The Democratic presidential candidates jumped straight into offense on international terrorism Saturday night -- one day after the the violent attacks in Paris claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
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Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley cut quickly to the invasion of Iraq and sought to fault Hillary Clinton for her vote on Iraq, her actions on foreign policy as secretary of state, and comments she made on the debate stage about the growth of terror groups including ISIS.
Asked whether she and the Obama administration underestimated the threat from ISIS, Clinton responded, "I don't think that the United States has the bulk of the responsibility. I really put that on Assad and on the Iraqis and on the region itself."
And she blamed then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for "decimating" the Iraqi army that had been trained to defend Iraq.
But Sanders suggested that the U.S. had left a power vacuum waiting to be filled. "[T]he disastrous invasion of Iraq has unraveled the region completely and led to the rise of al Qaeda and to ISIS," he said.
And it wasn't just Iraq, Sanders argued. He pointed to a long U.S. history of pushing for regime change in countries like el Salvador and Guatemala.
"These toppling of governments, regime changes have unintended consequences," he said. "On this issue I'm a little bit more conservative than the secretary and I am not a great fan of regime change."
Martin O'Malley also took issue with Clinton's characterization of the limits of U.S. responsibility in containing ISIS.
"We do have a role in this, not solely ours, but we must work collaboratively with other nations," O'Malley said. The former Maryland governor also asserted that the U.S. needs to invest in better human intelligence, and called upon Americans to stand by their Muslim neighbors.
The former Secretary of State said she intends to lay out a plan about how she wants to take on ISIS with American allies, insisting that while it cannot be an American fight, American leadership is essential.
"We need to have a resolve that will bring the world together to root out the kind of radical jihadist ideaology that motivates organizations like ISIS," Clinton said.
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