Let us accept that Senator Clinton means it when she says that if she knew then what she knows now, she would not have voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq. It seems fair then to judge her performance since that vote to see what may be learned about her governing philosophy or her political tendencies.
She said that the case for the use of force was credible. This brief will mention, but put to the side a number of factors which should have given her more pause than they did:
1. The people making this â€œcredibleâ€ case were the same ones who, at least by a preponderance of the evidence, had such little regard for the dictates of integrity and the democratic process that they conspired to steal, and stole, the 2000 election, a fact of which she should have been aware no later than September 11, 2001. She has yet to express concern about this bit of recent history.
2. In 1998, the Project for a New American Century, whose most famous names include Cheney, Rumsfeld, Libby, Wolfowitz and Perle, published â€œRebuilding Americaâ€™s Defensesâ€ a treatise that encourages the projection of American power around the world, but particularly in the Middle East, in order to assure US access to oil. In other words, the men and women housed within the Administration had a clear and public agenda of which the invasion of Iraq was an integral part. The same group called upon President Clinton to make regime change in Iraq part of his foreign policy, which he did. One can question whether this fact suggests Senator Clintonâ€™s agreement with the policies outlined in â€œRebuilding Americaâ€™s Defenses.â€
3. Whereas Pearl Harbor and the Kennedy Assassination were followed by the immediate establishment of an official commission of inquiry, the Bush Administration refused to investigate 9/11 and was publicly stonewalling investigative efforts during the run-up to war. The question arises; why the cover-up? Would honest, innocent, and credible actors behave in such a way?â€
4. President Bush, in his speech in Cincinnati, Ohio on October 7, 2002 made numerous references to a supposed connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq, none of which were of any substance whatever (common enemies, Al Qaeda leaders having at some point been in Iraq, supposed glee within the Iraqi regime at the attacks of 9/11), while making no reference to the fact that the principal alleged Al Qaeda connection to Iraq, the training of terrorists on Iraqi soil, involved the Kurdish region, entirely out of the control of Saddam Hussein. When a proponent makes a weak argument for a powerful notion, interested parties should be extremely wary. When there is actually deception involved, as when Bush obscured the fact that the Kurds were in control of the region where the terrorist training was supposedly taking place, a further heightened awareness seems appropriate.
Be the above facts as they may…
In setting out a case against Senator Clintonâ€™s performance with regard to the Iraq war after her vote to authorize force, one is in essence asking the question, â€œwhen should she have realized she had been duped?â€ Or, â€œwhen should she have realized that the Administration was not to be trusted for any purpose?â€ There seems to be plenty of good reason to be extremely wary at the conclusion of the State of the Union Address. It is axiomatic that utterances by the President at any time are enormously important and studied in considerable detail by all members of government. The State of the Union, when used to prepare a nation for war, demands and gets, an enhanced level of scrutiny. Even if Senator Clinton did nothing to reconsider her vote between October and January, arguably a serious dereliction of duty given the facts as set out above, she should have been alert to additional factors in support of war that the President presented in the State of the Union Address.
There she would have found a reference to Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium from Niger. Since that fact was not contained in the speech the President gave in Cincinnati a week before the vote to authorize the use of force, Senator Clinton should have been driven to ask where that information came from and why there had been no mention of the fact in the Cincinnati speech. It is a simple matter to suggest, in hindsight, that, at least behind the scenes, she should have been getting to the bottom of this new piece of evidence. But is it wrong to make the suggestion here? After all, she had voted for the use of force based on an apparently weaker case. Should she not be interested in using that additional bit of evidence to assuage the concerns of her less-ready-to-employ-force constituents? In that process vital questions could have been asked whose answers appeared too late, but with electricity, in July. It was then that the country learned that the Niger story was based on forged documents and that one of the Administrationâ€™s most ardent supporters, Robert Novak, had announced the identity and status of a covert operative as a CIA agent.
There appear only a few choices here as one attempts to understand the actions and political proclivities of Hillary Clinton. Either she understands what was, and had been, taking place, that the Administration had very little in the way of boundaries for its conduct with respect to pursuing the war in Iraq, and, as a seasoned pragmatist, that was fine with her, or she was asleep at the switch. The other possibility, that she knew how bereft of moral compass and scruples the Bush Administration was, did not approve, but judged that her political position was improved by keeping her mouth shut, she betting that the war would work out just fine, cannot be overlooked.
Shots now having been fired, in fact mission having been announced â€œaccomplished,â€ what is the duty of a United States Senator when she learns, maybe for the first time, that some entity had decided it appropriate to forge documents in pursuit of an American war plan? Is it simply hindsight that requires an investigation? Did Senator Clinton request one, or conduct one? And what of the innumerable occasions in the succeding months and years, from the publishing of the Downing Street memo to the many false suggestions that Saddam had anything to do with 9/11, where the Administrationâ€™s false case for war was exposed? Can it not be said that the locomotive of public disapproval had gained irresistible momentum by the time the delinquent senator decided to give voice to her concerns? In fact, it was not until November 29, 2005 that Senator Clinton acknowledged publicly that her vote was an error based upon faulty intelligence. Did it actually take her that long to figure it out, or was she discerning the better part of political valor?
Hillary Clinton should have known that the people of this country were being manipulated whenever the suggestion that Saddam had something to do with 9/11 was allowed to be heard in public discourse. The question of whether she is in some part responsible given the contents of her floor speech concerning her vote, that Saddam had given aid and comfort to Al Qaeda, is worthy of consideration since the bulk of it parrots the ideas so dishonestly thrust forward by the Administrationâ€™s executive officer, if not heart, mind, and soul, Dick Cheney. That there are United States military OFFICERS in Iraq who justify their presence there as an act of self-defense or legitimate retaliation is a crime of unconscionable proportion. Hillary Clinton should be held accountable for her acquiescence in its commission..