Hilary Clinton and Al-Qa'eda in Iraq

This is something we need to internalize - Matt

Matt Stoller has an article in which he notes that the Democratic front runner, Hilary Clinton, is effectively for continuing the war. What's interesting to me is not so much Matt's article but the responses in comments.

It seems a lot of commenters, presumably Democrats, think that the US has to keep troops in Iraq to fight al-Qa'eda.

I am, frankly, floored by the sublime stupidity.  Not only is this buying, lock stock and barrel, into Republican framing, but it's simply incorrect.

The US will never, ever, defeat al-Qa'eda in Iraq.  They haven't in the years they've been there, and as long as they have significant numbers of troops there odds are very strong al-Qa'eda will also be there.  The only people who can ever defeat al-Qa'eda in Iraq, are Iraqis, because only Iraqis will actually have the necessary informant network.  Since al-Qa'eda is a relatively small movement in Iraq, defeating it militarily isn't that difficult - if you can find it.  It doesn't take US military forces, any of the major Iraqi militias have the necessary military strength to do it so long as none of the other major militia's protect it.

But right now, and for as long as it serves their purposes, which will be for as long as the US has a troop presence running around in Iraq, the Sunni insurgency will allow al-Qa'eda to do a lot of the dirty work for them.  When the US leaves there will be a general settling of accounts.  When that's done there'll either be someone in charge of Iraq; there'll be a de-facto partition, or there'll be a Lebanonization.  In two of those three scenarios al-Qa'eda is toast.  In the third it'll probably stick around to be used against those who are denying the Sunnis a share of oil wealth.

Clinton's use of the al-Qa'eda boogeyman to justify staying in Iraq, to keep the permanent bases she appears to want just as badly as the NeoCons, is more likely to lead to both an Iraqi failed state (since as long as the US is in Iraq it stops Iraqi factions from properly fighting it out, which is, yes, a bad thing since it stops one of them from winning or stops them from coming to a natural equilibrium) and it will result in al-Qa'eda staying in Iraq, since it will have hosts who want it to stay, or at least Iraqis will not be in a position to properly rout it out - something that only Iraqis, and not Americans can do.

Clinton's desire to remain in Iraq will continue the war in Iraq - the Iraqi people want the US out, and if it does not leave, many of them will keep fighting (wouldn't you, if the situation was reversed?)  She is for the war in Iraq - she voted for it, she has always refused to say she was wrong for doing so, and she would keep US troops in Iraq if elected.  Her use of al-Qa'eda to justify keeping troops in Iraq is nothing more than a cynical play on the American public's paranoia about al-Qa'eda, not a sincere strategy to defeat al-Qa'eda (or if it is, she's beyond stupid, something I don't believe.)  

Hillary's a pro-war candidate.  And if Democrats nominate her, they will be nominating a pro-war candidate.  And then the war will be a fully American war, not just a Republican one.

And Hillary is still leading the polls very nicely, thanks.

I've lately been taken to task by another editor at the Agonist for daring to suggest that Americans are responsible for the war.  Nominate Hillary, and with both major parties being pro-war, it will become awfully hard to argue that those who genuinely oppose the war are anything more than a powerless, meaningless majority in America.

Or to put it another way - at some point what the US actually does matters more than what Americans say they want it to do.  And having troops in a country whose population doesn't want them there is practically the definition of "war".

Tags: al-Qa'eda, Democrats, Hillary Clinton, Iraq (all tags)

Comments

61 Comments

An Interesting Thesis

Ian, you present an interesting thesis here.

In that earlier thread, I posted what I thought were some of the distinctions that have arisen, and could arise, between the three major candidates for the nomination.  I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on all of this...let me re-post most of it here:  

It is my expectation that Hillary Clinton, Obama, and Edwards will give Democratic voters some choices with respect to Iraq.  In theory, the candidate who demonstrates the best plan for getting us out of Iraq, as soon as possible, will receive the Democratic nomination.  

It is early yet...but do we have some distinctions to point to so far?  Further, what distinctions should we be looking for in the future?

Well for starters, here is a distinction that already appears to be fixed in stone:  

(1) Was the vote to authorize the war in Iraq a mistake?  Barack Obama says-yes.  John Edwards says-yes.  Hillary Clinton says-no.  (FYI approximately 80% of Democratic voters polled recently said...drum roll please...yes.)

Here are some additional distinctions that may arise:

(2) Do you believe we should make it clear to the world that we will have NO permanent bases in Iraq?  Edwards has said yes. Obama has said yes.  Hillary Clinton has said .......?

(3) When American troops are redeployed, will they remain in Iraq to conduct six missions, or three?  Hillary has already described the need to conduct six different missions.  Obama, in synch with the Senate bill, has mentioned only three missions.  Edwards has also mentioned only three missions. Needless to say, the more missions needed, the more soldiers that will be required.  So far, it appears that Hillary Clinton's six missions will require at least 75,000 troops to occupy Iraq during her presidency.

(4) When American troops are redeployed, will you redeploy them OUT of Iraq, into neighboring Kuwait, or keep them IN Iraq?  Hillary Clinton has said she will definitely keep them IN Iraq, and keep them there indefinitely in order to accomplish her six missions.  Edwards has suggested (but not committed explicitly to) redeploying to Kuwait.  Obama is not too clear on this.  (For those Democratic voters who believe that our continued occupation of Iraq will forever drive more violence in Iraq, Hillary's position here will be VERY significant.  They will not support a candidate who promises indefinite occupation of Iraq with a large number of troops.  Are they all going to vote for Kucinich?)  

(5) How will you handle Al Qaeda having terrorists operating in Baghdad?  Hillary Clinton has stated that US forces will do nothing to stop an Al Qaeda presence in Baghdad, but instead, rely exclusively upon Iraqi forces, including the Mahdi army.  I do not believe Edwards or Obama have said anything on this question.

(6) How will you handle Al Qaeda infiltration into Al Anbar province? Hillary Clinton has stated that US forces occupying Iraq during her presidency, including possibly occupying Al Anbar province itself, will be fighting in Al Anbar province indefinitely.  I do not believe Edwards or Obama have said anything on this.

(7) If Shiites and Sunnis continue killing each other in Iraq during your presidency, as they are doing right now in huge numbers, will American forces intervene to stop any of this killing?  All three have said no: it is solely the responsibility of Iraqis to stop this.  (Good luck Iraqis.)

Politically, my sense is that Hillary Clinton is, and will continue to be, the Democratic candidate MOST committed to continuing the occupation of Iraq with substantial numbers of American troops.  Politically, on a scale of one to ten, with a ten being a substantial, permanent occupation of Iraq, McCain would be a 10, Clinton would be an 8, Obama a 6, and Edwards perhaps a 5.  And Democrat's should be clear about this:  Hillary Clinton apparently feels a "political need" to be seen as more hawkish than Obama and Edwards on Iraq.  That is her game plan.    

So yes, the Democratic voters should have some choices on Iraq with the big three contenders.  Do you want the most hawkish candidate of the three, and an indefinite occupation of Iraq?  Or, do you think it is time to put the occupation of Iraq fully behind us, as soon as possible, including actually leaving the country (OMG!), and concentrate on other national and international priorities?   It should be interesting.  

by Demo37 2007-03-26 09:25PM | 0 recs
Excellent post

There's already fighting between AQ and Iraqi Sunns and if the US were to leave, it would increase. Unfortunately, by staying so long the US has allowed AQ to really get very strong in Anbar, so they will be hard to defeat. In any case, a war between Iraqis and AQ, for all its horror, might in fact rally the Muslim world against AQ--one of the few positive development that could come out of this disaster. Is it too much of a pipedream to think that Shia might joing their Iraqi brethren and together defeat AQ? Probably.

by david mizner 2007-03-27 05:03AM | 0 recs
False

One small contention.

hillary has called the vote a mistake.  she says there would not have been a vote knowing what we know now.

what you're looking for is hillary to say "I made a mistake."

and your rating system is absurd.

I'll concede to this:

McCain = 10

hillary = 3

edwards and obama = 2.

no. 6 sounds like an interesting question.

lets not discuss it.

by Stewieeeee 2007-03-27 07:05AM | 0 recs
Re: HRC & sublime stupidity

go hand in hand.  Staying in Iraq, anti flag burning amendments, and Mrs. NAFTA/WTO has even duped unemployed Democrats into thinking she is their candidate, which is a major hoot for the Queen of the DLC.  Add in I love to preach and have nothing to say Obama, and our two front runners become a total waste of an opportunity for real reform.  And please don't tell me the "why can't we all get along" Obama is reform.  He isn't.  Howard Dean was reform.  Obama should have been a preacher and not a politician.  This time, I think I'll move to Canada before the election.

by dkmich 2007-03-27 02:22AM | 0 recs
Re: HRC & sublime stupidity

by liberalrob 2007-03-27 09:17AM | 0 recs
Re: HRC & sublime stupidity

Sorry about the blank post.  The screen jumps around while it's loading and I accidentally hit the Post button.

I was going to say, with global warming we'll probably all be moving to Canada eventually.

by liberalrob 2007-03-27 09:18AM | 0 recs
Re: Hilary Clinton and Al-Qa'eda in Iraq

AIPAC rules!  So to speak...

by Ethelred 2007-03-27 02:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Hilary Clinton and Al-Qa'eda in Iraq

Perhaps if we want to do something about Al Qaeda, maybe we should look at the country the money (and the 9/11 hijackers) all come from:  Saudi Arabia.  

Staying in Iraq hasn't done a damned thing to stop the growth of Al Qaeda.  Al Qaeda is not an organized army and it's completely pointless to try to fight a conventional war against it.

The US is engaged in counter-insurgency in Iraq, not fighting terrorism.  That point needs to be driven home time after time.  

And by all means, every candidate needs to answer the questions about permanent bases.

by RickD 2007-03-27 02:46AM | 0 recs
Truth about the bases

This has been swept under the rug from 2003 on.  The plan, all along, has been to leave 40-50,000 American troops in Iraq in permanent bases that are now in place. These bases have, all along, been intended to replace Saudi bases, which creates a pretext for anti-royalty elements to foment opposition to the Saudi regime.

Part of this plan has been to deny Iraq's armed forces key elements necessary for national defense, like armor, air and logistical support.  A plan to fully withdraw requires resolution of this deficit.  An actual full withdrawal would allow Iran or Turkey to invade at will, and would give the Saudi air force free rein.  Supplying the Iraqis with armor and air power would run the risk of an Iran/Iraq shiite alliance, which the Saudis would find quite disconcerting.  This, of course, would lead to a continued US presence in Saudi Arabia, the elimination of which was a key goal of the neo-nuts.

It's hard to overestimate the magnitude of this catastrophe.

So now you've got candidates who really can't spell out what they would do, because any nuanced statement will be used as soundbite fodder.  You've got media who have never asked these question, so there is no context for any kind of nuance.  Long story short, the truth is that there will not be a complete withdrawal unless an anti-US government comes to power and expels the US. Unlike a complete withdrawal in vietnam (note the "expel" point above), there will be no government left behind and no effective armed force to defend the country.  So a complete withdrawal is not really possible in less than a time period like three or four years and will require solving some very difficult problems that have been made worse by this administration.

What voters, especially Democratic voters,  want is a complete withdrawal. This creates severe difficulties for Democratic candidates.

Sorry for the long contextual intro:

With that:

(1) Was the vote to authorize the war in Iraq a mistake?  Barack Obama says-yes.  John Edwards says-yes.  Hillary Clinton says-no.

Unquestionably. It does done immense damage to US foreign policy and to US security, and may still cause enormously more damage in the Middle East--results that were predictable at the time.  It was also politically stupid, especially for Hillary, who wasn't running in 04.  If it had been a huge success, the Republicans would have been a lock in 08.  Huge failure, the vote's gonna hang around your neck.

(2) Do you believe we should make it clear to the world that we will have NO permanent bases in Iraq?  Edwards has said yes. Obama has said yes.  Hillary Clinton has said .......?

This would be a lie.  That's where the problem lies.  Unless Obama and Edwards can outline how they plan to accomplish this--get out leaving substantially fewer than 40,000 troops indefinitely, then it's hard to take these claims seriously

(3) When American troops are redeployed, will they remain in Iraq to conduct six missions, or three?

Either the US will stay until there is a government that can be trusted to deploy a full-fledged defense posture, or the US will be expelled.  Regardless of who is President.  This is a very difficult issue to confront in the current political environment.

(4) When American troops are redeployed, will you redeploy them OUT of Iraq, into neighboring Kuwait, or keep them IN Iraq?  

Air support could reside in Kuwait.  But armor and logistics are necessarily in country.

(5) How will you handle Al Qaeda having terrorists operating in Baghdad?

It is incredibly stupid to keep feeding the myth of al qaeda.  There is no organized worldwide terrorist organization being run by bin Laden out of the caves of Afghanistan or Pakistan.  Al qaeda is a brand, not a movement. Everytime anyone talks about al qaeda in Iraq, they are promoting the brand. Any time a DEMOCRAT talks about "terrorism" or "al qaeda" in Iraq, they are feeding a false meme that is bad for democrats and bad for the country--the global war on terror.  The only context in which "al qaeda" should pass dem lips is to talk about Bush's failure to terminate al qaeda completely, when they were down to 100 people in Tora Bora caves, (see The Looming Tower so that they could pursue an imperial chimera in Iraq.

(6) How will you handle Al Qaeda infiltration into Al Anbar province?

This should always be characterized as a Sunni infiltration.  That's both more accurate and starves the "terrorism" meme, which is doing immense damage to the US and to democrats.  How you handle it? That's clearly an internal Iraqi security problem for the president elected in 08.

(7) If Shiites and Sunnis continue killing each other in Iraq during your presidency, as they are doing right now in huge numbers, will American forces intervene to stop any of this killing?  

See (6).

IMO, perhaps Clinton is accurately representing her view, which is not a surprising one for someone who spent 8 years in the White House.  Being able to wield military power may well lead to a greater belief in its effectiveness.  Or perhaps she is setting herself up for the general, betting that she can bleed some antiwar votes in the primary if it leaves her well-positioned in the center for the general.

There's no question that she is positioning herself as the hawk in the race, and that Obama and Edwards are not willing to alienate the anti-war majority.  

by jayackroyd 2007-03-27 03:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Truth about the bases

Why I don't hold Hillary's vote against her is this: If the 9/11 airplanes had hit twin towers in Chicago both senators of Illinois would have backed the authorization - no doubt about it.

by meliou2 2007-03-27 08:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Truth about the bases

Except for the fact that it has been documented only about 100 million times that the Iraq war was completely divorced from any "response" to 9/11.

by rcipw 2007-03-27 09:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Hilary

Hillary doesnt see her war vote as a mistake because she wanted this war.  To her, going to war wasnt a mistake, bush's "handling" of the war is the mistake.  There's just no way I'm voting for this war-mongering panderer.  If she's the candidate, I'm voting for Nader.

by AnthonyMason2k6 2007-03-27 05:06AM | 0 recs
Not this war

She made it clear in a number of speeches that she opposed the invasion. What she supported, and still supports, is the right of the President to make an invasion. No doubt this is based on the good results of the interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo, which, if you'll recall, were opposed by the Republican Congress. She believes that Bill Clinton and George Bush had the right to go into Yugoslavia and Iraq respectively but that Bill did the right thing and Bush screwed up. She also has a conflict of interest in that she has a good chance of becoming President and wants the ability to use the military as she sees fit if she does.

by curtadams 2007-03-27 05:35AM | 0 recs
Bullshit

There is no way one could vote for the war resolution and not realize that it was in fact a vote for invading Iraq. You'd have to be an idiot not to understand that Bush was determined to invade and that the resolution gave him cover. She is not an idiot. Claiming that her vote for war was somehow not a vote for this specific immoral, illegal, aggressive, unprovoked, and disastrous war is total bullshit.

by miasmo 2007-03-27 07:10AM | 0 recs
If you're a mindreader, go to Vegas

A lot of people agreed with her that the vote was to give Bush to power to go to war, and not to go to war itself. That was, after all, what the resolution said. I know dozens of people who thought so. Why couldn't she be one of them?

by curtadams 2007-03-27 07:14AM | 0 recs
Re: If you're a mindreader, go to Vegas

To believe that, one would need to be either uninformed or a moron. I don't believe she was either of those. Andrew Card admitted that the PR campaign for war was rolled out in the fall. I don't know about you, but I can tell when someone's trying to sell me something. It was patently obvious to the 15 million people who participated in protests around the world. Is Hillary such a clueless imbecile that she genuinely couldn't put two and two together?

by miasmo 2007-03-27 07:51AM | 0 recs
Simply not true

I know a lot of people who thought that who are neither uninformed nor moron. I admire your judgement on Bush, but it's a simple fact that most of the country disagreed at the time, including lots of bright, well-informed people. Why is it so hard to believe that Hillary believed exactly what she did during her husband's Presidency - that the President should have the right to do a military intervention? Why is it moronic to think that Bush would have taken a tack on Iraq similar to that with Afghanistan, where he got international approval, waited for diplomatic efforts, and minimized the invasion and occupation?

by curtadams 2007-03-27 08:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Simply not true

And those people are not running for PResident. And trhose people did not have the benefit of being in the White House with decent first hand knowledge on how the game is played in DC when it comes to spinning facts.

by Pravin 2007-03-27 08:41AM | 0 recs
Not a matter of facts

There was little disputation that Saddam wanted, and probably had, WMD, even from Gore and Feingold - mostly because Saddam was deliberately trying to create just that impression. The debate is on whether people "knew" Bush was simply going to barge into a war in a way unprecedented in American history and unlike his own previous record. Nobody "knew" that. Some suspected that Bush was evil, but that's all anybody could do.  Most, as supported by polling, had an opinion pretty similar to Hillary's and Kerry's stated opinions - which is a very good reason to think their stated positions are reasonable facsimiles of their real positions.

by curtadams 2007-03-27 09:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Not a matter of facts

THe problem is Hillary seemed to be the slowest at turning around and leading the charge against Bush's Iraq policies once it became obvious to even the amateur foreign policy analyst that this was a mistake.

by Pravin 2007-03-27 11:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Simply not true

Come on, dude. It's obvious that she made a political calculation in anticipation of a presidential run that "When people are insecure, they'd rather have somebody who is strong and wrong than someone who's weak and right," as her husband said at the time.

Although readers of the New York Times or the Washington Post may consider themselves part of some informed elite, during the run-up to the invasion such readers were worse than uninformed - they were misinformed. To be informed one really needs to look outside of the corporate media bubble. That is what I mean by the term "informed." Anyone with a broadband connection and "the Google" had no problem finding evidence of administration lies and manipulation on WMDs and Al Queda connections as well as the plans and motivations of the PNAC crowd steering the drive to war.

Whatever thoughts Hillary may or may not have had about what a president should have the power to do should have been seriously revised in the face of the bullshit being sprayed at the American public in the run-up to this war.

by miasmo 2007-03-27 09:17AM | 0 recs
There's a flaw in your logic

While you might not be an Edwards supporter, and while Edwards has apologized for his vote, he has not specifically apologized for the following:

voting for...

an...

immoral,
illegal,
aggressive,
unprovoked, and
disastrous war

I'd like to hear him stand up bravely and announce "I apologize for voting for an immoral, illegal, aggressive, unprovoked, and disastrous war."

Cause he's not an idiot either.  And he knew exactly what he was voting for:  an immoral, illegal, aggressive, unprovoked, and disastrous war!!!!!  d'uh!!!

My guess is you're not an Edwards supporter either.

by Stewieeeee 2007-03-27 07:22AM | 0 recs
Re: There's a flaw in your logic

I have mixed feelings about Edwards. The war vote is a definite strike against him. Admitting it was a mistake is a bare minimum for my consideration of voting for him in the primary. I am now leaning toward Obama. His being the only candidate (besides Kucinich, whom I don't see as viable) to oppose the war from the beginning is a big factor.

by miasmo 2007-03-27 07:56AM | 0 recs
Re: There's a flaw in your logic

just how is this war "illegal"? That term is thrown about quite often, and doesn't recognize the fact that a.) Saddam was in 'technical' default under UN Resolutions or b.) that "international law" as has been understood since Woodrow Wilson, basically rests on the premise that countries can invade whomever they want whenever they want. The UN charter has a provision allowing for "self defense" which the US could easily make a case for, as unpersuavise as it might be, such as by pointing out the number of times we were fired on when patrolling the no-fly zones.

by bjschmid 2007-03-27 08:27AM | 0 recs
Re: There's a flaw in your logic

Israel is in technical default of many UN resolutions. If Iran decided to invade Israel, would you consider that legal? The case for self-defense, while flimsy, would be more credible than our case regarding Iraq. If Iraqi planes were to fly over our air space, we would shoot them down in a heart beat. Would it then be legal for iraq to invade us based on self-defense?

by miasmo 2007-03-27 01:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Not this war

Please, she also made speeches where she was for the invasion. We posted one of those links - Code Pink. And you can dig up others. She even conflated 9-11 with Iraq.

by Pravin 2007-03-27 07:17AM | 0 recs
For an invasion

AN invasion.

Bush's invasion!!!???

by Stewieeeee 2007-03-27 07:23AM | 0 recs
She did approve staying

but not the invasion. Right up to the eve she was saying we didn't have proper international support for an invasion. I'd be happy to look at links.

The "conflation" you mention is an artifact of quoting. Even if you accept it, she didn't say the invasion was a good idea.

by curtadams 2007-03-27 07:55AM | 0 recs
Re: She did approve staying

Look at my past diary about CodePink by clicking on my username. Look at the link. She puts in some wiggle room by talking about the need for more international support. But at no point, does she actually say the war would be a bad idea. And she seems fine with the fact that we are going to war.

by Pravin 2007-03-27 08:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Hilary Clinton and Al-Qa'eda in Iraq


When the US leaves there will be a general settling of accounts.

Euphemism. Of. The. Year.


When that's done there'll either be someone in charge of Iraq; there'll be a de-facto partition, or there'll be a Lebanonization.

This strikes me as too rosy. One hopes that a Bismarck-type emerges. Seems to me that we could easily be looking at Afghanistan: Part II.

by blueflorida 2007-03-27 05:17AM | 0 recs
Well here's the question then

And I, for one, am open to an answer.

If you can fight Terrorists that live within a country from outside that country, then why did we invade afghanistan??  Seriously.  

It's a simple question.  My guess is it will be ignored.

Did you support invasion of Afghanistan????!!!!!  Why?  We can capture terrorists in Afghanistan from 400 miles away in Qatar!!!!

ONLY AFGHANIS CAN FIGHT AL QAIDA IN AFGHANISTAN!!!

ONLY THEY HAVE THE NETWORK!!

Right?  Right?

If you want to trust the Iraqis to do the job, that's an opinion that I think the other candidates, the brave candidates, who can speak so clearly about getting every last troop out of Iraq should be expressing on the campaign trail!

We've heard what Clinton thinks.

Lets hear from Edwards and Obama.

by Stewieeeee 2007-03-27 05:25AM | 0 recs
I see from your comment

in matt stoller's diary, that you confuse the insurgency with terrorism.

that is a fundamental problem with your analysis.

While al qaida may exploit the insurgency to hide out and recruit with no fear of capture and every hope to prosper, it makes sense for anyone who wants to address a post-withdrawal iraq to make a distinction between those people who are motivated to wage a sectarian war that would remain contained within the iraq region and those who are motivated to commits acts of terrorism on other nations.

if it's literally too hard for the leftist blogosphere to make such distinctions, if it's literally too hard for people to understand that american troops can and will disengage ENTIRELY from the civil war/sectarian violence (which is the plan of EVERY democratic party candidate) and still maintain a localized strategy with respect to terrorists (which is Clinton's plan, who knows about Obama or Edwards at this point!), then maybe the leftist blogosphere actually should remain marginal.

by Stewieeeee 2007-03-27 05:56AM | 0 recs
Re: I see from your comment

agreed, and confusinng the insurgenyc with terrorism is in fact - ironically - truly buying into the President's frame!

by azizhp 2007-03-27 06:20AM | 0 recs
I was going to point that out

but i can tell the difference between what the blogosphere is trying to say and bush.

I've done it before and I always regret it.  it makes no sense whatsoever to compare any faction of the democratic party coalition to bush.

except maybe lieberman, but he's not even in the family any more.

maybe it still makes sense to point out that it appears the blogosphere believes all frames are fair game (even bush's) when it comes to defeating hillary.

by Stewieeeee 2007-03-27 06:25AM | 0 recs
Re: I see from your comment

You say "american troops can and will disengage ENTIRELY from the civil war/sectarian violence (which is the plan of EVERY democratic party candidate) and still maintain a localized strategy with respect to terrorists (which is Clinton's plan, who knows about Obama or Edwards at this point!)" but I think you're both oversimplifying Clinton's position and ignoring key elements of Obama and Edwards's.

First of all, Obama at least (and I think Edwards as well, but he's not writing bills anymore so it's harder to say) is on record as saying that he'd continue limited operations in Iraq for anti-terror,  training of Iraqi forces, and basic force protection missions. So Clinton's clearly not the only one recognizing the need for some of that.  

I think you're also missing the fact that Clinton suggested we also need to keep Iran out, maintain Iraq's borders, and protect oil fields in Iraq, which would imply both a larger number of troops, and more exposure of those troops throughout Iraq. That is awfully close to simply continuing the occupation at half-scale, and while I'm willing to believe that her interview with the Times may not have been her final position on this, I think it's reasonable for those of us opposed to a long-term, large-scale presence in Iraq to bring this up.

by James Gatz 2007-03-27 08:13AM | 0 recs
Re: I see from your comment

Well then I'll just say it.

Does Obama really think that the oil fields shouldn't be protected?

Maintaining the Iraq border is also pursuent towards keeping track of terrorism.  Does he think open boarders in Iraq are conducive to fighting terrorism?  

It's OK to bring up those points.  You bring up good points.

But then it's fair for people to ask Obama what he thinks should happen with Iraq's oil fields?  Directly.  And expect a direct answer.  Is he going to let an Iraqi failed state keep track of that?

Between now and the development of alternative fuels that will decrease our dependence on oil, is Obama going to say the Oil Fields in Iraq aren't important?

This is what people like Bill Clinton mean when they criticize the Obama folks for getting a free pass?

They have not been forced to answer any real difficult questions, and the only thing anyone ever talks about is one really great speech he gave to a few 100 people back in 2002.

by Stewieeeee 2007-03-27 08:35AM | 0 recs
btw

those questions apply to edwards as well.

i don't know where he stands on those questions.

at least we know where hillary stands on those questions.

by Stewieeeee 2007-03-27 08:39AM | 0 recs
Re: I see from your comment

Well, I can't speak for Obama, but I can speak for myself (an anti-war, anti-terrorist, Obama supporter).

And I don't give a damn what happens to Iraq's oil fields. There exists a disturbing possessiveness among conservatives, neo-cons, and apparently yourself, about oil. Get over it! We don't consume very much Iraqi oil to begin with (only 18% of our oil comes from the entire Middle East region, last I saw), and we could easily replace what we use with oil from other sources on the world market (not to mention alternative energies, given time). WE DON'T NEED IRAQ'S OIL.

Second, I don't really give a damn what happens to Iraq's borders. I mean, they are mostly fictitious to begin with (draw in the early 20th century by the British), and outside of Kurdistan, Iraq doesn't currently have any territorial 'integrity', let alone secure borders. The Shia provinces are heavily infiltrated by Iran, and Anbar is by Syria. Securing these borders would take tens of thousands or, more likely, hundreds of thousands MORE troops than we already have in the country, and just isn't feasible. Nor is it our concern: Iraq's internal politics and relations to its neighbors don't affect the US. Terrorism does, and we should limit our involvement in Iraq to strikes against terrorist camps and concentrations.

What other self-interest do we possibly have in Iraq, or even the broader Middle East?

by James Gatz 2007-03-27 11:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Hilary Clinton and Al-Qa'eda in Iraq

Slowing retreating from the mistake in Iraq may not only be the best option, it is the one that the bi-partisan Hamilton/Baker commission agreed was the best option.

But so much political discourse seems trapped in the clutches of logical fallacy that we never get around to addressing problems in a logical and reasonable fashion. The fallacies trip up the Right, and now much of the Democratic Party is caught in the clutches. Instead of discussing the real benefits that may accrue from ending an occupation, such as a drop in support for terrorist activities, we hold discussions on "anti-war" versus "pro-war" Liberals.  Potentially rational policy is mis-characterized as  "cut and run". Policies that have increased the problem of terrorism by 700% are entrenched with defenses that essentially consist of accusing those who question them of not supporting the troops, or hating America.

There is no real thought and discussion on the issues. We are trapped in several false delimas. One cannot be for one war and against another. One can only be for or against war period.

by Derek G 2007-03-27 06:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Hilary Clinton and Al-Qa'eda in Iraq

There are errors of thinking here and at Matt Stoller's quoted post.

First, the thrust of this MyDD piece is that Al-Qaeda in Iraq was H. Clinton's major point, when the cited quote at the link itself clearly shows she mentioned Al-Qaeda only as a peripheral and minor part of the overall problem for Iraq.

Second, Matt et al fail to perceive there is a difference between being "sorry" and "apologizing".  Victims of a con-man are very sorry for what happened but don't have to apologize for being victims, victims of date rape are sorry they went out with a perp, but hopefully know not to blame themselves and "apologize" on a theory that agreeing to be go with someone is acquiesence to anything goes.

Thoughtful people must know that H. Clinton is very sorry she voted for that resolution. And her very clear speech the day prior to the vote (on 10-10-02) is the best available evidence to that, and also a terrific reference as to what Senators intended and were promised. The Senate was deceived. And GWB is the con-man who lied to Senators and abused the process.

To see why the Clintons are cautious in words, just remember how the far right (and just last week, "liberal" Jane Hamsher's "Bubba/Sister Souljah" piece) distort words and meanings to make political points.

by Lacy 2007-03-27 06:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Hilary Clinton and Al-Qa'eda in Iraq

You can take apart any Hillary speech to make any point. She has subtly changed her statements on Iraq that she can stake a lot of positions except for her vote.

Look at her COdePink appearance. She clearly knows that Bush is going to war and seems on board. At one point, she even mentions someting about women's rights which is a load of bullshit because Saddam may be many things, But he was not regressive on women's rights relative to the rest o fthe ilsmaic world. Also, Hillary has conflated 9-11 with Iraq war vote on another occasion. That is flat out idiocy or a lie.

by Pravin 2007-03-27 07:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Hilary Clinton and Al-Qa'eda in Iraq

You are missing the point. The relevant distinction is not between "sorry" and "apologize." The key point is for her to acknowledge, not just that the vote was a mistake "knowing then what we know now," but to acknowledge that the vote was a mistake knowing then what we knew then. Not every Democratic Senator voted for that resolution. It is clear that, given what was known at the time, the Senators who voted "no" exercised good judgement while those who voted "yes" exercised poor judgement. Honesty and decency demand an admission of poor judgement based on what was known at the time, not just what is known now. Edwards managed to do it. Hillary refuses. It's bullshit.

by miasmo 2007-03-27 07:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Hilary Clinton and Al-Qa'eda in Iraq

Your mostly right except that I was addressing Matt Stoller's specific words saying she wasn't sorry because she wouldn't apologize.

And 29, or nearly 60% of the Democratic Senators voted in 2002 voted for the Iraq Resolution, so do we really want to vilainize most Democrats in the Senate, or place the blame where it most definitely fits with a deceiving Bush administration?

Reality is that a Senator from the state hit on 9-11 would have been skewered for not backing the resolution, but she made her thoughts very clear. Just read her comments at the time: http://clinton.senate.gov/speeches/iraq_ 101002.html

by Lacy 2007-03-27 08:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Hilary Clinton and Al-Qa'eda in Iraq

"...do we really want to vilainize most Democrats in the Senate, or place the blame where it most definitely fits with a deceiving Bush administration?"

What I do not want is to end up having to try and defend another nominee's wishy washy bullshit like we all had to do with Kerry last time. She needs to admit she made a mistake. It's obvious to everyone except Bush-worshipping zombies that her war vote was a mistake. Her failure to admit this makes her look calculating and phony. Why can't she admit that trusting Bush was an error in judgement?

by miasmo 2007-03-27 09:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Hilary Clinton and Al-Qa'eda in Iraq

The key point is for her to acknowledge, not just that the vote was a mistake "knowing then what we know now," but to acknowledge that the vote was a mistake knowing then what we knew then.

Some of us don't think it was a mistake, knowing what we knew then.

-Saddam shot at our planes
-Saddam had had WMDs in the past, and used them
-The inspectors were being given the runaround
-The CIA said the evidence was a "slam dunk"
-The administration said the threat was genuine

Yes I know there were some of you who distrusted the administration and the CIA from the get.  Congratulations, do your happy dance, you turned out to be right.  But at the time, the administration still had credibility when it came to foreign policy and intelligence.

So no, it's not at all clear that the Senators who voted "yes" exercised poor judgement.  It's only clear NOW, in hindsight, knowing that there were no WMDs, that the CIA was wrong and that the admin was lying.  Only know can know for a fact that it was a mistake.

Hillary doesn't need to apologize for a decision that she felt was justified at the time.  You just want to humiliate her and rub her nose in it for some reason.

by liberalrob 2007-03-27 09:38AM | 0 recs
"happy dance"

Yes I know there were some of you who distrusted the administration and the CIA from the get.  Congratulations, do your happy dance, you turned out to be right.  But at the time, the administration still had credibility when it came to foreign policy and intelligence.

They still had credibility in the eyes of the corporate media and the majority of the public who got their information and opinions exclusively from the corporate media. But they had no credibility with anyone who was rational and well informed. Evidence of their lies and nefarious motives were readily available with the slightest amount of digging. I'm sorry you missed it. I'm even sorrier that you still seem to be unaware that such evidence was readily available. Those of us who were right were not simply going on some lucky hunch from our guts that told us not to trust Bushco. We were looking at hard evidence that left no room for any other conclusion.

Every single time the Administration trumpeted some new piece of evidence of WMDs or Al Queda connections it was debunked within a couple weeks. Usually the debunking consisted merely of providing the context of the intelligence report from which they cherry-picked. A typical example:

Administration says "blahblahblah."

Two weeks later some liberal website gets ahold of the context of the claim: So and so says "blahblahblah," but we (the CIA) don't believe the source to be credible.

After repeated instances of this the pattern becomes undeniable.

by miasmo 2007-03-27 10:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Hilary Clinton and Al-Qa'eda in Iraq

Saddam shot at our planes
-Saddam had had WMDs in the past, and used them
That has no bearing on whether he would use them against the US.  And besides when he used them in the past, it did not seem to bother the US's security. And you do not go to war just because you THINK he still has them. You double check.

-The inspectors were being given the runaround
Ever been to Africa? Let's invade all the despotic regimes in Africa. What they do to UN authority makes Saddam seem like an angel by comparison.
-The CIA said the evidence was a "slam dunk"
If we knew they were cherry picking intelligence thanks to pressure from Cheney and others, how could Hillary not know?

-The administration said the threat was genuine
Oh dear. So this is a legit point? Bush wasn't credible to any thinking person even back then.

by Pravin 2007-03-27 11:19AM | 0 recs
Re: Hilary Clinton and Al-Qa'eda in Iraq

Singling out Clinton for this is absurd. NO Democratic President will EVER leave Iraq.
by azizhp 2007-03-27 06:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Hilary Clinton and Al-Qa'eda in Iraq

Hillary is singular among the presidential candidates for sticking with the argument for far too long that she only voted to give the President authority but had no idea Bush was going to war. She still clings to this facade. She is the only one who hasnt taken back her conflation of 9-11 with Iraq. That shows me cowardice. Ideologies come and go. But I want a leader as President. I don't care if she knows the issues better by virtue of her experience in DC over many years. A strong leader can always delegate to a astrong team to come up with good details for a health care plan or some other issue. Is she going to be dependable at crucial times. Or is she going to hide behind a facade?  

Hillary is the  one who should have known better. She had 8 years in the white house. She had to be aware of the bullshit going on with intelligence back then compared to a foreign policy novice like Edwards(who is not totally off the hook either) or Obama(who as at least on the record as opposing the war). She had to be aware of Scott Ritter and others. She had to know about the neocon bullshit. It just shows me that she can have all the knowledge and experience, but it is all for naught when she throws all that away for save her political capital.

by Pravin 2007-03-27 07:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Hilary Clinton and Al-Qa'eda in Iraq

all well and good, and I'm not a supporter of Hillary either, but teh fact remains that on the specific issue of keeping troops in Iraq, Hillary's position is fundamentally identical to every other candidates: we will never fully 100% leave Iraq.

Everything else is just red herrings.

by azizhp 2007-03-27 10:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Hilary Clinton and Al-Qa'eda in Iraq

For me, it's the reasoning behind it. I never get a firm sense of what Hillary is trying to achieve here. It seems like she says stuff to position herself politically than actually speak out of convention. I do not agree 100% with what Webb said recently, but he seemed to explain his intentions pretty clearly and I can respect that. At least Webb seems lucid. Granted, the other candidates don't see to be that great when it comes to talking about middle eastern strategy.

It's  a shame Wes Clark has not gotten much popular support in entering this race. He has been the most clear when it comes to explaining his views and goals for Iraq.

by Pravin 2007-03-27 11:22AM | 0 recs
It seems to me that calling stupid

those that disagree with you is not going to advance your arguments much. Especially if you are talking about other Democrats or Dem-voters.

by GT 2007-03-27 06:30AM | 0 recs
Not entirely leaving Iraq

The point is well taken that all leading Democratic candidates have some plan to keep some troop in Iraq or the area.  Leaving will take time and effort.  Bush is making zero effort to get out and is not laying the groundwork in order to leave.  One can argue that Bush Iraq policy is designed to make it difficult for his successor to leave.  

The Democratic president will first have to undo the Bush obstacles and lay the groundwork to leave before the withdrawal can actually take place.  Withdrawal is a complex operation that requires advanced planning.  All this will take time regardless of how fast the Dem president wants to leave.  Any withdrawal will have to be based on contingencies on the ground.  It is impossible to make a detailed plan 22 months out from when it will be implemented.  Any plan will have to start with events on the ground in January of 2008.

A better approach to nitpicking the candidate statements would be to start asking them about process.  What process would they use to start getting the US disentangled from Iraq?  What benchmarks would be important?  I would rather vote for a candidate with a plan for withdrawing troops by 2010 and being able to deliver than a candidate bolivating about having all the troops out by March 2009 and not delivering.

by bakho 2007-03-27 06:44AM | 0 recs
Do we invade every country with Al Quaeda?

By the repub logic, let's invade Pakistan and every single Muslim country where Al Q has a presence. DIdn't Al Q set up some cells in European countries like Germany? Let us invade Germany. What about England? They seem to churn out terrorists.

Quite simply, it is not worth the price to try to get rid of AlQ in Iraq. The more we stay, the easier it is for them to recruit. Now is that alone a good reason to leave? Not really. But the price is not worth it.  

by Pravin 2007-03-27 07:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Hilary Clinton and Al-Qa'eda in Iraq

1. The withdrawl can begin shortly after the new president takes office.

2. Their is no logistical reason  it cannot be down in 18 months.

3. We started training the IRAQ army in June 2003. They need to take responsibility and ultimately their government will stand and fail by their efforts not the US.

4, hILLARY'S PLAN REALLY CALLS FOR PERMANENT BASES AND A CONTINUAL OCCUPATION FOR MANY YEARS.

5. Her mission as outlined in the ny times article would require close to 75,000 troops according to the pentagon controller.(who she confides in for her strategy0 tHE PENTAGON LOOKED AT THIS OPTION AND CAME UP WITH THESE ESTIMATES)

Finally as some one who spent time in Vietnam during the war, it is our best interests to withdraw all forces.In the past the so called experts predicted a disaster if we withdrew from Vietnam. It didnot happen

Steuwise has bought into the neocon argument of using mlitary force to further foreign policy objectives. Their are many false premises in this argument.

I hope the debates among all of the candidates go into depth about their policy for dis-engagement from Iraq fully and their view on permanent bases. I BELIEVE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE WILL NOT SUPPORT PERMANENT BASES IN IRAQ

by BDM 2007-03-27 07:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Hilary Clinton and Al-Qa'eda in Iraq

Her use of al-Qa'eda to justify keeping troops in Iraq is nothing more than a cynical play on the American public's paranoia about al-Qa'eda, not a sincere strategy to defeat al-Qa'eda

Let's assume you are entirely correct. HRC's position is a cynical ploy, not a sincere strategy.

If so, then, it seems logical that she would not purposely implement a strategy once elected which she believes will fail.

Perhaps her position here is analogous to Bill Clinton's, in '92, when he campaigned in favor of an economic stimulus package.  Perhaps this was an entirely cynical ploy for votes (Bush was considered out of touch with people hurt by the sluggish economy, while Clinton was considered empathetic.) If I recall correctly, once elected, he asserted that the new deficit numbers demanded that he scrap the stimulus plan, in favor of focusing on deficit reduction.  

by Rob in Vermont 2007-03-27 08:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Hilary Clinton and Al-Qa'eda in Iraq

As we draw down a significant number of forces in Iraq we will have a better chance to understand what the situation will be post-US presence. The continued presence of Al Qadea in Anbar warrants a US military presence, absent clear and convincing evidence that either Sunni Tribes or the National Government will prevent them from operating there. Our desire to withdrawal US forces from Iraq must not be done to the determent of US security; our withdrawal must be responsbile.

I do not support HRC, but I do give her credit for realizing that "packing our shit up and going home" without any second thoughts about what we are leaving behind, would be a monumental national security blunder, on par with the decision to invade Iraq in the first place.

by bjschmid 2007-03-27 08:45AM | 0 recs
Where's the outcry to end the Korean war?

The United States still maintains tens of thousands of troops in the DMZ on the Korean peninsula.  Yet, we don't still talk about an ongoing war in Korea.  The point is that it is possible, and in my opinion advisable, for the United States to maintain a presence in potential hot spots.  There is a big difference between bases, even permanent ones, and continuing open warfare/street patrols/air cover.

Missing from this entire debate is drawing a distinction between:

a)    "ending the war"

b)    "occupation," and

c)    "maintaining a presence"

I don't understand how so many intelligent progressives who have been so articulate about the Iraq war continue to conflate these points.  Let's have an open debate about all of them, but let's understand they are distinct and the fact that Sen. Clinton supports one does not mean she supports all.

by rcipw 2007-03-27 09:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Where's the outcry to end the Korean war?

Exactly.

We will have troops in Iraq, at least the north Kurd area, for many, many years. I not only have no problem but fully support that.

The issue is whther we want to have combat troops in the streets of Sunni and Shiite areas. Another story completley.

by GT 2007-03-27 11:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Where's the outcry to end the Korean war?

If the Kurds want us in their territory, that's one thing. But the rest of the Iraqi people want us the hell out. How can you claim to support Democracy while maintaining an occupation not supported by the occupied?

by miasmo 2007-03-27 01:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Hilary Clinton and Al-Qa'eda in Iraq

For years now, Democrats should have been saying to the voters:  The U.S. can either occupy Iraq OR it can attempt to effectively combat international terrorism -- but it can't do both.  Mr. Bush has made his choice, and it's been a disaster.  We need to get out of Iraq so we can begin to combat the terrorists.

In fact, however, Bush and his cronies, almost all Republicans, and many Democrats, including Senator Clinton, are adhering to Mort Sahl's old line: "It's a dirty little war, but it's the only one we've got."

by Stuart Shaffer 2007-03-27 09:31AM | 0 recs

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