The GOP’s presidential nominee John McCain (R.-Ariz.) and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (D.-N.Y.) squared off on Iraq policy against the backdrop of a high-profile hearing to receive testimony from senior Iraq officials Tuesday.
In the run-up to the hearing, McCain said removing troops from Iraq too early could threaten security at home and Clinton said in a television interview “the surge hasn’t worked.” Both of these charges played out in more dramatic form during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, a committee both Clinton and McCain are members.
At a campaign stop in Kansas City Monday McCain said it was the “height of irresponsibility” and a “failure of leadership” for Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama (D.-Ill), also campaigning for the Democratic nomination, to promise to they would withdraw troops from Iraq upon being elected President.
As top Republican on Armed Services committee, McCain delivered an opening statement to Army General David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker. In it, he strongly criticized those supporting a premature withdrawal from Iraq.
“Should the United States instead choose to withdraw from Iraq before adequate security is established, we will exchange for this victory a defeat that is terrible and long lasting. Al Qaeda in Iraq would proclaim victory and increase its efforts to provoke sectarian tensions, pushing for a full scale civil war that could descend into genocide and destabilize the Middle East,” McCain said. “Iraq would become a failed state that could become a haven for terrorists to train and plan their operations. Iranian influence would increase substantially in Iraq and encourage other countries to seek accommodation with Tehran at the expense of our interests. And American failure would almost certainly require us to return to Iraq or draw us into a wider and far costlier war."
As a lower-ranking member of the Armed Services committee, Clinton was allotted just six minutes to speak and pose questions to the General and the Ambassador. She used part of that time to respond to McCain.
“Suggestions have been made leading up to this hearing and even during it, that it is irresponsible or demonstrates a lack of leadership to advocate withdrawing troops from Iraq in a responsible and carefully planned withdrawal,” Clinton said. “I fundamentally disagree. Rather, I think it could be fair to say that it might well be irresponsible to continue the policy that has not produced the results that 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.”