GOP Senators, Hillary Clinton Disagree on Troops Leaving Iraq

Posted October 23, 2011 at 11:22am

Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and John McCain (Ariz.) slammed the Obama administration today for deciding to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq this year, while Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton emphasized America’s commitment to the nation during a swing through the morning political shows.

“This was an ongoing discussion,” Clinton said on “Fox News Sunday.” “It started, you know, several years ago. It kept going, and at the end of the day, as in many discussions and negotiations, an agreement was reached that met the needs of both sides. The president has fulfilled the commitment he made to the American people. We’ve also, under the president’s leadership, fulfilled the commitment requested by the Iraqis.”

She expressed the decision as respecting the will of a sovereign nation and ally.

“Now, you can’t on the one hand say you are all for democracy and sovereignty and independence where people make their own choices, and on the other hand say when a choice is made that is foreseen by our own government — going back to the Bush administration and validated by the Obama administration and the current government in Iraq — that that somehow is not appropriate, because that is what we were there for: to give the Iraqi people the chance to make their own decisions,” said Clinton, who also appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union,” ABC’s “This Week” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The Republican hawks argued that the administration could have negotiated an agreement that would have allowed U.S. troops to remain in Iraq.

“I think it’s a serious mistake,” McCain said on “This Week.” “And there was never really serious negotiations between the administration and the Iraqis. They could have clearly made an arrangement for U.S. troops. … I believe we could have negotiated an agreement. And I’m very, very concerned about increased Iranian influence in Iraq.”

Graham said that Iraqi leaders were open to a continuing U.S. presence when he visited in May.

“The Iraqis have no air force. They have no intelligence-gathering capability. They have — they need counterterrorism assistance. There are missions only we can do. The Iraqis were in my view open-minded to this,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “This was a failure by the Obama administration to close the deal. … It was his job, the Obama administration’s job, to end this well. They failed.”

According to McCain, Iraqis were ready to negotiate, but the United States didn’t come to the discussions with a clear plan.

“The reason for not reaching an agreement is because the United States was never really very serious,” he said.