Hillary On Iraq, Part I

Why did Senator Hillary Clinton vote for the Iraq resolution widely viewed as a war resolution? In this series of articles called Hillary on Iraq we will explore this question.

In a current article about Senator Clinton’s and Senator Robert Byrd’s proposed bill which would remove congressional authorization for the Iraq war, Harper’s Magazine abandoned common sense and the facts.

Here is how the author of the article in Harpers, Ken Silverstein, shamelessly begins:

“At its essence, Clinton is saying that the Bush Administration tricked her into voting for the war resolution. “I Was Duped” is hardly an inspiring slogan, and in Hillary’s case it’s a thoroughly disingenuous one as well. She wasn’t duped. She was playing the polls, and at the time she concluded that a vote for war was the smart bet.”

Let us very briefly note that Hillary has never said “I was duped”. This is a Silverstein “strawman” argument. Hillary has taken responsibility for her vote. Hillary has not fallen into the trap candidate Kerry fell into when he said “I was for it, before I was against it.” In addition, Silverstein presents no facts to support his claim that Hillary was “playing the polls”. But for now let’s stay focused on the pillars of Silversteins anti-Hillary argument. Here is the bulk of Silverstein’s case against Hillary:

“Take a look at Clinton’s October 10, 2002, floor speech in which she authorized the use of force against Iraq. She didn’t just side with the Bush Administration, she more or less endorsed its entire case for war:

‘Intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program . . . ‘

‘If left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security.’

“While acknowledging that there was no evidence to tie Saddam to the September 11 attacks, she said he had “given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members,” and went on to say:

‘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. Over eleven years have passed since the U.N. called on Saddam Hussein to rid himself of weapons of mass destruction as a condition of returning to the world community. Time and time again he has frustrated and denied these conditions. This matter cannot be left hanging forever with consequences we would all live to regret . . . A vote for it is not a vote to rush to war; it is a vote that puts awesome responsibility in the hands of our President and we say to him – use these powers wisely and as a last resort. And it is a vote that says clearly to Saddam Hussein–this is your last chance–disarm or be disarmed.’

In order to show how “disengenous” Hillary was regarding her Iraq vote, Silverstein quotes Al Gore’s San Francisco speech on September 23, 2002:

“The resulting chaos in the aftermath of a military victory in Iraq could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam. Here’s why I say that; we know that he has stored away secret supplies of biological weapons and chemical weapons throughout his country. As yet, we have no evidence, however, that he has shared any of those weapons with terrorist groups. If the administration has evidence that he has, please present it, because that would change the way we all look at this thing.”

Let’s analyze Silverstein’s article. He claims that Hillary (a) “more or less endorsed its [Bush Administration] entire case for war; (b) agreed that [Saddam Hussein] had “given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members; and, (c) that “Dick Cheney could hardly have put it [the case for war] better.”

Did Silverstein read his own quotes? Contrary to what he writes it appears that Al Gore, the undisputed war opponent, is in agreement with Hillary. It is Al Gore who said “we know that he [Saddam Hussein] has stored away secret supplies of biological weapons and chemical weapons throughout his country.”

Did Silverstein read his own quotes? Did Hillary echo Dick Cheney? Did Hillary, as Silverstein claims “more or less endorsed its [Bush Administration] entire case for war”. No. Hillary said “This is probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make…” and “A vote for it is not a vote to rush to war; it is a vote that puts awesome responsibility in the hands of our President and we say to him – use these powers wisely and as a last resort.”

Both Al Gore and Hillary Clinton agreed in 2002, wrongly it turned out, that Saddam Hussein in Al Gore’s words had “secret supplies of biological weapons and chemical weapons”.

What about the terrorists question? Was Hillary under the impression that Saddam Hussein was providing terrorists with chemical or biological weapons? Al Gore had said “we have no evidence, however, that he [Saddam Hussein] has shared any of those weapons with terrorist groups” and Gore asked Bush to present any evidence of such cooperation between Hussein and terrorist groups. Gore said “If the administration has evidence that he has, please present it, because that would change the way we all look at this thing.”

Hillary agreed with Al Gore on the question of terrorists being given chemical and biological weapons by Saddam Hussein.
  Senator Hillary Clinton in a quote Silverstein chooses not to mention states the following: “there is still the matter of Saddam Hussein’s biological and chemical weapons. Today he has maximum incentive not to use them or give them away.” In other words Hillary Clinton and Al Gore agree that immediate war might provide Hussein with incentive to provide terrorists with weapons which thus far he had not provided.

What about Al Gore’s prescient claim that “The resulting chaos in the aftermath of a military victory in Iraq could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam.”? Was Hillary duped about that?

Here’s Hillary: “I believe international support and legitimacy are crucial. After shots are fired and bombs are dropped, not all consequences are predictable.” and “My vote is not, however, a vote for any new doctrine of pre-emption, or for uni-lateralism, or for the arrogance of American power or purpose — all of which carry grave dangers for our nation, for the rule of international law and for the peace and security of people throughout the world.

So, using the very quotes Silverstein provides it appears that Hillary was not the Dick Cheney echo Silverstein claims. Senators Kennedy, Leahy and Byrd at the time spoke against the Iraq resolution but there is no substantive disagreement between what they believed and what Hillary believed.

Silverstein’s claim that Hillary “more or less endorsed its entire case for war” is in tatters when we include her call against pre-emption or unilaterialism. Silverstein owes Hillary an apology.

So, why did Hillary vote for the Iraq resolution? We will examine that question in Part II of our series, Hillary On Iraq.

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