In the course of gathering up info on our presidential candidates, I went back to one particular revealing and incriminating moment in the political career of the opportunistic Senator and presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, namely, her Senate floor speech defending the plan to invade Iraq. It still amazes me that a group of U.S. senators, with access to various intelligence reports, could get it so wrong whereas those on the antiwar side of the debate, lacking such access, have gotten it pretty right.
Anyway, from the words of the Senator:
Here is the entire Floor Speech of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on S.J. Res. 45, A Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq, dated October 10, 2002, along with a bit of commentary
Today we are asked whether to give the President of the United States authority to use force in Iraq should diplomatic efforts fail to dismantle Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons and his nuclear program.
I am honored to represent nearly 19 million New Yorkers, a thoughtful democracy of voices and opinions who make themselves heard on the great issues of our day especially this one. Many have contacted my office about this resolution, both in support of and in opposition to it, and I am grateful to all who have expressed an opinion.
I also greatly respect the differing opinions within this body. The debate they engender will aid our search for a wise, effective policy. Therefore, on no account should dissent be discouraged or disparaged. It is central to our freedom and to our progress, for on more than one occasion, history has proven our great dissenters to be right.
Now, I believe the facts that have brought us to this fateful vote are not in doubt. Saddam Hussein is a tyrant who has tortured and killed his own people, even his own family members, to maintain his iron grip on power. He used chemical weapons on Iraqi Kurds and on Iranians, killing over 20 thousand people. Unfortunately, during the 1980's, while he engaged in such horrific activity, he enjoyed the support of the American government, because he had oil and was seen as a counterweight to the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran.
In 1991, Saddam Hussein invaded and occupied Kuwait, losing the support of the United States. The first President Bush assembled a global coalition, including many Arab states, and threw Saddam out after forty-three days of bombing and a hundred hours of ground operations. The U.S.-led coalition then withdrew, leaving the Kurds and the Shiites, who had risen against Saddam Hussein at our urging, to Saddam's revenge.
As a condition for ending the conflict, the United Nations imposed a number of requirements on Iraq, among them disarmament of all weapons of mass destruction, stocks used to make such weapons, and laboratories necessary to do the work. Saddam Hussein agreed, and an inspection system was set up to ensure compliance. And though he repeatedly lied, delayed, and obstructed the inspections work, the inspectors found and destroyed far more weapons of mass destruction capability than were destroyed in the Gulf War, including thousands of chemical weapons, large volumes of chemical and biological stocks, a number of missiles and warheads, a major lab equipped to produce anthrax and other bio-weapons, as well as substantial nuclear facilities.
In 1998, Saddam Hussein pressured the United Nations to lift the sanctions by threatening to stop all cooperation with the inspectors. In an attempt to resolve the situation, the UN, unwisely in my view, agreed to put limits on inspections of designated "sovereign sites" including the so-called presidential palaces, which 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. As a result, President Clinton, with the British and others, ordered an intensive four-day air assault, Operation Desert Fox, on known and suspected weapons of mass destruction sites and other military targets.
In 1998, the United States also changed its underlying policy toward Iraq from containment to regime change and began to examine options to effect such a change, including support for Iraqi opposition leaders within the country and abroad.
In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001.
It is clear, however, that 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.
Now this much is undisputed. The open questions are: what should we do about it? How, when, and with whom?
Some people favor attacking Saddam Hussein now, with any allies we can muster, in the belief that one more round of weapons inspections would not produce the required disarmament, and that deposing Saddam would be a positive good for the Iraqi people and would create the possibility of a secular democratic state in the Middle East, one which could perhaps move the entire region toward democratic reform.
This view has appeal to some, because it would assure disarmament; because it would right old wrongs after our abandonment of the Shiites and Kurds in 1991, and our support for Saddam Hussein in the 1980's when he was using chemical weapons and terrorizing his people; and because it would give the Iraqi people a chance to build a future in freedom.
However, this course is fraught with danger. We and our NATO allies did not depose Mr. Milosevic, who was responsible for more than a quarter of a million people being killed in the 1990s. Instead, by stopping his aggression in Bosnia and Kosovo, and keeping on the tough sanctions, we created the conditions in which his own people threw him out and led to his being in the dock being tried for war crimes as we speak.
If we were to attack Iraq now, alone or with few allies, it would set a precedent that could come back to haunt us. In recent days, Russia has talked of an invasion of Georgia to attack Chechen rebels. India has mentioned the possibility of a pre-emptive strike on Pakistan. And what if China were to perceive a threat from Taiwan?
So Mr. President, for all its appeal, a unilateral attack, while it cannot be ruled out, on the present facts is not a good option.
Others argue that we should work through the United Nations and should only resort to force if and when the United Nations Security Council approves it. This too has great appeal for different reasons. The UN deserves our support. Whenever possible we should work through it and strengthen it, for it enables the world to share the risks and burdens of global security and when it acts, it confers a legitimacy that increases the likelihood of long-term success. The UN can help lead the world into a new era of global cooperation and the United States should support that goal.
But there are problems with this approach as well. The United Nations is an organization that is still growing and maturing. It often lacks the cohesion to enforce its own mandates. And when Security Council members use the veto, on occasion, for reasons of narrow-minded interests, it cannot act. In Kosovo, the Russians did not approve NATO military action because of political, ethnic, and religious ties to the Serbs. The United States therefore could not obtain a Security Council resolution in favor of the action necessary to stop the dislocation and ethnic cleansing of more than a million Kosovar Albanians. However, most of the world was with us because there was a genuine emergency with thousands dead and a million driven from their homes. As soon as the American-led conflict was over, Russia joined the peacekeeping effort that is still underway.
In the case of Iraq, recent comments indicate that one or two Security Council members might never approve force against Saddam Hussein until he has actually used chemical, biological, or God forbid, nuclear weapons.
So, Mr. President, the question is how do we do our best to both defuse the real threat that Saddam Hussein poses to his people, to the region, including Israel, to the United States, to the world, and at the same time, work to maximize our international support and strengthen the United Nations?
While there is no perfect approach to this thorny dilemma, and while people of good faith and high intelligence can reach diametrically opposed conclusions, I believe the best course is to go to the UN for a strong resolution that scraps the 1998 restrictions on inspections and calls for complete, unlimited inspections with cooperation expected and demanded from Iraq. I know that the Administration wants more, including an explicit authorization to use force, but we may not be able to secure that now, perhaps even later. But if we get a clear requirement for unfettered inspections, I believe the authority to use force to enforce that mandate is inherent in the original 1991 UN resolution, as President Clinton recognized when he launched Operation Desert Fox in 1998.
If we get the resolution that President Bush seeks, and if Saddam complies, disarmament can proceed and the threat can be eliminated. Regime change will, of course, take longer but we must still work for it, nurturing all reasonable forces of opposition.
If we get the resolution and Saddam does not comply, then we can attack him with far more support and legitimacy than we would have otherwise.
If we try and fail to get a resolution that simply, but forcefully, calls for Saddam's compliance with unlimited inspections, those who oppose even that will be in an indefensible position. And, we will still have more support and legitimacy than if we insist now on a resolution that includes authorizing military action and other requirements giving some nations superficially legitimate reasons to oppose any Security Council action. They will say we never wanted a resolution at all and that we only support the United Nations when it does exactly what we want.
I believe international support and legitimacy are crucial. After shots are fired and bombs are dropped, not all consequences are predictable. While the military outcome is not in doubt, should we put troops on the ground, 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. If he did either, the world would demand his immediate removal. Once the battle is joined, however, with the outcome certain, he will have maximum incentive to use weapons of mass destruction and to give what he can't use to terrorists who can torment us with them long after he is gone. We cannot be paralyzed by this possibility, but we would be foolish to ignore it. And according to recent reports, the CIA agrees with this analysis. A world united in sharing the risk at least would make this occurrence less likely and more bearable and would be far more likely to share with us the considerable burden of rebuilding a secure and peaceful post-Saddam Iraq.
President Bush's speech in Cincinnati and the changes in policy that have come forth since the Administration began broaching this issue some weeks ago have made my vote easier. Even though the resolution before the Senate is not as strong as I would like in requiring the diplomatic route first and placing highest priority on a simple, clear requirement for unlimited inspections, I will take the President at his word that he will try hard to pass a UN resolution and will seek to avoid war, if at all possible.
Because bipartisan support for this resolution makes success in the United Nations more likely, and therefore, war less likely, and because a good faith effort by the United States, even if it fails, will bring more allies and legitimacy to our cause, I have concluded, after careful and serious consideration, that a vote for the resolution best serves the security of our nation. If we were to defeat this resolution or pass it with only a few Democrats, I am concerned that those who want to pretend this problem will go way with delay will oppose any UN resolution calling for unrestricted inspections.
This is a very difficult vote. This is probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make -- any vote that may lead to war should be hard -- but I cast it with conviction.
And perhaps my decision is influenced by my eight years of experience on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue in the White House watching my husband deal with serious challenges to our nation. I want this President, or any future President, to be in the strongest possible position to lead our country in the United Nations or in war. Secondly, I want to insure that Saddam Hussein makes no mistake about our national unity and for our support for the President's efforts to wage America's war against terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. And thirdly, I want the men and women in our Armed Forces to know that if they should be called upon to act against Iraq, our country will stand resolutely behind them.
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.
Over eleven years have passed since the UN 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. War can yet be avoided, but our responsibility to global security and to the integrity of United Nations resolutions protecting it cannot. I urge the President to spare no effort to secure a clear, unambiguous demand by the United Nations for unlimited inspections.
And finally, on another personal note, I come to this decision from the perspective of a Senator from New York who has seen all too closely the consequences of last year's terrible attacks on our nation. In balancing the risks of action versus inaction, I think New Yorkers who have gone through the fires of hell may be more attuned to the risk of not acting. I know that I am.
So it is with conviction that I support this resolution as being in the best interests of our nation. 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.
Thank you, Mr. President.
- Why, according to Clinton, would she believe that "the facts" were "not in doubt?" There was a great deal of skepticism about administrative claims, but it was a matter of acknowledging these doubts and allowing them to get an adequate hearing.
- When Clinton referred here to a change in policy from "containment" to "regime change," she failed, miserably, to either discuss the consequences of moving away from containment, as well as the political motives by neoconservatives behind this call. Instead, she seemed to be implying a kind of glossed over naive idealism to the U.S. foreign policies.
- For Clinton to say the following: "intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001." suggests that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were puppet masters standing behind her just as they were for Colin Powell and others who supported this rush to war. The passage that followed this one even escalated the fear mongering, just like Bush.
- The speech - while it is couched as wanting to offer a more "moderate" and compromised approach in contrast to the administration's outright hawkishness - nontheless also conveys the neocons' skepticism about the UN and their absolutism when it comes to the intertwining of the interests of the U.S. and the state of Israel. It also doesn't bother to hold the claims of former Clinton administration member, George Tenet, to any degree of skeptical questioning.
- Nice use, too, of the milking of the tragedy of 911 as an attempt at political capital. ("I come to this decision from the perspective of a Senator from New York who has seen all too closely the consequences of last year's terrible attacks on our nation. In balancing the risks of action versus inaction, I think New Yorkers who have gone through the fires of hell may be more attuned to the risk of not acting. I know that I am.")
- Finally, let me simply repeat, and bold the following, because it shows how Hillary and other spineless Democrats were snookered by Bush: "I will take the President at his word that he will try hard to pass a UN resolution and will seek to avoid war, if at all possible." Say what, Hillary?
That she then later went on and voted - in spite of the consequences of te Iraq vote and revelations of Bush's outright misuse of intelligence to concoct a rationalization for this invasion - for a war on Iran disqualifies her from her party's nomination for presidency and tells me that she is a craven, calculating, neocon supporter; I desparately want a different direction for this country.
UPDATE: Thanks to Play Jurist for pointing out that Hillary voted against the alternative to SJ Res 45, namely Carl Levin'sAmendment on Iraq Levin himself explained the differences in the following way:
And that's why I am introducing this alternative resolution. The resolution that was agreed between the White House and the House leadership fails to address the two main problems with the original White House discussion draft. Those problems are:
* The White House compromise still specifically authorizes at this time the use of force on a unilateral, "go it alone" basis, that is - without U.N. Security Council authorization; and
* It authorizes the use of force beyond dealing with Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.
My resolution is consistent with how I think Americans want us to proceed. It emphasizes the importance of dealing with Iraq on a multilateral basis, and withholds judgment at this time on the question of whether the United States should "go it alone" unilaterally against Iraq, should the United Nations fail to act.
What my alternative resolution does is as follows:
* Demands unconditional access for U.N. inspectors so that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and prohibited ballistic missiles may be destroyed; and
* Within the same U.N. resolution, authorizes the use of necessary and appropriate force by U.N. member states to enforce such resolution in the event Iraq refuses to comply.
- It urges the U.N. Security Council to adopt promptly a resolution that:
- It also specifically authorizes the use of United States Armed Forces pursuant to that U.N. Security Council resolution if Iraq fails to comply with its terms, provided the President informs the Congress of his determination that the United States has used appropriate diplomatic and other peaceful means to obtain compliance by Iraq with such U.N. resolution.
- My resolution affirms that, under international law and the U.N. Charter, the United States has at all times the inherent right to use military force in self-defense, affirming the fact that there is no U.N. veto over U.S. military action.
- My resolution affirms that Congress will not adjourn sine die so that Congress can return to session to consider promptly proposals relative to Iraq if, in the judgment of the President, the U.N. Security Council does not adopt the resolution mentioned earlier.
- Finally, my resolution provides that the President report to Congress every 60 days on the status of efforts to have the U.N. Security Council adopt such a resolution and, if such a resolution is adopted, to obtain compliance by Iraq with the resolution.
And yet Hillary sided with the administration over this.
UPDATE II: Quite a bit of the commentary here is on what Barack Obama would or would not have done had he been in the Senate in 2002 and on John Edwards' also voting for SR 45. However, it seems to me that Obama has clearly been opposed to the war from the start, and his commentary now is on what to do about getting us out. And Edwards gets credit from me for now admitting that his vote was a mistake. In sharp contrast, Hillary is sticking to her guns and refusing to admit that her 2002 vote was a mistake, even though the claims in her speech (and in the White House's spin) have long since been refuted. There is much that can be found on the Web that discusses Hillary's stubborn refusal to admit to this major error. For example, CBS News reported the following.
Why Should Hillary Apologize On Iraq?
Refusal To Recant '02 Vote May Serve Clinton Well In The Long Run
WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 2007
But Hillary Clinton, to the consternation of many in her party, just won't say the words "sorry" or "mistake." The question continues to be asked as she campaigns across key early primary states — and to dominate the media coverage of her events.
When Clinton made her first trip to New Hampshire earlier this month, voters took it directly to her.
"I want to know if right here, right now, once and for all and without nuance, you can say that war authorization was a mistake," said one man at a town-hall style meeting in Berlin.
Such exchanges were widely reported, as were her answers, which amounted to this: She would not have voted the same way now, President Bush is responsible for the mistakes made and she would like to end the war — but that's easier said than done.
In a return visit to the state this past weekend, according to reports, Clinton was asked point-blank why she would not apologize for the vote.
I take responsibility for my vote. It was a sincere vote based on the facts and assurances we had at the time. Obviously, I would not vote that way again if we knew then what we know now," she responded.
This report offers among its conclusions:
By refusing to capitulate, at least so far, Clinton is betting electability will beat purity in the end. She said as much in her last trip to New Hampshire where she flatly told Democrats, "if the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast that vote or said his vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from. But for me, the most important thing now is trying to end this war."
Her advisers speak about the fear of being put in a "box" when it comes to Iraq. What they're really saying is they fear being labeled weak against an eventual Republican nominee, especially if that opponent turns out to be war hero John McCain or 9/11 hero Rudy Giuliani.
Clinton's gender doubles the fear of that "box." Polls aside, there are concerns that American voters won't put a woman in the position to make decisions about war. If she courts anti-war activists by apologizing for giving a president the authority, would she be willing to seek such power as president? It's a perception problem she would like to avoid.
Will Clinton be able to avoid the big apology? Many analysts, and many Democrats have said they don't think so.
But in their quest to find purity among their candidates on Iraq, party activists may want to remember what one relatively unknown candidate said about the 1991 Gulf War vote. The then-governor commented, "I guess I would have voted with the majority if it was a close vote. But I agree with the arguments the minority made." That was Bill Clinton, both agreeing and disagreeing with his own party's position on that war. He moved into the White House just over a year later.
And, in an analysis in Slate by William Saletan
in Feb. 20, 2007, Saletan writes
Five years ago, Hillary Clinton supported a Senate resolution authorizing President Bush to use force in Iraq. So did I. It took me four years to admit this was a mistake. I've been wondering when Clinton would admit it. Now, from campaign insiders quoted in the New York Times, comes the answer: never. As she told voters a few days ago: "If the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast that vote or has said his vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from."
This is an amazingly stupid and arrogant position. If she sticks to it, it will probably kill her candidacy. And it should.
According to Clinton's advisers, she has taken this position for several reasons. She believes in "responsibility" and would want congressional deference if she's president. She wants to look "firm," because that's what voters want. She thinks an apology would look like a gimmick and a flip-flop, repeating the mistakes of Al Gore and John Kerry. That's the "box" she's trying to avoid.
And he concludes
Clinton "wants to maintain a firmness," one adviser explains, adding, "That's what people will want in 2008." The article says Clinton
has argued to associates in private discussions that Gore and Kerry lost, in part, because they could not convince enough Americans that they were resolute on national security ... According to one adviser, her internal polling indicates that a high proportion of Democrats see her as strong and tough, both assets particularly valuable to a female candidate who is seeking to become commander in chief. Apologizing might hurt that image, this adviser said.
This calculation is cynical, self-defeating, and wrong. There's nothing wimpier than a presidential candidate who spends every moment trying not to look like a wimp. Worrying about your image is a female stereotype. Protecting your poll ratings is classic Bill Clinton. And refusing to admit mistakes is classic George W. Bush. Just when voters have gotten sick of a Republican president too proud, stubborn, and insecure to fess up, the Democratic presidential front-runner, a woman, decides to emulate him.
According to the article, Clinton "likes to think and formulate ideas as if she were president—her 'responsibility gene,' she has called it. In that vein, she believes that a president usually deserves the benefit of the doubt from Congress on matters of executive authority." Thinking like a president also means standing behind your decisions, an adviser argues: "Groveling and saying at every opportunity that you made a mistake doesn't actually help you solve the problem."
How odd. Voters just repudiated a president who thinks that stubbornness is responsibility and that admitting mistakes is groveling. The way to act responsibly is not to act like him. It also happens to be the way to get elected. And if you don't understand the former, you don't deserve the latter.
Her track record and her attempts to cover her own posterior stick out like a sore thumb.