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Clinton Once Criticized Iraq Policy Being Driven By Politics

The politics of war.

Posted on January 8, 2014, at 10:51 a.m. ET

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A new book by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates alleges that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted she opposed the Iraq troop surge for political reasons as she faced Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.

But a few years before Clinton herself as a U.S. senator in 2003 criticized what she saw as U.S. policy in Iraq being driven by a political agenda.

"Hillary told the president that her opposition to the [2007] surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary," Gates writes. "The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying."

Here's the transcript of a December 2003 exchange between Clinton and Katie Couric on NBC's Today Show where Clinton criticizes what she perceives is the Bush administration shifting Iraq strategy based on politics. Clinton had just returned from a Thanksgiving weekend tour of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq with Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.).

Couric: Well let me ask you about that exit strategy, because it's been controversial, the notion of having caucuses and indirect elections rather than direct elections has been criticized by the head Shiite cleric and many, obviously, Iraqis are Shiites. Do you think an exit strategy is being crafted at sort of the risk of not establishing a true democracy in Iraq?

Clinton: Well, I think an exit strategy, unfortunately, is being driven by our political calendar, not necessarily what's in the best interest of a long-term stable Iraq. And that's one of the reasons why bringing the U.N. in would be a benefit for the Bush administration as well as the prospects for creating conditions that would lead to democracy. I hope that the administration takes these U.N. talks seriously that are going on. I hope that they will support a return of the United Nations, both in a capacity to determine the direction for self-government and to provide aid on the ground.

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