Twelve long years after Hillary Clinton voted to give George W. Bush the authorization to invade and botch Iraq, she has finally ‘fessed up that she screwed up.
Twelve long years after Hillary Clinton voted to give George W. Bush the authorization to invade and botch Iraq, making her complicit in his neoconservative nightmare, she has finally ‘fessed up that she screwed up.
It’s right there in her new book, when she briefly recounts her most consequential senatorial act: “(M)any senators came to wish they had voted against the resolution. I was one of them. As the war dragged on, with every letter I sent to a family in New York who had lost a son or daughter, a father or mother, my mistake became more painful. 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.”
Better late than never, I suppose. She probably should’ve confessed her grievous error back in 2007, if only to bond the liberal Democratic base; she didn’t do it, fearing that Republicans would brand her a flip-flopper. But her refusal pumped oxygen into upstart Barack Obama’s long-shot candidacy, allowing him to outflank her on the left. You know the rest of the story. It’s not a stretch to suggest that Obama might not be president today had she said then what she’s finally saying now.
And we have to assume Hillary is saying it now because she’s indeed mapping a ’16 presidential bid, and is seeking, at the pre-starting gate, to dispel all lingering liberal suspicions (liberals vote heavily in the Democratic primaries). Even though the war is already a distant memory for most Americans (unlike for the Iraqis, who are still living and dying with the sectarian chaos we unleashed), Hillary doesn’t want to be outflanked on the left again. Which is why her book passage has been crafted to cleanse her of all remaining Iraq stigmata.
Contrast her newly voiced contrition (“I was wrong”) with what she said while stumping for primary votes in ’07: “If we knew then what we know now, I would never have voted to give this president the authority….I understand that some people disagree or think it’s not adequate, but it’s what I believe.” Back then, she contended that she had voted Yes on the assumption that Bush would keep sending inspectors to Iraq, not that he would actually invade – and prosecute the war so incompetently.
So, by admitting error, Hillary has definitely moved the needle – but not entirely.
Take another look at her book passage. She still maintains that she “made the best decision I could with the information I had,” referring to allegations that Saddam Hussein had WMDs. But she’s being disingenuous, because back in ’02 she reportedly failed to read all the available information. In other words, she voted Yes based on the information she had; her information suggested that Saddam possessed WMDs. But she didn’t read the material that disputed whether Saddam had any at all.
Her failure has been well documented. Hillary never read the 92-page classified National Intelligence Estimate – made available to all senators – some of which threw cold water on the WMD theory. As Democratic senator and Intelligence Committee chairman Bob Graham later wrote, the document “contained vigorous dissents on key parts of (Bush’s WMD claims), especially by the departments of State and Energy. Particular skepticism was raised about aluminum tubes that were offered as evidence that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program.”
Moreover, according to Graham, the NIE said that “most of the alleged (WMD) intelligence came from Iraqi exiles or third countries, all of which had an interest in the United States’ removing Hussein, by force if necessary.” And the document strongly disputed Bush’s bogus claim that Hussein was linked to Al Qaeda.
Who knows, maybe Hillary would’ve ultimately voted Yes even if she had read the NIE. After all, she didn’t want to come off like a national security softy (a political calculation), and she was fairly hawkish anyway (and still is). I guess we’ll never know. But it’s a stretch for her to imply, even now, that her decision was based on the best intel. It clearly was not.
And if she does run again, she may well be asked how she plans to avoid such mistakes – how she plans to handle war-and-peace intel more effectively – if she were to become commander-in-chief.
In other news:
Oy gevalt! In a GOP primary shocker last night, a tea-party guy named David Brat knocked off House Majority Leader Eric Cantor – which means that the number of Jewish House Republicans will soon be reduced by a whopping 100 percent. What a party. It can’t even sow diversity among its white people.Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1