2008 Democratic debate on the eve of Super Tuesday: on War & Peace


Barack Obama: The Iraq war has undermined our security

We have spent billions of dollars, lost thousands of lives. Thousands more have been maimed and injured as a consequence and are going to have difficulty putting their lives back together again. This has undermined our security. In the meantime, Afghanistan has slid into more chaos than existed before we went into Iraq.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles before Super Tuesday Jan 31, 2008

Barack Obama: Iraq is distracting us from a host of global threats

It is important for us to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in. I will end this war. We will not have a permanent occupation and permanent bases in Iraq. When McCain suggests that we might be there 100 years, that indicates a profound lack of understanding that weíve got a whole host of global threats out there, including Iraq, but weíve got a big problem right now in Afghanistan. Pakistan is of great concern. We are neglecting our foreign policy with respect to Latin America. China is strengthening. If we neglect our economy by spending $200 billion every year in this war that has not made us more safe, that is undermining our long-term security. It is important for us to set a date. Because if we are going to send a signal t the Iraqis that we are serious, and prompt the Shia, Sunni, & Kurds to actually come together & negotiate, they have to have clarity about how serious we are. It canít be muddy or fuzzy. Theyíve got to know that we are serious about this process.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles before Super Tuesday Jan 31, 2008

Barack Obama: End the war, and end the mindset that got us into war

Weíve got to be very clear about what our mission is. We would make sure that our embassies & our civilians are protected; that weíve got to care for Iraqi civilians, including the four million displaced already. We already have a humanitarian crisis, an we have not taken those responsibilities seriously. We need a strike force that can take out potential terrorist bases that get set up in Iraq.

But the one important thing is that we not get mission creep, and we not start suggesting that we should hav troops in Iraq to blunt Iranian influence. If we were concerned about Iranian influence, we should not have had this government installed in the first place. We shouldnít have invaded in the first place. It was part of the reason that it was such a profound strategic error for us to go into this war.

I will offer a clear contrast as somebody who never supported this war. I donít want to just end the war, but I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place.

Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles before Super Tuesday Jan 31, 2008

Barack Obama: We have set the bar so low in Iraq

Q: There has been some stability in parts of Iraq where there was turmoil before and that any quick, overly quick withdrawal could undermine all of that and all of that progress would be for naught. The number of US casualties has gone down. What do you say?

A: I welcome the progress. This notion that Democrats donít want to see progress in Iraq is ridiculous. I have to hug mothers in rope lines during town hall meetings as they weep over their fallen sons and daughters. I want to get our troops home safely, and I want us as a country to have this mission completed honorably. But the notion that somehow we have succeeded as a consequence of the recent reductions in violence means that we have set the bar so low itís buried in the sand at this point. We went from intolerable levels of violence and a dysfunctional government to spikes and horrific levels of violence and a dysfunctional government. Now, two years later, weíre back to intolerable levels of violence and a dysfunctional government.

Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles before Super Tuesday Jan 31, 2008

Barack Obama: The Iraq war was conceptually flawed from the start

It is much easier for us to have the argument, when we have a nominee who says, I always thought this was a bad idea, this was a bad strategy. It was not just a problem of execution. They screwed up the execution of it in all sorts of ways. Even McCain has acknowledged that. Can we make an argument that this was a conceptually flawed mission, from the start? We need better judgment when we decide to send our young men and women into war, that we are making absolutely certain that it is because there is an imminent threat, that American interests are going to be protected, that we have a plan to succeed and to exit, that we are going to train our troops properly and equip them properly and put them on proper rotations and treat them properly when they come home. That is an argument we are going to have an easier time making if they canít turn around and say: But hold on a second; you supported this. Thatís part of the reason why I would be the strongest nominee on this argument of national security.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles before Super Tuesday Jan 31, 2008

Barack Obama: Title of Iraq war authorization bill stated its intent

The legislation, the authorization had the title, ďAn Authorization to Use US Military Force in Iraq.Ē Everybody, the day after that vote was taken, understood this was a vote potentially to go to war. Clinton has claimed that sheís got the experience on day one. And part of the argument that Iím making in this campaign is that, it is important to be right on day one. The judgment that Iíve presented on this issue, and some other issues is relevant to how weíre going to make decisions in the future. Itís not a function just of looking backwards, itís a function of looking forwards and how are we going to be making a series of decisions in a very dangerous world. The terrorist threat is real. And precisely because itís real--and weíve got finite resources. We donít have the capacity to just send our troops in anywhere we decide, without good intelligence, without a clear rationale. Thatís the kind of leadership that we need from the next president of the US. Thatís what I intend to provide.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles before Super Tuesday Jan 31, 2008

Hillary Clinton: Leaving 130,000 troops in Iraq is irresponsible abdication

Bush intends to leave at least 130,000, if not more, troops in Iraq as he exits. Itís the most irresponsible abdication of what should be a presidential commitment to end what he started. So, we will inherit it. Therefore, I will do everything I can to get as many of our troops out as quickly as possible, taking into account all of these contingencies that weíre going to have to contend with once we are in charge and once we can get into the Pentagon to figure out whatís really there & whatís going on.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles before Super Tuesday Jan 31, 2008

Hillary Clinton: Have nearly all combat troops out in a year

Q: Can you make a commitment that 16 months after your inauguration will be enough time for all combat troops to get out of Iraq?

A: I certainly hope it will be. I hope to have nearly all of them out within a year.

Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles before Super Tuesday Jan 31, 2008

Hillary Clinton: Withdraw one to two brigades in Iraq each month

Q: Obama says he wants all combat troops out within 16 months of his inauguration. You havenít offered a specific end date. Why shouldnít voters worry that your position could turn into an open-ended commitment?

A: Because Iíve 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 Iím president, to begin to draw up such a plan so that we can withdraw.

Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles before Super Tuesday Jan 31, 2008

Hillary Clinton: Canít leave Iraq safely without a plan

Itís not only bringing our young men and women and our equipment out, which is dangerous. They have got to go down those same roads where they have been subjected to bombing and so much loss of life and injury. We have to think about what weíre going to do with the more than 100,000 Americans civilians who are there, working for the embassy, working for businesses, working for charities. Weíve got to figure out what to do with the Iraqis who sided with us. A lot of the drivers and translators saved so many of your young men and womenís lives, and I donít think we can walk out on them without having some plan as to how to take care of those who are targeted. At the same time, we have got to tell the Iraqi government there is no more time. They are out of time. They have got to make the tough decisions they have avoided making. They have got to take responsibility for their own country.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles before Super Tuesday Jan 31, 2008

Hillary Clinton: Canít let the Iraqis think the US will be there forever

We have to send several messages at once. We are withdrawing, and I believe that is the best message to send to the Iraqis. That they need to know that they have to get serious, because so far they have been under the illusion that the Bush administratio and the Republicans who have more of the same will be there indefinitely. Itís important to send that message to the region, because Iran, Syria, the other countries in the neighborhood, are going to find themselves in a very difficult position as we withdraw. Be careful what you wish for. They will be dragged into what is sectarian divisiveness with many different factions among the 3 main groups. Therefore, we need to start diplomatic efforts immediately, getting the Iranians, the Syrians, and others to the table. Itís in their interest, our interest, and certainly in the Iraqisí interest. Bush has taken the view that I find absolutely indefensible, that he doesnít have to bring any agreement about permanent bases and ongoing occupation.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles before Super Tuesday Jan 31, 2008

Hillary Clinton: Voted against precedent of US subordinate to UN in Iraq

Q: Before the US invasion of Iraq, you could have voted for the Levin Amendment which required Bush to report to Congress about the UN inspection before taking military action. Why did you vote against that amendment?

A: Although I believe we needed to put inspectors in, that was the underlying reason why I at least voted to give Bush the authority, put those inspectors in, figure out what is there and what isnít there. The way that amendment was drafted suggested that the US would subordinate whatever our judgment might be going forward to the UN Security Council. I donít think that was a good precedent. Therefore, I voted against it. I did vote to limit the authority that was being given to Bush to one year, and that was not approved. Iíve said many times if I had known then what I know now, I never would have given Bush the authority. It was a sincere vote based on my assessment at the time and what I believed he would do with the authority he was given. He abused and misused that authority.

Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles before Super Tuesday Jan 31, 2008

Hillary Clinton: Iraq war authorization was not authority for preemption

I warned at the time the Iraq war authorization was not authority for a preemptive war. Nevertheless, he went ahead and waged one, which has led to the position we find ourselves in today. Now we have to look at how we go forward. There will be a great debate between us and the Republicans, because the Republicans are still committed to Bushís policy, and some are more committed than others, with McCainís recent comments. Heís now accusing me of surrendering because I believe we should withdraw startin within 60 days of my becoming president. Well, that is a debate I welcome, because the Democrats have a much better grasp of the reality of the situation that we are confronting. We have to continue to press that case. It will be important, however, that our nominee be able to present both a reasoned argument against continuing our presence in Iraq and the necessary credentials and gravitas for commander-in- chief. That has to cross that threshold in the mind of every American voter.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles before Super Tuesday Jan 31, 2008

Hillary Clinton: Told by the White House how the war resolution would be used

Q: Would you say that you were naive in trusting Bush?

A: No. When the Iraq war vote came to the Senate, we were confronting the reality of trying to deal with the consequences of Bushís action. It is abundantly clear that the case that was outlined on behalf of going to the resolution--not going to war, but going to the resolution--was a credible case. I was told personally by the White House that they would use the resolution to put the inspectors in. Some now think this was a very clear open and shut case. We bombed them for days in 1998 because Saddam Hussein threw out inspectors. We had evidence that they had a lot of bad stuff for a very long time which we discovered after the first Gulf War. Knowing that he was a megalomaniac, knowing he would not want to compete for attention with bin Laden, there were legitimate concerns about what he might do. So, I made a reasoned judgment. Unfortunately, the person who actually got to execute the policy did not.

Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles before Super Tuesday Jan 31, 2008

Hillary Clinton: Iraq war vote was meant to be used as coercive diplomacy

Q: Why canít you just say right now that vote was a mistake?

A: I did an enormous amount of investigation and due diligence to try to determine what if any threat could flow from the history of Saddam being both an owner of and a seeker of WMD. The ide of putting inspectors back in was a credible idea. I believe in coercive diplomacy. You try to figure out how to move bad actors in a direction that you prefer in order to avoid more dire consequences. If you took it on the face of it and if you took it on the basis of what we hoped would happen with the inspectors going in, that in and of itself was a policy that weíve used before. We have used the threat of force to try to make somebody change their behavior. What no one could have fully appreciated is how obsessed Bush was with this particular mission. Unfortunately, I and others who warned at the time, let the inspectors finish their work do not wage a preemptive war, use diplomacy, were just talking to a brick wall.

Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles before Super Tuesday Jan 31, 2008

Hillary Clinton: Would have never diverted attention from Afghanistan

Itís clear that if I had been president, we would have never diverted our attention from Afghanistan. When I went to Afghanistan the first time and was met by a young soldier from New York, in the 10th Mountain Division who told me that I was welcomed to the forgotten front lines in the war against terror, that just struck me so forcefully. We have so many problems that we are going to have to untangle. It will take a tremendous amount of effort. What are we going to do going forward? Because day after day, what I spend my time working on is trying to help pick up the pieces for families and for injured soldiers trying to make sure that they get the help that they need, trying to give the resources that are required. We had to fight to get body armor. Bush sent people to war without body armor. We need a president who will be sensitive to the implications of the use of force and understand that force should be a last resort, not a first resort.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles before Super Tuesday Jan 31, 2008

  • The above quotations are from 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles, California, on on Jan. 31, 2008, the eve of Super Tuesday.
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Candidates and political leaders on War & Peace:
Incoming Obama Administration:
Pres.:Sen.Barack Obama
V.P.:Sen.Joe Biden
State:Hillary Clinton
Staff:Rahm Emanuel
Treas.:Tim Geithner
DoD:Robert Gates
A.G.:Eric Holder
DHS:Janet Napolitano
DoC:Bill Richardson
Outgoing Bush Administration:
Pres.:George Bush
V.P.:Dick Cheney
A.G.:John Ashcroft(2005)
DEA:Asa Hutchinson(2005)
USDA:Mike Johanns(2007)
EPA:Mike Leavitt
HUD:Mel Martinez(2003)
State:Colin Powell(2005)
State:Condoleezza Rice
HHS:Tommy Thompson(2005)
2008 Presidential contenders:
AIP: Frank McEnulty
Constitution: Chuck Baldwin
GOP: Sen.John McCain
GOP VP: Gov.Sarah Palin
Green: Rep.Cynthia McKinney
Independent: Ralph Nader
Liberation: Gloria La Riva
Libertarian: Rep.Bob Barr
NAIP: Amb.Alan Keyes
Socialist: Brian Moore
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