Hillary Clinton on War & Peace
Secretary of State; previously Democratic Senator (NY)
The killing of bin Laden, she says, was a bonding experience. Obama's Cabinet had been split on whether to attempt the mission, but Clinton backed it and sweated out the decision with the commander-in-chief. "I've seen the president in a lot of intense and difficult settings," she says, "and I've watched him make hard decisions. Obviously, talking to you on September 11 as we are, the bin Laden decision-making process is certainly at the forefront of my mind."
Clinton answered that while she thinks "we have been very actively involved," there needed to be a "credible opposition coalition," saying, "You cannot even attempt a political solution if you don't have a recognized force to counter the Assad regime."
"I think I've done what was possible to do over the last two years in trying to create or help stand up an opposition that was credible and could be an interlocutor in any kind of political negotiation," Clinton said.
In February it was revealed that the president rebuffed a plan last summer by Clinton, the CIA Director & Defense Secretary to arm the Syrian rebels.
For the Democratic foreign policy elite, the Iraq War was a disaster both politically and for the ideas they had come to hold. The war reopened old divisions between the Democratic Party's leaders and the party's base. At the grass roots, since Vietnam, liberals had been instinctively skeptical about the use of force. By contrast, many of the party's foreign policy hands, particularly the alumni of the Clinton administration, had a different outlook. They viewed themselves as heirs to the foreign policy traditions of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John Kennedy, all proponents of national strength and an active leadership role for the US. The Clinton administration had put its imprint on the general idea of regime change in Iraq, though not by American military invasion.
Robert Gates gradually came around to supporting the McChrystal request, and Hillary Clinton did, too. During that period, the two often sided with each other in administration debates; they were happy to show that the secretaries of state and defense could work smoothly together, unlike their immediate predecessors, Donald Rumsfeld with Colin Powell & Condi Rice. The Clinton-Gates combine helped to win over the president to sending more troops, despite the skepticism of other senior administration officials such as Biden; the president was not prepared to override the recommendations of the two departments primarily responsible for foreign affairs. Obama approved the deployment of 30,000 more American troops for Afghanistan, bringing the total to about 100,000, and also called on NATO allies to provide another 5,000 or more of their own.
Clinton's assessment was based primarily on one thing: the anger of the party's liberal base at Hillary's vote to authorize the Iraq War and her continued refusal to recant it. With elections in Iraq scheduled for that December, the body count rising, and sectarian violence raging in the region, calls were intensifying for a troop reduction or even a full-scale withdrawal. On Nov. 13, Edwards, whom the Clintons considered Hillary's most serious rival for the nomination, published an op-ed in "The Washington Post" apologizing for his own Senate vote in favor of authorizing the war. (It's first sentence: "I was wrong.") The pressure was mounting on Hillary to do the same.
Hillary liked to say that she was blessed (or cursed) with a "responsibility gene." It was why, as a NY senator in the wake of 9/11, she had voted to authorize the war in the first place--and why she was resistant to pushing for a date certain for withdrawal now. If she reversed herself now, she would be buying a one-way ticket to Kerryville: the GOP would tattoo her forehead with the lethal "flip-flopper" label.
The Iraq dilemma was a pure Hobson's choice. She was damned if she did and damned if she didn't--so she adopted her husband's method & split the difference. Hillary claimed that she wasn't voting for war in 2002 but instead for more diplomacy. Now she decided to add her name to legislation that urged the president to begin a "phased redeployment" of the troops by the end of 2006.
OBAMA: I will take no options off the table. It is very important that Iran understands that an attack on Israel is an attack on our strongest ally in the region, and the US would take appropriate action.
CLINTON: I think that we should be looking to create an umbrella of deterrence that goes much further than just Israel. Of course I would make it clear to the Iranians that an attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation from the US, but I would do the same with other countries in the region. We are at a very dangerous point with Iran. The Bush policy has failed. Iran has not been deterred. #1, we’ve got to begin diplomatic engagement with Iran. #2, we’ve got to deter other countries from feeling that they have to acquire nuclear weapons. And finally, we cannot permit Iran to become a nuclear weapons power.
A: The so-called surge was designed to give the Iraqi government the space and time to make the tough decisions that only the Iraqis can make for themselves. It’s my assessment that only now is the Iraqi government starting to grapple with problems that many of us have been pushing them to resolve for 5 years. And the problem is that they have up until now believed that they didn’t really have to take any tough action, that President Bush had given them basically a blank check, that the American military would be there to protect them and protect other parts of the country. I think we’ve got to bring our troops home and really require and put the pressure on the Iraqis to make the tough decisions that they have to make.
A: Well, that’s not at all what I’m doing. I think there’s a difference between tactical success on the ground, and strategic success. And I think you’re overstating what is happening in Iraq. There’s a lot of problems getting money from the central government into the Sunni areas. The oil bill hasn’t been resolved yet. De-Baathification is tied up in their Parliament because there is such a reaction to it by many of the Shiite factions. You know, this is, obviously, a fractious and often contentious government.
Coming to a decision involved a knotty set of calculations. Hillary had put down, as she put it, a “pretty pugnacious” marker the day after Sept. 11 by saying that those helping terrorists would face the “wrath” of the US. Retreating from that muscular stance would be tricky. On the other hand, if she voted yes, she would be giving Bush the authority to launch a pre-emptive war--a concept that reminded her of the failed war in Vietnam.
Voting against the resolution would also mean retreating from the policies of another president--her husband. Bill has signed a law in 1998 that contained non-binding provisions calling for regime change. Finally, there was Hillary’s concern that she could never win the presidency if she didn’t prove that she was tough enough.
At a time when her contemporaries were challenging the authority of college administrators, she steered the antiwar movement at Wellesley away from the kind of confrontation that convulsed other campuses.
Still, Hillary and her class were responsible for greater changes at Wellesley than any in its history. Black Studies was added to the curriculum. A summer Upward Bound program for inner-city children was initiated, antiwar activities were conducted in college facilities, the skirt rule had been rescinded, grades were given on a pass-fail basis, and interdisciplinary majors were permitted. One of Hillary’s strengths as a leader, still evident, was her willingness to participate in the drudgery of government rather than simply direct policy.
In 2004 Hillary stated that a suicide bombing in Jerusalem “shows the day-to-day danger that Israelis face and that has caused the Israeli government to decide that it must build a fence to protect its people.”
CLINTON: We did take action similar to what has been described about 10 years ago, based on what was thought to be actionable intelligence, sending in missiles to try to target bin Laden and his top leadership who were thought to be at a certain meeting place. They were not taken out at the time. So we have to be very conscious of all the consequences. I think it’s imperative that any actionable intelligence that would lead to a strike inside Pakistan’s territory be given the most careful consideration. And at some point--probably when the missiles have been launched--the Pakistani government has to know they’re on the way. Because one of the problems is the inherent paranoia about India in the region in Pakistan, so that we’ve got to have a plan to try to make sure we don’t ignite some kind of reaction.
CLINTON: Only as part of a comprehensive peace agreement. That’s always been my position, that [it should] guarantee Israel’s safety and security and the parties should agree at the negotiating table. A unilateral declaration is absolutely unacceptable and it would mean the end of any US aid.
LAZIO: That’s a change of heart for Mrs. Clinton, because back in 1998 you called for a Palestinian state. You undercut the Israeli negotiating position. The people of New York want to have somebody who has a consistent record. For eight years I have been consistent and strong in my support for the security of the state of Israel. Without equivocation. Without a question mark next to my name.
CLINTON: There is no question mark next to me. There’s an exclamation point. I am an emphatic, unwavering supporter of Israel’s safety and security.
She stayed away from more controversial topics, such as whether there should be an independent Palestinian state. Mrs. Clinton angered many Jewish voters last year with when she voiced support for such a state. But the animosity felt by some in the crowd toward Mrs. Clinton was evident on nearly every block, with some holding signs recalling her embrace last year of Yasir Arafat’s wife, Suha.
CLINTON: People running for president should not engage in hypotheticals. And it may well be that the strategy we have to pursue on the basis of actionable intelligence--but remember, we’ve had some real difficult experiences with actionable intelligence--might lead to a certain action. But I think it is a very big mistake to telegraph that and to destabilize the Musharraf regime, which is fighting for its life against the Islamic extremists who are in bed with al Qaeda and Taliban. And remember, Pakistan has nuclear weapons. The last thing we want is to have al Qaeda-like followers in charge of Pakistan and having access to nuclear weapons. So you can think big, but remember, you shouldn’t always say everything you think if you’re running for president, because it has consequences across the world.
A: Our policy is prevention, not containment. And we have, through hard work with the international community, imposed the toughest set of sanctions on any country. We know it's having an effect. We have to continue to keep them isolated, and keep Russia and China on board. [But] we've said from the very beginning, we're open to diplomacy. We are doing so in the so-called P5-plus-1 format.
Q: What about military action against them?
A: Well, we've always said all options are on the table. The president has been very clear about that. [With regards to the] terrorism aspect of Iran's behavior, when I came into office, there were too many countries that were turning a blind eye to it. We have worked very hard to get the international community to say these guys need to be stopped on the terrorism front. They cannot be permitted to go forward.
A: Well, they are a rich country. They have economic strength that has been built up over many years. These sanctions are truly biting, but there are outlier countries that still try to evade the efforts. But there's more to come. We'll be issuing more sanctions. Ultimately, what we want to see is Iran come to the negotiating table and say they're going to have open inspections. They claim that they're not pursuing nuclear weapons.
Q: You don't believe that.
A: I'm from the trust-but-verify camp when it comes to Iran. You know, this is what they say. But we have a body of evidence that points in the other direction. If that is true, then why are they developing intercontinental ballistic missile capacity? Why are they adding centrifuges and more enriched uranium? They owe the international community an explanation as to what it they're doing if they claim they're not pursuing nuclear weapons.
A: I’m relieved that the intelligence community has reached this conclusion, but I vehemently disagree with the president that nothing’s changed and therefore nothing in American policy has to change. I have for two years advocated diplomatic engagement with Iran, and I think that’s what the president should do.
A: Well, many of us believe that. Earlier this year, Senator Edwards told an audience in Israel that the nuclear threat from Iran was the greatest threat to our generation. Back in 2004, Senator Obama told the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board that he would even consider nukes to take out Iran’s nuclear capacity. So there was a very broadly based belief that they were pursuing a nuclear weapon.
A: I have pledged that I will do everything I can to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.
A: I am against a rush to war. I was the first person on this stage and one of the very first in the Congress to go to the floor of the Senate back in February & say Bush had no authority to take any military action in Iran. Secondly, I am not in favor of this rush for war, but I’m also not in favor of doing nothing. Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. And the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is in the forefront of that, as they are in the sponsorship of terrorism. So some may want a false choice between rushing to war, which is the way the Republicans sound--it’s not even a question of whether, it’s a question of when and what weapons to use--and doing nothing. I prefer vigorous diplomacy. And I happen to think economic sanctions are part of vigorous diplomacy. We used them with respect to North Korea. We used them with respect to Libya.
CLINTON: My understanding of the revolutionary guard in Iran is that it is promoting terrorism. It is manufacturing weapons that are used against our troops in Iraq. It is certainly the main agent of support for Hezbollah, Hamas and others, and in what we voted for today, we will have an opportunity to designate it as a terrorist organization, which gives us the options to be able to impose sanctions on the leaders.
CLINTON: I’m not going to answer that because it’s hypothetical. There would need to be a high standard of proof.
Q: Rudy Giuliani said, “Iran is not going to be allowed to build a nuclear power. If they get to a point where they’re going to become a nuclear power, we will prevent them; we will set them back 8 to 10 years. That is not said as a threat; that should be said as a promise.“ Would you make that promise?
CLINTON: I will do everything I can to prevent Iran from becoming an nuclear power, including the use of diplomacy, the use of economic sanctions, opening up direct talks. We haven’t even tried. That’s what is so discouraging about this. We need a concerted, comprehensive strategy to deal with Iran. We haven’t had it. We need it. And I will provide it.
Clinton on videotape:Q: What’s the principal difference there?
“I would certainly take nuclear weapons off the table. And this administration has been very willing to talk about using nuclear weapons in a way we haven’t seen since the dawn of the nuclear age. I think that’s a terrible mistake.”
CLINTON: I was asked specifically about the Bush-Cheney administration’s policy to drum up support for military action against Iran. Combine that with their continuing effort to try to get what are called bunker-buster bombs, nuclear bombs that could penetrate into the earth to go after deeply buried nuclear sites. This was not a hypothetical, this was a brushback against this administration which has been reckless and provocative.
OBAMA: There’s no difference [in our policies].
She's watched as Obama's campaign was hammered for producing a proposal that was an obvious rip-off of hers. She'd begun to defuse her rival's message, where she said, "change is just a word without the strength and experience to make it happen." And finally, in the 3rd quarter of the year, she had succeeded in raising more money than Obama.
Clinton's campaign advisers were unanimous--surprisingly so. All recommended a no vote. But a no vote would seem to violate her nearly 5-year effort to preserve her credentials as a future commander in chief.
In a statement, she said, "Tonight I voted against the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill because it fails to compel the president to give our troops a new strategy in Iraq. I believe that the president should begin a phased redeployment of our troops out of Iraq and abandon this escalation."
Just 14 senators opposed the measure. She had moved dramatically to where she was in a minority within her Democratic caucus.
"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
--Sen. Hillary Clinton, Oct. 10, 2002
"Saddam Hussein certainly has chemical and biological weapons. There's no question about that."
--Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Nov. 17, 2002
"We have known for many years that Saddam
Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction."
--Sen. Edward Kennedy, Sept. 27, 2003
"If we wait for the danger to become clear, it could be too late."
--Sen. Joseph Biden, Sept. 4, 2002
A: I certainly hope it will be. I hope to have nearly all of them out within a year.
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 isn’t 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 don’t 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. I’ve 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.
A: No. When the Iraq war vote came to the Senate, we were confronting the reality of trying to deal with the consequences of Bush’s 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.
Bush apparently liked what he heard. He echoed her language and issued an almost identical threat, eight days later, in his address to Congress.
On the campaign trail, and especially in television debates, Clinton is at pains to frame the so-called war on terror as “Bush’s war,” but she’s had an active part in it. It isn’t as if her 9/11 speech was an exception. Clinton supported Bush’s invasion and bombardment of Afghanistan. She voted for the USA PATRIOT Act, which gave the government new unconstitutional tools of search and seizure even as federal agents were sweeping thousands of innocent civilians off the streets of US cities, notably in New York.
But Clinton not only gave Bush and Cheney her vote, she embraced their argument, saying that Iraqi president Saddam Hussein had “worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stocks... and his nuclear program.”
Alone among Democratic Senators, she accused Iraq’s leader of giving “aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members.” That link, so shamelessly pushed by the Bush administration, was always doubted by most in so-called “intelligence”--and most Democrats, not to mention war critics. It was later publicly debunked as false.
CLINTON: I said there may be a continuing counterterrorism mission, which, if it still exists, will be aimed at al Qaeda in Iraq. It may require combat, Special Operations Forces or some other form of that, but the vast majority of our combat troops should be out.
EDWARDS: I would not continue combat missions in Iraq. Combat missions mean that the war is continuing
Q: Would you send combat troops back in if there was genocide?
EDWARDS: I believe that America along with the rest of the world would have a responsibility to respond to genocide. But it’s not something we should do alone.
A: I will not vote for any funding that does not move us toward beginning to withdraw our troops, that does not have pressure on the Iraqi government to make the tough political decisions that they have, that does not recognize that there is a diplomatic endeavor that has to be undertaken. This has gone on now, unfortunately, for years, with the president holding on to his failed policy and with Republicans in the Senate and on the campaign trail deciding to support that failed policy, and it’s really the only way that I can register my very strong disapproval of this policy, and I will continue to do so.
Q: But some of this money goes to protect our troops from mines and IEDs.
A: I think the best way to protect our troops is to start bringing them home.
Secondly, we need much stronger pressure on the Iraqi government than this administration has been willing to bring. And I would certainly condition any aid of any kind on their actually making the political decisions that they have been reluctant and unwilling to do so far. There is no military solution. Everybody agrees with that. And the political solutions seem to be out of the grasp of the Iraqis, because they’re still jockeying for power.
If you look at how we would have to take our troops out, plus the equipment, which we would not want to leave, plus what we do with the Iraqis who sided with us--thousands of them--plus more than 100,000 American contractors who are there--this is a massive, complicated undertaking
A: Since the election of 2006, the Democrats have tried repeatedly to win Republican support with a simple proposition that we need to set a timeline to begin bringing our troops home now. I happen to agree that there is no military solution, and the Iraqis refuse to pursue the political solutions. In fact, I asked the Pentagon a simple question: Have you prepared for withdrawing our troops? In response, I got a letter accusing me of being unpatriotic; that I shouldn’t be asking questions. Well, one of the problems is that there are a lot of questions that we’re asking but we’re not getting answers from the Bush administration.
Now, I see the signs “Lead us out of Iraq now.” That is what we are trying to do. I have joined with Senator Byrd to sponsor legislation to deauthorize this war. The point of our proposal is very simple: To end the president’s authority for the war and force him to seek new authority.
If he thinks that he can get any kind of authority through the Congress, I think that he’s mistaken. But we need to end the authority that he is currently operating under, in order to strip him of the legitimacy of going forward with his policy. When I’m president, we are going to have a different foreign policy. We’re going to start talking to people again. We’re going to start rebuilding our alliances again.
She continued to support “phased redeployment,” as opposed to the immediate withdrawal of 50,000 troops proposed by John Edwards, or a dramatic funding cutoff mentioned by others. Her approach, she told a reporter, stemmed from being “cursed with the responsibility gene.
Q: Was Bush’s decision to go to war really something she didn’t expect at the time?But here are the facts. A heated national debate preceded the vote, with the antiwar voices from both the Left and the Right demanding the president seek congressional authority before proceeding. He did so. The measure was entitled, “A Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq.” Nothing ambiguous about it--and Hillary voted for it.
A: I’ve said that he misused the authority granted to him.
Q: Most people correctly foresaw the vote as authorization for Bush to invade Iraq. Do you mean you were not among them?
A: Well, I think that’s correct.
Now Hillary claims she didn’t believe that she was voting for war. She doesn’t defend her vote or call it a mistake. She wants to blame it on someone else--because Bush misled her.
A: The American people have spoken. The Congress has voted, as of today, to end this war. And now we can only hope that the president will listen. I’m very proud of the Congress under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid for putting together a piece of legislation which says we will fund our troops and protect them, we will limit the number of days that they can be deployed, and we will start to bring them home. And I think that is exactly what the American people want. This is not America’s war to win or lose. We have given the Iraqi people the chance to have freedom, to have their own country. It is up to them to decide whether or not they’re going to take that chance.
A: My goal is to end the war when I’m President & to bring our troops home. But as has been stated in [April 2007 legislation], we do envision a vastly reduced residual force to remain for some limited period of time to train Iraqi troops, to provide logistical support, for counter-terrorism missions, to protect the Kurds if necessary. That does not mean we would have a permanent force. I am absolutely clear: we do not plan a permanent occupation or permanent bases, but there may be a continuing mission to protect America’s vital interests, and to support an Iraqi government that we hope to be an ally going forward, assuming they are acting responsibly. So, the bottom line for me is that we will begin re-deploying our troops as soon as I am President, and we will do so in as expeditious a manner as possible, [leaving] as few troops as necessary with no permanent occupation, and no permanent bases.
A: We need to keep the pressure on Bush not to veto it, which is why I have launched this online petition drive, to have pressure put on Republicans particularly in the Senate, because we have to do everything possible to put pressure on the President so that we can make it absolutely undeniable that we have to reverse course. I think we should let the American people understand, and let President Bush fully understand that it is he who is rejecting the funding. We have passed funding, but we did it within the context of timelines, and if he can be held responsible for vetoing the funding because he will not start to follow the will of the American people, and de-escalate this conflict, and bring our troops home, I think that puts tremendous pressure on Republicans who are going to be running for office again in 2008.
A: My vote was a sincere vote based on the facts and assurances that I had at the time. And I have taken responsibility for my vote, and I believe that none of us should get a free pass. It is up to the voters to judge what each of us has said and done. But I think the most important thing now is to focus on what we have to do together to try to force this president to change direction.
Q: Why are you against bringing the US troops home right now by cutting off funding?
A: I have introduced legislation to stop the escalation & to protect our troops. My legislation also says to the Iraqis: Enough. We are not going to fight your battles. We are not sending our young men and women in. You have to be on the front lines of your own defense. People ask me, “why don’t you want to cut money for American troops?” I want to cut money for Iraqi troops, because they’re not standing up and fighting the way that they have said they would.
McCAIN: I don’t see any place in the Constitution where that kind of authority is granted to the Congress. The Congress can cut off funding. And if my colleagues believe that they’re going to send young Americans to die in an unwinnable situation, it seems to me that their conscience would dictate that they cut off the funding for the entire effort. This resolution is basically a vote of no confidence in the men and women we are sending over there. We’re saying, “We’re sending you-we’re not going to stop you from going there, but we don’t believe you can succeed and we’re not willing to support that.” I don’t think the troops would find that an expression of support.
A: #1: We need to resolve the political problems in Iraq. They’ve been allowed to fester. How are you going to guarantee the reasonable Sunni majority a place in the government? How are you going to distribute the oil revenue, so people don’t feel that they’re being ripped off? These are key issues for political resolution of sectarian violence. #2: We’ve got to have the regional neighbors involved--with a high-level contact group, where we bring the regional powers together. #3: The President’s strategy has basically been, “Well, when the Iraqis stand up, we’ll stand down.” Well, the Iraqis have been standing up, but they haven’t been fighting. That’s why we need a phased redeployment--moving our troops out so they have to stand and fight for themselves.
Q: Give us a timetable for that phasing out.
A: When we originally proposed it, we said that 2006 should be a year of transition. We’re running out of time in 2006. I think this needs to be done immediately.
"I was one who supported giving Pres. Bush the authority, if necessary, to use force against Saddam Hussein. I believe that this was the right vote. I have had many disputes and disagreements with the administration over how that authority has been used, but I stand by the vote to provide the authority because I think it 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."
--Sen. Hillary Clinton, Council on Foreign Relations, Dec. 15, 2003
Source: The Case for Hillary Clinton, by Susan Estrich, p.214 , Oct 11, 2005
Hillary ultimately voted for the resolution empowering President Bush to wage war, but she did so with a perfect equipoise. She managed to sound vehemently ant-Saddam without sounding pro-Bush.
2002: Attacking Iraq "not a good option" but authorized it
In a floor speech on the measure to authorize the use of force against Iraq, Hillary managed quite a juggling act, keeping a whole cupboard of teacups and saucers spinning in the air. She criticized the United Nations for putting limits on inspection sites. She warned of Saddam Hussein's ambitions for weapons of mass destruction. She worried that an unchecked Saddam could endanger the entire Middle East (read: Israel). She fretted that a "unilateral" attack could prompt Russia to attack Chechen rebels in Georgia, China to attack Taiwan, and India to attack Pakistan. She concluded that going to war against Iraq "on the present facts is not a good option"--but voted to enable George W. Bush to lead the nation into war.
Source: Madame Hillary, by R. Emmett Tyrrell, p. 48-49 , Feb 25, 2004
Hillary Clinton on Voting Record
Q: Why can’t you just say right now that vote was a mistake?
Iraq war vote was meant to be used as coercive diplomacy
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 we’ve 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
Q: In 2002, Sen. Levin offered an amendment, the Levin amendment, which called for the UN to pass a new resolution explicitly approving the use of force against Iraq. It also required the president to return to Congress if his UN efforts failed. You did not participate in that vote.
Voted against Levin Amendment: it gave UN veto over US
A: Number one, the Levin amendment, in my view, gave the Security Council of the United Nations a veto over American presidential power. I don’t believe that is an appropriate policy for the United States, no matter who is our president. Number two, I have the greatest respect for Senator Levin. He is my chairman on the Senate Armed Services Committee. And immediately after we did have the vote on the authorization, went to work with him to try to make sure that every piece of intelligence we had was given to the UN inspectors. Number three, I actually joined with Senator Byrd on an amendment that would limit the president’s authorization to one year.
Source: Meet the Press: 2008 “Meet the Candidates” series , Jan 13, 2008
Q: You made a high-profile apology for your vote in favor of the Iraq war resolution. You have said, “We need a leader who will be open and honest, who will tell the truth when they made a mistake.” Was that not a direct shot at your opponent, Senator Clinton?
Voted for Iraq war based on available info; now would not
EDWARDS: No, I think that’s a question for the conscience of anybody who voted for this war. Senator Clinton and anyone else who voted for this war has to search themselves and decide whether they believe they’ve voted the right way. If so, they can support their vote.
CLINTON: I take responsibility for my vote. Obviously, I did as good a job I could at the time. It was a sincere vote based on the information available to me. If I knew then what I now know, I would not have voted that way. But I think that the real question before us is: What do we do now? How do we try to persuade or require this president to change course? He is stubbornly refusing to listen to the will of the American people.
Source: 2007 South Carolina Democratic primary debate, on MSNBC , Apr 26, 2007
She voted in 2002 to authorize the use of military force and has refused to recant her vote. But Clinton has been a vocal critic of the way the war has been conducted.
Critic of Iraq war, but won’t recant 2002 vote in its favor Source: People’s Daily (China), “Contenders views on the war” , Nov 23, 2006
Q: You’ve been critical of Pres. Bush’s handling of the war. But you have not apologized for your vote to authorize that action.
Regrets Bush’s handling of war, but not her war vote
CLINTON: I regret the way the president used the authority that Congress gave him. I thought it made sense to get inspector back into Iraq, and backing it up with coercive diplomacy. I was worried that there were residual WMD, and that Saddam could have done something quite irrational. We know now that this administration never intended to let the inspectors do their job and contain Saddam. I take responsibility for my vote. I regret that we’ve had strategic blunders and misjudgments. But if we knew then what we know now, there never would have been a vote, and there never would have been a war. This president chose that war and unfortunately, was ill-prepared for what was needed to be done to be successful.
Q: Do you regret voting that way at the time?
CLINTON: I regret the way he used it. I don’t believe in do-overs in life. I made the best judgment at the time.
Source: NY 2006 Senate Debate, moderated by Bill Ritter , Oct 22, 2006
Vote on a "Sense of the Senate" amendment, S.Amdt. 3017, to H.R. 1585 (National Defense Authorization Act), that finds:
Voted YES on designating Iran's Revolutionary Guards as terrorists.
- that it is a vital US national interest to prevent the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran from turning Shi'a militia extremists in Iraq into a Hezbollah-like force;
- that it should be US policy to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of Iran;
- to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments, in support of the policy;
- that the US should designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization.
Proponents support voting YES because:
Sen. LIEBERMAN: Some of our colleagues thought the Sense of the Senate may have opened the door to some kind of military action against Iran [so we removed some text]. That is not our intention. In fact, our intention is to increase the economic pressure on Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps so that we will never have to consider the use of the military to stop them from what they are doing to kill our soldiers.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
Sen. BIDEN. I will oppose the Kyl-Lieberman amendment for one simple reason: this administration cannot be trusted. I am very concerned about the evidence that suggests that Iran is engaged in destabilizing activities inside Iraq. Arguably, if we had a different President who abided by the meaning and intent of laws we pass, I might support this amendment. I fear, however, that this President might use the designation of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity as a pretext to use force against Iran as he sees fit. [The same was done with the Senate resolution on Iraq in 2002]. Given this President's actions and misuse of authority, I cannot support the amendment.
Reference: Sense of the Senate on Iran; Bill S.Amdt. 3017 to H.R. 1585 ; vote number 2007-349 on Sep 26, 2007
Begins the phased redeployment of US forces from Iraq within 120 days of enactment of this joint resolution with the goal of redeploying by March 31, 2008, all US combat forces from Iraq, except for a limited number essential for protecting US and coalition personnel and infrastructure, training and equipping Iraqi forces, and conducting targeted counter-terrorism operations. Such redeployment shall be implemented as part of a diplomatic, political, and economic strategy that includes sustained engagement with Iraq's neighbors and the international community in order to bring stability to Iraq.
Voted YES on redeploying US troops out of Iraq by March 2008.
Proponents recommend voting YES because:
Our troops are caught in the midst of a civil war. The administration has begun to escalate this war with 21,000 more troops. This idea is not a new one. During this war, four previous surges have all failed. It is time for a different direction. It is time for a drawdown of our troops.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
This resolution calls for imposing an artificial timeline to withdraw our troops from Iraq, regardless of the conditions on the ground or the consequences of defeat; a defeat that will surely be added to what is unfortunately a growing list of American humiliations. This legislation would hobble American commanders in the field and substantially endanger America's strategic objective of a unified federal democratic Iraq that can govern, defend, and sustain itself and be an ally in the war against Islamic fascism. The unintended consequence of this resolution is to bring to reality Osama bin Laden's vision for Iraq; that after 4 years of fighting in Iraq the US Congress loses its will to fight. If we leave Iraq before the job is done, as surely as night follows day, the terrorists will follow us home. Osama bin Laden has openly said: America does not have the stomach to stay in the fight. He is a fanatic. He is an Islamic fascist. He is determined to destroy us and our way of life.
Reference: US Policy in Iraq Resolution; Bill S.J.Res.9 ; vote number 2007-075 on Mar 15, 2007
Voting YEA on this amendment would establish a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. Voting NAY would keep the current situation without a timetable. The amendment states:
Voted NO on redeploying troops out of Iraq by July 2007.
- The President shall redeploy, commencing in 2006, US forces from Iraq by July 1, 2007, leaving only the minimal number of forces that are critical to completing the mission of standing up Iraqi security forces and conducting specialized counterterrorism operations.
- The President should maintain an over-the-horizon troop presence to prosecute the war on terror and protect regional security interests.
- Within 30 days, the administration shall submit to Congress a report that sets forth the strategy for the redeployment of US forces from Iraq by July 1, 2007.
Opponents of the Resolution say:
- This amendment would withdraw American forces from Iraq without regard to the real conditions on the ground.
- The consequences of an American retreat would be terrible for the security of the American people at home.
- Our commitment is not open-ended. It is conditional on the Iraqis moving toward self-government and self-defense.
Supporters of the Resolution say:
- Congress talks almost incessantly about the situation in Iraq as if on 9/11 the situation involved Iraq. Of course, it didn't. We were attacked by al-Qaida operating out of Afghanistan on 9/11.
- One of the theories we hear is that somehow staying in Iraq is necessary because all the terrorists will come into Iraq, and then they wouldn't be able to attack us anywhere else. Some call this the roach-motel theory. The fact is, al-Qaida is operating in 60 to 80 countries. Yet our resources are only heavily focused on this Iraq situation.
- In terms of differences from other Iraq amendments: This is binding, not just a sense of the Senate.
- Secondly, we have a date; other amendments are open-ended.
- Thirdly, this has an over-the-horizon force specifically to protect our security interests.
Reference: Kerry Amendment to National Defense Authorization Act; Bill S.Amdt. 4442 to S. 2766 ; vote number 2006-181 on Jun 22, 2006
To establish a special committee of the Senate to investigate the awarding and carrying out of contracts to conduct activities in Afghanistan and Iraq and to fight the war on terrorism. Voting YES would: create Senate special committee to investigate war contracts, taking into consideration: bidding, methods of contracting, subcontracting, oversight procedures, allegations of wasteful practices, accountability and lessons learned in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Voted YES on investigating contract awards in Iraq & Afghanistan. Reference: Committee to Investigate War Contracts; Bill S Amdt 2476 to S 1042 ; vote number 2005-316 on Nov 10, 2005
Amendment to express the sense of the Senate on future requests for funding for military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. A YES vote would:
Voted YES on requiring on-budget funding for Iraq, not emergency funding.
- Request all future funding for ongoing military operations overseas, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq, be included in the President's annual fiscal year budget proposal
- Call for the President to submit to Congress by Sept. 1, 2005, an amendment to his annual fiscal budget, that details estimated costs for ongoing military operations overseas.
- Ask that all future funding requests for ongoing military operations overseas appear in the appropriation bills in which such expenditures are normally included.
Reference: Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act; Bill S.AMDT.464 to H.R.1268 ; vote number 2005-96 on Apr 20, 2005
Vote to pass a bill that would appropriate $86.5 billion in supplemental spending for military operations and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Fiscal 2004. The bill would provide $10.3 billion as a grant to rebuild Iraq. This includes:
Voted YES on $86 billion for military operations in Iraq & Afghanistan.
- $5.1 billion for security
- $5.2 billion for reconstruction costs
- $65.6 billion for military operations and maintenance
- $1.3 billion for veterans medical care
- $10 billion as a loan that would be converted to a grant if 90% of all bilateral debt incurred by the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein, would have to be forgiven by other countries.
Reference: FY04 Emergency Supplemental for Iraq and Afghanistan; Bill S1689 ; vote number 2003-400 on Oct 17, 2003
H.J.Res. 114; Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002. The administration would be required to report to Congress that diplomatic options have been exhausted before, or within 48 hours after military action has started. Every 60 days the president would also be required to submit a progress report to Congress.
Voted YES on authorizing use of military force against Iraq. Reference: Bill H.J.RES.114 ; vote number 2002-237 on Oct 11, 2002
Clinton co-sponsored the Resolution on bigotry against Sikh Americans:
Condemns anti-Muslim bigotry in name of anti-terrorism.
Title: Condemning bigotry and violence against Sikh Americans in the wake of terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001.
Summary: Declares that, in the quest to identify, locate, and bring to justice the perpetrators and sponsors of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the civil rights and liberties of all Americans, including Sikh-Americans, should be protected.
- Condemns bigotry and acts of violence or discrimination against any Americans, including Sikh-Americans.
- Calls upon local and Federal law enforcement authorities to: (1) work to prevent hate crimes against all Americans; and (2) prosecute to the fullest extent of the law all those who commit hate crimes.
Source: House Resolution Sponsorship 01-HR255 on Oct 4, 2001
Clinton co-sponsored opposing troop surge: no military escalation in Iraq
No troop surge: no military escalation in Iraq.
Sponsor's introductory remarks: Sen. BIDEN: This bipartisan resolution opposes the President's plan to escalate the war in Iraq. This resolution says what we and many of our colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, are against: deepening America's military involvement in Iraq by escalating our troop presence. Just as important, it says what we and many of our colleagues are for: a strategy that can produce a political settlement in Iraq. That's the only way to stop Shiites and Sunnis from killing each other and allow our troops to leave Iraq without leaving chaos behind.
Excertps from resolution:
- Whereas the US strategy and presence on the ground in Iraq can only be sustained with the support of the American people and bipartisan support from Congress;
- Whereas maximizing chances of success in Iraq should be our goal, and the best chance of success requires a change in current strategy;
- Whereas the situation in Iraq is damaging the standing, influence, and interests of the US in Iraq, the Middle East, and around the world;
- Whereas more than 3,000 US military personnel have already lost their lives in Iraq, and more than 22,500 have been wounded in Iraq;
- Whereas on January 10, 2007, Pres. Bush announced his plan to deepen the US military involvement in Iraq by deploying approximately 21,000 additional US combat forces to Iraq;
- Whereas an open-ended commitment of US forces in Iraq is unsustainable and a deterrent to the Iraqis making the political compromises that are needed for violence to end and for stability and security to be achieved in Iraq;
- Resolved: That it is the sense of Congress that it is not in the national interest of the US to deepen its military involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating the US military force presence in Iraq;
- the United States should engage nations in the Middle East to develop a regional, internationally-sponsored peace and reconciliation process for Iraq.
Source: Bipartisan Resolution on Iraq (S.CON.RES.2 ) 07-SCR2 on Jan 17, 2007
Clinton co-sponsored deploying UN multinational peacekeeping force in Darfur
Deploy UN multinational peacekeeping force in Darfur.
Calling for the urgent deployment of a robust and effective multinational peacekeeping mission with sufficient size, resources, leadership, and mandate to protect civilians in Darfur.
- Whereas hundreds of thousands of people have died and approximately 2,500,000 people have been displaced in Darfur, Sudan since 2003;
- Whereas Congress declared on July 22, 2004 that the atrocities in Darfur were genocide;
- Whereas the Sudanese President refused to allow the UN to deploy a peacekeeping force to Darfur;
- Whereas deliberately targeting civilians and people providing humanitarian assistance during an armed conflict is a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law, and those who commit such violations must be held accountable;
- Whereas on June 11, 2007, Sudanese President al-Bashir pledged to accept unconditionally the full United Nations-African Union hybrid deployment;
- Whereas to establish conditions of peace and security, the peacekeeping mission must be accompanied by a peace-building process among the parties to the conflict;
- Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the Senate urges the President of the US to work with members of the UN Security Council and the African Union to ensure the expeditious deployment of the United Nations-African Union hybrid peacekeeping force with a mandate affirming that civilian protection is a primary mission objective;
- Provide the UN-African Union hybrid force with sufficient logistical support and airlift capacity; and necessary vehicles, fixed-wing aircraft, and helicopters for tactical reconnaissance and armed deterrence;
- Be prepared to implement meaningful measures, including the imposition of multilateral sanctions, an arms embargo, and a no-fly zone for Sudanese military flights over Darfur, if the Government of Sudan obstructs deployment of the agreed upon peacekeeping mission.
Legislative Outcome: Agreed to by Senate by Unanimous Consent.
Source: Resolution on Darfur (S.RES 276) 07-SR276 on Jul 19, 2007
Clinton co-sponsored requiring Congress' approval before military action in Iran
Require Congress' approval before military action in Iran.
RESOLUTION Affirming that any offensive military action taken against Iran must be explicitly approved by Congress.
Sen. DURBIN. "We are now more than halfway through our fifth year in this war in Iraq. We find ourselves stuck as an occupier in a Middle East civil war. Thousands of our sons & daughters have been killed or injured. The total financial cost may be well over $1 trillion--money, I might add, that this administration has borrowed against our children's future.
- WHEREAS article I, section 8, of the Constitution of the United States vests in Congress all power to declare war:
- NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, That any offensive military action taken by the United States against Iran must be explicitly approved by Congress before such action may be initiated.
"America's reputation internationally has been severely damaged and critical military, diplomatic, and intelligence resources have been diverted from the war in Afghanistan--a war I supported, and a country this administration has increasingly neglected. And now, after so many errors, so many lives, and so much damage, this administration is again raising the prospect of yet another war in the Middle East--this time a war with Iran.
"I fear this administration has learned nothing from the colossal error, colossal misjudgment in the invasion of Iraq. Let me be clear: I am gravely concerned about Iran's activities in the region and its nuclear agenda. But any offensive action against Iran must be approved by Congress.
"Recent statements by this administration give me concern that this administration is considering just this--an offensive military action against Iran without the consent of Congress. Both Pres. Bush and Vice Pres. Cheney have made public remarks about Iran that suggest an administration readying for military aggression. We know Cheney's historic views on fundamental checks and balances in our constitution. They are disturbing."
Source: Resolution on Iran (S.RES.356) 2007-SR356 on Oct 25, 2007
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