Clinton: Cut Iraq Funding To Force Change

Hillary Clinton, Face The Nation, 09/23/2007 CBS

Congress should stop funding the Iraq war to force President Bush and the Iraqi government to "change course," Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., said Sunday on Face The Nation.

"No matter how heroically and dedicated the performance of our young men and women and their officers are in Iraq - which it has been - they cannot referee successfully a sectarian civil war," Clinton told Bob Schieffer. "So I voted against funding last spring. I will vote against funding again in the absence of any change in policy."

President Bush has said that, by setting deadlines for withdrawal and cutting funding, Congress will embolden America's enemies. Clinton, however, said, "The idea that our having a policy that reflects the reality on the ground will embolden enemies, I think is off base. They have been emboldened by the policies pursued by this administration."

The junior Senator from New York pointed to continued nuclear development by Iran and North Korea - and reported cooperation between Syria and North Korea - as evidence of U.S. enemies growing stronger.

Clinton said, if elected president, she would set deadlines for withdrawing the majority of U.S. combat troops from Iraq, but said there would be a continuing American military presence in Iraq.

"I am committed to bringing the vast majority of our troops home, and I will begin to do that as soon as I am president," Clinton, the early front-runner for the Democratic nomination, said.

Clinton said she recognized "there will be remaining missions" for American forces in Iraq, but she said they would not require the roughly 100,000 troops expected to be in Iraq when the next president takes office. She listed counterterrorism, protecting U.S. personnel and training Iraqi forces as the other missions.

"That's the right way to go because that is a much clearer definition of what we're trying to accomplish than what we face today," Clinton said.

Mr. Bush has compared America's future in Iraq to the peacekeeping role U.S. troops play in South Korea, where they have been stationed for some five decades, but Clinton said that she would review the basis for Mr. Bush's plans.

"I'm going to call my secretary of defense, my joint chiefs of staff, my security advisers to give me a full briefing on what is the planning that has gone on in the Pentagon," she said. "You know, planning hasn't exactly been a strong suit of the Bush administration."

John Harris, the Editor in Chief of politico.com, noted that, while Clinton was presenting a strong platform for her presidential campaign, she was leaving herself plenty of wiggle room.

"You can see her preserving her options," Harris told Schieffer. She's not promising figures or saying that we're going to have a complete exit in January of 2009. That's something a future president wants to do: preserve flexibility."

David Sanger, chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times, said that Clinton's plans for Iraq sounded very similar to President Bush's.

"It's a very small difference, and when you tick off the tasks she said the troops would do while she was president - if that happened - counterterrorism, protection of the Kurds, training of the Iraqi army and then protecting us against Iran, that's a big set of tasks," Sanger said. "And it's very hard when you talk to Pentagon people to have them figure out how you do that with fewer than 100,000 troops."
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