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A fine balance: Clinton, Trump and the view beyond the US

Looking at Hillary Clinton's sketchy history of support for Middle East interventions, many Bernie fans are wondering if there's a better way

Ever since Bernie Sanders lost the Democratic nomination, some liberals have called down shame on those who say they will vote for a third-party candidate like the Green Party’s Jill Stein, rather than Hillary Clinton.

A vote for Stein is a vote for Donald Trump, they say. Just as Ralph Nader spoiled the 2000 election, resulting in a George W Bush presidency, so Stein’s candidacy has the potential to lead to a Trump presidency. Anyone voting for Stein is doing so from a stuck-up position of privilege, the argument goes.

Public shaming of the “Bernie or Bust” movement was on full display during the Democratic National Convention, after some Sanders delegates spent much of the first day booing at almost every mention of Clinton’s name.

Comedian Sarah Silverman, speaking at the convention on Monday, reacted to the boos by saying: “To the 'Bernie or Bust' people, you’re being ridiculous.”

And on Tuesday, left-wing British political commentator Owen Jones called those who vote third-party “idiotic”.

“If [Trump] comes to power, it will be one of the greatest disasters to befall the Western world since World War II,” Jones wrote on Facebook in response to comments on an op-ed he wrote for the Guardian. “You are expecting American Muslims, immigrants, women, LGBT people and African-Americans to pay for your political purity. It is as suicidal as it is self-indulgent, as idiotic as it is contemptible.”

I think Jones makes an important point here, but calling a vote for Stein “self-indulgent”? This kind of language is alienating, and will only repel voters who are on the fence about whether to vote third-party or bite the bullet and vote for Clinton. Besides, isn’t bullying people into voting for a candidate they don't feel best represents them entirely undemocratic?

There is, of course, another argument to be made here. Yes, while she leaves much to be desired, Clinton would certainly be better for American minorities than a demagogue like Trump. But what about non-Americans? 

Clinton has - to say the least - a troubling record when it comes to foreign policy, and hardly one that shows she values the world's least empowered people.

We could start with her vote for the catastrophic Iraq war in 2003 – but her hawkishness goes far beyond that.

As secretary of state, Clinton all but supported the 2009 Honduras coup - which removed democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya from power - and rewarded it after the fact, calling the coup “legal” in principle and condemning any attempt by Zelaya to return to power. And when, amid the violence and crime that followed in the aftermath of the coup, thousands of Honduran refugee children fled to the United States, Clinton said: “They should be sent back.”

She was also a key architect of the 2011 Libya intervention, which paved the way for its division between rival governments, ultimately turning it into a haven for a branch of the Islamic State group.

Clinton backed the Obama administration's pledge to bomb Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces after a chemical weapons attack killed hundreds in August 2013. The bombing would likely have resulted in even more chaos and violence in Syria, had the administration not been swayed by public opinion not to follow through with the plan. Today, Clinton advocates for a no-fly zone in Syria, one that would have to be enforced militarily.

Also worrying is the fact that Clinton has been among the most vocal supporters of Israeli military assaults on the Gaza Strip in 2008-9, 2012 and 2014. She called the global outrage in response to the more than 1,400 Palestinian civilians killed in the latest war in 2014 “unfair” and “anti-Semitic,” adding that Hamas, not Israel, was ultimately responsible for their deaths. And she recently positioned herself to the right of Trump on Palestine, blasting him in an AIPAC speech for saying he’d be a “neutral” broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

The list goes on. The point is that a Clinton presidency would likely adversely affect many of the least empowered people in global society, just as Trump would be terrible for American minorities.

If the logic is that Green Party voters would be morally culpable for the negative impact of a Trump presidency, then Clinton voters would certainly be responsible for the impact her presidency would have on disenfranchised populations outside the country. 

But I don’t buy into that logic. I won’t bully people who say that, to stop Trump, they will vote for Clinton. This is clearly a complex decision.

By the same token, I hope those who make that choice will refrain from shaming voters who are considering Stein. I haven’t made my decision yet, but cries of “ridiculous,” “idiotic” and “contemptible” are doing nothing to convince me to vote for Clinton.

A version of this article was originally published in the Detroit News.

Graham Liddell is a former editor and writer for Middle East Eye's Americas Bureau. He previously worked for Maan News Agency in the occupied West Bank. His writing has also appeared in The Detroit News, AlterNet and Mondoweiss, among other publications.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye

Photo: Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton gives the thumbs up during the recent Democratic Party Convention