Clinton Integrity Challenged: Distorts Iraq War Position

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[Elections 2008: Commentary]


In the aftermath of yet more imbroglios over Senator Hillary Clinton’s integrity—her “misstatements” about being under sniper fire during a 1996 trip to Bosnia and, more recently, about a pregnant woman dying without health insurance in Ohio—it has become all the more important to differentiate the Presidential candidate’s actual record in the U.S. Senate from the spin of her campaign.

The gaps are often troubling—and no more so than in the case of Clinton’s duplicitous dance regarding her now infamous vote authorizing the U.S. war with Iraq.

Senator Clinton has long been a master at deflecting criticism and manipulating the media away from her failures and shortcomings, and she has done so quite deftly in reconstructing her 2002 vote authorizing the U.S. war in Iraq. She has never said she was wrong, nor issued an apology for her vote.

Instead, she has distanced herself from her significant role in supporting the war and has blamed President Bush for his “mistakes” and for “misleading” Congress about intelligence assessments regarding Saddam Hussein. In recent weeks, she has asserted that her record on the war is better than Senator Barack Obama’s, because while she has “made decisions,” he has “just made speeches.”

Moreover, Clinton has repeatedly claimed that her position represented “a sincere vote based on the facts and assurances that I had at the time.” Another variation on the same theme has her claiming, “Knowing what we know now, I would never have voted for it.”

These distortions of the historical record are staggering.

As was documented by authors Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta, Jr., in their critical biography, Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator Clinton failed to read the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the situation in Iraq available to all members of Congress.

NIE reports are produced by the National Intelligence Council and express the coordinated judgments 16 U.S. intelligence agencies on issues of national security. The 90-page NIE report on Iraq called into serious question President Bush’s claims about the existence of weapons of mass destruction and also about Saddam Hussein’s links to Al Qaeda.

Incredibly, Senate records make clear that Clinton did not read the NIE report before casting her vote. She can reconstruct the facts now, more than six years later, to suit her favor, but Clinton’s failure to do her homework in the Senate calls lie to her claim that she cast her vote based on the best information available to her. She can’t blame President Bush for her vote; she can only blame herself. Indeed, she was one of the President’s chief accomplices.

Twenty-three senators voted against the Senate resolution that fateful day in October of 2002. At least one, Robert Graham of Florida, changed his vote because of the information he read in the NIE report. He urged his colleagues, including Senator Clinton, to read it as well. “I was able to apply caveat emptor,” he later acknowledged in referencing his vote opposing the resolution. Hillary Clinton was not.

Moreover, Senator Clinton also failed to support a Senate amendment to the resolution authored by Carl Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, which would have forced Bush to engage in diplomatic efforts at the United Nations before embarking on the war.

And how did she couch those votes? Her speech from the Senate floor that day left no room for doubt or equivocation. “This is probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make,” she declared, “but I cast it with conviction.”

With conviction.

She claimed that “the facts that have brought us to this fateful vote are not in doubt,” asserting that they were “undisputed.”

“So it is with conviction,” she repeated, “that I support this resolution as being in the best interests of our nation.”

The best interests of our nation? Hardly.

With 4,000 Americans dead, tens of thousands more wounded, a shattered economy, and a political quagmire of historic proportions facing the U.S., Senator Clinton’s irresponsible and uninformed vote authorizing the war in Iraq unequivocally calls into question her abilities to lead this nation out of the war with Iraq that she, in fact, helped to create.

Senator Clinton may not be lacking in conviction; but when it comes to integrity, she is severely challenged.

Award-winning filmmaker and journalist Geoffrey Dunn, Ph. D., is the former recipient of a both a John L. Senior Fellowship to the Cornell University Graduate School of Government and a National Newspaper Association Award for Investigative Journalism. His most recent film is
Calypso Dreams.


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