Between Iraq And A Hard Choice

Unrest in Iraq

In her campaign book Hard Choices, Hillary Clinton offers a mea kinda culpa on her vote in favor of the Iraq War:

According to CBS News, which obtained a copy of her book, she says: “I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple.”

Note the lack of an outright apology – or a broader statement about the appalling human cost of that wrong call. And that’s particularly worth pondering as Iraq returns to the entropy of endless, sectarian warfare in the wake of the US invasion and occupation. Civilian deaths doubled in 2013 and show no signs of abating. Larison looks at Clinton’s broader instincts in foreign policy and remains unimpressed:

One might think that a supposedly chastened Iraq war supporter would be considerably more skeptical about pursuing regime change overseas or more reluctant to support the use of force after having erred so badly on the biggest foreign policy vote of her Senate career, but that hasn’t happened. In every internal administration debate, Clinton sided with the hawks that wanted the more aggressive policy, and this also conveniently aligned her with whatever the purveyors of conventional wisdom in Washington thought ought to be done.

Her explanation that she cast that vote “in good faith” troubles Beinart, who interprets that to mean that she probably didn’t read the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s WMDs:

Would reading the classified NIE have changed Clinton’s vote? Maybe not. Even after reading the classified version, Rockefeller and Dianne Feinstein still voted to authorize war. And some intelligence analysts familiar with the classified NIE claim it was a biased, shoddy document that, like its unclassified cousin, bent over backward to prove that Iraq was pursuing WMD. Perhaps most importantly of all, Clinton’s own national-security confidantes—including Iraq expert Kenneth Pollack—believed the WMD claims. It’s hard to imagine she would have overruled them, even if the classified NIE had given her pause.

Still, Clinton’s failure to read the document means her book’s claim that she “made the best decision I could with the information I had” is probably untrue. … How could someone renowned for doing her homework have failed to do so on the most important vote of her Senate career? Clinton’s Iraq apology notwithstanding, it’s a question worth asking if she runs for president again

To which Larison drily replies:

For someone in Clinton’s position in 2002, there was nothing easier than to fall in line with other liberal hawks and vote yes. There was no incentive for her to “do her homework” and probably not much interest, because it was taken for granted among all “serious” people in Washington that Iraq still had WMD programs and that Hussein had to be removed from power. This is what makes Clinton’s preferred phrase of “hard choices” so laughable: on the most significant foreign policy vote she cast as a member of Congress, Clinton took the easiest way out.

PM Carpenter asks what took her so long to admit this:

To this day I’m perplexed at how such a mighty political machine as Clinton’s could have got so much so wrong.

Hillary’s Iraq war vote was not, politically speaking, what she got wrong. It’s a sad reality–always has been, always will be–that all too many pols are willing to sell others’ lives for an ephemeral bit of a jingoistic self-bump. Hillary scarcely invented cold-heartedness. No, politically speaking, what she got wrong, what she utterly misread, was 1) the potential power of the opposition (Obama) and 2) the deep current of antiwar temperament in her own party and 3) the price she’d pay for refusing to admit error, as, it seems, she’ll do next week upon release of her memoirs.

That’s a lot to get wrong, which is worrisome. The long delay in getting it right is also worrisome. But at least it’s a start.

(Photo: According the spokesperson of Fallujah General Hospital, Wissam al-Issawi (not seen), 4 bodies and 5 people, injured in an operation staged by Iraqi forces to the civilian targets, are taken to the hospital in Fallujah, Iraq on June 8, 2014. A view of the attacked area is seen. By Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.)