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Clinton: Continuing Bush Iraq Policy is "Irresponsible"

From CBS News' Fernando Suarez:

WASHINGTON -- During today's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Hillary Clinton called continuing the Bush Administration's policies in Iraq "irresponsible" and said the Bush strategy in Iraq has "not produced the results that we have been promised time and time again, at such tremendous cost to our national security and to the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States military."

Clinton, who sits on the committee with John McCain, took the opportunity under the spotlight to hammer the Bush Administration's handling of the war, including President Bush's decision to increase the number of American troops in Iraq.

"The purpose of the surge, as described by Bush administration, was to create the space for the Iraqis to engage in reconciliation and to make significant political progress," Clinton said.

"However, since Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker last testified in September, even Gen. Petraeus, as recently as three and a half weeks ago, has acknowledged that the Iraqi government has not made sufficient political progress."

Clinton pressed the four-star general, asking Petraeus what it would take for him to recommend to the president to start bringing the troops home.

"What conditions would have to exist for you to recommend to the president that the current strategy is not working? And it seems apparent that you have a conditions based analysis, as you set forth in your testimony, but the conditions are unclear, they certainly lack specificity, and the decision points with respect to these conditions are also vague."

Gen. Petraeus, who sat unfazed throughout the questioning said simply, "It's not a mathematical exercise. There's not an equation in which you have coefficients in front of each of these factors. It's not as mechanical as that."

For months, Clinton has been an outspoken critic of President Bush's negotiations with the Iraqi government over a long-term security pact, primarily because President Bush is not required to submit the pact for Congress' approval, despite the fact that Iraqi officials intend to submit the pact to their own parliament. Clinton asked Crocker why the President does not plan to include the Congress in the negotiations.

"We do not anticipate that the agreements will have any elements within them that would require the advise and consent procedure. The intent to negotiate is as an executive procedure," Crocker said.

"Well Ambassador Crocker," Clinton responded, "it seems odd to Americans who are being asked to commit for an indefinite period of time the lives of our young men and women in uniform, the civilian employees – whom you rightly referenced and thanked - as well as billions of dollars of additional tax payer dollars if the Iraqi parliament may have a chance to consider this agreement and the United States Congress would not...I would urge you to submit such an agreement to the Congress for full consideration."

Although Clinton's campaign schedule was halted so that she could participate in today's hearing, prior to it, Clinton spoke to a union crowd at hotel near the Capitol.

Clinton continued pushing her campaign theme that she is a fighter and will continue to fight to stay in the race. Clinton told the Communications Workers Association members, "You know what it's like to fight for the underdog. You know what its like to stand up, to keep going under some terrific odds. You know what its like to be told to go away, to quit. I know what that's like too."

"You keep going and so do I, because we're fighting for what's right, we're fighting for the very future of America and that is not a cause that is for the faint-hearted, that is not a cause for those who get discouraged for a little criticism, that is a cause that all of us must be a part of."

Clinton resumes her campaign schedule tomorrow with one event in Johnstown, Pa., before flying to New York for a fund-raiser hosted by Elton John.