Hillary Clinton: Playing a Dog-Eared ‘Hitler’ Card

192px-Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_cropThe frontrunner to become the next president of the United States is playing an old and dangerous political game — comparing a foreign leader to Adolf Hitler.

At a private charity event on Tuesday, in comments preserved on audio, Hillary Clinton talked about actions by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in the Crimea. “Now if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the ’30s,” she said.

The next day, Clinton gave the inflammatory story more oxygen when speaking at UCLA. She “largely stood by the remarks,” the Washington Post reported. Clinton “said she was merely noting parallels between Putin’s claim that he was protecting Russian-speaking minorities in Crimea and Hitler’s moves into Poland, Czechoslovakia and other parts of Europe to protect German minorities.”

Clinton denied that she was comparing Putin with Hitler even while she persisted in comparing Putin with Hitler. “I just want people to have a little historic perspective,” she said. “I’m not making a comparison certainly, but I am recommending that we perhaps can learn from this tactic that has been used before.”

Yes indeed. Let’s learn from this tactic that has been used before — the tactic of comparing overseas adversaries to Hitler. Such comparisons by U.S. political leaders have a long history of fueling momentum for war.

“Surrender in Vietnam” would not bring peace, President Lyndon Johnson said at a news conference on July 28, 1965 as he tried to justify escalating the war, “because we learned from Hitler at Munich that success only feeds the appetite of aggression.

After Ho Chi Minh was gone, the Hitler analogy went to other leaders of countries in U.S. crosshairs. The tag was also useful when attached to governments facing U.S.-backed armies.

Three decades ago, while Washington funded the contra forces in Nicaragua, absurd efforts to smear the elected left-wing Sandinistas knew no rhetorical bounds. Secretary of State George Shultz said on February 15, 1984, at a speech in Boston: “I’ve had good friends who experienced Germany in the 1930s go there and come back and say, ‘I’ve visited many communist countries, but Nicaragua doesn’t feel like that. It feels like Nazi Germany.’

Washington embraced Panama’s Gen. Manuel Noriega as an ally, and for a while he was a CIA collaborator. But there was a falling out, and tension spiked in the summer of 1989. Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger said that drug trafficking by Noriega “is aggression as surely as Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland 50 years ago was aggression.” A U.S. invasion overthrew Noriega in December 1989

In early August 1990, the sudden Iraqi invasion of Kuwait abruptly ended cordial relations between Washington and Baghdad. The two governments had a history of close cooperation during the 1980s. But President George H. W. Bush proclaimed that Saddam Hussein was “a little Hitler.” In January 1991, the U.S. government launched the Gulf War.

Near the end of the decade, Hillary Clinton got a close look at how useful it can be to conflate a foreign leader with Hitler, as President Bill Clinton and top aides repeatedly drew the parallel against Serbia’s president, Slobodan Milosevic. In late March 1999, the day before the bombing of Kosovo and Serbia began, President Clinton said in a speech: “And so I want to talk to you about Kosovo today but just remember this — it’s about our values. What if someone had listened to Winston Churchill and stood up to Adolf Hitler earlier?”

As the U.S.-led NATO bombing intensified, so did efforts to justify it with references to Hitler. “Clinton and his senior advisers harked repeatedly back to images of World War II and Nazism to give moral weight to the bombing,” the Washington Post reported. Vice President Al Gore chimed in for the war chorus, calling Milosevic “one of these junior-league Hitler types.”

Just a few years later, the George W. Bush administration cranked up a revival of Saddam-Hitler comparisons. They became commonplace.

Five months before the invasion of Iraq, it was nothing extraordinary when a leading congressional Democrat pulled out all the stops. “Had Hitler’s regime been taken out in a timely fashion,” said Rep. Tom Lantos, “the 51 million innocent people who lost their lives during the Second World War would have been able to finish their normal life cycles. Mr. Chairman, if we appease Saddam Hussein, we will stand humiliated before both humanity and history.”

From the Vietnam War to the Iraq War, facile and wildly inaccurate comparisons between foreign adversaries and Adolf Hitler have served the interests of politicians hell-bent on propelling the United States into war. Often, those politicians succeeded. The carnage and the endless suffering have been vast.

Now, Hillary Clinton is ratcheting up her own Hitler analogies. She knows as well as anyone the power they can generate for demonizing a targeted leader.

With the largest nuclear arsenals on the planet, the United States and Russia have the entire world on a horrific knife’s edge. Nuclear saber-rattling is implicit in what the prospective President Hillary Clinton has done in recent days, going out of her way to tar Russia’s president with a Hitler brush. Her eagerness to heighten tensions with Russia indicates that she is willing to risk war — and even nuclear holocaust — for the benefit of her political ambitions.


Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Information about the documentary based on the book is at www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org.

Norman Solomon

Co-Founder at RootsAction
Norman Solomon is the author of “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and co-founder of RootsAction.org.

15 Comments on "Hillary Clinton: Playing a Dog-Eared ‘Hitler’ Card"

  1. Thurlow Weed | Mar 7, 2014 at 10:27 am |

    Historical perspective? If Putin is the current Hitler then Obama is the new Bismark, and I’m Abby Martin’s secret lover.

  2. Anarchy Pony | Mar 7, 2014 at 11:19 am |

    Hey now, isn’t it about time that we all give Hitler credit for being the man that killed Hitler?

  3. BuzzCoastin | Mar 7, 2014 at 11:44 am |

    who is even paying attention to Hill

    Hitler always plays the Hitler card
    psyop rule 1052J

  4. Lookinfor Buford | Mar 7, 2014 at 1:02 pm |

    So, she shouldn’t make a valid comparison because, what, we’re scared? GTFO
    Your over-analysis also missed the glaringly obvious. Things are heating up on the global stage, and if H is going to win, she will have to appear as the most hawkish woman you’ve ever seen in politics. People like her, but if she takes a lying down stance, she will lose. There are some things that trump ideology here. She’s not my choice of candidate, but she’s smart, I’ll give her that.

    • How many have been killed in the invasion?

    • Thurlow Weed | Mar 7, 2014 at 2:57 pm |

      You demonstrate remarkable clarity on this issue. There is a rumor going around that the blog Democratic Underground is looking for a “hanging” mod. That’s kind of like a hanging judge from the old wild west. Maybe you should inquire.

    • Frank_Black | Mar 7, 2014 at 4:07 pm |

      Yes but what about her sophistry? By her sophistry I actually mean all the political sophistry, and by everyone. How anyone can take anything these liars say seriously, even when deconstructing it is beyond understanding for me, and it isn’t because I don’t understand things. It’s because you have to suspend logic and start down the sophist-ication road of modern political lingual bullshit to get to any place approaching understanding with these people, and by that point you have been had. You feel me?

  5. Frank_Black | Mar 7, 2014 at 4:03 pm |

    How can anything that vampire has done not be compared to the fourth Reich’s ass hattery?

  6. lifobryan | Mar 7, 2014 at 6:11 pm |

    Better “Hitler Cards” than “Hitler Twister” I suppose ….

  7. Adam's Shadow | Mar 7, 2014 at 7:33 pm |

    Calling someone “Hitler” is the current political equivalent of a modern teenager referring to someone or something as “gay.” They are both meaningless terms for people who are too ignorant or lazy to come up with something actually incisive.

    “Hey, did you go over to Hunter’s house Friday night?”
    “No, Hunter’s hella Hitler, fuck that guy.”

    “I hate this book, it’s Hitler.”

    “I condemn Vladimir Putin’s actions in the Crimean peninsula because they’re totally gay.”

    See what I mean?

  8. Look, I fully appreciate the overall lameness of Hitler comparisons, but the fact is that what Putin is doing in Ukraine is directly analogous to what Hitler pulled in the Sudetenland and elsewhere–grabbing territory in a supposed effort to protect a kindred minority inside another nation.

    Solomon’s article addresses the history of US political leaders using Hitler analogies to justify war, but completely ignores the question of whether Hillary Clinton is right or not. The fact is that the historical parallels here are not trivial, and she’s right to point them out.

    That’s not an argument for escalating a military conflict with a major power armed to the teeth with ICBMs, but it does mean that we need to think about non-violent ways to effectively contain Russian imperialism.

    • kowalityjesus | Mar 8, 2014 at 8:17 pm |

      That is true, Hitler did annex/capture Bohemia, south Tyrol, the Sudetenland, and Danzig on the premise of reuniting ethnic Germans, but in this day and age, is there really any such thing as “ethnic Russians?” Isn’t Putin just talking about people that simply speak the language? In this day and age it’s fairly absurd to call a people as diverse as Russians “ethnic,” back in the early 20th century that was manifestly less fungible. I mean for heaven’s sake Kiev was the traditional capital of Russia before it was moved to Moscow, of COURSE there is going to be “ethnic Russians” there. wtf

  9. kowalityjesus | Mar 8, 2014 at 8:10 pm |

    “Hitler” is the crack that politicians sprinkle on the person they just killed.

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