What Would Jeannette Rankin Do?
On December 8, 1941, reporters trapped Montana Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin in a phone booth in the Capitol. Rankin, a Republican, had cast the lone vote in opposition to the Declaration of War on Japan. The press pursued her when she left the floor of the House and cornered her in the booth until the Capitol Police rescued her. Rankin, a life-long opponent of war who was the only member of Congress to have also voted against U.S. entrance into World War I, did not run for re-election because of the unpopularity of her stance. She never regretted her votes of conscience, stating, “As a woman I can't go to war, and I refuse to send anyone else.”
On August 7, 1964, Congress, willfully misled by President Lyndon Johnson, passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which authorized escalation of U.S. military intervention in Vietnam without a full declaration of war. Only two members of Congress stood against the resolution. Senators Wayne Morse of Oregon and Ernest Gruening of Alaska, both Democrats, chose to oppose the President of their own party because, in the words of Gruening, they objected to “sending our American boys into combat in a war in which we have no business, which is not our war, into which we have been misguidedly drawn, which is being steadily escalated.”
Many of their fellow Senators and Representatives, including men as politically different as South Dakota’s George McGovern and West Virginia’s Robert Byrd, came to regret giving Johnson the mandate to make Vietnam the most deadly American engagement of the Cold War era. When McGovern became a leading opponent of the war he chided his fellow legislators in a floor speech, declaring, “Every senator in this chamber is partly responsible for sending 50,000 young Americans to an early grave. This chamber reeks of blood.”
Byrd’s regret over his support of the Vietnam debacle prompted him to be one of the leading voices against the authorization for the invasion of Iraq sought by President George W. Bush. The longest serving Senator reproved his colleagues, lamenting to his beloved Senate that, in the face of another presidential request for a blank check to fight an undeclared war, “We stand passively mute.”
On May 31, 1969, Hillary Rodham spoke to her graduating class at Wellesley College. Having served as president of the college government during her senior year, Rodham had been chosen by her classmates to speak during the commencement exercises. Rodham took the rostrum after an address by Republican Senator Edward Brooke in which Brooke criticized what he called the “coercive protests” by Students for a Democratic Society and the New Left. Rodham and her classmates reacted negatively to Brooke’s admonition to be patient and to work for social change within the system. In her talk Rodham defended the right of students to protest, asserting that, “the challenge now is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible possible.”
On October 11, 2002, The United States Senate voted to approve the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq. When authorization of another undeclared war, another blank check for unlimited American military intervention in a distant land, came before the Senate, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton had to make a choice. She might have chosen to stay true to her youthful idealism, to stand up to Bush’s rush to war, an intervention justified with lies about the strength and intentions of Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein. But, after making her assessment of the situation, she voted “with conviction” to authorize an unjustified, undeclared war. The Americans and Iraqis who died, the Iraqis who suffered the further ruination of their country, the money wasted on an absurd and counterproductive debacle that fellow Senators like Robert Byrd had foreseen, received the Clinton stamp of approval.
Unlike Jeanette Rankin and Wayne Morse and Ernest Gruening and Robert Byrd, as a member of Congress Hillary Clinton chose to do what was expedient rather than take a stand based on conscience.
Although she now says she regrets her support for the Iraq War, when it mattered, when it was still preventable, she made the wrong choice. Instead of making a peaceful resolution of the conflicts with Iraq possible, Hillary Clinton chose to back the impossible – the use of American military power to achieve positive ends - which has been a nightmare for the entire world ever since.
In 2011 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asserted, “It's time for the United States to start thinking of Iraq as a business opportunity." JP Morgan was then selected to manage a key import-export bank in Iraq while Exxon-Mobil received a deal to revivify Iraq’s oil fields. JPMorgan paid Hillary, Bill and the Clinton Foundation at least $450,000 for speeches and Exxon Mobil donated over $1 million to the Clinton Foundation.
On November 8, 2016, I will cast my vote for the candidate of the Green Party, Dr. Jill Stein. Unlike Jeanette Rankin and Wayne Morse and Ernest Gruening and Robert Byrd, as a member of Congress Hillary Clinton chose to do what was expedient rather than take a stand based on conscience. We suffer the consequences of that wasteful and callous expediency every day.
Hawkish Hillary Clinton
Clinton has not shown that she has learned from what she now calls a mistaken vote. As Secretary of State she advised President Obama to support the bombing of Libya, which produced the destabilization that contributed to the rise of ISIS, and which President Obama has described as his greatest regret. When Muammar Gaddafi was killed she crowed “We came, we saw, he died!” accompanied by a heartless chuckle.
As a Presidential candidate she has continued to advocate military solutions in Syria, where the imposition of the no-fly zone she proposes will be a step closer to direct war with the Assad regime and Russia. Hillary Clinton’s deadly embrace of military intervention is not the outcome Jeanette Rankin hoped for when she was the only woman in Congress at the time of the passage of the 19th Amendment that gave women throughout the U.S the right to vote.
If Jeannette Rankin were still with us, would she see it as positive progress that a female commander in chief will likely order women and men to march forward into more murderous folly?
As a citizen, I have one vote to cast for president. I will cast that vote in line with my conscience, not as support for the lesser evil or out of fear of what that awful orange clown may bring. In the face of charges of narcissism, or sexism, or wasting my vote, or being a Bernie Bro, or supporting a spoiler, I will vote for what I think is the greater good. Conscience always has a cost.
Perhaps I’ll have to take shelter in a phone booth (if I can find one!) to protect myself from angry Clinton supporters, but I refuse to stand passively mute and endorse Hillary Clinton with my vote. I can’t support her because she is too willing to send others to fight and die in senseless wars that she herself will never have to fight.