Clinton's position on Iraq is almost indistinguishable from Bush's.
she claimed that "[T]he so-called presidential palaces ... in reality were huge compounds well suited to hold weapons labs, stocks, and records which Saddam Hussein was required by UN resolution to turn over. When Saddam blocked the inspection process, the inspectors left." In reality, as became apparent when UN inspectors returned in 2002 as well as in the aftermath of the invasion and occupation, there were no weapons labs, stocks of weapons or missing records in these presidential palaces. In addition, Saddam was still allowing for virtually all inspections to go forward at the time of the 1998 U.S. attacks. The inspectors were withdrawn for their own safety at the encouragement of President Clinton in anticipation of the imminent U.S.-led assault
Senator Clinton also took credit for strengthening U.S. ties with Ahmad Chalabi, the convicted embezzler who played a major role in convincing key segments of the administration, Congress, the CIA, and the American public that Iraq still had proscribed weapons, weapons systems, and weapons labs. She has expressed pride that her husband's administration changed underlying U.S. policy toward Iraq from "containment" -- which had been quite successful in defending Iraq's neighbors and protecting its Kurdish minority -- to "regime change," which has resulted in tragic warfare, chaos, dislocation, and instability.
LEAD UP TO WAR
Though the 2003 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq was inaccurate in a number of respects, it did challenge the notion of any operational ties between the Iraqi government and Al-Qaeda and questioned some of the more categorical claims by President Bush about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD). However, Senator Clinton didn't even bother to read it.
AFTER THE INVASION
Even after the U.S. forces invaded and occupied Iraq and confirmed that -- contrary to Senator Clinton's initial justification for the war -- Iraq did not have WMDs, WMD programs, offensive delivery systems, or ties to al-Qaeda, she defended her vote to authorize the invasion anyway. Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York that December, she declared, "I was one who supported giving President Bush the authority, if necessary, to use force against Saddam Hussein. I believe that that was the right vote" and was one that "I stand by."
Like President Bush, she claims that she did not lie about her false accusations about Iraq's weapons programs. She says she was misled by faulty intelligence, though she has refused to make public this intelligence that she claims demonstrated that Iraq had somehow reconstituted its WMD.
She has also subsequently claimed that her vote "was clearly intended to demonstrate support for going to the United Nations to put inspectors into Iraq" and was "not a vote for pre-emptive war." The record shows, however, that Senator Clinton voted against an amendment by Senator Carl Levin that would have allowed for U.S. military action to disarm Iraq of any weapons of mass destruction and weapons systems pursuant to any future UN Security Council resolution authorizing such military actions, which would presumably have taken place had Iraq not allowed the inspectors back in as promised.
She would withdraw some troops, just as President Bush has been promising to do eventually, but insists that the United States should maintain its "military as well as political mission" in Iraq for the indefinite future for such purposes as countering Iranian influence, protecting the Kurdish minority, preventing a failed state, and supporting the Iraqi military.
Since most estimates of the numbers of troops needed to carry out these tasks range between 40,000 and 75,000, the best that can be hoped for under a Hillary Clinton presidency is that she would withdraw only about one-half to two-thirds of American combat forces within a year or so of her assuming office. Indeed, she has explicitly refused to promise, if elected president, to withdraw troops by the end of her term in 2013. As Senator Clinton describes, it, "What we can do is to almost take a line sort of north of, between Baghdad and Kirkuk, and basically put our troops into that region -- the ones that are going to remain for our anti-terrorism mission; for our northern support mission; for our ability to respond to the Iranians; and to continue to provide support, if called for, for the Iraqis." This hardly constitutes a withdrawal.
LITTLE DIFFERENCE FROM BUSH
As her record indicates, Senator Clinton's position on Iraq differs very little from that of President Bush. For her to receive the nomination for president would in effect be an endorsement by the Democratic Party of the Iraq war
In 2004, the Democrats selected a nominee who also voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq, falsely claimed that Iraq still had WMDs, and -- at that time -- insisted on maintaining U.S. troops in that country. As a result, Senator John Kerry failed to mobilize the party's anti-war base and went down to defeat. What timid concerns Kerry did raise about President Bush's handling of the Iraq war during the campaign were used by the Bush campaign to focus attention away from the war itself and highlight the Democratic nominee's changing positions. Had the Democrats [b]""instead nominated someone who had opposed the war from the beginning""[/b], the debate that fall would have been not about Senator Kerry's supposed "flip-flopping" but the tragic decision to illegally invade a country on the far side of the world that was no threat to us and the squandering of American lives and tax dollars that have resulted
[b]"""Before the war in Iraq ever started, Senator Obama said that it was wrong in its conception. In 2002, then Illinois State Senator Obama said Saddam Hussein posed no imminent threat to the United States and that invasion would lead to an occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. Since then, Senator Obama has laid out a plan on the way forward in Iraq that has largely been affirmed by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group led by James Baker and Lee Hamilton.
Barack Obama opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning. In 2002, as the conventional thinking in Washington lined up for war, Obama had the judgment and courage to speak out against the war. He said the war would lead to "an occupation of undetermined length, with undetermined costs and undetermined consequences." In January 2007, Obama introduced legislation to responsibly end the war in Iraq, with a phased withdrawal of troops engaged in combat operations""[/b]