Clinton on Iraq: Got Some Explaining to Do?


There’s a 2005 Face the Nation excerpt floating around the web that makes it look like Hillary Clinton was once sympathetic to John McCain’s argument that a long-term occupation of Iraq isn’t objectionable as long as American casualties are down.

Senator McCain made the point earlier today, which I agree with, and that is, it’s not so much a question of time when it comes to American military presence for the average American; I include myself in this. But it is a question of casualties.

We don’t want to see our young men and women dying and suffering these grievous injuries that so many of them have. We’ve been in South Korea for 50-plus years. We’ve been in Europe for 50-plus. We’re still in Okinawa with respect to protection there coming out of World War II.

You know, we have been in places for very long periods of time. And in recent history, we’ve made a commitment to Bosnia and Kosovo, and I think what is different is the feeling that we’re on a track that is getting better and that we can see how the Iraqi government will begin to assume greater and greater responsibility. The elections were key to that. The training, equipment, equipping and motivating of the Iraqi security forces is key to that. But so is our understanding that if we were to artificially set a deadline of some sort, that would be like a green light to the terrorists, and we can’t afford to do that.

Clinton says we’ve been in South Korea “for 50-plus years,” but doesn’t explicitly say that she approves of a similar situation in Iraq. She might just be counseling caution to those who, in 2005, had already seen enough of the war. Her argument might be, in other words, “Look, other conflicts have taken decades. Let’s be patient.”

But this situation does raise new questions Clinton should answer. Did she ever support a 50-year occupation, or think of it as one of many acceptable outcomes? When and why did she switch to her current position?

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