Bill Clinton Says He Opposed Iraq War from Start (UPDATED)
Bill Clinton, who as president committed the country to a policy of regime change in Iraq, now claims he was opposed to the Iraq war “from the beginning,” Patrick Healy reports for the NYT.
During a campaign swing for his wife, former President Bill Clinton said flatly yesterday that he opposed the war in Iraq “from the beginning” — a statement that is more absolute than his comments before the invasion in March 2003.
Before the invasion, Mr. Clinton did not precisely declare that he opposed the war. A week before military action began, however, he did say that he preferred to give weapons inspections more time and that an invasion was not necessary to topple Saddam Hussein. At the same time, he also spoke supportively about the 2002 Senate resolution that authorized military action against Iraq.
Advisers to Mr. Clinton said yesterday that he did oppose the war, but that it would have been inappropriate at the time for him, a former president, to oppose — in a direct, full-throated manner — the sitting president’s military decision.
Mr. Clinton has said several times since the war began that he would not have attacked Iraq in the manner that President Bush had done. As early as June 2004, he said, “I would not have done it until after Hans Blix finished the job,” referring to the weapons inspections there before the war.
Mr. Clinton’s remark yesterday came in the context of opposition to Republican-backed tax cuts for wealthy Americans like himself, and how that loss of revenue affected financing for the military.
“Even though I approved of Afghanistan and opposed Iraq from the beginning, I still resent that I was not asked or given the opportunity to support those soldiers,” Mr. Clinton said.
ABC’s Ed O’Keefe suggests the former president is rewriting history.
Clinton has long been critical of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and called it a “big mistake” as far back as November of 2005.
But like his wife, the former president supported giving President Bush the authority needed to go to war.
“I supported the President when he asked the Congress for authority to stand up against weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,” said Clinton in 2003 while delivering commencement remarks at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Miss.
Clinton enthusiast Oliver Willis is more blunt, calling the statement “a load of bull.”
DavidL @ BitsBlog believes this one is so silly that it tarnishes Clinton’s reputation for being a good liar.
Hillary Clinton’s Fact Hub site, though, provides several quotes, including one from March 2003, supporting Bill’s contention that he opposed invasion while supporting regime change.
Steve Gilbert goes them one better, quoting Bill Clinton’s lengthy 1998 argument for military action against Iraqi WMD.
It’s largely picking nits, since Bill Clinton wasn’t a decision maker. His position was that of many Democrats: Let’s give inspections a chance to work and then consider the military option. A goodly number, including Hillary Clinton, nonetheless voted in support of the use of force resolution which authorized President Bush to go to war. Bill Clinton acknowledges that he also supported that resolution.
Essentially, then, it puts the Clintons in much the same position as John McCain and most of the Republicans running for the nomination: Authorizing the war but saying they’d have conducted it better.
Regardless of whether Bill Clinton is now fibbing it’s rather bizarre to think that people will base their judgment on whether to make his wife commander-in-chief based on what he now claims he was thinking five years ago. Is he suggesting that Hillary’s vote in favor of the war resolution is immaterial because she’d listen to him were she elected? Or is it just all about him?
From a sheer political standpoint, I’m not sure how this helps, either. It just reminds Democrats that the Clintons didn’t speak out forcefully against the war.
ObWi’s Publius is more resolved than ever against voting for another Clinton.
[T]he Clintons are so scarred that they’re scared. Nothing bold will come from a second Clinton administration — and there’s a non-negligible chance that she’ll be pressured into doing something hawkishly stupid on the foreign policy front. Whether the flaw is action or inaction, the reason will be the same — they are intensely, neurotically afraid of appearing too liberal. The scars cut too deep.
Certainly, this gives Barack Obama more leverage on the war issue.
Photo credit: David Lienemann/ Associated Press
A surprise guest at the meeting was Bill Clinton, whose agenda seemed to be protecting his wife. But things didn’t work out quite as planned. When Guy Saperstein, a retired lawyer from Oakland, asked Clinton if Democrats who supported the war should apologize, the former President “went f***ing ballistic,” according to Saperstein. Forget Hillary, Clinton said angrily during a ten-minute rant; if I was in Congress I would’ve voted for the war. “It was an extraordinary display of anger and imperiousness,” Saperstein says.
Of course, it’s possible to be simultaneously opposed to a war and yet vote for it based on political calculations. It’s not the ideal position for claiming the moral high ground, however.