The U.S. military could spend 100 years in Iraq if the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is the next commander in chief, said Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) during an Iraq policy speech on Monday at the Marvin Center on the George Washington University campus.
With the five-year anniversary of the start of the Iraq War approaching this week, Clinton said Iraqi and U.S. government officials have indicated that substantial progress has not made been made in Iraq. But Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is now on a visit to Iraq, has said he thinks troops could be in the country for a century.
"Despite the evidence, President (George W.) Bush is determined to continue his failed policy in Iraq until he leaves office and Sen. McCain will gladly accept the torch and stay the course keeping troops in Iraq up to 100 years if necessary," said Clinton, who promises troop withdrawal. "They both want to keep us tied to another country's civil war - a war we cannot win."
Bush authorized a troop surge of more than 100,000 soldiers in early 2007 to help quell the growing insurgency in Iraq and has said the surge is improving conditions in Iraq. McCain has supported the troop surge and the continued presence of the U.S. military in Iraq.
Clinton said continuing the war could cost the U.S. government more than $1 trillion and additional troops have been ineffective.
"The point of the surge was to give the Iraqis the time and space for political reconciliation yet today the Iraqi government has failed to provide basic services for its citizens," Clinton said.
She added, "We could have hundreds of thousands of troops on the ground for 100 years, but that will not change the fact that there is no military solution to the situation in Iraq."
The New York senator and her Democratic opponent, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, have both made immediate troop withdrawal a major pillar of their platforms.
Obama has campaigned on withdrawing all combat brigades from Iraq within 16 months of becoming president. Clinton has been less specific on when all U.S. troops will be gone from Iraq. She said she would begin withdrawing troops within the first 60 days of her presidency, but would keep a small contingent of troops in Iraq to fight al-Qaida.
"The reality is that this war has made the terrorists stronger," Clinton said. "Well, they may not have been in Iraq before the war, they are there now, and we cannot allow Iraq to become a breeding ground and safe haven for terrorists who seek to attack us and our friends and allies. So let me be clear - under my plan, withdrawing from Iraq will not mean retreating from fighting terrorism in Iraq."
Clinton said she would also root out armed private security contractors in Iraq, which she said Obama has opposed.
"For five years their behavior and lack of supervision and accountability have often eroded our credibility, endangered U.S. and Iraqi lives and undermined our mission," she said.
Despite her plan to withdraw troops, the New York senator promised not to forget about the Iraqi people and will work with the international community to stabilize the country without a strong U.S. military presence.
"We'll empower local leaders and use U.S. and international influence to press the Iraqis to reach political reconciliation, and I will call on the United Nations to strengthen its role in promoting this reconciliation," she said.
The Iraq policy speech on Monday was her third event at the University in three weeks. On Feb. 25, she gave a foreign policy speech at Jack Morton Auditorium and later hosted a fundraiser at Lisner Auditorium.
"I believe our campus provides an ideal venue for Sen. Clinton's address this morning,&qot; University President Steven Knapp said. "Our university here at the heart of the nation's capital has been judged to have the most politically engaged student body in the nation."
Despite the spring break vacation, about 100 GW students came to see Clinton speak on Monday.
"I am glad she came to GW," said Student Association Sen. Nathan Brill (SoB-U), a senior. "I think it is an appropriate setting."
© 2008 The GW Hatchet via U-WIRE