"What Would She Do in Iraq?": As Clinton Slams Trump for ISIS Speech, We Look at Her Own Positions

August 16, 2016


Phyllis Bennis

fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. She’s written several books, including, most recently, Understanding ISIS and the New Global War on Terror.

Linda Sarsour

director of the first Muslim online organizing platform, MPower Change, and co-founder of the Muslim Democratic Club of New York.

On Monday, while Trump was speaking in Youngstown, Ohio, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden held a rally in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Scranton is Biden’s hometown. During her speech, Hillary Clinton slammed Trump’s foreign policy positions on Syria and fighting ISIS. But what about her own positions? For more, we speak with Phyllis Bennis, author of "Understanding ISIS and the New Global War on Terror." We also speak with co-founder of the Muslim Democratic Club of New York Linda Sarsour.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to turn to Hillary Clinton, who spoke alongside Biden in Scranton, Pennsylvania, just as Donald Trump was giving his major foreign policy address in Youngstown.

HILLARY CLINTON: He talked about letting Syria become a free zone for ISIS, a major country in the Middle East that could launch attacks against us and others. He’s talked about sending ground troops, American ground troops. Well, that is off the table as far as I am concerned. So, we’ll wait and see what he says today. But, you know, sometimes he says he won’t tell anyone what he’ll do, because he wants to keep his plan, quote, "secret." And then, it turns out, the secret is he has no plan.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Hillary Clinton. Phyllis Bennis, your response?

PHYLLIS BENNIS: You know, this is a serious challenge when we’re talking about the strategy for these wars. The notion that Hillary Clinton is saying, "That’s off the table," I’d like to know if she’s opposed to the thousands of U.S. troops that are now officially, openly in Iraq, the hundreds that are officially, openly in Syria. She hasn’t said whether she would call them back, whether she would simply not escalate. So her own position here is very unclear.

One of the things that Trump had said about Iraq, which was quite extraordinary, was this notion that as he was against nation building, he said what we should have done in Iraq was keep control of the oil, because that would have, on the one hand, kept the money from the oil out of the hands of ISIS, and, on the other hand, it would mean that we would, of course, have soldiers on the ground to protect that oil. So he was calling for a permanent deployment of troops, a permanent occupation of Iraq.

Hillary Clinton’s position is very unclear. What would she do in Iraq? And the problem is, it’s—the critique that she’s making is fine, but she has no answer for it herself. She has called for an escalation in Syria, for the creation of a no-fly zone in Syria. No one is asking her whether she believes that her former colleague on the—in the Obama Cabinet, the then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who said he was against a no-fly zone in Syria—sorry, in Libya, because the first act of a no-fly zone is an act of war, to take out the antiaircraft system. Now, Libya hardly had an antiaircraft system. Syria has a very developed, first Soviet-installed and Russian-supplied, antiaircraft system. So, is Hillary Clinton saying it’s OK to go to war against Russia? Is she calling for that? No one is pressing her on that question. No one asked her that question after her own speech. So, her position of saying how outrageous the positions of Donald Trump is accurate, in its own right, but doesn’t take into account the uncertainty of her own position, whether she would support more ground troops, whether she would support a so-called no-fly zone that would immediately be extended to a regime change action, as it was in Libya. These are all uncertainties that we still have no answers to.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Donald Trump talking about Iran.

DONALD TRUMP: Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, is now flush with $150 billion in cash released by the United States, plus, if you remember from two weeks ago, another $400 million in actual cash that was obviously used for ransom. Worst of all, the nuclear deal puts Iran, the number one state sponsor of radical Islamic terrorism, on a path to nuclear weapons.

AMY GOODMAN: Phyllis Bennis, your response?

PHYLLIS BENNIS: Well, first of all, I mean, where to start in that? The notion that Iran is the leading state sponsor of what he calls radical Islamic—Islamist terror, which—by which he means primarily ISIS and al-Qaeda, who are sworn enemies of Iran—they have both theological, sectarian, as well as national fights, and Iran is one of the greatest enemies of both ISIS and al-Qaeda. You could start there with what’s wrong with this.

The notion that the Iran deal has put Iran on a path to a nuclear weapon, not even the critics of the deal claim that. The critics of the deal said it didn’t go far enough, it didn’t impose enough sanctions, something like that. That was sort of the Hillary Clinton critique and the critique of others, but none of them said that this deal puts Iran on a path towards a nuclear weapon. All 16 U.S. intelligence agencies have consistently agreed—and they don’t agree on a lot—but they have consistently agreed that Iran not only has not made a nuclear weapon, is not trying to make a nuclear weapon, but that it had not even reached the decision that it wanted to make a nuclear weapon. So this is simply created whole cloth.

AMY GOODMAN: Before we end, I wanted to get to what happened here in New York. Hundreds gathered here in New York Monday for the funeral of Imam Maulama Akonjee and his assistant Thara Uddin, who were shot in the back of their heads while walking home from prayer in broad daylight Saturday. On Monday, a suspected shooter, Oscar Morel, was charged with two counts of second-degree murder. Authorities said it’s not clear whether the attacks were targeted as a result of their faith. This is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who spoke at Monday’s funeral.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO: And we know there are voices all over this country who are spewing hate, trying to create division, trying to turn one American against another. I look around at all my brothers and sisters here, I see proud Americans, I see proud New Yorkers. And I will never let us be torn apart, and we will not let each other be torn apart.

AMY GOODMAN: That was New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Linda Sarsour, your final comment?

LINDA SARSOUR: I mean, just an outrageous and traumatic experience. And we may never know the motive. The two victims are dead and can’t speak for themselves about what happened. But it still validates why, in this climate, the Muslim community is on edge and very afraid. And we should be able to live freely and safely, and walk home from our mosque without being targets of murder in our streets.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to leave it there, continue this discussion, of course. Linda Sarsour, thanks for being with us, head of MPower Change and co-founder of Muslim Democratic Club of New York. Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, we will link to your pieces, the latest, "The Summer of the Shill." And Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.

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