A: No, I wouldn’t, and this is such a disheartening piece of news. I don’t think the Iraqis will take responsibility until we actually start withdrawing troops. We can begin that within 60 days.
Q: Is your plan to withdraw all troops? I’ve believe you have been saying up to this point combat troops.
A: Well, I intend to try to take nearly all of them out within a year, but obviously it’s going to take a lot of planning. I don’t think the administration has done the planning. You know, we’ve got to take care of our civilians. We have more than 100,000 Americans there in all kinds of capacities. I think it would be appropriate that we take care of the Iraqis who translated, and drove for, and protected our troops. So this is not going to be easy to do, but I think you can take out one to two brigades a month.
The Bush Administration says it does not even plan to submit this agreement to the Congress for approval, even though Iraqi officials plan to submit it to their parliament. It is an outrage that the Iraqi parliament will have an opportunity to debate this but the American Congress won’t. We need to rein in this President. That is why I introduced the first legislation to require the President to submit any such agreement for congressional approval and to withhold any funding to carry out the agreement.
I chose this one because of the importance of the underlying issue, and a pattern of obfuscation on Iraq by the Clinton campaign. Clinton has promised to order her generals to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq within 60 days of her inauguration, but she has never provided a “definite timetable” for bringing the troops home. In fact, she has said that she cannot promise to get all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of a second presidential term. At a campaign event on December 19, she was a little more specific than she had been previously when she said “I think we can bring home one or two combat brigades a month.” There is a huge difference, however, between “can” and “will.” “Can” does not constitute a “definite timetable.”
Hillary said, “The message sent loudly and clearly by the American people was that we desperately need a new course.“ By this point, she had traveled all over the map regarding Iraq, carried along by the shifts in public opinion and her own ambition to appear both strong and decisive, traits she new she’d need as president.
As she finalized her plans for a presidential bid, Hillary asked allies from NH how her vote for the war would play out in the campaign. AS she saw it, she had two options: chart a new course or continue to tread water.
Q: Did you urge him to use it?
CLINTON: That was what I urged my husband to do. He made a different decision
Q: Wait a minute. Didn’t your presidential candidate, George W. Bush, also accept contributions?
LAZIO: It’s absolutely wrong for all. The difference, though, on top of receiving the contributions, is that people who support the Hamas terrorist group, have been invited and courted at the White House, which I think is wrong.
CLINTON: I learned that an organization claimed credit for sponsoring a fund-raiser I attended; an organization whose members have made statements that I find offensive and have condemned. And as soon as I found out the facts, I returned all of the money that was raised because I did not want anyone to have a false impression about my strong support for Israel’s safety and security.
CLINTON: We should have vetoed it. It was one-sided. It did not address the violence that I believe is fomented by Arafat. It did not address what Israel has tried to do, such as pulling out of Lebanon. We’re seeing the capture of Israeli soldiers, the desecration of Joseph’s tomb. It’s imperative that Arafat end the violence and get back to negotiating. The US remains the guarantor of Israel’s security, and in the Senate, I would certainly be a strong voice for doing whatever was required. I’ve also called for conditioning aid to the Palestinians on their willingness to end violence, on their willingness to rid their textbooks of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli statements.
LAZIO: I did issue a statement immediately expressing my strong disappointment with America not using its veto power. I do not support call for a Palestinian state. My record is one of 100% consistency for the security of the state of Israel.
CLINTON: What Pollard did was a terrible crime against the US. It was a great breach of trust and national security and he plead guilty, was convicted and is serving a very long prison term. The question for me is around the due process issues concerning the way that he was sentenced. It is something that I have questions about and I believe that fair-minded people should ask similar questions. There was secret evidence put in before the court that has never been revealed.
LAZIO: The only person who is in a position to make that decision and the only person who’s got the authority to actually issue a pardon is the president himself.
A: Yes, I am. We have a system in our country of civilian control of the military. And I am convinced that it is in America’s best interest to immediately begin to withdraw within 60 days.
Q: But aren’t you essentially saying, “I know better than the military commanders here“?
A: No, what I’m saying is that no one can predict what will happen. But one thing I am sure of is that our staying in Iraq--continuing to have many [troops killed or] injured as well as Iraqi casualties--is no way for us to maintain a strong position in the world. We don’t know what will happen as we withdraw. We do know what will happen if we stay mired in Iraq. Our military will continue to be stretched thin. The Iraqi government will not accept responsibility for its own future.
A: The rationale of the surge was to create the space and time for the Iraqi government to make the decisions that only it can make. There is no doubt, given the skill and the commitment of our young men and women in uniform that putting more of them in will give us a tactical advantage and will provide security in some places, and that has occurred. But the fact is that the purpose of it has not been fulfilled. The Iraqi government has slowly inched toward making a few of the decisions in a less than complete way, but it hasn’t taken advantage of the sacrifice and the losses of life and billions of dollars that have occurred since the surge began. That is why I have said, upon taking office I would ask the secretary of defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and my security advisers to give me a plan so that I could begin withdrawing our troops within 60 days.
A: Because I’ve been very clear in saying that I will begin to withdraw troops in 60 days. I believe that it will take me one to two brigades a month, depending on how many troops we have there, and that nearly all of them should be out within a year. It is imperative, though, that we actually plan and execute this right. Last spring, I got into quite a back-and-forth with the Pentagon, because I was concerned they were not planning for withdrawal, because that was contrary to their strategy, or their stated position. I began to press them to let us know, and they were very resistant, and gave only cursory information. I will ask the Joint Chiefs & my security advisers the very first day I’m president, to begin to draw up such a plan so that we can withdraw.
A: What I have said is that I will move as quickly as possible. I hope to have nearly all out within a year. We don’t know what we’re going to inherent from Bush, but there is a big problem looming on the horizon that we had better pay attention to, and that is Bush is intent upon negotiating a long-term agreement with Iraq which would have permanent bases, permanent troop presence. He claims he does not need to come to the US Congress to get permission, he only needs to go to the Iraqi parliament. That is his stated public position. He was recently in the region, and it is clear that he intends to push forward on this to try to bind the US government and his successor to his failed policy. I have been strongly opposed to that. We should not be planning permanent bases and long-term troop commitments.
A: No, and here’s why. The surge was rationalized as giving the Iraqi government time to make the hard decisions. 2007 was the deadliest year for American troops, and, from my perspective, part of the reason that the Iraqis are doing anything is because they see this election happening and they know they don’t have much time, that the blank check that George Bush gave them is about to be torn up.
Q: If Gen. Petraeus says, “Senator, in September you called the surge the suspension of belief. It has worked. Keep troops there just a few more months to get this reconciliation complete.”
A: The whole point of the surge was, and the testimony that we heard last fall. The point of the surge was to push the Iraqi government to make these tough choices.
The reason I have to do that is because last spring, I asked for a briefing on what the planning was. The secretary of defense and the Department of Defense basically said “We’re not going to tell you.” And I said, “Well, yes you are.” We had such a briefing. It was classified. I can’t talk about it, but the bottom line is it was cursory.
I don’t think that the Bush White House wants there to be much planning. So starting on day one of my presidency, we will begin that planning. We will begin to withdraw our troops within 60 days. I think we can take out one to two brigades a month. At the same time, I will put increasing pressure on the Iraqi government. I will engage in a full diplomatic effort to work with the countries in the region and others who have an interest in the stability of Iraq.
A: Absolutely. But I do not oppose the brave young men and women who have fought this war with such distinction and heroism. I will begin to bring our troops home as soon as I am president, because Bush does not intend to end the war while he is still president. We’re doing to have to get the Joint Chiefs and my secretary of defense and advisers together to start the planning to move as quickly as possible, because I don’t believe that the planning has been sufficiently undertaken in the Pentagon under the Bush administration. We have to try to get the Iraqi government to understand its obligations, because there are no military solutions. We need to engage in diplomacy, with respect to Iraq. We have a big diplomatic apparatus. Bush doesn’t use it. He relies on a very small group of people. That’s a terrible mistake. Bush’s policies have alienated our friends and emboldened our enemies. We’ve got to do more than just send our young men and women out.
A: It is my goal to have all troops out by the end of my first term. But it is very difficult to know what we’re going to be inheriting. We do not know, walking into the White House in January 2009, what we’re going to find. What is the state of planning for withdrawal? That’s why last spring I began pressing the Pentagon to be very clear about whether or not they were planning to bring our troops out. And what I found was that they weren’t doing the kind of planning that is necessary, and we’ve been pushing them very hard to do so. You know, though, about the Democrats taking control of the Congress, I think the Democrats have pushed extremely hard to change this president’s course in Iraq. The Democrats keep voting for what we believe would be a better course.
A: I am saying that I’ve been guided by what I believe is the principle that should govern any decisions anyone in public life makes: I try to do what I think is best for my country and for the troops who serve it. And I have seen no evidence that this administration is willing to change course in any significant way. I voted against funding last spring. I will vote against it again because I think that it’s the only way that we can demonstrate clearly that we have to change direction. The president has not been willing to do that, and he still has enough support among the Republicans in the Senate that he doesn’t have to.
A: Well, I think he became the spokesman for the president’s failed policy. The president will announce that he’s going to withdraw 30,000 troops by next summer. That would have happened anyway, because we have to start withdrawing the so-called surge troops and get back to the pre-surge number. Then, I’m afraid, based on what we’ve heard from the general, that’s where it’s going to sit under this president until he leaves office.
Q: You said yesterday it required a willing suspension of disbelief. Meaning that you questioned either his veracity or his judgment in what he said.
A: No, what I said was meant to convey my very strong feeling that no matter how flat the pancake, there’ always two sides. The problem is that what the administration’s report intended to do was to take anecdotal evidence and actually gild the lily once again, making it seem as though there had been much more progress than I think you can actually justify.
Clinton is correct that the Department of Defense has not yet constructed specific plans for a withdrawal from Iraq. In a briefing delivered on May 9, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated that the DoD does not in fact have a contingency plan for bringing home all American soldiers at once. That means that there is no official line on how long it would take to redeploy all the troops in Iraq. Privately, military sources agree that it’s impossible to give a realistic estimate without deciding certain parameters such as the acceptable degree of risk for troops that would be withdrawing in the face of an armed enemy.
A: There are really two different ways of thinking about this: the first, is what we can do while President Bush is still in office, and the second is what I will do when I’m President. First we’ve got to face up to the reality that the situation in Iraq is deteriorating. It is not improving and all the happy talking in the world will not fix the grim reality on the ground. My plan to end the war confronts that reality head-on. I introduced legislation called “Iraq Troop Protection and Reduction Act.” Under it, we would begin re-deployment of our troops out of Iraq in 90 days. I have been pushing this plan for almost 2 years. The bill would fight the President’s escalation by capping the number of troops in Iraq, it would also prohibit sending more troops to escalate a failed strategy.
I hope that the president will extricate us from Iraq before he leaves office. But let me assure you, if you doesn’t, when I’m president, I will.
Hillary Clinton, who recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, said she agreed with Gingrich. She blamed the administration for “miscalculation” and “inept planning” in Iraq. “I do think we need more troops” in Iraq, Clinton said. She said she believes in giving the chief executive the authority to wage war, as her husband did in Bosnia and Kosovo. “But I regret the way the president has used the authority.” Clinton dismissed complaints that she should not have criticized President Bush while in Iraq and blamed a “right-wing apparatus.” Clinton said she was merely responding to questions from U.S. troops. “I’m not going to lie to an American soldier,” she said on CBS.
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