Hillary Clinton Talks Withdrawal

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Hillary Clinton delivered a major speech on the Iraq War this morning. She didn’t say anything groundbreaking, but the speech did provide her with a nice opportunity to reiterate her support for a sensible and well-planned withdrawal, the bread and butter of many Democratic voters. Here are chunks of a summary the Clinton campaign blitzed out to reporters.

The basics of her plan have been known for months:

As President, one of Hillary’s first official actions will be to convene the Joint Chiefs of Staff, her Secretary of Defense, and her National Security Council. She will direct them to draw up a clear, comprehensive plan for withdrawal that starts removing our troops within 60 days

Hillary knows that as we bring our troops and contractors home, we cannot lose sight of our very real strategic interests in this region. Al Qaeda terrorist cells continue to operate in Iraq, cells that did not exist before President Bush’s failed policy. Under Hillary’s plan the United States will retain counterterrorism forces in Iraq and the region to fight al Qaeda and will not permit terrorists to have a safe haven in Iraq from which to attack the United States or its allies.

According to the speech, Clinton will ensure that for every month a member of the military spends in the field, they get one month here at home. She will reign in the use of no-bid contracts and private contractors will get the boot:

As U.S. troops begin to withdraw, we should not be leaving unaccountable, often irresponsible private military contractors to carry arms and engage in combat-oriented missions and security functions. Hillary has co-sponsored the Stop Security Outsourcing Act, which seeks to end this practice. As President, Hillary will work toward a ban on armed private military contractors providing security for diplomatic personnel and performing mission-critical functions.

She wants to bring the U.N. in to jump start political conciliation. She wants to ensure Iraq’s reconstruction money is being spent well by appointing a special counsel. She will provide funds to protect and resettle Iraq’s refugees. And most of all, regional diplomacy will be a key focus:

As President, Hillary will have a unique opportunity to reach out to our allies and partners in the region and press them to take greater responsibility for what happens in Iraq. She will hold a major regional stabilization meeting early on in her Presidency. This group will be composed of key allies, other global powers, and all of the states bordering Iraq.

Two things should be obvious. First, Clinton doesn’t want to simply “wave the white flag of surrender,” like John McCain alleges. She has a sensible plan for withdrawal that carefully weighs several crucial factors and chooses the option that is best for us and for the country we are leaving. (The same, of course, can be said for Barack Obama.) Second, no matter who you support in the Democratic Party, if you support ending the war you have to acknowledge that Clinton intends to do so. I think it’s fair to say that Clinton has been more hawkish than Obama in the past (supported the Iraq War, voted to classify Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization), but if you take this plan to be an honest representation of her current views in Iraq, she’s solid on the issue.

That, of course, is what her campaign is trying to explain to people. In recent primaries, Obama has done better among war voters. The Clinton campaign is trying to attack his strength, suggesting that he isn’t prepared to be commander-in-chief and suggesting that his record on Iraq is “just words” (in fact, they sent out a memo to reporters this morning alleging just that). If it can weaken Obama on the issue and convince voters that Clinton is just as serious about withdrawal as he is, the campaign will have neutralized one of Obama’s most important selling points.

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