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Floor Speech of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton/Iraq Resolution (10/10/2002)

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Author Topic: Floor Speech of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton/Iraq Resolution (10/10/2002)  (Read 707 times)
Luke Hodiak
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Posts: 2579

« on: January 09, 2008, 02:01:02 am »

October 10, 2002

Floor Speech of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
on S.J. Res. 45, A Resolution to Authorize the Use of
United States Armed Forces Against Iraq
As Delivered

Today we are asked whether to give the President of the United States authority to use force in Iraq should diplomatic efforts fail to dismantle Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons and his nuclear program.

I am honored to represent nearly 19 million New Yorkers, a thoughtful democracy of voices and opinions who make themselves heard on the great issues of our day especially this one. Many have contacted my office about this resolution, both in support of and in opposition to it, and I am grateful to all who have expressed an opinion.

I also greatly respect the differing opinions within this body. The debate they engender will aid our search for a wise, effective policy. Therefore, on no account should dissent be discouraged or disparaged. It is central to our freedom and to our progress, for on more than one occasion, history has proven our great dissenters to be right.

Now, I believe the facts that have brought us to this fateful vote are not in doubt. Saddam Hussein is a tyrant who has tortured and killed his own people, even his own family members, to maintain his iron grip on power. He used chemical weapons on Iraqi Kurds and on Iranians, killing over 20 thousand people. Unfortunately, during the 1980's, while he engaged in such horrific activity, he enjoyed the support of the American government, because he had oil and was seen as a counterweight to the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran.

In 1991, Saddam Hussein invaded and occupied Kuwait, losing the support of the United States. The first President Bush assembled a global coalition, including many Arab states, and threw Saddam out after forty-three days of bombing and a hundred hours of ground operations. The U.S.-led coalition then withdrew, leaving the Kurds and the Shiites, who had risen against Saddam Hussein at our urging, to Saddam's revenge.

As a condition for ending the conflict, the United Nations imposed a number of requirements on Iraq, among them disarmament of all weapons of mass destruction, stocks used to make such weapons, and laboratories necessary to do the work. Saddam Hussein agreed, and an inspection system was set up to ensure compliance. And though he repeatedly lied, delayed, and obstructed the inspections work, the inspectors found and destroyed far more weapons of mass destruction capability than were destroyed in the Gulf War, including thousands of chemical weapons, large volumes of chemical and biological stocks, a number of missiles and warheads, a major lab equipped to produce anthrax and other bio-weapons, as well as substantial nuclear facilities.

In 1998, Saddam Hussein pressured the United Nations to lift the sanctions by threatening to stop all cooperation with the inspectors. In an attempt to resolve the situation, the UN, unwisely in my view, agreed to put limits on inspections of designated "sovereign sites" including the so-called presidential palaces, which in reality were huge compounds well suited to hold weapons labs, stocks, and records which Saddam Hussein was required by UN resolution to turn over. When Saddam blocked the inspection process, the inspectors left. As a result, President Clinton, with the British and others, ordered an intensive four-day air assault, Operation Desert Fox, on known and suspected weapons of mass destruction sites and other military targets.

In 1998, the United States also changed its underlying policy toward Iraq from containment to regime change and began to examine options to effect such a change, including support for Iraqi opposition leaders within the country and abroad.

In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001.

It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security.

Now this much is undisputed. The open questions are: what should we do about it? How, when, and with whom?

Some people favor attacking Saddam Hussein now, with any allies we can muster, in the belief that one more round of weapons inspections would not produce the required disarmament, and that deposing Saddam would be a positive good for the Iraqi people and would create the possibility of a secular democratic state in the Middle East, one which could perhaps move the entire region toward democratic reform.

This view has appeal to some, because it would assure disarmament; because it would right old wrongs after our abandonment of the Shiites and Kurds in 1991, and our support for Saddam Hussein in the 1980's when he was using chemical weapons and terrorizing his people; and because it would give the Iraqi people a chance to build a future in freedom.

However, this course is fraught with danger. We and our NATO allies did not depose Mr. Milosevic, who was responsible for more than a quarter of a million people being killed in the 1990s. Instead, by stopping his aggression in Bosnia and Kosovo, and keeping on the tough sanctions, we created the conditions in which his own people threw him out and led to his being in the dock being tried for war crimes as we speak.

If we were to attack Iraq now, alone or with few allies, it would set a precedent that could come back to haunt us. In recent days, Russia has talked of an invasion of Georgia to attack Chechen rebels. India has mentioned the possibility of a pre-emptive strike on Pakistan. And what if China were to perceive a threat from Taiwan?

So Mr. President, for all its appeal, a unilateral attack, while it cannot be ruled out, on the present facts is not a good option.

Others argue that we should work through the United Nations and should only resort to force if and when the United Nations Security Council approves it. This too has great appeal for different reasons. The UN deserves our support. Whenever possible we should work through it and strengthen it, for it enables the world to share the risks and burdens of global security and when it acts, it confers a legitimacy that increases the likelihood of long-term success. The UN can help lead the world into a new era of global cooperation and the United States should support that goal.

But there are problems with this approach as well. The United Nations is an organization that is still growing and maturing. It often lacks the cohesion to enforce its own mandates. And when Security Council members use the veto, on occasion, for reasons of narrow-minded interests, it cannot act. In Kosovo, the Russians did not approve NATO military action because of political, ethnic, and religious ties to the Serbs. The United States therefore could not obtain a Security Council resolution in favor of the action necessary to stop the dislocation and ethnic cleansing of more than a million Kosovar Albanians. However, most of the world was with us because there was a genuine emergency with thousands dead and a million driven from their homes. As soon as the American-led conflict was over, Russia joined the peacekeeping effort that is still underway.

In the case of Iraq, recent comments indicate that one or two Security Council members might never approve force against Saddam Hussein until he has actually used chemical, biological, or God forbid, nuclear weapons.

So, Mr. President, the question is how do we do our best to both defuse the real threat that Saddam Hussein poses to his people, to the region, including Israel, to the United States, to the world, and at the same time, work to maximize our international support and strengthen the United Nations?

While there is no perfect approach to this thorny dilemma, and while people of good faith and high intelligence can reach diametrically opposed conclusions, I believe the best course is to go to the UN for a strong resolution that scraps the 1998 restrictions on inspections and calls for complete, unlimited inspections with cooperation expected and demanded from Iraq. I know that the Administration wants more, including an explicit authorization to use force, but we may not be able to secure that now, perhaps even later. But if we get a clear requirement for unfettered inspections, I believe the authority to use force to enforce that mandate is inherent in the original 1991 UN resolution, as President Clinton recognized when he launched Operation Desert Fox in 1998.

If we get the resolution that President Bush seeks, and if Saddam complies, disarmament can proceed and the threat can be eliminated. Regime change will, of course, take longer but we must still work for it, nurturing all reasonable forces of opposition.

If we get the resolution and Saddam does not comply, then we can attack him with far more support and legitimacy than we would have otherwise.

If we try and fail to get a resolution that simply, but forcefully, calls for Saddam's compliance with unlimited inspections, those who oppose even that will be in an indefensible position. And, we will still have more support and legitimacy than if we insist now on a resolution that includes authorizing military action and other requirements giving some nations superficially legitimate reasons to oppose any Security Council action. They will say we never wanted a resolution at all and that we only support the United Nations when it does exactly what we want.

I believe international support and legitimacy are crucial. After shots are fired and bombs are dropped, not all consequences are predictable. While the military outcome is not in doubt, should we put troops on the ground, there is still the matter of Saddam Hussein's biological and chemical weapons. Today he has maximum incentive not to use them or give them away. If he did either, the world would demand his immediate removal. Once the battle is joined, however, with the outcome certain, he will have maximum incentive to use weapons of mass destruction and to give what he can't use to terrorists who can torment us with them long after he is gone. We cannot be paralyzed by this possibility, but we would be foolish to ignore it. And according to recent reports, the CIA agrees with this analysis. A world united in sharing the risk at least would make this occurrence less likely and more bearable and would be far more likely to share with us the considerable burden of rebuilding a secure and peaceful post-Saddam Iraq.

President Bush's speech in Cincinnati and the changes in policy that have come forth since the Administration began broaching this issue some weeks ago have made my vote easier. Even though the resolution before the Senate is not as strong as I would like in requiring the diplomatic route first and placing highest priority on a simple, clear requirement for unlimited inspections, I will take the President at his word that he will try hard to pass a UN resolution and will seek to avoid war, if at all possible.

Because bipartisan support for this resolution makes success in the United Nations more likely, and therefore, war less likely, and because a good faith effort by the United States, even if it fails, will bring more allies and legitimacy to our cause, I have concluded, after careful and serious consideration, that a vote for the resolution best serves the security of our nation. If we were to defeat this resolution or pass it with only a few Democrats, I am concerned that those who want to pretend this problem will go way with delay will oppose any UN resolution calling for unrestricted inspections.

This is a very difficult vote. This is probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make -- any vote that may lead to war should be hard -- but I cast it with conviction.

And perhaps my decision is influenced by my eight years of experience on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue in the White House watching my husband deal with serious challenges to our nation. I want this President, or any future President, to be in the strongest possible position to lead our country in the United Nations or in war. Secondly, I want to insure that Saddam Hussein makes no mistake about our national unity and for our support for the President's efforts to wage America's war against terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. And thirdly, I want the men and women in our Armed Forces to know that if they should be called upon to act against Iraq, our country will stand resolutely behind them.

My vote is not, however, a vote for any new doctrine of pre-emption, or for uni-lateralism, or for the arrogance of American power or purpose -- all of which carry grave dangers for our nation, for the rule of international law and for the peace and security of people throughout the world.

Over eleven years have passed since the UN called on Saddam Hussein to rid himself of weapons of mass destruction as a condition of returning to the world community. Time and time again he has frustrated and denied these conditions. This matter cannot be left hanging forever with consequences we would all live to regret. War can yet be avoided, but our responsibility to global security and to the integrity of United Nations resolutions protecting it cannot. I urge the President to spare no effort to secure a clear, unambiguous demand by the United Nations for unlimited inspections.

And finally, on another personal note, I come to this decision from the perspective of a Senator from New York who has seen all too closely the consequences of last year's terrible attacks on our nation. In balancing the risks of action versus inaction, I think New Yorkers who have gone through the fires of hell may be more attuned to the risk of not acting. I know that I am.

So it is with conviction that I support this resolution as being in the best interests of our nation. A vote for it is not a vote to rush to war; it is a vote that puts awesome responsibility in the hands of our President and we say to him - use these powers wisely and as a last resort. And it is a vote that says clearly to Saddam Hussein - this is your last chance - disarm or be disarmed.

Thank you, Mr. President.
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Luke Hodiak
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« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2008, 02:03:22 am »

Hillary Clinton on Iraq
Stephen Zunes | December 10, 2007

Editor: John Feffer
Foreign Policy In Focus

Public opinion polls have consistently shown that the majority of Americans – and even a larger majority of Democrats – believe that Iraq is the most important issue of the day, that it was wrong for the United States to have invaded that country, and the United States should completely withdraw its forces in short order. Despite this, the clear front-runner for the Democratic Party nomination for president is Senator Hillary Clinton, a strident backer of the invasion who only recently and opportunistically began to criticize the war and call for a partial withdrawal of American forces.

As a result, it is important to review Senator Clinton’s past and current positions regarding the Iraq War. Indeed, despite her efforts in response to public opinion polls to come across as an opponent of the war, Hillary Clinton has proven to be one of the most hard-line Democratic senators in support of a military response to the challenges posed by Iraq. She has also been less than honest in justifying her militaristic policies, raising concerns that she might support military interventions elsewhere.

Pre-War Militarism
Senator Clinton’s militaristic stance on Iraq predated her support for Bush’s 2003 invasion. For example, in defending the brutal four-day U.S. bombing campaign against Iraq in December 1998 – known as Operation Desert Fox – she claimed that “[T]he so-called presidential palaces … in reality were huge compounds well suited to hold weapons labs, stocks, and records which Saddam Hussein was required by UN resolution to turn over. When Saddam blocked the inspection process, the inspectors left.” In reality, as became apparent when UN inspectors returned in 2002 as well as in the aftermath of the invasion and occupation, there were no weapons labs, stocks of weapons or missing records in these presidential palaces. In addition, Saddam was still allowing for virtually all inspections to go forward at the time of the 1998 U.S. attacks. The inspectors were withdrawn for their own safety at the encouragement of President Clinton in anticipation of the imminent U.S.-led assault.

Senator Clinton also took credit for strengthening U.S. ties with Ahmad Chalabi, the convicted embezzler who played a major role in convincing key segments of the administration, Congress, the CIA, and the American public that Iraq still had proscribed weapons, weapons systems, and weapons labs. She has expressed pride that her husband’s administration changed underlying U.S. policy toward Iraq from “containment” – which had been quite successful in defending Iraq’s neighbors and protecting its Kurdish minority – to “regime change,” which has resulted in tragic warfare, chaos, dislocation, and instability.

Prior to the 2003 invasion, Clinton insisted that Iraq still had a nuclear program, despite a detailed 1998 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), subsequent studies that indicated that Iraq’s nuclear program appeared to have been completely dismantled a full decade earlier, and a 2002 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate that made no mention of any reconstituted nuclear development effort. Similarly, even though Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons programs had been dismantled years earlier, she also insisted that Iraq had rebuilt its biological and chemical weapons stockpiles. And, even though the limited shelf life of such chemical and biological agents and the strict embargo against imports of any additional banned materials that had been in place since 1990 made it physically impossible for Iraq to have reconstituted such weapons, she insisted that “It is clear…that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons.”

In the fall of 2002, Senator Clinton sought to discredit those questioning Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Vice-President Dick Cheney, and others who were making hyperbolic statements about Iraq’s supposed military prowess by insisting that Iraq’s possession of such weapons “are not in doubt” and was “undisputed.” Similarly, Clinton insisted that Secretary of State Colin Powell’s February 2005 speech at the UN was “compelling” although UN officials and arms control experts roundly denounced its false claims that Iraq had reconstituted these proscribed weapons, weapons programs, and delivery systems. In addition, although top strategic analysts correctly informed her that there were no links between Saddam Hussein’s secular nationalist regime and the radical Islamist al-Qaeda, Senator Clinton insisted that Saddam “has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members.”

The Lead-Up to War
Though the 2003 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq was inaccurate in a number of respects, it did challenge the notion of any operational ties between the Iraqi government and Al-Qaeda and questioned some of the more categorical claims by President Bush about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD). However, Senator Clinton didn’t even bother to read it. She now claims that it wasn’t necessary for her to have actually read the 92-page document herself because she was briefed on the contents of the report. However, since no one on her staff was authorized to read the report, it’s unclear who could have actually briefed her.

During the floor debate over the resolution authorizing the invasion of Iraq, Clinton was the only Democratic senator to have categorically accepted the Bush administration’s claims regarding Iraq’s alleged chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs, Iraq’s alleged long-range missile capabilities, and alleged ties to al-Qaeda. (Some Democratic senators accepted some of those claims, but not all of them.)

In the months leading up the war, Senator Clinton chose to ignore the pleas of the hundreds of thousands of people demonstrating in her state and across the country against the war and similarly brushed off calls by religious leaders, scholars, community activists, and others to oppose it. Perhaps most significant was her refusal to consider the anti-war appeals by leaders of the Catholic Church and virtually every mainline Protestant denomination, which noted that it did not meet the traditional criteria in the Christian tradition for a just war. Instead, Senator Clinton embraced the arguments of the right-wing fundamentalist leadership who supported the war. This categorical rejection of the perspective of the mainstream Christian community raises concerns about her theological perspectives on issues of war and peace.

In March 2003, well after UN weapons inspectors had been allowed to return and engage in unfettered inspections and were not finding any WMDs, Senator Clinton made clear that the United States should invade that Iraq anyway. Indeed, she asserted that the only way to avoid war would be for Saddam Hussein to abide by President Bush’s ultimatum to resign as president and leave the country, in the apparent belief that the United States had the right to unilaterally make such demands of foreign leaders and to invade and occupy their countries if they refused. Said Senator Clinton, “The president gave Saddam Hussein one last chance to avoid war and the world hopes that Saddam Hussein will finally hear this ultimatum, understand the severity of those words, and act accordingly.”

When President Bush launched the invasion soon thereafter and spontaneous protests broke out across the country, Senator Clinton voted in favor of a Republican-sponsored resolution that “commends and supports the efforts and leadership of the President . . . in the conflict against Iraq.”

Aftermath of invasion
Even after the U.S. forces invaded and occupied Iraq and confirmed that – contrary to Senator Clinton’s initial justification for the war – Iraq did not have WMDs, WMD programs, offensive delivery systems, or ties to al-Qaeda, she defended her vote to authorize the invasion anyway. Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York that December, she declared, “I was one who supported giving President Bush the authority, if necessary, to use force against Saddam Hussein. I believe that that was the right vote” and was one that “I stand by.”

In the face of growing doubts about American forces involved in a deepening counter-insurgency war, she urged “patience” and expressed her concern about the lack of will “to stay the course” among some Americans. “Failure is not an option” in Iraq, she insisted. “We have no option but to stay involved and committed.” Indeed, long before President Bush announced his “surge,” Senator Clinton called for the United States to send more troops.

During a trip to Iraq in February 2005, she insisted that the U.S. occupation was “functioning quite well,” although the security situation had deteriorated so badly that the four-lane divided highway on flat open terrain connecting the airport with the capital could not be secured at the time of her arrival and a helicopter had to transport her to the Green Zone. Though 55 Iraqis and one American soldier were killed during her brief visit, she insisted – in a manner remarkably similar to Vice President Cheney – that the rise in suicide bombings was evidence that the insurgency was failing.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press” that same month, she argued that it “would be a mistake” to immediately withdraw U.S. troops or even simply set a timetable for withdrawal, claiming that “We don’t want to send a signal to insurgents, to the terrorists, that we are going to be out of here at some, you know, date certain.” Less than two years ago, she declared, “I reject a rigid timetable that the terrorists can exploit.” And, just last year, on an appearance on ABC’s Nightline, she described how “I’ve taken a lot of heat from my friends who have said, ‘Please, just, you know, throw in the towel and say let’s get out by a date certain. I don't think that’s responsible.” When Representative John Murtha made his first call for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq in November 2005, she denounced his effort, calling a withdrawal of U.S. forces “a big mistake.”

As recently as last year, when Senator John Kerry sponsored an amendment that would have required the redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq in order to advance a political solution to the growing sectarian strife, she voted against it.

Rewriting History
Senator Clinton has never apologized for her vote to authorize the invasion. She insists that her eagerness for the United States to invade Iraq had nothing to do with its vast petroleum reserves. Like President Bush, she claims that she did not lie about her false accusations about Iraq’s weapons programs. She says she was misled by faulty intelligence, though she has refused to make public this intelligence that she claims demonstrated that Iraq had somehow reconstituted its WMD.

Senator Clinton has also claimed that Bush – at the time of the resolution authorizing the invasion – had misled her regarding his intention to pursue diplomacy instead of rushing into war. But there was nothing in the war resolution that required him to pursue any negotiations. She has tried to emphasize that she voted in favor of an unsuccessful amendment by Senator Byrd “which would have limited the original authorization to one year.” However, this resolution actually meant very little, since it gave President Bush the authority to extend the war authorization “for a period or periods of 12 months each” if he determined that it was “necessary for ongoing or impending military operations against Iraq.”

Despite the fact that Iraq had several weeks prior to the October 2002 vote already agreed unconditionally to allow UN inspectors to return, she categorically insisted that her vote “was a necessary step in order to maximize the outcome that did occur in the Security Council with the unanimous vote to send in inspectors.”

She has also subsequently claimed that her vote “was clearly intended to demonstrate support for going to the United Nations to put inspectors into Iraq” and was “not a vote for pre-emptive war.” The record shows, however, that Senator Clinton voted against an amendment by Senator Carl Levin that would have allowed for U.S. military action to disarm Iraq of any weapons of mass destruction and weapons systems pursuant to any future UN Security Council resolution authorizing such military actions, which would presumably have taken place had Iraq not allowed the inspectors back in as promised. In other words, she not only was willing to ignore U.S. obligations under the UN Charter that forbids such unilateral military actions by its member states, she tacitly acknowledged that she was unconcerned about supporting UN efforts to bring inspectors back into the country. Indeed, in her floor speech, she warned that this vote “says clearly to Saddam Hussein - this is your last chance - disarm or be disarmed” and the resolution that she did support clearly authorizes President Bush to invade Iraq at the time and circumstances of his own choosing, regardless of whether inspectors were allowed to return to Iraq and regardless of whether the Bush administration received UN support.

Senator Clinton has never criticized the Bush administration for its flagrant violation of the UN Charter or its responsibility for the deaths of the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians. She has limited her criticism to the way the administration handled the invasion, implying that, as president, she would do invasions better. Indeed, she insisted that while not regretting her vote to authorize the invasion, she did regret “the way the president used the authority.”

Senator Clinton has criticized the administration for not acting to gain more international support for the invasion, ignoring the fact that they actually had tried very hard to do so but failed. The Bush administration was unable to get authorization for the use of force from the UN or, with the exception of Great Britain, to get any substantial troop support from other countries not because they didn’t try, but because the vast majority of the international community recognized that an invasion of Iraq was illegal and unnecessary.

Current Policy
A careful look at her current policy toward Iraq reveals that Senator Clinton is not as anti-war as her supporters depict her.

She would withdraw some troops, just as President Bush has been promising to do eventually, but insists that the United States should maintain its “military as well as political mission” in Iraq for the indefinite future for such purposes as countering Iranian influence, protecting the Kurdish minority, preventing a failed state, and supporting the Iraqi military. On ABC’s “This Week” in September, she insisted that “withdrawing is dangerous. It has to be done responsibly, prudently, carefully, but we have said that there will be a likely continuing mission against al-Qaeda in Iraq. We have to protect our civilian employees, our embassy that will be there.”

If Senator Clinton were really concerned about the threat that al-Qaeda currently poses in Iraq, however, she would never have voted to authorize the invasion, which led to the predictable rise of al-Qaeda and other militant groups in that country. Similarly, there would not be the huge embassy complex nor would there be tens of thousands of civilian employees she insists that U.S. troops are necessary to defend if the United States had not invaded Iraq in the first place. In addition, only because the United States overthrew the stridently secular anti-Iranian regime of Saddam Hussein has Iran gained such influence. And since the risks of a collapse of Iraq’s internal security was one of the main arguments presented to her prior to her vote, Clinton should not have voted to authorize the invasion if a failed state was really a concern for hers.

Since most estimates of the numbers of troops needed to carry out these tasks range between 40,000 and 75,000, the best that can be hoped for under a Hillary Clinton presidency is that she would withdraw only about one-half to two-thirds of American combat forces within a year or so of her assuming office. Indeed, she has explicitly refused to promise, if elected president, to withdraw troops by the end of her term in 2013. As Senator Clinton describes, it, “What we can do is to almost take a line sort of north of, between Baghdad and Kirkuk, and basically put our troops into that region – the ones that are going to remain for our anti-terrorism mission; for our northern support mission; for our ability to respond to the Iranians; and to continue to provide support, if called for, for the Iraqis.” This hardly constitutes a withdrawal.

Senator Clinton tries to downplay the risk of keeping U.S. forces bogged down indefinitely by emphasizing that she would put greater emphasis on training the Iraqi armed forces. But much of the Iraqi armed forces are more loyal to their respective sectarian militias than they are to protecting Iraq as a whole. Nor has she expressed much concern that the Iraqi armed forces and police have engaged in gross and systematic human rights abuses. As with her backing of unconditional military assistance and security training to scores of other allied governments that engage in a pattern of gross and systematic human rights violations, she appears unconcerned not only with the immorality of such a policy but the long-term strategic risks from the blowback that would result from the United States becoming identified with repressive regimes.

Little Difference from Bush
As her record indicates, Senator Clinton’s position on Iraq differs very little from that of President Bush. For her to receive the nomination for president would in effect be an endorsement by the Democratic Party of the Iraq war.

In 2004, the Democrats selected a nominee who also voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq, falsely claimed that Iraq still had WMDs, and – at that time – insisted on maintaining U.S. troops in that country. As a result, Senator John Kerry failed to mobilize the party’s anti-war base and went down to defeat. What timid concerns Kerry did raise about President Bush’s handling of the Iraq war during the campaign were used by the Bush campaign to focus attention away from the war itself and highlight the Democratic nominee’s changing positions. Had the Democrats instead nominated someone who had opposed the war from the beginning, the debate that fall would have been not about Senator Kerry’s supposed “flip-flopping” but the tragic decision to illegally invade a country on the far side of the world that was no threat to us and the squandering of American lives and tax dollars that have resulted.

If the Democrats select another war supporter as their nominee in 2008, the result may well be the same as 2004. Large numbers of people will refuse to vote for the Democratic nominee as part of a principled stance against voting for someone who authorized and subsequently supported the Iraq war. And Republicans will highlight the Democratic nominee’s shifting positions on Iraq as evidence that their opponent is simply an opportunistic politician rather than the kind of decisive leader the country needs.

Stephen Zunes is the Foreign Policy In Focus Middle East editor ( He is a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco and the author of Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism (Common Courage Press, 2003).
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