Hillary Clinton plants herself firmly with White House on Iraq
June 13th, 2014
12:41 PM ET
2 months ago

Hillary Clinton plants herself firmly with White House on Iraq

Washington (CNN) – Hillary Clinton has firmly planted herself with the White House and those who say the United States should not provide military assistance – particularly airstrikes – to the Iraqi government in response to the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and other militants.

In both lengthy remarks at a George Washington University book event and an interview with the BBC on Friday, Clinton blasted Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the current state of Iraq that, she argued, allowed radical Islamist militants to surge through the country and threaten the capital Baghdad.

Clinton characterized the Maliki government as "dysfunctional, unrepresentative, authoritarian" in front of an audience of 1,500 in Washington. For that reason, she added – to sustained applause – that "there's no reason on earth that I know of that we would ever sacrifice a single American life for that."

"We certainly don't want to fight," Clinton added.

The jihadist group, known as ISIS, wants to establish an Islamic caliphate, or state, in the region. It has already had significant success to date in Syria, where it has fought against President Bashar al-Assad's government as well as other rebel groups in a bloody civil war, and in Iraq, where its fighters recently took over Mosul, the nation's second-largest city.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told CNN on Thursday that the army had "collapsed, basically" around Mosul, causing commanders to flee and the city to fall into the jihadists' control.

Clinton, whose support of the 2002 Iraq War Resolution has hung with her for more than a decade, said that the fact that army abandoned its posts was evidence that the United States should not consider airstrikes "at this time."

"You don't have a government that can inspire loyalty even among its army," she said. "It's a recipe for a horrendous conflict."

Although Clinton focused much of her attention on Maliki in describing the current state of Iraq and the reasons against military action, the Iraqi leader only gets one mention in Clinton's memoir "Hard Choices."

On Friday, President Barack Obama stressed again that he "will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq," but told reporters that he is asking his national security teams to come up with other options.

The president said, however, that it was up to Iraq's leaders "to make hard decisions" on the future of their country.

U.S. officials have discussed bolstering ongoing efforts to send arms, equipment and intelligence information to help Iraq and its military. Airstrikes are among the options being considered, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Earlier on Friday, the BBC released a 20-minute interview with Clinton, where the former secretary of state said airstrikes in Iraq were not appropriate "at this time."

"That is not a role for the United States," Clinton said. "There needs to be a number of steps that Maliki and his government must take to demonstrate that he is committed to an inclusive Iraq – something he has not done up to date."

Clinton also said that the Iraqi Army – "which has not been able to hold territory" – needs "an injection of discipline and professionalism" before any help could be considered.

Clinton ruled out troops on the ground during her interview with the BBC, saying that is "not going to happen... at any foreseeable future." The former secretary of state, however, would "never say never" to troops on the group because "the world is so unpredictable."

Clinton's history with support for the Iraq War has defined much of her political career and her 2002 vote to give then-President George W. Bush the authority to go into Iraq was "probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make."

During the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, Obama – who was against the war – used Clinton's support as a bludgeon to hammer her campaign with liberal Democrats.

In her recent memoir Clinton writes that she "should have stated my regret" on Iraq "sooner and in the plainest, most direct language possible."

"When I voted to authorize force in 2002, I said that it was 'probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make,'" she writes. "I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had. And I wasn't alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple."

– CNN's Laura Smith-Spark and Ashley Fantz contributed to this report.


Filed under: Hillary Clinton • Iraq
soundoff (65 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    The U.S. should do as little as possible to help one side of the conflict or the other. The only airstrikes that I would approve of at this time would to destroy any big ticket equipment that we left behind.

    June 13, 2014 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  2. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA - Take Back the House

    "And I wasn't alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple."
    -----------------------------------
    Which is why I didn't vote for you. Plain and simple. Sorry! It had nothing to do with electing the first African-American, but had everything to do with who voted for this war of lies and deceit. No airstrikes, no boots on the ground!!! Let Iran deal with it.

    June 13, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  3. sonny chapman

    The only person who would benefit from Air Strikes is Malaki . We told him to bring the Sunnis into the fold. He didn't listen. Why reward his bad behavior ?

    June 13, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  4. Pander Bear

    And Newt is already calling for airstrikes. And if the Obama administration suggests airstrikes, Newt and the GOP will say we shouldn't have airstrikes. The right wing = the Taliban.

    June 13, 2014 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  5. J Biden

    Biden in 2010: Iraq’s Stability Will Be ‘One of the Great Achievements’ of Obama Admin

    June 13, 2014 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  6. smith

    Obama on the wrong side again. By helping the rebels in Syria he is de facto contrubitor to the ISIS rise in power. We should be helping Assad to squash radical Sunni terror groups like the ISIS and AQ.

    June 13, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  7. Marie MD

    They threw us out let them handle it. We should have never been there to start with. A lie of wars causing thousands of deaths.
    Send the AK screecher, her presidential candidate old fool, ms lindsay, the Canadian terrorist, most teaklans from Texas including the village idiot and the dog torture twit. Just parachute, heck just put them in a crate and drop them, then fly away as fast as we can.

    June 13, 2014 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  8. Lynda/Minnesota

    "The president said, however, that it was up to Iraq's leaders "to make hard decision's" on the future of their country."

    Indeed it is. That being said, we never should have involved ourselves in Iraq to begin. Lesson learned: we were not seen (and will never be seen) as liberators. The United States of America
    leadership - in all its self perceived glory - totally f*ed up. That there are those still heralding this war (on the axis of evil) as having been the right thing to do live in a bubble not generally seen by the public who voted for them year after year. Those who can't accept that there are indeed situations we ought never to have encouraged are those same folks who truly believe war is a game worthy of achieving accomplishment regardless of the consequence. The war in Iraq was one of the most amateur wars ever fought in modern history. Unfortunately, Iraq itself will have to pick up the pieces and move forward to whatever resolution its people can live with, and under. The United States can do no more than cut the ties and allow these people to make their own decisions. Their very existence in the Middle East is their own destiny ... and not ours to make for them.

    June 13, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  9. smith1

    it is real easy to push for war when it is not your kids going. Very few in government have kids in the military and some of the loudest hawks have not served themselves. Never should have gotten into this mess. If they want to send drones ok but the Iraq 's have to fight for them selves. We keep training and they just run away.

    June 13, 2014 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    "the best decision I could with the information I had. "

    Too bad the information turned out to be falsehoods. Garbage in, garbage out.

    June 13, 2014 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  11. Bill from GA

    " But I still got it wrong. "

    I'm glad to see that she admits it.

    But what standard did she have to launch an unprovoked invasion of another country? What could she have seen to justify such a massive military invasion? Did she even consider what it means to take on the responsibility of destroying another country's government? She must have known that thousands upon thousands of lives would be lost.

    And what has she done since then to convince Americans that, even though she made such an awful mistake, she is still better qualified than ANY OTHER to lead this country?

    June 13, 2014 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  12. rs

    The Iraqis wanted us out- we're out. The mess unfolding in Iraq has long and deep roots- and was a predictable outcome of our invasion 11 years ago.

    June 13, 2014 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  13. Chris-E...al

    She does know about war and lying about getting shot at in Bosnia you know Hillary is a expert on survival And is very good at burials .

    June 13, 2014 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  14. NameFrank Deery

    Where was she when, as a very involved First Lady, when her husband bombed Belgrade??? Where were she and Obama when Benghazi fell? Where are both of them now as Iraq crumbles? She is hustling a book; he "fundraises".

    Wake UP America!

    June 13, 2014 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  15. Rudy NYC

    smith posted:

    Obama on the wrong side again. By helping the rebels in Syria he is de facto contrubitor to the ISIS rise in power. We should be helping Assad to squash radical Sunni terror groups like the ISIS and AQ.
    ---------------------------
    What help did the Obama administration provide the rebels in Syria? Surely you cannot mean weapons of war, and such, because the U.S. has never provided anything more than humanitarian support. Folks like McCain have been very critical of the administration for not "arming the rebels". But, the problem was deciding which rebel faction to arm, so we didn't arm any of them.

    These are well-known facts. Trust me. If the rebels were fighting with arms that we supplied, we would have heard the McCain complaining about that, too. In other words, stop making stuff up as you go along, smith. A few days ago you were complaining about the lack of any action by the administration in Syria. Today you're complaining about them arming rebels. You truly are a serious conservative, smith.

    June 13, 2014 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  16. sly

    Oh come on Hillary – why doesn't America spend another $5 TRILLION of my tax dollars hunting down all those Weapons of Mass Destruction Saddam has hidden over there.

    Let's fatten up those billionaires in the Defense Industry – drop some more 'Shock and Awe' bombs (how's that working for us now?).

    Hillary, just move over and let the Republicans drop their bombs. And then let's start WW III with Russia – the Republicans told us that the invasion of Ukraine is the biggest issue in the world – almost 2 people have died there now. World Crisis they say.

    June 13, 2014 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  17. Wes

    Marie MD

    They threw us out let them handle it. We should have never been there to start with. A lie of wars causing thousands of deaths.
    Send the AK screecher, her presidential candidate old fool, ms lindsay, the Canadian terrorist, most teaklans from Texas including the village idiot and the dog torture twit. Just parachute, heck just put them in a crate and drop them, then fly away as fast as we can.
    ---------------------------
    Whatever. obama is a disaster.

    June 13, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  18. bobo

    Every time she gets a hard question.... like about her flip flop on Gay marriage or Benghazi..... She Yells!

    June 13, 2014 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  19. ivan

    So it looks like the current administration the lack of doing anything is actually in support of the radical Islamist militants setting up Islamic State in Iraq.

    The Iraq troops are just walking away and letting this happen so what does that tell you.

    A new Al-Qaeda strong hold. A new Afghanistan.
    First they let out 5 top Al-Qaeda from Qitmo.

    What will they wait for another 9/11 to happen.??

    June 13, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  20. uncdig

    Another none position from which she can flip flop on later

    June 13, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  21. Hillary Clinton: Butcher of Benghazi

    Yes, we know Hillary. You never send help to anybody, even your own employees that are being attacked and murdered. WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?!!

    June 13, 2014 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  22. Tommy G

    It is called pandering to the far left loon Democrat Party with total disregard for the damage it will do to the world and our strategic interests should these terrorists take over Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile these same leftist loons are in here demanding we send help to go look in the jungle for some kidnapped women in Nigeria. (ZERO strategic interests involved)

    June 13, 2014 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  23. sly

    "So it looks like the current administration the lack of doing anything is actually in support of the radical Islamist militants setting up Islamic State in Iraq. What will they wait for another 9/11 to happen.??"
    =====
    No more 9/11's – We have President Obama in office. No foreign terrorist attacks on our soil.

    Best President since Ike. Now, if want another 9/11, just put another Bush in office, or murder 350 civilians on commercial airplanes like Bush, and you'll get your wishes.

    But, like most Americans, I prefer the intelligent and strong leadership of Obama, and only Hillary offers the same high qualities. You teaKKKlan would already have dropped nuclear bombs on Russia, Korea, China, Iran and Iraq, and Mexico and Cuba and Venezuela and Germany and Burma ....

    June 13, 2014 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  24. GonzoinHouston

    We need to stay out of the Islamic Viet Nam. The Syrian uprising has morphed into a Sunni-Shiite proxy war, and they can have it! Iraq, or at least al-Maliki, is tighter with Iran than the US. ISIS used to be with the Syrian rebels, whom we supported. Face it, folks, we may have set up a sorta democracy in Iraq but we have no friends there.

    June 13, 2014 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  25. Foolmemore

    “the best decision I could with the information I had. ”

    Your husband was president prior to Bush and therefore knew the status of Iraq's WMD, at least until the day he left office. I'm curious if Hillary consulted with Bill before casting her vote.

    In any case, I'm reminded of what Joe Biden said in 2007 on Hussein’s WMDs, “Well, the point is, it turned out they didn’t, but everyone in the world thought he had them. The weapons inspectors said he had them. He catalogued — they catalogued them. This was not some, some Cheney, you know, pipe dream. This was, in fact, catalogued.”

    June 13, 2014 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
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