Full Text: Hillary Clinton Talks Iraq

Her vote, her constituents, her conscience

It is time for the President to stop serving up platitudes and present us with a plan for finishing this war with success and honor – not a rigid timetable that terrorists can exploit, but a public plan for winning and concluding the war. And it is past time for the President, Vice President, or anyone else associated with them to stop impugning the patriotism of their critics.

Criticism of this Administration's policies should not in any way be confused with softness against terrorists, inadequate support for democracy or lack of patriotism. I am grateful to the men and women of our armed forces and have been honored to meet them twice in Iraq. They honor our country every day with their courage, selfless dedication, and success in battle. I am also grateful to the thousands of unknown men and women in our security forces and around the world who have been fighting the larger war against terrorism, finding terrorists’ cells, arresting them and working to prevent future attacks. And I applaud the brave people who have been risking their lives every day to bring democracy and peace to Afghanistan and Iraq.

I recently returned from visiting Israel and Jordan, seeing first hand the tragedy of spreading terrorism. As a New York Senator, I believe New York has a special bond with the victims of such terrorism, and we understand both the need to fight terrorism and the need for a clear plan in Iraq so that we can focus our resources in the right ways to prevent it from again reaching our shores.

America has a big job to do now. We must set reasonable goals to finish what we started and successfully turn over Iraqi security to Iraqis. We must deny terrorists the prize they are now seeking in Iraq. We must repair the damage done to our reputation. We must reform our intelligence system so we never go to war on false premises again. We must repair the breach with the Muslim world. And we must continue to fight terrorism wherever it exists.

Like all Americans, I hope the Iraqi elections are a true expression of democracy, one that is committed to majority rule, minority rights, women's rights, and the basic rule of law. I hope these elections will finally put the Iraqi people on the road to real security and independence.

If these elections succeed, we should be able to start drawing down our troops, but we should also plan to continue to help secure the country and the region with a smaller footprint on an as-needed basis. I call on the President both for such a plan and for a full and honest accounting of the failures of intelligence – something we owe not only to those killed and wounded and their families, but to all Americans.

We have to continue the fight against terrorism and make sure we apply America's best values and effective strategies in making our world and country a better and safer place. We have to do what is right and smart in the war against terrorists and pursuit of democracy and security. That means repudiating torture which undermines America's values. That means reforming intelligence and its use by decision makers. That means rejecting the Administration's doctrine of preemptive war and their preference to going it alone rather than building real international support.

I know when America leads with its values and fearlessly faces the facts, we make the best decisions. That is what is missing at the highest levels of our government, and what we desperately need now – answers to the questions about Iraq that only the President can provide. I hope he will level with the American people and provide us those answers in his Annapolis speech and give us the plan that has been sorely lacking.

Sincerely yours,  

Hillary Rodham Clinton

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