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Clinton’s clique

September 16, 2016 at 10:02 am

Further releases from Hillary Clinton’s emails show a potentially unsavoury connection between the former Secretary of State and some of the world’s most powerful and – often – most anti-democratic figures. In particular, there is strong circumstantial evidence that suggests that while she was in office, as Secretary of State, Clinton’s team of advisors granted favourable access to her for various individuals who donated large sums of money to ‘the Clinton Foundation’ – a charitable organisation established by her husband, former president Bill Clinton.

But the real issue here is not the specific consequences of any particular example of corruption – especially as it would be virtually impossible to prove any actual corruption had taken place based on this evidence alone – but rather, it is a broader but equally profound conclusion. This is that the likely next president of the United States views the world – particularly the Middle East – through a lens that values the utility of maintaining the established structures of power.

In other words, despite Clinton’s famous campaigns for women and minority rights, as well as promoting democracy abroad, when it comes to the Gulf monarchies, the democratic candidate for the White House would undoubtedly prop up its friends – no matter how repressive and authoritarian – than support popular protests.

The foundation and the secretary

According to the Associate Press (AP) more than half of the meetings (on the phone or in person) that Clinton took with private individuals while she was in office as Secretary of State were with people who had donated to the Clinton Foundation. ‘Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million.’

The range of donors with whom Mrs Clinton took these meetings was quite broad. It includes Nobel Prize winner and world famous economist, Muhammad Yunus (who met with Clinton several times), to the founder of Slim-Fast and professional dabbler-in-Middle-East affairs S. Daniel Abraham. Apparently Mr Abraham’s meetings ‘concerned Mideast issues.’

Most importantly, perhaps, is the revelation of a link between Mrs. Clinton, Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa – the Crown Prince of and Deputy Prime Minister of Bahrain – and a large donation to the Clinton Foundation.

According to AP the meeting between Khalifa and Clinton was facilitated by the then Secretary of State’s, high profile advisor Huma Abedin, who – upon receiving an email regarding Khalifa’s visit to Washington – set up the meeting.

According to the emails reviewed by AP, the Clinton Foundation was critical; this is because Mrs Clinton had initially been reluctant to meet with the Crown Prince, though she was persuaded by the second approach that came through the foundation’s connections.

Indeed in the email sent by Doug Band – an insider at the Clinton Foundation – to Abedin referred to Crown Prince Khalifa as a “Good friend of ours”.

What this means

It is perhaps this last little turn of phase which is the most revealing aspect of the who affair. There is, after all, no firm evidence of impropriety and little more than a whiff of corruption. Indeed, if one was feeling generous it could be argued that the very fact that these emails were uncovered and brought to light by the press shows that the media’s check on those in power is working.

But what does it really mean when some of the most powerful people in the world can buy their way into meetings with the secretary of state – and likely next president – of the United States? What can we really draw from the idea that these are all just a group of ‘good friends’?

Arguably, the fact that Clinton has been effectively surrounded by a group of individuals who come from ruling classes, with privilege of vast wealth at their disposal, may shape her world view when it comes to dealing with crises.

For instance – while as President – Mrs Clinton is surely going to be surrounded by myriad special advisors and experts who will provide her hard data that can help her shape policy. But at the same time, these experiences of running in a clique of super wealthy elites will also play a role.

Psychologists have argued time and time again that it is far easier to empathise with someone with whom you have some form of personal connection. In this case Mrs Clinton’s record on personal connections has overwhelmingly been with established elites and not with the ordinary people who live under their rule.

One can imagine a scenario, for instance, where the government of Bahrain scales up its use of draconian methods to quell any possibility of a return to the popular unrest that began in 2011. The new President Clinton may face a choice to speak out about human rights abuses or to remain silent and tacitly accept the status quo.

She may base her decision on the statistics and data provided by her advisors or by human rights groups, but can we really be sure that her prior relationship with her ‘good friend’ the Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa won’t come into play?


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