Good Ol’ Bill, The Liberal Hero

On 14 August, you are invited to “an audience” with Bill Clinton in London. You have a choice. You can attend the “breakfast and speech” or the “brunch buffet and speech”. These will take place in the white elephantine Millennium Dome, where a place in the “Kings’ Row” will cost you £799. Last year, Clinton made more than £5m granting “audiences”. Not only the usual corporate types attend. A few years ago, I watched a conga line of writers, journalists, publishers and others of liberal reputation shuffling towards his grotesquely paid presence at the Guardian Hay Festival.

The Clinton scam is symptomatic of the death of liberalism — not its narcissistic, war-loving wing (“humanitarian intervention”), which is ascendant, but the liberalism that speaks against crimes committed in its name, while extending rungs of the economic ladder to those below. It was Clinton’s promotion of the former and crushing of the latter that so inspired new Labour’s “project”. Clinton, not Bush, was Cool Britannia’s true Mafia godfather. Keen observers of Tony Blair will recall that during one of his many farewell speeches, the sociopath did a weird impersonation of Clinton’s head wiggle.

Clinton is able to make a shed load of money because he is contrasted with the despised Bush as the flawed good guy who did his best for the world and brought economic boom to the US – the fabled American dream no less. Both notions are finely spun lies. What Clinton and Blair have most in common is that they are the most violent leaders of their countries in the modern era; that includes Bush. Consider Clinton’s true record.

In 1993, he pursued George H W Bush’s invasion of Somalia. He invaded Haiti in 1994. He bombed Bosnia in 1995 and Serbia in 1999. In 1998, he bombed Afghanistan; and, at the height of his Monica Lewinsky troubles, he momentarily diverted the headline writers to a major “terrorist target” in Sudan that he ordered destroyed with an onslaught of missiles. It turned out to be sub-Saharan Africa’s largest pharmaceutical plant, the only source of chloroquine, the treatment for malaria, and other drugs that were lifelines to hundreds of thousands. As a result, wrote Jonathan Belke, then of the Near East Foundation, “tens of thousands of people — many of them children — have suffered and died from malaria, tuberculosis and other treatable diseases”.

Long before Shock and Awe, Clinton was destroying and killing in Iraq. Under the lawless pretence of a “no-fly zone,” he oversaw the longest allied aerial bombardment since the Second World War. This was hardly reported. At the same time, he imposed and tightened a Washington-led economic siege estimated to have killed a million civilians. “We think the price is worth it,” said his secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, in an exquisite moment of honesty.

Clinton’s economic “legacy” — like Blair’s — is the most unequal society Americans have known. In his last presidential year, 1999, I walked along the ocean front at Santa Monica in California and was struck by the number of middle-class, homeless “bag gents” who had lost executive jobs and families thanks largely to Clinton’s North American Free Trade treaty. As for working Americans, the boasted high employment figures concealed a reversion to real wage levels of the 1970s. It was Clinton, not Bush, who wiped out the last of Roosevelt’s New Deal. Back in Santa Monica the other day, I noted the bag gents had multiplied.

These days, you see Good Ol’ Bill, or the Comeback Kid, as he is variously known, wiggling his head on the TV news, campaigning for his wife, Hillary, among Americans who, terminally naive, still believe the Democratic Party is theirs and that “it’s time to vote a woman into the White House.” Together, the Clintons are known as “Billary” and rightly so. Like Good Ol’ Bill, his wife has no plans to address the divisions of a society that allows 130,000 Americans to claim the wealth of millions of their fellow citizens. Like GOB, she wants to continue Iraq’s torment for perhaps a decade. And she has not “ruled out” attacking Iran.

Those settling down in the Kings’ Row at the Millennium Dome on 14 August for breakfast or brunch with GOB, having transferred another swag to the Clinton bank account, are unlikely to reflect on the blood spilt and the epic suffering caused, or on the moral corruption of the liberal ideology that courted and acclaimed Clinton, along with the criminal Blair.

But we should.

John Pilger is an internationally renowned investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker. His latest film is The War on Democracy. His most recent book is Freedom Next Time: Resisting the Empire (2006). Read other articles by John, or visit John's website.

6 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Nancy Hanks said on August 10th, 2007 at 6:21am #

    John – thanks for this very important piece (linked to The Hankster). Fortunately we have a growing independent movement in the US that is increasingly able to confront Clintonism by building grassroots networks across the country. (You might be interested in independentvoting dot org) It’s ever more clear that any change in direction for America will come from the bottom up, with independent voters leading the way.

  2. hp said on August 10th, 2007 at 6:46pm #

    George Bush still has a ways to go before he amasses a death toll which equals big Bill Clinton’s. Not so much in Kosovo where big Bill initiated the wide spread use of DU, along with the terroristic bombing of all things civilian. No, far beyond this was his insidious, but well meaning, sanctions on the poor people of Iraq. Remember Mad Maddie and her “we think it was well worth it?”
    How could the so-called Democratic voters, much less anyone, ignore mass murder on a scale like that?

  3. Daniel said on August 10th, 2007 at 11:43pm #

    A society, a nation, all can be judged by their icons. That Bill Clinton is an icon to some and that people would pay large sums of money to be in his presence is disgusting.

    But to the American and British mind, the killing of vast numbers of people in other countries is considered to be merely part of the cost of doing business and making a profit.

    Our world is lost. Our icons are billionaires and mass murderers!

  4. Robert B. Livingston said on August 12th, 2007 at 12:19pm #

    Nation Books thought well to publish and promote Pilger’s “Freedom Next Time” and the entire “alternative” media fell into line.

    Now we will see how hot its publishing leadership and their obedient followers become over Billary as Election 2008 enters its concluding stages.

    I’m glad the formidable Pilger seems intent on asking and answering his own questions– thought police be damned.

    (I would love to observe him following the 9/11 threads.)

  5. Mulga Mumblebrain said on August 13th, 2007 at 2:30am #

    The awful spectre of ‘Billary’ could not help but induce that terrible abdominal pain ‘Billary Colick’, in susceptible individuals. Gall-stones (and, let’s face it, who has more gall than Clinton?) blocking the passage of bile, inducing nausea and vomiting. Exacerbated by the consumption of fat, a well-known Clinton failing. Seems unavoidable. Only solution-the removal of the infected organ. One can but hope!

  6. Enzo said on August 31st, 2007 at 7:07pm #

    Good stuff and well said Mr Pilger, but methinks you borrowed a fine image of our ex opposition leader:
    ‘Mr Howard and his government are just Yes-men to the United States. There they are, a conga line of suckholes on the conservative side of Australian politics.’
    -Mark Latham

    Cheers mate