conference delegates realised it or not, Tony Blair's invitation to Bill Clinton was the perfect refutation of the "poodle" charge.

Today, Bush's White House will be in a state of cold but controlled fury. Imagine if, during the Clinton presidency, ex-presidents Reagan or Bush had addressed the Tory Party conference, cast doubt upon the legitimacy of Clinton's election, trashed his domestic and foreign policy and offered him lukewarm support at a time of crisis.

It never happened, because there is a tradition it should not, but in breaking with ex-presidential etiquette Clinton, who'll do anything for an audience, met an audience that would apparently do anything for him.

Since I had the pleasure of watching Clinton in office every day for eight years, I hope to be excused if I was not impressed by seeing him again. How it all came back to me - the tongue ruthlessly roving the cheek; the lip-biting to indicate sincerity; the husky voice; the abject self-deprecation; the incurable habit of speaking for 20 minutes longer than he should. Most amusing, though, was how he made his own foreign policy sound more statesmanlike and judicious than it had ever been.

There probably was not a delegate present who would not have been primed to laugh at a George Dubya "cowboy" joke. Yet Mr Clinton's most notorious foreign policy action was to launch a flight of cruise missiles into the outskirts of the city of Khartoum, destroying the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory on the pretence (now acknowledged to have been false) it was a chemical weapons facility. How could such an atrocity have been committed?

Because Mr Clinton did not even demand an inspection, did not consult the UN or Congress, and over-ruled Joint Chiefs of Staff, CIA and State Department.

One hopes he was not influenced by Miss Monica Lewinsky appearing before a grand jury that week. One also shudders to recall the speech he gave in defence of the attack was taken from a speech by Michael Douglas in bad movie The American President. It is the nearest America has come to a "wag the dog" moment, and the most cowboyish piece of presidential thuggery.

Hardened as I am to Clintonian hypocrisy, I sucked in my breath when he went moist about Rwanda. On the eve of the genocide there, all the plans for the impending slaughter were conveyed to the UN by its commander on the ground.

He pleaded for a small increase in the protection force, and for a warning to the bloodthirsty authorities that they had been detected in their plan. This was vetoed by Clinton's then-ambassador to the UN, Madeleine Albright. Thus, he comes before us as the man who acted rashly when in the wrong, and acted like a coward when he would have been in the right. And Labour ate it up and begged for more...

You want more? As Clinton modestly said, he knows what it's like to order the bombing of Iraq. He ordered a pointless four-day bombing in December 1998, which started as his Senate trial for impeachment began and finished when it was over.

This action put an end to the inspection process. It takes nerve to bite the lip again and talk of the importance of inspections now. But then, it takes nerve to claim credit for bombing Kosovo without a UN mandate, while insisting his successor acquire a mandate for action in Iraq.

At least we can be sure of one thing - after yesterday's abject performance, Labour forces who jeer at Bush and take a holy attitude to the UN must admit they do not do so consistently, or out of principle.


Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair and the author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.


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