At CFR; December 15, 2003

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"At CFR; December 15, 2003"

Excerpts from a fairly long and detailed speech:

Turning to Iraq, yesterday was a good day. I was thrilled that Saddam Hussein had finally been captured. Like many of you, I was glued to the television and the radio as I went about my daily business. We owe a great debt of gratitude to our troops, to the president, to our intelligence services, to all who had a hand in apprehending Saddam. Now he will be brought to justice, and we hope that the prospects for peace and stability in Iraq will improve.

I was especially pleased that the capture was led by the 4th Infantry Division, whom I visited in Kirkuk and had a a briefing from the commander, General Odierno, and during that briefing was given some insights into the efforts to apprehend Saddam. And it’s very good news indeed that they have come to fruition.

This General Odierno, let’s recall. Moving onwards:

This moment, however, cannot be just about congratulating ourselves and the Iraqi people for this capture. It should be a moment where we step back and consider how now to go forward. What is it we can do today, based on the circumstances of yesterday, that will strengthen our hand and move the Iraqis closer to a time when they can have self-government and create a stable, free, democratic Iraq?

I was one who supported giving President Bush the authority, if necessary, to use force against Saddam Hussein. I believe that that was the right vote. I have had many disputes and disagreements with the administration over how that authority has been used, but I stand by the vote to provide the authority because I think it was a necessary step in order to maximize the outcome that did occur in the Security Council with the unanimous vote to send in inspectors. And I also knew that our military forces would be successful. But what we did not appreciate fully and what the administration was unprepared for was what would happen the day after.

It has been a continuing theme of my criticism and others that we would be further along, we would have more legitimacy, we would diminish the opposition and resentment that is fueling whatever remains of the insurgency if we had been willing to move to internationalize our presence and further action in Iraq. I believe that today. And in fact, I think that we now have a new opportunity for the administration to do just that.

I suppose you could subject this to some tortured readings but, again, the position seems fairly clear. Clinton voted to give Bush the authority to launch a war, knowing full well what she was doing. She has various disagreements with Bush’s conduct of the war, but not with the basic strategic logic underpinning it. In December 2003, she continues to support the war and to support the president’s maximalist war aims of “a stable, free, democratic Iraq.”

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