This rumor started circulating shortly after then-Senator Hillary Clinton made a Thanksgiving visit to the soldiers in Iraq in 2003.
It includes a picture of a U.S. soldier shaking hands with Sen. Clinton. He is also crossing the fingers of his left hand, which the email says is a soldier’s sign for coercion.
There was a lot of speculation about what the picture really meant. Was the soldier really indicating that he didn’t like shaking hands with Hillary Clinton? Was the picture doctored to make it look that way? Was he sending some other kind of message with his crossed fingers?
The answer is that he evidently intentionally did cross his fingers during the handshake, and it was supposed to mean that he was not thrilled to shake her hand.
After his discharge from the Army, someone purporting to be that same soldier posted a dating profile on Yahoo Personals. He included the photograph in his profile and said:
The picture of me and Hillary Clinton was taken when she came to visit Iraq. I was actually ordered to shake her hand, and I never figured that my friends would circulate it all over the net. I AM NOT a Hillary fan by any stretch.
If this is the same soldier telling the unvarnished truth, he was expressing his own political opinion and displeasure. The idea that he was coerced or forced into shaking her hand as though he was part of a photo-op for an enemy combatant rather than ordered to shake the hand of an elected official by his superiors is an extreme interpretation of what was apparently a joke, but which was added into later emails and social media posts as though it was fact.
Crossing one’s fingers is often used to express hope for a lucky break. It is also a common visual trope used to express insincerity or coercion. However, despite rumors to the contrary, it is not listed as an official Army duress code.