Hillary Clinton

December 10, 2007

Clinton calls for engagement in “serious diplomacy, using both carrots and sticks” with Iran

The NPR Democratic Debates (transcript) started off with a question posed to all candidates.

The Nation Intelligence Report which was released earlier in the week and said that Iran stopped their nuclear weapons program in 2003. President Bush announced the day of the debate that the findings of the NIE do not change the presidence opinion that Iran poses a threat to the world. The questions asked were,

do you agree with the president's assessment that Iran still poses a threat? And do you agree that the NIE's news shows that isolation and sanctions work?  For all of you — and let's go left to right across the radio dial — do you agree with the president's assessment that Iran still poses a threat? And do you agree that the NIE's news shows that isolation and sanctions work?

Senator Clinton was the first to answer.

Well, I'm relieved that the intelligence community has reached this conclusion, but I vehemently disagree with the president that nothing's changed and therefore nothing in American policy has to change.

I have for two years advocated diplomatic engagement with Iran, and I think that's what the president should do. He should seize this opportunity and engage in serious diplomacy, using both carrots and sticks. I think we do know that pressure on Iran does have an effect. I think that is an important lesson. But we're not going to reach the kind of resolution that we should seek unless we put that into the context of a diplomatic process.

Senator Clinton says “many of us believe that,” the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are proliferators of mass destruction and turned attention to Edwards and Obama

The following question was asked at the NPR debates (transcript):

Senator Clinton, as some of your opponents have noted, in September you voted on a resolution involving the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, which, among other things, called them proliferators of mass destruction. In view of this latest intelligence estimate, which says Iran's nuclear program was stopped in 2003, do you believe that's still true?

When Clinton failed to answer the question directly, moderator Steve Inskeep said, “Forgive me,” and reiterated the question, “are the Revolutionary Guards proliferators of mass destruction?”

Clinton responded,

Well, many of us believe that. You know, earlier this year, Senator Edwards told an audience in Israel that the nuclear threat from Iran was the greatest threat to our generation. Back in 2004, Senator Obama told the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board that he would even consider nuke — surgical strikes by missiles to take out Iran's nuclear capacity. So there was a very broadly based belief that they were pursuing a nuclear weapon.

Edwards responded in disagreement, though never addressing his comment to the Israeli audience, and said,

…It was important for us to stand up because what Bush and Cheney did after the vote in the Senate is they declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization and a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction.

Obama contended that Clinton took his quote out of context,

…what I was specifically asked about was if Iran was developing nuclear weapons, how could we respond? And in those situations, what I said is we should keep options on the table. But what I've been consistent about was … that we needed to oppose George Bush again.

November 20, 2007

Clinton Signs the Voter Guide for Peace & Security...



Noura Khouri, Peace Action West's Las Vegas organizer waded through the crowds to talk to Hillary Clinton about her support of residual troops and to ask what her exact plan for bringing troops home from Iraq was. Ms. Clinton would only say she would bring the troops “home as soon as possible”. She did however sign our platform and we continue to plan to continue our dialogue with Senator Clinton on important foreign policy issues.


November 16, 2007

CNN forces "diamonds or pearls" question over Iraq and nuclear waste

Maria Luisa Parra-Sandoval, a political science student at the University of Nevada, has been skewered in the media and on the internet for asking Hillary Clinton the superficial question, “do you prefer diamonds or pearls?” at last night's Democratic presidential debate.  It turns out that she tried and failed to ask more substantive questions that were nixed by CNN:

Last week, CNN had contacted Ms. Parra-Sandoval, a political science student at University of Las Vegas-Nevada, through a professor, and asked her to submit a question. She wrote one about health care for children. CNN rejected it, calling it too similar to another question that would be asked. So she sent another, about Iraq. That was rejected too. On Wednesday, a CNN producer asked her for two final questions, one substantive and one light. Ms. Parra-Sandoval sent one about Yucca Mountain, the Nevada site under consideration as a storage facility for radioactive waste. With the deadline approaching, she stared at her computer screen. Noticing the pearl-pattern background on her MySpace page, she dashed off the jewelry one.

CNN asked her to come to the debate with both questions memorized. Two hours in, a producer whispered that she should ask the second one.

“Because I was on national TV, I felt hesitant, but then I felt like, ‘Oh my God, I’m on national TV, I’ll just ask it,’” Ms. Parra-Sandoval said.

Now Ms. Parra-Sandoval is being accused, by everyone from bloggers to fellow students, of asking an airheaded, sexist question. On her MySpace page and in a phone interview, she protested that she tried to ask several substantive questions but that CNN would only let her participate through a silly one.

As we’ve been saying through our Voters for Peace and Security campaign, this is a critical time for voters to have accurate information about the person who will steer our foreign policy for the next four years.  We need to know which candidates will leave residual forces in Iraq, and if they will exhibit leadership in creating a nuclear-free world, starting with stopping the development of new nuclear weapons. Rather than engaging young voters who have well-thought out questions, CNN is encouraging the proliferation of superficial “debate.” Click here to tell CNN you’re outraged at the disservice they have done Ms. Parra-Sandoval and the American public.

Cross-posted on Groundswell.

November 07, 2007

Clinton deals with fallout from controversial Iran amendment at debate

In MSNBC's recent debate, Hillary Clinton was forced to go on the defensive regarding her vote last month to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a global terrorist entity. Clinton was forced to repeatedly deny any support of an attack on Iran.

Well, first of all, I am against a rush to war.  I was the first person on this stage and one of the very first in the Congress to go to the floor of the Senate back in February and say George Bush had no authority to take any military action in Iran.         

Secondly, I am not in favor of this rush for war, but I'm also not in favor of doing nothing. Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is in the forefront of that, as they are in the sponsorship of terrorism. So some may want a false choice between rushing to war -- which is the way the Republicans sound; it's not even a question of whether, it's a question of when and what weapons to use -- and doing nothing. I prefer vigorous diplomacy, and I happen to think economic sanctions are part of vigorous diplomacy. We use them with respect to North Korea. We use them with respect to Libya. And many of us who voted for that resolution said that this is not anything other than an expression of support for using economic sanctions with respect to diplomacy.

Chris Dodd, who voted against the amendment, saw things differently,

This issue is going to come back to haunt us. We all learned, some of us here painfully, back in 2002 that by voting for an authorization regarding Iraq, that despite the language of that resolution, which called for diplomacy at the time, this administration used that resolution, obviously, to pursue a very aggressive action in Iraq.

Joe Biden, who also voted “no”,  criticized the vote further,

Let's look at what happened from the moment that vote took place.      

Oil prices went up to $90 a barrel. Who benefits from that?  All this talk of war, all this talk of declaring people to be terrorists, drove up the price of oil.         

Secondly, we have emboldened Bush at a minimum. His talk of World War III, totally irresponsible talk. We've emboldened him, Tim, to be able to move if he chooses to move.  They're terrorists. The fact that they're terrorists on one side of the border or the other, we've just declared them terrorists.  That gives him the color of right to move against them.               

Thirdly, this has incredible consequences for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Nobody talks about this. Do 75 of our colleagues not understand?  We have now driven underground every moderate in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. This literally -- literally -- puts Karzai, as well as Musharraf, in jeopardy.            

The notion here is it plays into this whole urban legend that America is on a crusade against Islam. This was bad -- if nothing else happens, not another single thing, this was bad policy.

The president had the ability to do everything that that amendment, that resolution called for without us talking to it. And all it has done is hurt us, even if not another single action is taken. Actions  have consequences. Big nations can't bluff.

Barrack Obama was absent for the vote, but joined in criticizing the outcome of the vote,

I don't think we should be talking about attacking Iran at this point, for some of the reasons that Chris and Joe just talked about. Look, we have been seeing, during the Republican debates, the drumbeat of war. The president has been talking about World War III. That is a continuation of the kinds of foreign policy that rejects diplomacy and sees military action as the only tool available to us to influence the region. And what we should be doing is reaching out aggressively to our allies but also talking to our enemies and focusing on those areas where we do not accept their actions, whether it be terrorism or developing nuclear weapons, but also talking to Iran directly about the potential carrots that we can provide, in terms of them being involved in the World Trade Organization, or beginning to look at the possibilities of diplomatic relations being normalized.

We have not made those serious attempts. This kind of resolution does not send the right signal to the region. It doesn't send the right signal to our allies or our enemies, and as a consequence, I think over the long term it weakens our capacity to influence Iran.

John Edwards went further in his criticism,

Well, I just listened to what Senator Clinton said, and she said she wanted to maximize pressure on the Bush administration.  So the way to do that is to vote yes on a resolution that looks like it was written literally by the neocons?  I mean, has anyone read this thing?  I mean, it literally gave Bush and Cheney exactly what they wanted.      

It didn't just give them what they wanted; they acted on it.  A few weeks later, they declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization and -- this is going to sound very familiar remember from Iraq, the prelude to Iraq? -- proliferators of weapons of mass destruction.  The way you put pressure on this administration is you stand up to -- you say no.

A lot of us on this stage have learned our lessons the hard way, that you give this president an inch and he will take a mile. And this is about such an important issue, and we have to stand up to this president.  We need to make it absolutely clear that we have no intention of letting Bush, Cheney or this administration invade Iraq (sic) because they have been rattling the saber over and over and over.

And what this resolution did, written literally in the language of the neocons, is it enables this president to do exactly what he wants to do. He continues to march forward.  He continues to say this is a terrorist organization.  He continues to say these are proliferators    of weapons of mass destruction.  How in the world is that Democrats? We're not talking about Republicans now, Chris and Joe -- Democrats standing up to this president and saying no, we are not going to allow this; we are not going to allow this march to war in Iran.

Full debate transcript here.

“It’s all about Turkey, the Kurds…and Iran”. -Bill Clinton

In what is becoming characteristic of the Clinton campaign, Bill stood at the podium and gave a powerful speech which made the audience laugh, cheer and relate personally. During his speech, on Monday evening (11/8) Clinton laid out the three major problems facing America and the world. “The three problems are: inequality in income, health care and education; global warming; and what he termed both terrorism and "identity conflicts."

He then stepped down without taking questions from the audience. Still, I had mine ready: “You and Sen. Clinton have repeatedly called for an end to the war, while speaking about the importance of a comprehensive diplomatic solution, and the need to restore our image in the world – why will you then, not commit to an immediate withdrawal?”

As he greeted his anxious fans, I grabbed onto his hand, and held it until he answered my (abbreviated) question – ‘If he would withdraw troops and end the war in Iraq.’ He went on to explain that it was not going to be entirely possible to do so, primarily because of the tensions between “the Kurds and the Turks…and Iran.”

As with the many other tragic manifestations which have come about as a result of the U.S. intervention in Iraq, a solution to the crisis for the Kurds is complicated (for more info see: The United State and the Kurds: A Brief History). Therefore, greater American leadership and not military force, is becoming ever more critical. Perhaps, the current crisis will force the United States to re-think, not just its disastrous policies in Iraq, but the complicated situation facing the Kurds. As many experts agree, there is an overwhelming need for the United States to seriously change course, not only its failed Iraq policy but also its relations with the Middle East.

Throughout his speech, Bill Clinton repeated the theme “Our common humanity is more important than our interesting differences.” This is also true and equally important for Iraqis, Kurds and Turks alike. It is for this reason that it is clear that a military solution is not going to solve any of the above problems, but only fuel the differences. We can only hope that it is increasingly evident that a complete peace-keeping mission with a full diplomatic solution is the only answer to these, and all of the world's complex problems.

November 06, 2007

Presidential Candidates Assert that Bush has No Authority to Attack Iran

In a letter sent to President Bush on Thursday, thirty senators warned against attacking Iran, saying that Bush has “no authority.” The letter also expressed concern about aggressive rhetoric from the White House. Bush recently insinuated that if Iran even gained the “knowledge necessary” to make a nuclear weapon it could lead to World War III.

Signers of the letter included presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Joseph Biden.

Senators Hillary Clinton and Chris Dodd are both cosponsoring a Senate Resolution “affirming that any offensive military action taken against Iran must be explicitly approved by Congress before such action may be initiated.”
Hillary Clinton also recently cosponsored senate bill S-759, a bill to block funding for an Iran attack.
ABC reported that “tucked inside”  Bush’s massive $196 billion Iraq spending bill is $88 million to equip B-2 stealth bombers to carry the “Big Blue” bunker busting bomb. The Big Blue weighs in at an incredible 30,000 lbs--15 tons--and the B-2s need to be outfitted with a special rack to be able to carry just one bomb.

The request referred to “an urgent operational need from theater commanders.” As Rebecca Griffin of Peace Action reported, there is no practical application of this weapon in Iraq or Afghanistan. Iran’s hardened and buried nuclear facilities, however, would seem a likely target.

Meanwhile, Zogby publicized the results of a telephone survey claiming that 52% of Americans ¬would support a U.S. military strike to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon, and 53% believe it is likely that the U.S. will be involved in a military strike against Iran before the next presidential election,

Hillary Clinton led the survey as the candidate “best equipped to deal with Iran” with 21% of the total vote. Rudy Giuliani and John “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” McCain were the second and third choices. 

October 23, 2007

Senator Clinton Speaks in Las Vegas

Sunday morning, October 21st, Hilary Clinton held a "Discussion on Health Care" at a senior citizen

center in Las Vegas. I had my question specifically related to Voter for Peace campaign ready - which I

had to adapt since she was only discussing health care issues. My question was the following:

“Senator Clinton, you spoke about how the Bush administration’s misguided priorities would rather provide ‘no bid contracts to Halliburton, than improve our healthcare system; and recognize that ‘America is ready for change’. Generals and captains across the board have said that there is no military solution in Iraq - a war that is costing US tax payers hundreds of billions of dollars. If you are elected president, would you commit to an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq?”

However, as the Review Journal -Nevada’s daily newspaper, observed in their opening sentence from the article covering this event: “most people didn't want to ask her a question so much as tell her a

story” (http://www.lvrj.com/news/10711666.html). She made certain that the issue of health care

remained the focus calling only on the elderly, (one woman was sitting directly behind me, while my

hand was raised from the beginning of the Q&A) and the disabled.

Later that afternoon there was a Clinton rally, where she gave a brief summary of campaign issues, as was also observed by the Review Journal, “touching on foreign policy, the economy, education, energy and, of course, health care. The biggest cheer, as always at Democratic campaign events, came when she declared her commitment to ending the Iraq war.” I left the event feeling thirsty and hungry, with the words, of ‘when’ and ‘how’, racing through my mind.

October 10, 2007

Hillary Clinton Votes Send Mixed Messages on Iran

Recently Hillary Clinton became a Co-Sponsor to S-759, a Senate Bill that would prohibit the use of funds for military operations in Iran without explicit congressional approval. The bill is offered by Sen. James Webb, D-Virginia, as a response to increasing tension between the US and Iran, and deepening suspicions that the White House may be attempting to manipulate intelligence and public opinion to justify an attack on Iran.

The New Yorker reported that as diplomatic efforts by the U.N. have recently indicated successes in addressing Iran's nuclear program, the Bush administration has begun to shift its rhetoric away from the "nuclear threat" to claims that Iran is fighting a proxy war against US forces in Iraq by supplying Iraqi Shiite insurgents with "explosively formed penetrators," and other low-grade weapons. Congress has not substantially challenged this claim, despite protest by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, who flatly denied Iranian support for the Iraq insurgency. MSNBC reported that Maliki recently told the Council on Foreign Relations that "Our relationships with these countries [Iran and Syria] has improved to the point that they are not interfering in our internal affairs," and also said that cross border support for militias has "ceased to exist."

Yet the Senate apparently ignored Maliki as they considered the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, which echoes claims by the US military that Iran is aiding fighters in Iraq-- despite the lack of independent investigation or proof. The amendment also calls on President Bush to list the Revolutionary Guards as “specially designated global terrorists.” In opposing the amendment, James Webb warned that the move could be tantamount to a declaration of war. Since Congress has authorized the use of force to fight terrorism, this designation opens a loophole that the president could easily exploit.

The disquieting similarity between the Administration's current claims regarding Iran, and the now-discredited claims regarding Iraq and Saddam Hussein prior to the launch of the Iraq war have been noted by a multitude of analysts and commentators. One would think the Senate would react to the Iran "crisis" with skepticism rather than hawkish enthusiasm, and push for reliable investigation and diplomacy. However, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, with Clinton joining the majority "Yea" voters.

Conclusion: The passage of the Kyl-Lieberman amendment is a direct step forward in paving the legal groundwork for Bush and Cheney to expand their "long war" into yet another nation which has not been substantively proven to pose a direct danger to the American people.

James Webb's S-759 is a necessary step in establishing a congressional check to the White House's aggressive posturing towards Iran. Peace Action West supports this legislation and we applaud Hillary Clinton for becoming a co-sponsor. Unfortunately, the bill is presently lacking the momentum necessary to even be offered for debate in the Senate, let alone pass in time to block the administration’s build-up to war. However, in the event of an attack on Iran, Sen. Clinton will be able to say she co-sponsored a bill that, if it had passed, could have prevented the attack she helped authorize by voting yes on Kyl-Lieberman.

Immediate action is needed to ensure that this bill gets the support it needs. You can help by contacting your senators at 1-800-614-2803 to demand their support of S-759, which would block funds for strikes on Iran without congressional oversight.

Barack Obama was not present to vote on the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, but said that he would have voted against it.

October 01, 2007

Clinton in Oakland Pledges to End the War: But What of Her Plans for Long-Term U.S. Presence for “Training and Counterterrorism”?

Hillary Clinton in Oakland reported by Peace Action WestYesterday, Senator Clinton told a crowd of 14,000 in Oakland, California that the day after the Presidential election her election would deliver a message to the U.S. and rest of the world "the era of cowboy diplomacy is over."

I got a chance to briefly talk to Senator Clinton about the signature aspect of that era: the continuing U.S. military presence in Iraq. I shared with her Peace Action’s concern that leaving tens of thousands of troops in Iraq as a residual military force would make our country less safe and that U.S. military presence serves to inflame the violence in Iraq. The Senator told me “I agree with you” and replied that her concern was to bring the troops out in a safe and orderly way. I asked her about a timeline for withdrawal, reminding her that military experts agree that withdrawal can take place quite quickly and in a matter of months not years. She again said “I agree with you” before being whisked off.

I was surprised by her firm agreement with Peace Action’s concerns and that she was willing to focus intently on our short interchange given the hordes of people swarming around us. However, previous statements have made clear that she is still keeping her options open for a significant troop presence in Iraq into and perhaps through her first term. As this blog has reported, she has told reporters that as President she may decide that a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq is necessary to conduct counter-terrorism attacks, to engage in training Iraqi troops, and to protect the U.S. embassy. It’s hard to square this position with her promises to “end the war” given that such as force would mean tens of thousands of American troops in Iraq indefinitely. While it’s natural for a serious Presidential contender to want to keep future policy options open on an issue that is in as much flux the Iraq war, this is far too important an issue not to be clear with the voters about what her plans really are. Democratic primary voters should let her know that she really can’t continue to have her “anti-war” cake and eat it too.

UPDATE: Peace Action's own Danya Rosen got a chance to speak with a student reporter from Golden Gate Xpress at the event. Read their coverage here.

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