Clinton: Rice linked Iraq vote, inspections
Following up on what Ambassador Richard Holbrooke told us earlier this week regarding Hillary Clinton's vote to authorize the use of military force against Iraq, we asked Sen. Clinton today if it was correct that Colin Powell had persuaded her that the resolution could be a vote to avoid war rather than a vote for war.
She replied: "No, it wasn't Colin Powell. it was Condi Rice. Condi Rice told me specifically when I was still weighing all of the evidence, and I had been to the White House one last time -- I think, if I'm not mistaken, it was Oct. 8 -- and I'd had the whole presentation by the CIA and others and I hadn't asked any questions, I had listened. And I went back to my office, and Condi Rice called me and said, You didn't ask any questions, do you have any questions? I said I only have one: Will you use this authorization to put inspectors back in, so that we can find out whether any of this is true, how much WMD he still has or has reconstituted? She said, Yes, that's what it's intended to do. I think Dick might have gotten confused."
Monitor: And you had no reason to doubt her?
Clinton: "I did not. Because -- certainly I didn't rely on the Bush administration. I did a lot of my own due diligence, I talked to a lot of people in my husband's administration, I talked to Tony Blair, I talked to a lot of sources, and I had the same question: Do you think he still has these kinds of capacities? And the rationale made sense to me. When we got there after the first Gulf War, he was much further advanced in his nuclear program and we knew he had used chemical weapons. When we discovered his nuclear program in '91, the inspectors went in and for seven years dismantled everything that they could find. In '98, he threw the inspectors out, which at least to me raised the possibility that they were getting close to something, and therefore he wanted them out. The Americans and the British bombed every site that he prevented the inspectors from going to that we had a record of, but we had no good intelligence as to what was or wasn't there. And the idea behind any concern about Saddam Hussein was rooted in his personality and his governing philosophy. He was a megalomaniac.
"Putting inspectors back in -- which the United Nations voted for, the Security Council was all in favor of -- was a way to really put some checks and balances to find out what he really did have. What we know now is that Bush had no intention of letting the inspections run their course. But the argument of putting inspectors back in, backed up by force -- because Saddam never did anything that didn't have at least the backup threat of force -- was not on its face totally illegitimate. So I was willing to give him the authority to do that, and he misused the authority."
- Sarah Liebowitz and Ari Richter