I’ve noticed recent comments on this blog (in response to Pamela Leavey’s articles and also Stuart O’Neill’s article) condemning Hillary Clinton for her initial vote for the Iraq war and for her subsequent treatment of it. Yet, I often find, when I discuss this issue with people, that few are informed about her initial vote and her subsequent treatment of the subject. Some time ago, I wrote a blog entry for my blog on the Hillary Clinton web-site that outlines Hillary’s initial vote and her treatment of war issues since that time. I’m reprinting it here FYI. I hope this information is useful.
Hillary on the Iraq War
If Hillary could go back and undo anything, it would be her vote on the Iraq war. Carl Bernstein presented the text of her vote in his book, “A Woman in Charge.” I found it interesting to note that, when voting, she clearly believed that bipartisan support for the resolution would make diplomacy more likely to succeed by showing a unified front between the President and Congress.
This is the text of her speech that Carl Bernstein noted in his book:
“Because bipartisan support for this resolution makes success in the United Nations more likely, and therefore, war less likely, and because a good faith effort by the United States, even if it fails, will bring more allies and legitimacy to our cause, I have concluded, after careful and serious consideration, that a vote for the resolution best serves the security of our nation. If we were to defeat this resolution or pass it with only a few Democrats, I am concerned that those who want to pretend this problem will go away with delay will oppose any UN resolution calling for unrestricted inspections. This is a very difficult vote. This is probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make—any vote that may lead to war should be hard—but I cast it with conviction. And perhaps my decision is influenced by my eight years of experience on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue in the White House watching my husband deal with serious challenges to our nation. I want this president, or any future president, to be in the strongest possible position to lead our country in the United Nations or in war. Secondly, I want to ensure that Saddam Hussein makes no mistake about our national unity and for our support for the president’s efforts to wage America’s war against terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. And, thirdly, I want the men and women in our armed forces to know that if they should be called upon to act against Iraq, our country will stand resolutely behind them.”
To quote Bernstein:
“Of course, as it became obvious to Hillary and other Democrats who supported the war’s authorization that the Iraq adventure was becoming a catastrophe, her tone and words changed, though later than many of her democratic colleagues.” Then he provides another direct quote from Hillary: “If I had known then what we know now, there would never have been a vote and I never would have voted to give the president the authority.”
She clearly didn’t expect the United States to go straight toward war when she cast her vote; rather, that the president would endeavor to do what was necessary to get United Nations arms inspectors back into Iraq to determine Saddam’s WMD capabilities. “Well, I’ve said that he “misused” the authority granted to him. When I spoke at the time of the vote I made it very clear that this was not a vote for preemptive war; this was a vote, I thought, that would enable diplomacy to succeed because we would have a unified front between the president and our Congress to go to the Security Council to try to get the inspectors back in. Obviously we now know, in retrospect, that the president and vice president and his team probably didn’t intend for the inspectors to do their work.”
After the Iraq war began, Clinton made trips to both Iraq and Afghanistan to visit American troops stationed there. In late 2005, she co-introduced legislation to increase the size of the regular United States Army by 80,000 soldiers to ease the strain caused by the war in Iraq. Many criticized her for this. While she criticized the administration for making poor decisions in the war, she felt it was important to solve the problems we caused in Iraq. This centrist and vague stance caused a great deal of frustration with those of us in the Democratic party who favored immediate withdrawal. She supported retaining and improving health benefits for veterans, and lobbied against closure of several military bases.
Clinton opposed the Iraq War troop surge of 2007 and supported a February 2007 non-binding Senate resolution against it, which failed to gain cloture. In March 2007 she voted in favor of a war-spending bill that required President Bush to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq within a certain deadline; it passed almost completely along party lines but was subsequently vetoed by President Bush.
In May 2007 a compromise war-funding bill that removed withdrawal deadlines but tied funding to progress benchmarks for the Iraqi government passed the Senate by a vote of 80-14 and would be signed by Bush; Clinton was one of those who voted against it. Clinton responded to General David Petraeus‘s September 2007 Report to Congress on the Situation in Iraq by saying, “I think that the reports that you provide to us really require a willing suspension of disbelief.” In September 2007 she voted in favor of a Senate resolution calling on the State Department to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps “a foreign terrorist organization”, which passed 76-22.
Interview with Wesley Clark
In September, 2007, I heard a radio commentary with General Wesley Clark discussing his views that Hillary Clinton would get us out of Iraq “responsibly.” He discussed his feelings that Hillary knows the situation very well and that of all the candidates, she is the best equipped to recognize the intricacies of the current situation and withdraw responsibly. He then endorsed her candidacy. This interview had a big impact on me. I began to wonder if many of us had been a bit naïve about getting out “immediately” without recognizing the damage we have done. 9/15/2007
General Wesley K. Clark Endorses Clinton
“The world has reached a critical point, and we need a leader in the White House with the courage, intelligence and humility to navigate through many troubling challenges to our security at home and abroad. I believe Senator Clinton is that leader, and I whole-heartedly endorse her for President of the United States,” General Clark said. “Our economic and national security has become more complicated than ever before, and we deserve a leader who draws on wisdom, compassion, intelligence and moral courage – in short, we need Hillary Clinton. She is tough but fair, a rock-solid leader equal to the many weighty challenges ahead of us.”
After 34 years of service in the United States Army, General Clark rose to the rank of four-star general as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. General Clark commanded Operation Allied Force, which saved 1.5 million Albanians from ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, and he was responsible for the peacekeeping operation in Bosnia.
General Clark’s awards and honors include the Presidential Medal of Freedom, The State Department Distinguished Service Award; the US Department of Defense Distinguished Service Medal;(five awards), The US Army Distinguished Service Medal(two awards), The Silver Star, the Bronze Star (two awards), the Purple Heart, and Honorary Knighthoods from the British and Dutch governments.
After his retirement in 2000, General Clark became an investment banker, author, commentator, and businessman. He is the author of the best selling books Waging Modern War: Bosnia, Kosovo and the Future of Combat and Winning Modern War: Iraq, Terrorism and the American Empire.
“I am deeply admiring of General Clark’s record of leadership for our country and his appreciation of the complexity of the world in which we live today,” Clinton said. “I’m looking forward to his involvement in my campaign and working together to bring the change this country needs.”
More recently, Lynn Woolsey endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. Lynn Woolsey is the US congressional representative from Marin County, CA and has been an advocate for ending the war in Iraq together with Barbara Lees (Oakland), Dennis Kucinich (Cleveland), Maxine Waters (Los Angeles), and others.
Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey Endorses Hillary Clinton
The Clinton Campaign announced today the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey of California’s sixth Congressional District. The Congresswoman cited Senator Clinton’s commitment to ending the war in Iraq as the top reason for her backing.
“Hillary Clinton is the candidate with the strength and experience to bring about the change that California families need,” said Rep. Woolsey. “I trust Hillary to end the war in Iraq, bring our troops home quickly and safely, and regain our nation’s standing around the world.”
Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey is serving her eighth term representing all of Marin, and most of Sonoma County.
As Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Congresswoman Woolsey is a vocal and visible leader on progressive issues, particularly those dealing with children and families. A passionate and outspoken opponent of the Iraq war, she has helped move public opinion against President Bush’s failed Iraq policy. She introduced the first resolution calling for our troops to be brought home and convened the first congressional hearing on military exit strategies. The San Jose Mercury News recently called her “the unofficial matriarch of the [anti-war] movement in Congress.”
A member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congresswoman Woolsey believes that ending the Iraq war must be the beginning of a complete re-evaluation of U.S. national security policy.
“I am honored to receive Lynn’s support,” Clinton said. “She has been a tireless fighter for working families and has led the effort to end the war in Iraq.”
Rep. Woolsey joins other California members of Congress supporting Hillary, including Senator Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-18), Rep. Jane Harman (D-36), Rep. Tom Lantos (D-12), Rep. Doris Matsui (D-5), Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-38), Rep. Laura Richardson (D-37), Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-34), Rep. Brad Sherman (D-27), Rep. Hilda Solis (D-32), Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-10) and Rep. Diane Watson (D-33).