March 17th, 2008
12:05 PM ET
10 years ago

Clinton says she is the only candidate who can end the war

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Hillary Clinton said in a speech Monday as president she would exercise the leadership needed to end the war in Iraq, something her rivals for the White House would not be able to accomplish.

“Senator Obama holds up his original opposition to the war on the campaign trail, but he didn't start working aggressively to end the war until he started running for president. So when he had a chance to act on his speech, he chose silence instead,” Clinton told an audience at George Washington University. “President Bush is determined to continue his failed policy in Iraq until he leaves office. And Senator McCain will gladly accept the torch and stay the course, keeping troops in Iraq for up to 100 years if necessary.”

Obama gave a speech in 2002 opposing the war in Iraq, an address he references often in his campaign stump speech. Clinton cited Obama’s repeated promise to start bringing “combat troops out in 16 months,” pointing to recent BBC interview by now-former Obama policy advisor Samantha Power in which Power said Obama “will, of course, not rely on some plan that he’s crafted as a presidential candidate or a U.S. Senator.”

The Clinton campaign has highlighted those comments because of what they say is a contradiction between Obama's thetoric and action on Iraq.

“Senator Obama has said often that words matter. I strongly agree,” Clinton said. “But giving speeches alone won’t end the war and making campaign promises you might not keep certainly won’t end it. In the end the true test is not the speeches a president delivers, it’s whether the president delivers on the speeches.”At a campaign rally in Monaca, Pennsylvania Obama disagreed with Clinton’s assessment.

“I opposed this war in 2002, I opposed it in 2003, 4, 5, 6 and 7. I have been consistent in saying that we have to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in. I have been clear this has been a strategic error – unlike Senator Clinton, who voted for this war and has never taken responsibility for that vote,” Obama said.Clinton also said both Bush and McCain want to keep the United States tied to Iraq’s “civil war, a war we cannot win. That, in a nutshell, is the Bush/McCain Iraq policy. Don’t learn from our mistakes, repeat them…We can have hundreds of thousands of troops on the ground for 100 years, but that will not change the fact that there is no military solution to the situation in Iraq.”

A McCain campaign spokeswoman said Clinton is trying to “score political points by mischaracterizing” Senator McCain’s statement about keeping troops in Iraq for one hundred years, and said the Arizona senator was talking about a post-war “military presence in Iraq should the Iraqi and U.S. governments determine it to be in their mutual interest.”

McCain, who is in Iraq today on a congressional trip, told CNN's John King that Clinton "obviously does not understand nor appreciate the progress that has been made on the ground. She told General Petraeus last year when he testified that she would have to suspend disbelief in order to believe that the surge is working.

Well, the surge is working."So I just think what that means is al Qaeda wins. They tell the world that. And we fight here again and around the Middle East. And their dedication is to follow us home. All I can say is that this will be a big issue in the election as we approach November because at least a growing number of Americans, though still frustrated and understandably so, believe that this strategy has succeeded," he added.

Clinton said she “applauded” the recent decrease in violence in Iraq but said the surge was intended to give the Iraqis breathing room to reach “political reconciliation,” something that has not happened in her assessment.In her speech, Clinton outlined a multi-step plan for ending the war, some of which she talks about frequently on the campaign trail.

In addition to starting troop withdrawal within 60 days of taking office, Clinton said as president she would urge the United Nations to act as a “neutral, honest broker” in reaching political agreements and also in helping to resettle millions of Iraqi refugees. She said she would work to remove armed private military contractors from Iraq and end black market sales of oil that goes to help the insurgency.

Clinton said troop withdrawal would “not mean retreating from fighting terrorism in Iraq” and that she would “order small, elite strike forces to engage in targeted operations against Al Qaeda in Iraq.”

–CNN Senior Political Producer Sasha Johnson
soundoff (279 Responses)
  1. james

    For every pastor wright, there's 10 ferraro's, and 20 pastor hagee's. For every Rezco there is 20 norman shu's, and 10 keatings. Obama will win the nomination, and the general election. Once Mccain is "fully vetted" and his lobbyist ties are further investigated, and his flip flopping on issues is highlightd along with the biggest bombshell, that he gave up secret info to the vietcong, he will lose.

    March 17, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  2. kathy in ohio

    many of us opposed the war but didnt have a vote and neither did obama how would he really have voted he cant even keep his stories straight now. he is inexperienced and definately cant handle washington yet. he cant even handle 8000 members of his church. face people he is just a minister himself you have not noticed that at his rallys. that is is career future.

    March 17, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  3. nmt

    releasing your taxes, your library papers, your donor lists etc, will make me believe what you say. Right now, i find it really hard to trust you. If your taxes, earmarks, library papers have nothing to hide...then please release, because this to me speaks of your integrity...and as a president i would like someone in the white house that i can trust...if you do not release now...Mccain can hardly wait to wipe you out? What are you is the trust issue here...give me something to believe that your words are not just empty words...give me something that speaks to your all me that washington is not protecting you for whatever reason.

    March 17, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  4. JD

    So it's back to going negative again...OK. I wasn't sure if we were in one of her negative phases, or one of her conciliatory phases. Now we know.

    She's the only one who could bring the war to an end? How? By voting for the Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq again?

    March 17, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  5. Eugene (Texas)

    The war in Iraq and a sagging economy are the two largest issues facing the next president of the USA. However, the media and others have turned attention away from issues to subject matters that pale in comparison. Concerning the war, thousands of American lives are at stake. The issue to stay the course or how to leave will affect America and Iraq for generations to come. McCain wants to continue Bush's failed plan and establish an American presence in Iraq for years to come. What happens after the additional soldiers are sent home (surge)? The insurgents are not stupid. Violence is down presently due to 180,000 American soldiers significantly outnumbering the insurgents. Its simple, the insugents will lay low until the soldiers leave then start back where they left off. On the other hand, Clinton and Obama talk of a systematic withdrawal that will eventually leave the Iraqis to fend for themselves which will ultimately result in a civil war. It is a quandry that is going to extremely difficult undertake. As voters, we need to hear what these candidates plan to inact to affect the war in Iraq and make a decision on which plan we can best live with, morally and financially. Also, neither of these candidates have stated how they plan to handle Al Queda (while dealing with Iraq), who originally attacked us on 9/11 and is currently our largest security threat. It is reported that Al Queda has established new bases in Afghanistan and is steadily growing stronger while we are being diverted by the Iraq war. Whether we leave Iraq or not, Al Queda still has to be dealt with and should have been the original target to defeat after 9/11.

    March 17, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  6. Fernandez

    How long is Barack going to beat this War vote., sure Clinton and 76 other Senators voted for the War. Barack claims he opposed the War in 2002,3 ,4 5,6 and 7, the questions is what did he do in opposition, make speeches. At least Hillary cast her vote in the Senate on Key issues compared to Baracks "present" or being busy running for the Presidency

    March 17, 2008 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  7. obamamama

    Seems like the Democrats are headed for another defeat if they nominate Obama. His actions don't match his flowery speeches. If he expect people to believe that in the 20 years of his relationship with the pastor, he had NEVER heard the pastor preach in such hateful and unpatriotic manner to the pulpit,then he must think that everyone have drank the same cool aid as his supporters.His church's disdain for other race and religion is one thing.but hatred for the country he aspires to lead is another.He is the disaster wainting to happen and no amount of AA support can save him in the south and the heartland where such rhetoric will never be forgotten nor forgiven.

    March 17, 2008 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  8. GWB

    Hillary, please give us some reasons why you are trustworthy. Everything you have claimed thus far you have not backed up.

    You want to talk about all talk, show us the details of your records that back up your claims.

    All of your records are under secret lock and key. We don't want any more excuses, we want you to give us some proof.

    March 17, 2008 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  9. John

    Let me get this straight- she is saying that only she can end a war that she voted to start. This is a lady who has publicly stated that she thought a vote for the Iraq war resolution was a vote for more diplomacy. A lady who didn't bother to read the resolution, but instead chose to attend an administration briefing, and a lady who voted AGAINST the Levin amendment, which specifically called for more diplomacy. And she is saying that she is the only one who can end it? What, with nuclear weapons?

    March 17, 2008 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  10. Mama4Obama

    We wouldn't even be in this war if it weren't for people like Hillary Clinton voting for it. Her claim is absurd. She continues to allege that Obama is "all talk," but let me tell you something. She can write a 50,000-point plan on every issue every day of the week, but the end result will remain the same: a wicked hand cramp and a lot of wasted paper.

    March 17, 2008 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  11. Kerry

    Let see, Hillary voted for the Iraq war without reading the intelligence report. Yeah, judgment without research and facts.

    Of course everyone knows where Hillary's record stands. Anything that makes her looks good she ADVERTISES it to the media. But anything that is scandalous she withholds it ... like her tax returns, earmarks, and donors lists.

    Now that she can't win democratically, she wants to destroy Obama's chances.

    March 17, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  12. Africa for Hillary

    YOU are the best , better than the rest of them , knowlege ,dedication, intigrity, hardwork and background .. All the way to the W H Mrs Clinton..

    March 17, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  13. Allan

    Will these right wing nuts get over it, all they can report is that Bill had sex with that woman. After the most intensive and most expensive investigation in history Ken Starr was unable to prove the Clintons did any of the things you alege. Get over it losers.
    Hillary is the only candidate that can clean up the mess that the worst lier in history has created.
    Bill cleaned up the mess Bush I created, it is time for Hillary to clean up this mess.
    I liked prosperity that we had in the Clinton years, I don't know how you can like the mess created by this Administration.
    Get over it.

    March 17, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  14. Lucas, Nashville TN


    First, she has NO experience. Second, she bent over for the war as part of that collective bag of wusses in congress. Third, she just wants to fight with the GOP for the sport of it, and this is the latest thing she can say to keep that fight going.

    Obama is the only true centrist/populist, and he's the only one who (like so many patriotic but sensible citizens) opposed the war from the START. Seems he'd be better suited to get out of it in a responsible way.

    Not to mention the WORLD cares what he has to say. They (other nations) don't listen to Hillary. Nobody cares what's coming out of her mouth. Let's keep this focussed on INTEGRITY, CREDIBILITY, and JUDGEMENT... not these transparent ideas that Hillary tries to sell.

    March 17, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  15. Paul

    Madam HRC aint crying today since the media is in her favour and not going negative by telling the world she back Bush in his Irag War. What is HRC religion cos i have observed Obama pastor's picture n message on CNN all weekend since thursday. Have guy's on CNN ask HRC who is her pastor? has her pastor ever spoke negative about other race? People rage are made personal, best CNN ask pastor wright is problem not linking the whole issue on Obama. HRC your speech makes no sense because you voted for the war and you have not release any tax or info about your experience. I was an Hillary person but I think am going for Obama because his new and his hands are clean on like others. Obama08

    March 17, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  16. Mark, IL

    *******QUESTION TO ALL****************

    If the price of Oil is based on the fear of Geopolitical condition...when was the last time a tanker of Oil DIDN'T make it to the U.S.????

    Followup, If that fear was proven wrong, why then did the customer NOT get some kind of equalization????? Explanation please!

    March 17, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  17. Dem

    "I have been consistent in saying..." Yep, that's right Obama. That is one thing you have definitely been "consistent with saying." You SAY a lot, you just don't DO a lot. You didn't denounce Rezko or Wright until pushed into it by the media and the people. You haven't disclosed your Senate records (they don't exist? how convenient). Not exactly the "transparent" campaign you said you'd run. Not exactly the "transparent" candidate you said you would be. ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS.

    March 17, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  18. sandyb

    Would someone PLEASE pull the plug on the energizer bunny Clinton. She can't win the delegates, the supers are going to go with the candidate who has the most pledged delegates, Florida isn't going to have a do-over, and if Michigan does then he stands to win that one too. It's over, put a fork in her and call it done!

    March 17, 2008 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  19. Bill

    Plan is good for today, but an odd statement to make. The reality is that Obama has always said he is against the war and this will again focus on the idea that she was complicit in the Iraq war with her original vote. The reality is that there votes for Iraq have been identical since Obama has gotten in the Senate, but the issue was not the idea of support of the war, it was about supporting the troops at that point. This is an important distinction, because once the troops are there and you don't have enough congressional support to end the war, you have to give the troops the tools that they need. Obama has been correct in this vein, and by her votes she agreed. Either one of them will end the war, Obama is simply saying that if things change, you have to rely on the experts in how to withdraw. That is not backtracking, that is common sense.

    If words and integrity matter, she needs to list her earmarks (like Obama), taxes, and show her experience through White House records of her as First Lady. I am getting bored with this tax argument that once upon a time, they opened there tax records, we are talking about current tax records (2005, 2006). The idea is who have they beginning money from, because the other question is if she is president, to whom does she owe her allegiance? Tax records could help to show that.

    March 17, 2008 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  20. pendergast

    obama STINKS!!!!!!
    And we dont need to TRAIN the president....
    lets face it Clinton has the guts, the savy, the experience and THE BRAINS!!!!!!
    Hillary will lead us out of the Bush MINDLESS, MAJOR MASTAKES.

    March 17, 2008 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  21. Michiel W

    Stop for one minute and imagine these words were spoken by Senator Obama! Would you all take him at his word? Those of you who support him most definitely would. You wouldn't question how he would do it, you would just accept that he would. So, why do you doubt Senator Clinton's word? At least she has a plan. And after the revelations that keep coming out with regard to Senator Obama, I certainly would not take his word over that of Senator Clinton.

    March 17, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  22. Carl

    Ron Paul will end the war.

    March 17, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  23. Proud Black Woman

    Way to go Hillary !!!
    Sometimes the right man for the job is a woman !!!

    Can't wait to vote for you ...

    Pittsburgh, PA

    March 17, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  24. John

    Barack Obama is dwelling on the past when it comes to whoever supported the war in Iraq!He is contesting the seat of the President of USA.and his theme is future and change!It is difficult to know or exactly find out where Obama stands! I remember vividly during the debates on Healthcare with Hillary.In most responses.Obama comments after Hillary's opinion on the subject was always something like,"quote,I agree with what Hillary says"end of quote!The next day you heard totally to the contrary of what his opinion constituted.That is termed flip-flopping.Opposing the war while still a senator in illionois,is a different thing.Not tabling a bill to end the war and bring soldiers home is a noncommital attitude for a person who always sings thesame song about opposing the war.This picture paints a pattern that is no good for a Presidential contender!Obama should tell the Americans what his Healthcare entails.I support Hillary Clinton not because of color,but the immense experience and the ease with which she explains the policies she stands forGo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hillary Go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 08-12.

    March 17, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  25. Brad, Obamaha NE

    i find it hilarious that people are calling for Obama to step down because of his pastor.

    i'm a white dude and i know that rich white people control america.

    which is why i'm votng for the black guy.

    how much more change does one need?

    and on another note – how does she believe that being the wife of a president makes her the best person to be president.

    my wife is a nurse... does that mean i am qualified to be one as well?

    this race is getting boring. i blame the media for making it go on as long as it has.


    P.S. – if the monster gains the nomination from backhanded deals and complaining i will vote for Nader.

    March 17, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
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