Wrong At Every Turn

- October 9, 2015

On The Anniversary Of Clinton's Iraq War Vote, A Closer Look At Her Record Shows Her Failed Judgment On A Consequential Foreign Policy Issue


· Throughout her career, Clinton has always been wrong on Iraq.

· Clinton voted to authorize the war in Iraq, which was devastating to her 2008 presidential bid.

· Running for President, Clinton opposed the surge strategy that defeated the Iraq insurgency, but later admitted her opposition was political.

· Clinton defended Obama's popular yet premature withdrawal policy that left Iraq vulnerable and deteriorating.

· Now Clinton backs Obama's weak strategy for confronting ISIS.


"War In Iraq Is A Subject That Won't Go Away For Clinton…" "War in Iraq is a subject that won't go away for Clinton, whose Senate vote in 2002 to authorize the last war in that Middle Eastern country put her out of step with the Democratic base six years later. She lost her bid for president to a challenger who, as an obscure Illinois state senator, had come down on the antiwar side."(Karen Tumulty, "Iraq Looms Large Again For Hillary Clinton As She Weighs Another White House Bid," The Washington Post , 9/25/14)

Clinton Faces "Skepticism" For Both Her Original Vote To Authorize The Iraq War And Her Support For Obama's Withdrawal Policies. "The issue also is complicated for Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic presidential candidate. She faces lingering liberal skepticism for voting for the war while in the Senate, as well as GOP criticism of Obama administration policies that left Iraq unstable after U.S. troops withdrew in 2011." (Janet Hook and Laura Meckler, "Iraq War Persists As Awkward Election Issue," The Wall Street Journal, 5/14/15)

  • MSNBC's Joe Scarborough: "Hillary Was Wrong On Iraq Twice." JOE SCARBOROUGH: "The argument you could make is, if you're a Republican, that the Wall Street Journal did make, is that it was Hillary Clinton, people like Hillary Clinton that were wrong both times, that were wrong saying let's go into Iraq and then let's leave Iraq quickly, that created the first void. And then after order was brought, which Dexter Filkins and everybody else says was in 2008 and 2009, pulling out created a new void that did create the environment for ISIS. So Hillary was wrong on Iraq twice. I think that's the argument certainly that Republicans would make, that I would make." (MSNBC's "Morning Joe," 5/28/15)


On October 11, 2002, Clinton Voted In Favor Of A Joint Resolution To Authorize The Use Of Military Force Against Iraq. (H.J. Res 114, Roll Call Vote #237: Passed 77-23: R 48-1; D 29-22, 10/11/02, Clinton Voted Yea)

  • Clinton: "Any Vote That May Lead To War Should Be Hard, But I Cast It With Conviction." CLINTON: "This is a 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. … So it is with conviction that I support this resolution as being in the best interests of our Nation." (Hillary Clinton, Congressional Record, 10/10/02, pp. S10289-S10290)

Clinton's Vote On Iraq "Likely Cost Her The 2008 Nomination," For Which She Later Was Forced To Apologize

Iraq Was "A Defining Topic" In The 2008 Presidential Race, Which Played To Obama's Advantage As He Quickly Defined Himself As The Antiwar Candidate. "Senator Barack Obama is running for president as one of the few candidates who opposed the Iraq war from the beginning, a simple position unburdened by expressions of regret or decisions over whether to apologize for initially supporting the invasion. Iraq remains a defining topic in the opening stages of the 2008 presidential race, but it may prove easier for Mr. Obama, Democrat of Illinois, to revisit the past than to distinguish his views in the future." (Jeff Zeleny, "As Candidate, Obama Carves Antiwar Stance," The New York Times, 2/26/07)

  • Clinton's Vote To Authorize The War In Iraq "Likely Cost Her The 2008 Nomination." "As erstwhile rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, Clinton was viewed as more hawkish than Obama, who launched his candidacy as a fierce opponent of the Iraq war. As a New York senator, Clinton voted to authorize U.S. intervention in Iraq and her vote likely cost her the 2008 nomination." (Alex Seitz-Wald, "Hillary Clinton Won't Say If Syria Bombing Came Too Late," MSNBC, 9/24/14)

In Her 2014 Memoir, Clinton "Belatedly" Apologized For Her Iraq War Vote. "At the time, Mrs. Clinton wouldn't call her vote a mistake, an unpopular position among Democrats furious about the war's toll. She belatedly did so in her 2014 book, 'Hard Choices.'" (Janet Hook and Laura Meckler, "Iraq War Persists As Awkward Election Issue," The Wall Street Journal, 5/14/15)

  • Clinton: "I Still Got It Wrong. Plain And Simple." "When I voted to authorize force in 2002, I said that it was 'probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make.' 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." (Hillary Rodham Clinton, Hard Choices, 2014)


In February 2007, Clinton Voted To Disapprove Of President Bush's Troop Surge In Iraq. "Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S.574; A bill to express the sense of Congress on Iraq." (S. 574, Roll Call Vote #51: Motion Rejected 56-34: R 7-33; D 48-0; I 1-1, 2/17/07, Clinton Voted Yea)

Clinton Said President Bush's Surge Policy Would Take America "Down The Wrong Road - Only Faster." "Another possible Democratic presidential contender, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, said Bush's Iraq policy 'has been marred by incompetence and arrogance.' 'He will continue to take us down the wrong road - only faster,' she said." ("Democrats: This Is Not What America Voted For," CNN, 1/11/07)

  • Clinton: "I Disapprove Of The Policy. I Think It Is A Dead End. It Continues The Blank Check." CLINTON: "If we're going to put these soldiers and Marines into these very exposed positions, which this strategy calls for, please, come to us. Ask for whatever you need to try to provide maximum protection. I disapprove of the policy. I think it is a dead end. It continues the blank check." (Hillary Clinton, Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senate, Hearing, 1/23/07)

Clinton Later Admitted That Her Opposition To The Surge "Had Been Political" As She Was Facing Obama In The Democrat Primary

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates: "Hillary Told The President That Her Opposition To The Surge In Iraq Had Been Political Because She Was Facing Him In The Iowa Primary." "The exchange that followed was remarkable. In strongly supporting a surge in Afghanistan, Hillary told the president that her opposition to the surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary. She went on to say, 'The Iraq surge worked.' The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying." (Robert M. Gates, Duty, 2014)

  • Gates: "To Hear The Two Of Them Making These Admissions, And In Front Of Me, Was As Surprising As It Was Dismaying." (Robert M. Gates, Duty, 2014)

"Gates's Version Of Why Clinton Opposed The Surge Fits Perfectly Into This Existing Good-Politics-Makes-Good-Policy Narrative About The Former Secretary Of State." (Chris Cillizza, "How Bob Gates's Memoir Could Haunt Hillary In 2016," The Washington Post, 1/7/14)


In 2011, Clinton "Strongly Defended President Obama's Plan To Withdraw Combat Troops From Iraq." "Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday strongly defended President Obama's plan to withdraw combat troops from Iraq by the end of the year and issued a pointed warning to Iran not to underestimate the United States' commitment to stability in the region." (Sheryl Gay Stolberg, "Clinton Defends Iraq Withdrawal Plan," The New York Times, 10/23/11)

Clinton On Withdrawing From Iraq: "Obama Has Shown Great Leadership In Navigating To This Point, Fulfilling His Promise, Meeting The Obligations That Were Entered Into Before He Ever Came Into Office." DAVID GREGORY: "But Secretary Clinton, the question is whether you think this criticism is well-founded or not. Do we not endanger recent success in Iraq by not having any residual force? Is there not a legitimate prospect of civil war, which many people fear?" CLINTON: "Well, honestly, I think that they should have raised those issues when President Bush agreed to the agreement to withdraw troops by the end of this year. I feel like this is a debate that is looking backwards instead of forwards. … But President Obama has shown great leadership in navigating to this point, fulfilling his promise, meeting the obligations that were entered into before he ever came into office. We are providing a support-and-training mission. We will be there on the ground, working with the Iraqis. And I just want to add, David, that no one should miscalculate America's resolve and commitment to helping support the Iraqi democracy. We have paid too high a price to give the Iraqis this chance, and I hope that Iran and no one else miscalculates that." (NBC's " Meet The Press," 10/23/11)

  • Clinton: "We May Not Be Leaving Military Bases In Iraq, But We Have Bases Elsewhere. We Have Support And Training Assets Elsewhere." GREGORY: "Well, and I want to just underline that. There's a feeling that Iran could try to push Iraq around, particularly in the Shia part of the southern part of Iraq. Are you suggesting that if Iran were to try to take advantage of this moment the U.S. would still have a military commitment, the message to Iran being what?" CLINTON: Well, I think Iran should look at the region. We may not be leaving military bases in Iraq, but we have bases elsewhere. We have support and training assets elsewhere. We have a NATO ally in Turkey. The United States is very present in the region." (NBC's " Meet The Press," 10/23/11)

Clinton's Support For The Withdrawal From Iraq Was Given Despite Warnings From Military Officials That Terror Groups Would "Exploit Gaps Left" By The Absence Of U.S. Troops

The "Decision To Carry Out A Complete Withdrawal Sharply Increases The Risk That Painfully Won Security Gains In Iraq Will Come Undone" And The U.S.-Iraqi Alliance "Will Wither." "It could be, as White House officials argued, that the government of Nouri al-Maliki and its armed forces can manage all these threats without help or training from American soldiers, who have already played a secondary role since the end of combat operations last year. But Mr. Obama's decision to carry out a complete withdrawal sharply increases the risk that painfully won security gains in Iraq will come undone; that Iran will be handed a crucial strategic advantage in its regional cold war with the United States; and that a potentially invaluable U.S. alliance with an emerging Iraqi democracy will wither." (Editorial, "An End To The Iraq War? Only For The U.S.," The Washington Post, 10/22/11)

As The U.S. Prepared To Withdraw U.S. Troops From Iraq, "Senior American And Iraqi Officials [Expressed] Growing Concern That Al Qaeda's Offshoot … [Was] Poised For A Deadly Resurgence." "As the United States prepares to withdraw its troops from Iraq by year's end, senior American and Iraqi officials are expressing growing concern that Al Qaeda's offshoot here, which just a few years ago waged a debilitating insurgency that plunged the country into a civil war, is poised for a deadly resurgence." (Michael Schmidt and Eric Schmitt, "Leaving Iraq, U.S. Fears New Surge Of Qaeda Terror," The New York Times, 11/5/11)

  • Al Qaeda Was "Shifting Its Tactics And Strategies … To Exploit Gaps Left By The Departing American Troops And To Try To Reignite Sectarian Violence In The Country." "Although the organization is certainly weaker than it was at its peak five years ago and is unlikely to regain its prior strength, American and Iraqi analysts said the Qaeda franchise is shifting its tactics and strategies - like attacking Iraqi security forces in small squads - to exploit gaps left by the departing American troops and to try to reignite sectarian violence in the country." (Michael Schmidt and Eric Schmitt, "Leaving Iraq, U.S. Fears New Surge Of Qaeda Terror," The New York Times, 11/5/11)
  • Major General Jeffrey Buchanan: "I Cringe Whenever Anybody Makes A Pronouncement That Al Qaeda Is On Its Last Legs." "'I cringe whenever anybody makes a pronouncement that Al Qaeda is on its last legs,' said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, the American military's top spokesman in Iraq. 'I think one day we are going to look around and say it's been a long time since we have heard from Al Qaeda, and maybe then we can say it is on its last legs.'" (Michael Schmidt and Eric Schmitt, "Leaving Iraq, U.S. Fears New Surge Of Qaeda Terror," The New York Times, 11/5/11)


In February 2015, Clinton Said Obama Is Making "The Right Moves" In The Effort Against ISIS. "On the effort against ISIL, Clinton suggested during the Q&A with journalist Kara Swisher that there was little use in inserting U.S. combat troops into the fight and essentially backed the president's strategy so far. 'It's a very hard challenge, because you can't very well put American or Western troops in to fight this organism,' she said, in her clearest statement yet on the topic. 'You have to use, not only air force but also army soldiers from the region and particularly from Iraq. … A lot of the right moves are being made, but this is a really complicated and long-term problem.'" (Gabriel Debenedetti, "Hillary Clinton Tackles ISIL, Previews Economic Message," Politico, 2/25/15)

  • Former Clinton Advisor Neera Tanden, May 2015: Clinton Has "Very Clearly" Said She Supports Obama's ISIS Strategy And Says She Thinks He "Has The Right Strategy." CHRIS WALLACE: "What are the chances that Hillary Clinton is going to end up going -- criticizing Obama as being too soft on fighting ISIS?" NEERA TANDEN: "Hillary actually talked about this last week and talked about the challenge we're facing with the Iraqi army. Conservatives often tell us, you can't help people who can't help themselves. We have a big challenge right now. It's a serious challenge, which is the Iraqi army does not seem to be fighting for itself. That was a big challenge we've had over the last few weeks. We have to deal with that. …WALLACE: "So, does Hillary Clinton, and you are close to the campaign, feel that Obama is doing enough or that he should do more?" TANDEN: "You know, in her own words, she has said this president has the right strategy. So, you know, we -- that doesn't mean things won't change in the future, but right now we do not need more boots on the ground. We do not need more American boots on the ground. She said that very clearly."(Fox's " Fox News Sunday," 5/31/15)

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In June 2014, Clinton Supported Obama's Handling Of The Ongoing Crisis In Iraq, Saying, "I Would Have Advised Him To Do Exactly As I Believe He Is Now Doing." QUESTION: "If you were in the administration today, what would you have advised President Obama to do in Iraq?" CLINTON: "I would have advised him to do exactly as I believe he is now doing. To tell Maliki there will not be any American involvement whatsoever unless you take the following steps, and that we would begin, through our channels, to reach out to the Sunni tribal chiefs that we had worked with to turn back Al-Qaeda in Iraq. And I don't have the kind of access to the top-secret negotiations any longer, but that's what I believe is happening. Because when you think about how we were able to stop the spread of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, it was by partnering Shiite with Sunni with American support. I think that's the only way you're going to be able to get rid of this so-called ISIS group too. So, that's what I would be looking for and I believe that's probably what the President has put under his list of things that have to be accomplished." ( Interview With Hillary Clinton , NDTV, 6/21/14)

Since U.S. Troops Left Iraq, The Country Has Been Brewing "In A Maelstrom" And Is Now Overrun By ISIS Militants

"The Saga Of Iraq Is, As An Analyst Put It, 'A Rather Straightforward But Sad Story' Since The U.S. Military Left The Country At The End Of 2011…" "Iraq roils in a maelstrom: ISIS now controls Ramadi, a new prime minister is in charge, Shiite-Sunni bloodshed flows, and a U.S.-led coalition is back, this time executing airstrikes in Iraq. The saga of Iraq is, as an analyst put it, 'a rather straightforward but sad story' since the U.S. military left the country at the end of 2011, only to find itself returning in a smaller way." (Michael Martinez, "Iraq: How Did We Get Here?" CNN, 5/22/15)

  • "Iraq Roils In A Maelstrom: ISIS Now Controls Ramadi, A New Prime Minister Is In Charge, Shiite-Sunni Bloodshed Flows, And A U.S.-Led Coalition Is Back, This Time Executing Airstrikes In Iraq." (Michael Martinez, "Iraq: How Did We Get Here?" CNN, 5/22/15)

In May 2015, The Iraqi City Of Ramadi "Fell Completely" To ISIS Militants. "The last Iraqi security forces fled Ramadi on Sunday, as the city fell completely to the militants of the Islamic State, who ransacked the provincial military headquarters, seizing a large store of weapons, and killed people loyal to the government, according to security officials and tribal leaders." (Tim Arango, "Key Iraqi City Falls To ISIS As Last Of Security Forces Flee," The New York Times, 5/17/15)

  • As Ramadi Fell, "Bodies, Some Burned, Littered The Streets As …The [ISIS] Militants Carried Out Mass Killings Of Iraqi Security Forces And Civilians." "A spokesman for the governor of Iraq's Anbar province said Monday that about 500 people -- both civilians and Iraqi soldiers -- are estimated to have been killed over the past few days as the city of Ramadi fell to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). … Bodies, some burned, littered the streets as local officials reported the militants carried out mass killings of Iraqi security forces and civilians." ("Carnage In Ramadi After ISIS' Takeover," CBS News, 5/18/15)
  • The Fall Of Ramadi "Marked The Most Dramatic ISIL Gain" Since The U.S. Airstrikes Began In August 2014. "The desert city's fall marked the most dramatic ISIL gain since U.S. airstrikes first blunted the group's momentum last summer. While experts said the city's fall does not mark a larger turning point in the anti-ISIL campaign, it was a blow to the administration's credibility in a symbolism-heavy conflict with a terrorist enemy." (Michael Crowley, "ISIL Military Victory Belies Rosy U.S. Progress Reports," Politico, 5/18/15)

In June 2014, ISIS Militants "Captured Iraq's Second Largest City, Mosul," And Continued To Conquer "Large Swaths" Of Territory In The Region. "In June 2014, militants of the Islamic State captured Iraq's second largest city, Mosul, in a lightning offensive. Since then, the extremist group, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL, has conquered large swaths of Iraq and Syria. The militants have killed soldiers and civilians in both countries, enslaved women and children, beheaded several western hostages and forced hundreds of thousands out of their homes." (Eline Gordts, "Everything You Need To Know About The Islamic State," The Huffington Post, 11/20/14)

  • A Year Later, ISIS Seems To Be "Completely Entrenched" In Mosul "And The Prospect Of A Major Assault By Iraqi Government Forces And Their U.S.-Led Allies Keeps Getting Pushed Further Into The Future." "A year on, the Islamic State, or ISIS, appears increasingly entrenched in one of Iraq's largest cities and the prospect of a major assault by Iraqi government forces and their U.S.-led allies keeps getting pushed further into the future."(Alice Fordham, "ISIS Rule In Mosul: Few Come And Go As Extremists Dig In," NPR, 6/8/15)

"Extremists Still Hold Large Parts Of Western And Northern Iraq" And "A Much-Anticipated Counteroffensive Never Materialized." "More than a year after the U.S. led the formation of an anti-ISIS coalition, the extremists still hold large parts of western and northern Iraq. In the west, ISIS took the desert provincial capital, Ramadi, four months ago. A much-anticipated counteroffensive never materialized." (Alice Fordham, "Iraq's Fight Against ISIS Stalls," NPR, 10/6/15)

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