Hillary Clinton's Iraq Lies
- March 29, 2008
Hillary Clinton's Iraq Lies
By Stephen Zunes
On March 17, New York Senator and Democratic
presidential contender Hillary Clinton gave a speech
at George Washington University outlining her plans to
de-escalate U.S. military involvement in Iraq. Though
she called for the gradual withdrawal of U.S. combat
brigades over the next several years, she continued to
refuse to apologize for her 2002 vote authorizing the
invasion, to acknowledge the illegality of the war, or
to fully explain her false claims made at that time
regarding Iraq's military capabilities and alleged
ties to al-Qaeda. Nor was she able to offer an
explanation as to what led to her dramatic shift from
a supporter of the ongoing war and occupation as
recently as a year and a half ago to her current more
Below are excerpts from her speech, followed by
"It has been five years this week since our president
took us to war in Iraq."
President George W. Bush was not solely responsible
for taking the United States to war. He had
accomplices, such as Hillary Clinton. Bush was only
able launch the invasion as a result of being provided
with the authorization to do so by a Congressional
resolution. Clinton was among a minority of
congressional Democrats who â combined with a
Republican majority â provided sufficient votes to
give the go-ahead for this illegal and disastrous war.
"Bringing lasting stability to the region will take a
president with the strength and determination, the
knowledge and confidence...to rebuild our military
readiness, to care for our veterans, and to redouble
our efforts against al-Qaeda. If you give me the
chance, I will be that president."
As predicted prior to the invasion, the over-extension
of the U.S. armed forces, the enormous costs, and the
high casualty rates resulting from the war has greatly
harmed U.S. military readiness, the ability to care
for veterans, and the struggle against al-Qaeda. It's
hard to imagine how someone who supported the invasion
can be trusted to be the kind of president who will be
able to address those needs.
"Nearly 4,000 of [our troops] have, by now, made that
ultimate sacrifice. Tens of thousands more have
suffered wounds both visible and invisible to their
bodies, their minds, and their hearts. Their families
have sacrificed, too, in empty places at the dinner
table, in the struggle to raise children alone, in the
wrenching reversal of parents burying children... Our
armed forces are stretched to near the breaking point
with many of our troops on their second, third, or
fourth tours of duty. ... Taking into consideration
the long-term costs of replacing equipment and
providing medical care for troops and survivors'
benefits for their families, the war in Iraq could
ultimately cost well over $1 trillion."
In scholarly journals, in newspaper columns, in
congressional testimony, on this web site, and
elsewhere, there were ample warnings of just such
disastrous consequences resulting from a U.S. invasion
of Iraq. Regardless, Clinton apparently believed at
the time that seizing control of that oil-rich country
was worth the sacrifice. Only since public opinion
polls indicated that she had no hope of winning the
Democratic presidential nomination if she continued to
support the war, did she start talking about the war's
"I have met with our soldiers and military leaders [in
Iraq]. I have met with Iraqi local, regional, and
national elected and other influential officials."
During her one 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, requiring a helicopter to transport her
to the Green Zone. Though 55 Iraqis and one American
soldier were killed during her brief visit, she
insisted â in a manner remarkably similar to
statements by Vice President Dick Cheney â that the
rise in suicide bombings was evidence that the
insurgency was failing.
"The American people don't have to guess whether I'm
ready to lead or whether I understand the realities on
the ground in Iraq or whether I'd be too dependent on
advisers to help me determine the right way forward.
I've been working day-in and day-out in the Senate to
provide leadership to end this war."
In reality, until very recently, Clinton was one of
the leading senators supporting the war. Even after
the U.S. forces invaded and occupied Iraq and
confirmed that â contrary to Clinton's initial
justification for the U.S. conquest â Iraq did not
have "weapons of mass destruction," active WMD
programs, offensive delivery systems, or ties to
al-Qaeda as she and other supporters of the war had
claimed, she defended her vote to authorize the
invasion anyway. When Representative John Murtha
(D-PA) 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." In 2006, 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.
"Now, my Democratic opponent talks a great deal about
a speech he gave in 2002. He is asking us to judge him
by his words, and words can be powerful, but only if
the speaker translates them into action and solutions.
Senator Obama holds up his original opposition to the
war on the campaign trail, but he didn't start working
aggressively to end the war until he started running
for president. So when he had a chance to act on his
speech, he chose silence instead."
It's ironic that Clinton, in a desperate effort to
cover up for her support for the war and her lies to
justify it, would belittle Obama's accurate and
prescient understanding that invading Iraq was wrong.
Back in October 2002, Obama publicly acknowledged that
"Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the
United States, or to his neighbors" and that "even a
successful war against Iraq will require a U.S.
occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined
cost, with undetermined consequences." He also
recognized that "an invasion of Iraq without a clear
rationale and without strong international support
will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and
encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the
Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of
al-Qaeda." That same month in Washington, however,
Clinton was insisting incorrectly that Iraq was such a
dire threat to U.S. national security that it required
her, "in the best interests of our nation," to vote to
authorize the invasion.
Furthermore, Obama did a lot more than give a speech:
he gave interviews, lobbied members of Congress, and
made a series of other statements in which he warned
of the violent sectarian and ethnic divisions which
could emerge following a U.S. invasion and occupation,
the risks of a long-term U.S. military commitment, and
the dangerous precedent of giving a carte blanche for
a pre-emptive war.
It was true that, much to the disappointment of many
of his supporters, Obama did not initially take
leadership in opposition to the war once he was
elected to the U.S. Senate, though it is customary for
freshman senators to take a back seat on foreign
policy issues during the early part of their first
term. Yet, by November of his first year in office,
while Clinton was still backing Bush administration
policy, Obama was calling for a reduction in U.S.
forces. Within a year, Obama introduced legislation
setting a date for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, well
prior to Clinton supporting such legislation.
"As we bring our troops and contractors home, we
cannot lose sight of our strategic interests in this
region. The reality is that this war has made the
terrorists stronger. Well, they may not have been in
Iraq before the war, they are there now, and we cannot
allow Iraq to become a breeding ground and safe haven
for terrorists who seek to attack us and our friends
and allies. So let me be clear - under my plan,
withdrawing from Iraq will not mean retreating from
fighting terrorism in Iraq. That's why I will order
small, elite strike forces to engage in targeted
operations against al-Qaeda in Iraq. This will protect
Iraqi citizens, our allies, and our families right
here at home."
Clinton did not always acknowledge the absence of
terrorist operations in Iraq prior to the U.S.
invasion and occupation. Indeed, in order to justify
her vote to authorize the invasion, she insisted that
Saddam had "given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to
terrorists, including al-Qaeda members." This came
despite top strategic analysts correctly informing her
that there were no apparent links between Saddam
Hussein's secular nationalist regime and the radical
Islamist al-Qaeda, despite doubts of such claims
appearing in the National Intelligence Estimates made
available to her, and despite a subsequent definitive
report by the Department of Defense which noted that
not only did no such link exist, but that no such link
could have even been reasonably suggested based upon
the evidence available at that time. Now, as a direct
consequence of the invasion and occupation she helped
make possible, Clinton uses the very real presence of
terrorist groups, including at least one major faction
which identifies with al-Qaeda, as an excuse to
continue prosecuting the war.
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