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WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?
Straight from the mouth of Hillary Clinton...
The Democrats' plan to save the Bush agenda

By Sharon Smith | March 23, 2007 | Page 7

IN RECENT weeks, Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign strategy appears increasingly centered on proving she has the cojones to ruthlessly pursue U.S. imperial interests the world over.

With Sen. Barack Obama nipping at her polling numbers by invoking his opposition to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Clinton steadfastly refuses to pander to the antiwar movement by admitting she made a mistake in voting to authorize the war in 2002.

These days, Clinton misses no opportunity to demonstrate her own combative stance on foreign affairs, whatever the subject under discussion.

After pledging to work toward energy independence at a March 18 New York City fundraiser, Clinton told an audience laden with Wall Street financiers that each time she switches off a light bulb in her own home, she mutters, "'Take that, Iran,' and 'Take that, Venezuela.' We should not be sending our money to people who are not going to support our values."

And Clinton has made clear she has no intention of ending the occupation of Iraq if elected president. In an interview published by the New York Times on March 15, she was explicit on this issue--sounding remarkably like, well, George Bush.

A complete U.S. withdrawal from Iraq could turn it into "a petri dish for insurgents and al-Qaeda," she said, adding, "It is right in the heart of the oil region. It is directly in opposition to our interests, to the interests of regimes, to Israel's interests."

Clinton would downsize the U.S. troop presence, pulling them out of urban combat to minimize U.S. casualties while preserving "our antiterrorism mission, for our northern support mission, for our ability to respond to the Iranians, and to continue to provide support, if called for, for the Iraqis."

As the Times reported, "Mrs. Clinton said the scaled-down American military force...would no longer try to protect Iraqis from sectarian violence--even if it descended into ethnic cleansing." Indeed, Clinton responded coldly to the prospect of mass sectarian bloodletting: "This is an Iraqi problem; we cannot save the Iraqis from themselves."

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CLINTON'S CANDID Times interview seems to place her well to the right of other Congressional Democrats, currently absorbed in an apparently principled fight to pass antiwar legislation through the House and Senate.

But behind the scenes, Democratic Party Congressional leaders were maneuvering frantically to avoid conflict with the Bush administration's war aims.

On March 13, Democrats announced plans to remove from their military spending bill a requirement that Bush gain Congressional approval before taking military action against Iran.

The spending bill to be debated in the House this week includes nearly $100 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan--more than Bush requested. Its antiwar provisions require most U.S. combat troops to be withdrawn by August 31, 2008. But the president "may waive" these requirements for reasons of "national security," according to the now toothless legislation.

In concrete terms, three months after winning a majority in Congress, the Democrats have little to show for themselves. The House managed to pass a single nonbinding resolution against Bush's troop surge on February 16, while the Senate failed even to accomplish that much. This is hardly what the antiwar majority has in mind.

Rhetoric aside, how much political distance separates Hillary Clinton from her more impassioned Congressional counterparts? Less than it might appear.

The notion of withdrawing most combat troops is less dramatic than it seems. Although the House resolution currently up for debate calls for removing most combat troops from Iraq by September 2008 (presidential waivers aside), it also acknowledges the need to maintain the presence of a "limited" number of U.S. soldiers for purposes including "targeted counterterrorism operations."

Obama has admitted that he, too, might decide to retain some U.S. troops in Iraq as president.

No major Democratic Party presidential candidate has so far called for a complete U.S. troop withdrawal, and with good reason: the party's powerbrokers aim to salvage, not renounce, U.S. aims in Iraq. As the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) notes on its Web site, "A rapid and complete withdrawal from Iraq isn't really a Plan B: it's a 'Plan Zero' for liquidating the whole Iraq engagement as hopeless."

The Times noted that Clinton's plan is not a new one--and has already been advocated by Dov Zakheim, the Pentagon's comptroller under Donald Rumsfeld, who estimated that roughly 75,000 "non-combat" troops would be required to fulfill this limited set of strategic U.S. aims in Iraq.

The Democrats, like the Republicans, are biding time in Iraq, in the hopes of consolidating a long-term U.S. military presence there. No longer referred to as "permanent bases," the Pentagon has successively described them as "enduring bases" and then as "contingency operating bases" since February 2005.

The purpose remains the same. As a former Pentagon official told the New York Times, Clinton's Iraq plan, by minimizing U.S. troop casualties, would make it politically possible to sustain a long-term military in the Middle East Region.

Only a complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq can end this war. Don't count on the Democrats to make it happen, rhetoric aside.

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