Hillary Clinton

When Will Hillary Clinton Answer For Her Iraq Vote?

What difference, at this point, does it make?

|

You can't be more straightforward: "Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?" Fox News host Megyn Kelly asked presumptive GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush about the Iraq War. Without hesitation, Bush replied: "I would have."

Bush went on to qualify his answer, adding that "so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. And so would have almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got."

Well, even if we give Bush the benefit of the doubt and concede that he was probably answering the question "Knowing what we knew then, would you have authorized the war?" rather than the one Kelly posed, it was still remarkably tone-deaf.

As a political matter, polls find that a large number of Americans (even many Republicans) believe Iraq wasn't worth the price. And considering all the setbacks and lives lost during the campaign, voters deserve a more nuanced answer from a person vying to be commander in chief.

For many people, Bush's comments will be disqualifying because they see the war in Iraq as a disaster. Not necessarily a disaster that has anything to do with conspiratorial motivations liberals assign to the war—no cabal of neocon imperialists trading lives for oil or empire—but a disaster when judged against the promises made by George W. Bush's administration. And it wasn't only about intelligence failures. Even setting aside the fact that we never found weapons of mass destruction, the war failed to create a self-sustaining, vibrant democracy in Iraq—or, for that matter, any genuine thirst for freedom elsewhere in the Muslim world.

But that's not exactly a difficult position for me—or others who supported the invasion in 2003—to take, certainly not after the benefit of more than a decade of reflection. So though Jeb should be held accountable for his obtuse position on Iraq, shouldn't the people who sanctioned and advocated the removal of the Baathist regime be the focus of similar condemnation?

In her book Hard Choices, Hillary Clinton, "apologized" (as the press put it at the time) for giving President Bush authorization to use force in Iraq, writing: "I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had. And I wasn't alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong."

In a 2006 interview on the Today show, Clinton answered the question Jeb was asked: "Obviously, if we knew then what we know now, there wouldn't have been a vote." Clinton went on to say, "I certainly wouldn't have voted that way."

When a policy fails or the public turns against it, admitting that you wouldn't vote for it doesn't exactly make you Dietrich Bonhoeffer. If you or I knew what we know now, then we'd be (almost) perfect. And apologies are not an exemption from accountability. The problem with Clinton's position is that none of us ever knows "what we know now" when we make decisions.  Her job, then, was to challenge the executive branch and remain duly skeptical of its case—which she was not.

But even if we suspend our disbelief and believe that her initial vote wasn't driven by political expediency (remember that voters supported an invasion in big numbers) or that her so-called apology wasn't driven by political expediency (by the time she switched, a big majority of Democrats believed Iraq was a mistake), how does a voter know that Clinton won't make another mistake the next time she is faced with one of those hard choices? The Iraq War vote was the most consequential one Clinton made as a senator, and by her own admission, she failed. Isn't that the way voters judge candidates who run on their experience and wisdom? Everyone makes mistakes, but not everyone has to be president.

And Clinton wasn't just fooled by faulty or misleading intelligence or led astray by a dishonest administration. In her floor speech defending the vote to invade, she made a passionate case for intervention little different from the one the administration was making for the long-term prospects of the region.

Because economic turmoil ultimately defined the 2008 elections, we may forget that the most consequential distinction between Clinton and Barack Obama—other than raw political talent—was the war. In fact, Obama rose to prominence as an Iraq War critic in 2002. Though Clinton may not have lost the nomination directly over her vote authorizing war, it was the issue that propelled her opponent and the grass-roots hostility to her candidacy. Even knowing what they know now about Clinton, Democrats will have to forgive her because she's "apologized"—but mostly because they really have no choice. Yet it's worth remembering that if candidates were judged on their retroactive positions, they would all be perfect.

© Copyright 2015 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

NEXT: Does the First Amendment provide special protection for the media -- or the same protection for all speakers?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The flaw in the hypothetical is its false premise that the faulty intelligence meant Saddam was innocent and a non-threat. Iraq was in fact guilty of breaching the disarmament and terrorism mandates of UNSCR 687 and a threat. To help answer the question of “what we now know”, see Saddam: What We Now Know (link) by Jim Lacey, citing to the Iraq Survey Group (re WMD) and the Iraqi Perspectives Project (re terrorism).

    Governor Bush’s error when talking about President Bush’s decision for Operation Iraqi Freedom is emphasizing the “mistaken” or “faulty” intelligence while ignoring the range of reasons in the law, policy, and facts underlying the decision for OIF that survive the controversy over the pre-war intelligence.

    For the record, explanation (link) of the law and policy, fact basis for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    As for Hillary Clinton, she voted for the 2002 AUMF as Senator because President Bush’s case against Saddam was really President Clinton’s case against Saddam, President Bush’s enforcement procedure for the Gulf War ceasefire mandates carried forward her husband’s enforcement procedure for the Gulf War ceasefire mandates, and as was the case for the Clinton administration, Saddam was guilty across the board of breaching the terms of the Gulf War ceasefire.

    1. Saddam was guilty as hell, but he was not a threat to the US. He was a threat to his neighbors and possibly to Europe, but that’s it.

    2. I don’t think anyone believes Saddam Hussein to be “innocent” in any sense of the term. The question is whether his regime posed a credible threat to the US or to US interests and could justify our action there. In hindsight, the answer is obviously no.

      1. It is difficult to see any rational, overall motivation for the invasion of Iraq other than ‘oil or empire’. (Not sure about the difference there — the original British incursion into the Middle East, which the US inherited, was based on the idea that oil was necessary for empire.) People who cared to know, knew Saddam Hussein’s supposed possession of WMD and terrorism connections were extremely dubious stories, as they subsequently proved to be.

        There is, however, the distinct possibility that the invasion was attractive to many of those who were instrumental in effecting it for irrational reasons, or for rational but private reasons like personal advancement, fame, wealth, and so on. There is a kind of tendency toward sociopathy or psychopathy inherent in the state, because the state treats humans as things, and it has to be watched very carefully. Bush 2’s invasion of Iraq could be another instance of its escape from dream into reality of which there are so many examples in history.

        I put down H.R. Clinton’s support for the invasion to the second kind of motivation. She and her advisors and allies said to one another, ‘Let’s let Bush have his fool war. If it works out well, we’ll be on board. If it works out badly, it’ll be Bush’s fault.’ In short, she was willing to trade thousands of American, and maybe hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, for a bit of political advantage.

  2. David Harsanyi: “Even setting aside the fact that we never found weapons of mass destruction, the war failed to create a self-sustaining, vibrant democracy in Iraq?or, for that matter, any genuine thirst for freedom elsewhere in the Muslim world.”

    Actually, the Iraq Survey Group findings are rife with disarmament violations of UNSCR 687. Again, see Saddam: What We Now Know (link) by Jim Lacey, citing the ISG findings. The condition overlooked in the discourse on OIF is the intelligence could be off the mark and Saddam could be guilty of the material breach that triggered enforcement at the same time because the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” (UNSCR 1441) was set by the UNSC resolutions, not the intelligence.

    1. Please. This is the most blatant goalpost shifting I’ve ever seen.

      Those weapons were known and cataloged by inspectors and were literally disintegrating in the bunkers, useless as weapons. It’s arguable, at best, whether Saddam was in violation for failing to properly dispose of them.

      The Bush II administration explicitly claimed that Saddam had an ongoing secret program creating weaponized chemical and nuclear weapons (mushroom cloud over an American city, etc), NOT improper disposal of 20 year old useless stockpiles.

  3. David Harsanyi: “… the war failed to create a self-sustaining, vibrant democracy in Iraq?or, for that matter, any genuine thirst for freedom elsewhere in the Muslim world.”

    Nation-building takes time. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture the consequences had Eisenhower disengaged diplomatically upon entering office and then precipitously withdrawn from Europe and/or Asia at the 8/9 year mark in the early 1950s like President Obama withdrew from Iraq at the 8/9 year (or 4/5 year if we count from the COIN “Surge”) mark in 2011.

    In May 2011, there was still enough progress left over from the Bush administration for Obama to assess Iraq:

    Indeed, one of the broader lessons to be drawn from this period is that sectarian divides need not lead to conflict. In Iraq, we see the promise of a multiethnic, multisectarian democracy. The Iraqi people have rejected the perils of political violence in favor of a democratic process, even as they’ve taken full responsibility for their own security. Of course, like all new democracies, they will face setbacks. But Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress.

    Emma Sky, an official and senior advisor in OIF, laments (link) the progress and opportunities lost in Iraq due to Obama’s sharp deviation from Bush.

    1. Your links are helpful but if you think that staying in Iraq would have changed its outcome then you’re dumb. There is no reason to think that a ‘residual’ US force would have prevented Iraq coming undone. At best it would have pushed it into the future at massive taxpayer cost.

      1. One of the difference between the US Postwar occupation of Germany and Japan is that both were long standing nation states. While Iraq is both a subnational and multi-ethnic state.

        The analogy would be occupying a single German state or Japanese prefecture while the hostiles controlled the rest of both nations.

        1. Another difference is that immediately post WWII, we were convinced of our righteousness and not paralyzed by multicultural sensitivity and relativism. We weren’t afraid of saying, “You’re wrong. Your system and traditions are inferior, and we’re imposing a better one that you have to accept.”

          I’m sure WWII would have been a lot different if we couldn’t even use the term “Nazi,” for fear of offending the masses of “peaceful Germans.” According to the present MSM talking-head narrative, calling them Nazis would simply “serve as a recruiting tool.” Because, you know, people immediately jump in to oppose a massively overwhelming force because of verbal slights.

    2. I don’t know about “thirst for freedom”, but the Arab Spring and subsequent uprisings are the direct result of the Iraq strategy. This strategy also led to the strategy with Libya and Syria – which led to the proliferation of ISIL. It probably also played prominently in the suppressed protests in Iran.

      Not a lot went the way the neocons predicted after the fall of Saddam, but there was definitely an inspiration that was a threat to dictators and oppressive governments, the possibility that the alternative to those leaders might be worse notwithstanding.

  4. David Harsanyi: “… or, for that matter, any genuine thirst for freedom elsewhere in the Muslim world.”

    As for the Green Revolution and the Arab Spring, like Iraq, who knows what might have been had Obama stayed the course with Bush’s Freedom Agenda rather than Obama’s counter-productive ‘lead from behind’ approach.

    Did the movements fail for want of “genuine thirst for freedom” or for want of competitive capability versus stronger, more vicious illiberal aggressors? Bush understood that liberal progress in the normally illiberal region would need steadfast American help to stand a chance. Obama withdrew and warped American involvement at the very point that the course of history might have been turned another way.

    1. Eric, even if the Iraq War was legal under US and international law, that doesn’t mean it was a good idea. Look at how much blood and treasure was lost in the sand over there. Do you really think Saddam would have done more damage to the US over the last 12 years than we did to ourselves?

      1. The best option was to invade, take out Sadaam, and leave. Or this: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shadow…..0747514828

        1. Cytotoxic|5.15.15 @ 9:28PM|#
          “The best option was to invade, take out Sadaam, and leave.”

          Fap, fap, fap, fap.

          1. You and me both.

            1. No, asshole, I don’t have a war boner.

          2. No he’s correct.

            The best outcome would have been installing another dictator that would respect US interests and desires. The real problem with Saddam for the US was that he was continually tweaking our nose. It’s also not outrageous to think that he would have aided terrorists in doing so post 9-11.

    2. Nation building, rah! rah!

      Maybe we should save Burundi next.

      1. Or maybe Sudan.

        1. I hear Burma’s not doing so hot, either . . .

          1. Please, it is the Cayman Islands which need saving ! Send us there, getting sick of all the shitholes !

            1. If we invade the Cyamans I’ll enlist.

            2. We need to liberate all the US dollars imprisoned on there!

              1. Yes, yes !!!! Then on to Switzerland, evil place there, snow capped mountains, beautiful women……..oh, and many, many dollars trapped there awaiting freedom, FREEDOM !!!!!1!!!!11

    3. Obama stayed the course with Bush’s Freedom Agenda

      1) Obama stuck to Bush’s withdrawal date 2) There is no reason to believe anything would be going better if Obama had stuck to Bush’s stupid ‘strategy’.

      1. Huh ?

        1. Bush’s ‘freedom agenda’ amounted to giving the vote to people who did not deserve it and continuing to pretend that the Gulf nations are ‘allies’.

          1. Yep.

            It really was a flavor of progressivism

    4. “Bush’s Freedom Agenda”

      LOL.

      Yeah, you’re trolling. Should have caught on before.

  5. “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized dropping the atomic bombs on Japan?”

    “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the crucifixion of Jesus?”

    “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the War on Poverty?”

  6. “Obama rose to prominence as an Iraq War critic in 2002.”

    Seems so much longer ago. I can still recall feeling guarded optimism when Candidate Obama discussed his love of civil liberties and the role of the US internationally. The actual words to escape my lips on Election Night 2008 were “Either of these guys would be better than the asshole in office right now.” Oh, young Knarf, there’s just so much I need to warn you about and yet, tragically, I cannot.

    And Hillary has always been a fairweather goon who would copyright the Overton window if she could. Of course she was going to stammer about international responsibility and offer guarded tribal attacks while giving W the go-ahead.

    1. And boy, has Obama show us what a step in the right direction he is from Bush! it’s not like Obama (and SoS Clinton) waged war to overthrow a Baathist dictator in the Levant based on poorly evidenced reasons, thereby rendering the region a haven for Islamist militants. And they definitely didn’t do the exact same thing in Libya.

      1. it’s not like Obama (and SoS Clinton) waged war to overthrow a Baathist dictator in the Levant based on poorly evidenced reasons

        Er what are you talking about? America has barely done anything in Syria.

        1. Huh ?

          1. Did I stutter? Do you have a reading comprehension problem? Do you have drool on your chin?

            1. Nope. Just hard to believe someone capable of typing is such an ignoramus.

            2. He was being charitable, cytotoxic. He could’ve immediately just jumped into the fuck-off game everyone else plays, which he probably will the next time.

              “Barely done anything in Syria.” You Randies kill me.

  7. I predict that the general sentiment here is that the Iraq War was justifiable, only Hillary’s vote for it was not. Perhaps I’ll be surprised and the libertarian consensus is that the Iraq War is actually one of the worst things this country has done in generations, even worse than Obamacare. I’ll not hold my breath.

    1. Tony|5.15.15 @ 8:53PM|#
      “I predict that the general sentiment here is that the Iraq War was justifiable,”

      First, that’s not a prediction, it’s a guess. And if you believe that, you haven’t really been reading here.
      About the only support comes from your buddy turd, who supports it now since Obo is running it.
      But I don’t recall support beyond one or two even before Obo took ownership; you might read Knarf Yenrab above, and notice no one is griping.

    2. Whatever helps you sleep at night.

    3. I predict that the general sentiment here is that the Iraq War was justifiable, only Hillary’s vote for it was not.

      In keeping with your personal philosophy of arguing exclusively with the voices inside your own head.

    4. Did you find Saddam’s nuclear bomb up your ass?

    5. About the only person here that thinks the war was justifiable is Cytoxic you mendacious shitbag.

      And yeah, Hillary Clinton voting for the AUMF should be a giant fucking red mark against her, just as it was for McCain. But then, you’re an unprincipled hack so I’m not surprised you don’t think so.

      As far as worst thing in generations, I’d say that Vietnam completely blows it out of the water.

    6. You’re out of your element, Tony.

  8. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link,
    go to tech tab for work detail ????????????? http://www.jobsfish.com

  9. “For many people, Bush’s comments will be disqualifying because they see the war in Iraq as a disaster. Not necessarily a disaster that has anything to do with conspiratorial motivations liberals assign to the war?no cabal of neocon imperialists trading lives for oil or empire — but a disaster when judged against the promises made by George W. Bush’s administration.”

    Is there anything more grotesque than watching a straddler like David Harsanyi hew so precisely to the middle of the “moderate commenter” road? Revolting and conscienceless.

    1. How dare he make completely accurate statements.

  10. “But that’s not exactly a difficult position for me?or others who supported the invasion in 2003?to take, certainly not after the benefit of more than a decade of reflection”

    David, I’m curious, we’re there any right-wing libertarians who actually opposed the war in Iraq in 2003? I mention it because I’m looking through the Reason archives and it’s a little embarrassing. I know you guys are regular peaceniks now that obummer is in office, but I’m trying to find evidence that you were opposed for any duration of the war prior to 1/20/2009. Let me know if you find some. Thanks, man.

    1. I mention it because I’m looking through the Reason archives and it’s a little embarrassing.

      I’ve already helped you out with this before you mendacious pile of shit. Here’s some more for you:

      Ten Reasons to Fire George W. Bush (July 2004)

      Should We Invade Iraq? (January 2003)

      1. From your 2003 cite:

        “No More 9/11s
        The case for invading Iraq
        Brink Lindsey

        John Mueller tries to make light of Iraq. Feeble, inept, pathetic, and daffy are some of the adjectives he uses to describe the blood-soaked, predatory regime now in power there. The implication is that only the paranoid could find in Saddam Hussein’s buffoonery any cause for serious concern.

        Well, I beg to differ. Iraq is no joke: The crimes that the Ba’athist regime there has committed and may intend to commit in the future are deadly serious business. Under the reign of Saddam Hussein, Iraq has invaded two of its neighbors, lobbed missiles at two other countries in the region, systematically defied U.N. resolutions that demand its disarmament, fired on U.S. and coalition aircraft thousands of times over the past decade, and committed atrocious human rights abuses against its own citizens, including the waging of genocidal chemical warfare against Iraqi Kurds. In short, this is a regime that is responsible for hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of deaths.”

        That’s opposing the war. I’m glad a libertarian magazine came around in 2007 to opposing the war after hundreds of thousands of people were murdered by George bush. I count that as progress. Where were you guys in 2002?

        1. So the article presents both sides, and being a slimy lefty, you pick one and pretend that’s the article’s intent.
          I’m not surprised; if lefties couldn’t be dishonest, fucking shitstains like you wouldn’t have anything to post at all.
          Fuck off.

          1. A libertarian magazine should be the place for a debate about a war against a country that never attacked us? Maybe we should have some debates here about increasing penalties for marijuana possession, the ACA, or Lenin’s War Communism.

            I didn’t see a single right-winger at any of the hundreds of antiwar protests that I went to. It was mostly Occupy Wall Street types and other scum of the Earth that right-wingers called traitors at the time.

            1. american socialist|5.16.15 @ 1:41PM|#
              “A libertarian magazine should be the place for a debate about a war against a country that never attacked us?”

              Gee, shitstain, I guess a magazine that covers national issues should only present one side, sorta like Pravada, right?
              ——————————————
              “Maybe we should have some debates here about increasing penalties for marijuana possession, the ACA, or Lenin’s War Communism”

              I guess you’re ignorant enough to have missed when the magazine has covered those who propose stronger penalties. And if War Communism had been a US issue, why not? You’re just full of shit today!
              ——————————————
              “I didn’t see a single right-winger at any of the hundreds of antiwar protests that I went to.”

              Tough shit. Tell that to right wingers, shitstain.
              Oh, and fuck off.

    2. “David, I’m curious, we’re there any right-wing libertarians who actually opposed the war in Iraq in 2003?”

      No, shitstain, you’re not “curious”, you’re using innuendo to make a point and I’m sure your mommy said is was real cute.
      Fuck off.

      1. Do you want me to post his article where he says that the best candidate for libertarians in 2008 was Sarah palin? Do you ever feel put upon by all the agenda-pushing that goes around here?

        1. american socialist|5.16.15 @ 10:36AM|#
          “Do you want me to post his article where he says that the best candidate for libertarians in 2008 was Sarah palin?”
          Sure, go right ahead. Taking your lies apart is quite amusing.

          “Do you ever feel put upon by all the agenda-pushing that goes around here?”
          Only when lefty shitstains show up.

  11. I’m looking for a few leaders who have the entrepreneurial spirit to be part of a successful team. We offer daily and monthly pay, bonuses, benefits, work from home, flexible hours and more! For more information and to schedule an interview visit our website!
    ……………. http://WWW.TIMES-REPORT.COM

  12. Like Vietnam, Iraq was never a threat to the USA.

  13. Start making cash right now… Get more time with your family by doing jobs that only require for you to have a computer and an internet access and you can have that at your home. Start bringing up to $8596 a month. I’ve started this job and I’ve never been happier and now I am sharing it with you, so you can try it too. You can check it out here…
    http://www.jobnet10.com

  14. You all realize we DID find chemicals, and so did isis? Isis even went ahead and used them, also Syria goe their chemicals from Iraq, why do you all insist on conntinuing the Left’s lies?

    1. 1) no you didn’t and 2) that’s irrelevant.

  15. Nathaniel . although Stephanie `s rep0rt is super… I just bought a top of the range Mercedes sincee geting a check for $4416 this last four weeks and would you believe, ten/k last-month . no-doubt about it, this really is the best-job I’ve ever done . I actually started seven months/ago and almost straight away started making a nice over $79.. p/h….. ?????? http://www.Jobs-Cash.com

  16. Start making cash right now… Get more time with your family by doing jobs that only require for you to have a computer and an internet access and you can have that at your home. Start bringing up to $8596 a month. I’ve started this job and I’ve never been happier and now I am sharing it with you, so you can try it too. You can check it out here…
    http://www.jobnet10.com

  17. Nathaniel . although Stephanie `s rep0rt is super… I just bought a top of the range Mercedes sincee geting a check for $4416 this last four weeks and would you believe, ten/k last-month . no-doubt about it, this really is the best-job I’ve ever done . I actually started seven months/ago and almost straight away started making a nice over $79.. p/h….. ?????? http://www.Jobs-Cash.com

  18. Nathaniel . although Stephanie `s rep0rt is super… I just bought a top of the range Mercedes sincee geting a check for $4416 this last four weeks and would you believe, ten/k last-month . no-doubt about it, this really is the best-job I’ve ever done . I actually started seven months/ago and almost straight away started making a nice over $79.. p/h….. ?????? http://www.netcash9.com

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.