Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., has called for limiting the number of American troops in Iraq and tying funds for the country's security to the government's ability to quell violence. The senator discusses her views on the Iraq war.
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Sen. Clinton, welcome.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), New York: Thank you very much.
There has been so much debate over the Iraq war in recent days. The president characterized it as expedited failure, the choices, versus slow failure, what had been happening before. And now there is all this action and reaction on the Hill.
You were there over this past weekend. Would you describe the war as perhaps already lost?
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON:
You know, Gwen, I think that certainly our strategy has not succeeded, and I don't think there's any doubt about that anywhere, including in the White House.
The question is, what do we do now going forward? And the president's proposal to add 21,500 troops in an escalation of the combat situation is not going to work.
In the absence of a comprehensive approach that tries to put some pressure on the Maliki government to do the kinds of actions, to create some political resolution, to deal with the oil revenues, to reverse the de-Baathification, all of that has to be done, and so far there have been no consequences extracted from this government.
They get open-ended commitments from the Bush administration. You know, for more than a year-and-a-half, I've been in favor of phased redeployment of our troops, bringing them home as quickly as possible, but based on a comprehensive strategy that looked at the diplomatic, political, and economic challenges and, frankly, exerted some leverage on the Iraqis who have to take these actions if any possible salvage can be made of this situation.
You talk about exerting leverage on the Iraqis. You met with Premier al-Maliki this weekend when you were there, and he gave an interview yesterday in which he said, "Hey, if the Americans give us enough troops and give us enough armor, then we will be able to be done with them in three or six months, or at least we'll be able to take charge."
Based on the kind of conversation you had with him, do you think that's possible?
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON:
Well, it certainly is what a number of members of his government, particularly the Shia representatives, want. They want the United States to get out of the way so they can try to exert what they view as their greater power, using their allies within the militias that are controlled by members of the parliament and the government, even unleashing the death squads, and, frankly, using elements of the Iraqi security forces who would be in favor of a sectarian outcome.
I returned from this visit — my third — and said, "Look, we have to cap the number of American troops, make it very clear we're not putting more American troops into this sectarian war."
We, instead, are going to set forth one last time the actions we expect from the Maliki government and, instead of cutting funding for American troops, which I do not support, because still to this day we don't have all of the equipment, the armored Humvees and the rest that our troops need, instead of cutting funding to American troops, cut the funding to the Iraqi forces and to the security forces, often private contractors that we pay for to protect the members of this government.
We have to do something to get their attention, in order to force them to deal with the political, and the economic, and the diplomatic pieces of the puzzle that confronts us.