|New American Strategies
for Security and Peace
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
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MR. JOHN PODESTA: ... your attention. Thank you. Thank
you for being here early this morning. And we went late
into the evening lat night. But I think that ... first
of all, I'm John Podesta from the Center for American
I would like to welcome you all back. I saw you all
yesterday. But on behalf of the Center and the Century
Foundation and the American Prospect, we had a tremendous
day yesterday and what promises to be another tremendous
Yesterday in my opening comments, he said that we
hoped that you would take away from here a strong sense
that there are serious people who have concrete and
we believe better ideas about how to protect Americans
and advance our national interest in the ideas or should
I say ideology which prepares ... propels our foreign
I think we delivered on that promise. I think that
the vast wealth of experience which we'll talk about
later in our wrap up session of the people who appeared
yesterday, both in the keynotes and on the panels, provided
a tremendous opportunity to see the fact that there
is in fact a coherent alternative strategy to the course
that we've embarked upon as a nation.
I want to welcome Governor Warner who's with us this
morning and we'll be speaking shortly. We're on a little
bit of a forced march here today. We're going to work
the program right through to the conclusion with Senator
Hagel's remarks. But it is a distinct pleasure that
I have this morning to introduce a great friend of mine
and a great friend of every American.
When I worked as the Chief of Staff in the White House,
then First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was probably
the finest ambassador we ever had around the world.
If you think about the comments that Zbigniew Brzezinski
made last night about the way people are viewing Americans
And you think back to the days when Senator Clinton,
then First Lady Clinton, traveled the world and talked
about the most important issues that were facing the
world, especially the role of women in development and
the need to bring girls into schools, et cetera, and
think about the reaction that that got and the positive
image that it created for the United States.
We can ... working with Madeline Albright in that
regard, her efforts I think pointed the way not only
to the fact that that was a course for economic development,
but it was a needed strategy to bring women into the
body politic to increase democracy, to increase the
social value in life.
One of the pieces of work that she did at the White
House which is less well known -- but I just want to
mention here briefly this morning because I think that
it's relevant to the remarks that she's going to make
-- was her unflagging devotion to try to work on the
issue of Gulf War Syndrome, Gulf War illness.
She worked with the Pentagon and developed a program
with the White House to make sure that the facts were
known, that the records were uncovered, that people
were taken care of and that as one of our speakers said
yesterday, policy was driven by facts rather than the
other way around.
She, of course, was the first First Lady elected to
the Senate in the year 2000 and I think has served with
such great distinction there. In the three years that
she's been there, she's won the admiration of people
on both sides of the aisle. She serves on the Armed
She has emerged as one of the most powerful and effective
voices I think first and foremost for the people of
New York in her advocacy of the issues that effect them
the most, but also for the people of the country as
a whole. She has just been one of the most outstanding
leaders I think that we have today in the Senate.
She's a great friend of mine. And she's a great friend
of the Center for America Progress. I introduce Senator
SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you. Thank
you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, very much. And
good morning. Thanks to my friend John Podesta for that
very kind introduction. As I stand here looking out
at all of you, I appreciate greatly your commitment
to this conference and to the larger goals that it seeks
to discuss with the America people.
And I especially want to complement the Center for
American Progress and the work that John Podesta has
done in creating this important institution that I believe
will be and is already a tremendous force in engaging
in the war of ideas that is so critical, not only to
our nation's future, but because of our position, indeed
to the future of the world.
There is no better leader for that effort than John.
He has the warrior spirit and the strategic mind that
is needed for such an endeavor. And I want to thank
also Bob Kuttner from the American Prospect and Dick
Leone from the Century Foundation for their work on
Today's conference, New American Strategies for Security
and Peace, just about in that title sums it up. We clearly
need new strategies. What we are doing is not working.
And usually when people are in a hole, they stop digging.
This administration just asks for bigger shovels.
And the fact is that we are now confronting some of
the most dangerous challenges that we have seen in quite
some time. And we are ill-prepared either to confront
them or to explain the strategies we are pursuing. So
I commend the Center for American Progress, The American
Prospect and The Century Foundation for this very timely
There will be many speakers, as there have been yesterday
and today, who will go in detail to critique the specifics
of the policies that the administration is pursuing.
I particularly commend this very good piece of work
by Bill Perry and others that I think is on your table
and on your chairs for much of the specifics of that
I want to focus on a slightly different part of our
American security policy, because it affects one of
the most fundamental concerns. And that is the involvement
of the American people in pursuing strategies for our
security and our peace and the importance of doing so
consistent with our democratic values in order to sustain
support at home and to regain confidence, trust and
Because today, we are at a critical moment, not just
in our history, but in the history of democracy. And
as we seek to build democratic institutions in Iraq
and elsewhere, we have to reach out to global partners
in that endeavor. And we have to remember the tenets
of the democratic process we advocate at home as well.
The issue I intend to explore briefly this morning
is whether we are applying the fundamental principles
of democracy, rule of law, transparency and accountability,
informed consent, not only to what we do at home, but
to what we do in the world.
There can be no real question in my view that we must
do this. Because foreign policy involves the most critical
decisions any democracy can make: going to war, our
relations with the world and our use of power in that
But the fact is that new doctrines and actions by
the Bush administration undermine these core democratic
principles, both at home and aboard. And I believe they
do so at a severe cost. In our efforts aboard, we now
go to war as a first resort against perceived threats,
not as a necessary final resort.
Preemption is an option. It is not a doctrine. And
it is an option that every president since George Washington
has had and many have used. But to elevate it to the
organizing principle of American strategic policy at
the outset of the 21st century is to grant legitimacy
to every nation to make war on their enemies before
their enemies make war on them.
It is a giant step backwards. In our dealings abroad,
we claim to champion the rule of law. Yet, we too often
have turned our backs on international agreements. The
Kyoto Treaty, for example, which represented an attempt
by the international community to address in a meaningful
way a real problem, the global problem of climate change
and global warming, was short circuited.
The biological weapons enforcement protocol, the comprehensive
test ban treaty. This unwillingness to engage the international
community on problems that do require international
cooperation ... it is not as though we can turn our
backs and solve these problems all by ourselves ...
sends a clear signal to other nations that we may believe
in the rule of law in principle if it is our law and
we get to interpret it. That is the antithesis of the
rule of law.
The administration argues that international agreements
like the Kyoto Treaty are flawed. And the fact is I
agree that there are flaws in such treaties. And when
the Clinton Administration signed the Kyoto protocol,
it said that working inside the tent, it would try to
make further improvements.
But rather than try to do that from inside the process,
the Bush administration basically knocked the tent down.
That is not a prudent exercise of power. It is a petulant
exercise of ideology.
In our dealings abroad, we more often than not have
promoted not the principles of international cooperation,
but the propensity for an aggressive unilateralism that
alienates our allies and undermines our own tenets.
It deeply saddens me as I speak with friends and colleagues
from around the world that the friends of America from
my generation tell me painfully that for the first time
in their lives, they are on the defensive when it comes
to explaining to their own children that America truly
is a good and benign nation.
Because too often the images that have been seen in
a quick changing panoply of visual and verbal images
that have marked our presence on the world scene over
the last two and a half plus years is of an America
that disregards anyone else's concerns, insists that
you are with us or against us on every possible position,
and forces even our close friends around the world to
worry about our intentions and motivations.
Our Declaration of Independence calls for a decent
respect for the opinions of mankind. Yet, this administration
simply doesn't listen. From our most important alliances
in Europe to our relations with our neighbors in this
hemisphere, the administration has spanned the range
of emotions from dismissive to indifferent.
Ask President Vicente Fox who staked his presidency
on a political alliance with Mexico's historically controversial
ally to the north, only to discover that he got no further
north than Crawford, Texas.
If we are to lead this world commensurate with the
power we possess, the ideals we proclaim, into a free
and hopefully democratic future, we must first be consistent
in the principles we champion and pursue. Nowhere is
this more important than in the transparency of government
Without such transparency, how can leaders be accountable?
How can people be informed? And without such transparency,
the openness and information that is required for the
lifeblood of a democracy to be healthy and strong, the
pillars of that democracy are shaken.
Now, I would be the first to admit that in our democracy
or in any democracy, there is always tension between
the information that the Executive Branch needs and
their opinion to keep secret any information that must
and should be provided to the public in order to have
a informed citizenry who can participate in the decisions
that are necessary to sustain support for difficult
and controversial involvements.
But we must always be vigilant against letting our
desire to keep information confidential to be used as
a pretext for classifying information that is more about
political embarrassment than national security.
Let me be absolutely clear. This is not a propensity
that is confined to one party or another. It is a propensity
of power that must be guarded against. Because when
that happens, we move away from the bedrock principle
of informed consent that should govern all state actions
in a democracy.
Harkening back once again to our founders who I think
were not only extraordinary statesmen but brilliant
psychologists, they understood profoundly the dangers
and temptations of power. The balance of power that
they enshrined in our constitution and in our system
of government was a check on all of our human natures.
And the propensity for anyone, no matter how well
meaning, no matter how convinced of the righteousness
of one's cause and view of the world to be held in a
check and a balance by other institutions.
Since September 11th, this question about transparency,
about adequacy of information and informed consent of
the public has become even more salient. The war on
terror will be, as it is now, being fought in the darkness,
outside the public limelight, new doctrines of pre-emption
and a commitment to secrecy raise profound questions
about the democratic oversight of decisions effecting
war and peace.
They also raise profound questions about the quality
of the intelligence information that is not open to
public scrutiny. I won't go into that this morning,
but one of the most critical issues we confront is what
is wrong with our intelligence? The gathering and the
analysis and the use.
And as any of you who follow what is going on on Capitol
Hill are well aware, we are locked into a partisan conflict
over how far to go in analyzing the intelligence with
respect to Iraq. With the other side claiming that we
can look at the intelligence community, but we can't
look at the decision makers. We can't look at the usage
to which the intelligence was put. We can't look at
the particular viewpoints that were brought to that
analysis. I think that is a profound error and undermining
of our democratic institutions.
The American people, and indeed I would argue the
entire international community, needs to have confidence
that when the United States government acts, it is acting
in good faith, sharing information where appropriate
and developing mechanisms to ensure that power is not
A perception that our government is not providing
honest assessments for the rationale for war or is unwilling
to admit error will diminish the support for United
States' foreign policy, not only in the international
community but among the American people.
I believe, having had a lot of experience now in watching
and listening to the American people, that they are
far more willing to accept the administration's statements
about what is going right in Iraq if they believe that
the administration is more forthright about what is
going wrong. It is difficult to convince people that
everything is fine. And in fact as the violence level
goes up, it gets even better. When we are therefore
asking people essentially to just shelve their common
sense and human experience.
There are a couple of examples of this that hit very
close to home for me. One is in the administration's
approach to the investigations surrounding 9/11. Not
only as a Senator from New York, but as an American,
I don't think there is any more searing event in my
personal experience than what happened to us on September
I feel absolutely without doubt that our citizens,
particularly my constituents, deserve to know all the
facts of how the government was prepared or not. Yet,
over this weekend, we learned that the 9/11 commission,
an independent commission, charged with the important
task of investigating how 9/11 happened, complains that
it is not getting access to all the documents it needs.
This is a hugely important issue. And it's not just
important for this commission, but for these larger
questions about access to information and how this government
maintains the trust of the American people.
The lack of transparency on the part of the Bush administration
has forced Governor King, former Republican Governor
of New Jersey, to threaten subpoenas. This should not
As bad as it was for Vice President Cheney to keep
secret how the administration developed its energy policy,
this is far worse. The 9/11 commission is not trying
to embarrass this president or any former president
or anyone else. It is trying to learn what happened,
what went wrong. In hopes that we can be better prepared
to protect ourselves from any future attacks.
In taking their action to evade or avoid providing
information, the administration unnecessarily raises
the suspicion that it has something to hide, that it
might use the claim of national security to hide mistakes
that are literally questions of life and death for Americans.
Similarly, with respect to the prior report about
intelligence and the administration's continuing refusal
to release to the American public the 28 pages that
concern the involvements of foreign governments with
the highjackers, the administration is drawing a line
that should not be drawing. There is no legitimate basis
for denying the American public this information.
Meanwhile, on Iraq, the Bush administration describes
progress on many fronts in direct contravention to what
we are hearing and seeing everyday. Everyone should
admit there are undoubtedly many instances where our
efforts are succeeding.
I personally know of the reports that I get back from
people whom I know, people who are serving from New
York about good relations developing between the United
States military and local officials, schools being built.
I think that is absolutely part of the story.
But what is going right should not delude us about
what is going wrong. There is too much at stake to treat
war as a political spin zone. So we need to level with
the American people, the good, the bad, the ugly. For
the simple fact is we cannot afford to fail in Iraq.
On that fundamental principle, I am in full and profound
agreement with the President. The stakes simply are
too high. That means we need to improve our transparency
and credibility in Iraq. That means we need to internationalize
the military presence in Iraq. That means that the recent
$87 billion supplemental appropriations bill needs to
continue to include an amendment that I offered which
was included in the final bill to require GAO audits
of these opaque supplemental appropriations.
On a related point with respect to transparency and
democratic principles, there has come to be a quite
defensive posture in the Senate and the House where
the majority party no longer wants to negotiate with
or share information with the minority party.
So, for example, when there is a conference on a bill,
whether it be Medicare or energy, the Democrats are
usually not even invited. With respect to the conference
on the supplemental appropriation, the information provided
to the minority was not sufficient. And the conference
had to be recessed.
This is all so unnecessary. And it raises suspicions.
And it increases the intensity of concern among fair
minded Americans. Whatever one's position on whether
or not we should have ever gone into Iraq, whether or
not there ever were weapons of mass destruction, we
are there now. And as a result, we need to have American
support in order to make the tough decisions that we
Another amendment that I co-sponsored with Senator
Harkin would require the GAO to examine the level of
profits being made by U.S. contractors in Iraq. This
is a historic mission that government, our government,
has encouraged going back to George Washington to make
sure that no private company profited off the spoils
And we need to assure the American people that their
money is being spent wisely and assure the Iraqi people
it is being spent in their interest and assure the world
that it is not being spent for profiteering by American
I understand both of these amendments, my amendment
and the one I co-sponsored with Senator Harkin, are
the subject of some dispute by the administration. And
in fact, I understand that the majority party has been
advised to ensure that the final package doesn't include
I can only hope that they have a change of mind. They
are creating a level of mistrust of our government by
our citizens that we will reap the consequences of for
years to come. [applause]
So, as we discuss and debate these issues, we have
to recognize that we are engaged in a very difficult
conflict that is certainly not lost on the men and women
stationed in Iraq or on their families who are worrying
about their well-being. And it should not lead to trying
to avoid the site of caskets coming home. And it should
not lead to the administration refusing to release injury
We should be willing to admit the price that is being
paid by these brave young men and women to pursue this
policy. Because I do believe the Executive Branch has
a strong prerogative on national security. And as a
Senator, I have supported that prerogative.
But in my two and a half years in the Congress, I've
also come to believe that the men and women elected
to serve in Congress have a great deal of wisdom to
bear as well. And as we look at what is going wrong
as well as what is going right in Iraq, I don't think
we have a single mind to waste. And we ought to be reaching
out to include the ideas from people who have some expertise
to bring to bear.
Now, recent articles that I've read report that many
Republicans share my frustration. That there is in fact
a lack of genuine consultation, a failure to construct
a genuine bipartisan consensus for the sacrifice that
Americans are making.
My Republican colleagues, Senator McCain and Senator
Hagel -- who will be speaking at this conference later
today -- have cautioned the administration of the dangers
of a failure to be open and honest with the American
people on the situation in Iraq.
As Senator Hagel and others have suggested, Congress
needs to be more than just a rubber stamp for the administration's
policy. It's hard to think of a war that America has
won without seeking, achieving and maintaining a bipartisan
One thinks of the partnership between President Truman
and Senator Vandenberg after World War II to secure
U.S. support for the United Nations. Or President George
H. Bush's close consultation with Democratic leaders
during the first Gulf War. Or my husband's close consultation
with Senator Dole and other Republican leaders during
the military actions in Bosnia and Kosova.
We also should be looking to give Iraqis more of a
say and also in making transactions and contracting
more open. We can't just preach the habits of democracy,
inclusion, empowerment, openness. We have to model them.
So, fundamentally, this is about trust, winning an
ensuring the trust of the Iraqi people who we will eventually
leave to govern themselves and keeping the trust of
the American people.
I cannot stress strongly enough how significant it
is that the American people across the board are beginning
to ask such serious questions about our direction in
our efforts to not only pursue a course in Iraq, but
from the Middle East to North Korea as well.
An unwillingness of this administration to be more
forthright can undermine the greatest capital we have,
the capital of human trust between a government and
I think we are on the edge of losing both the confidence
of the Iraqi people and of the American people. We can
prevent that from happening with a heavy dose of straight
talk. And then we can pursue building a free and democratic
society in Iraq by abiding with the principles that
we hold dear and demonstrating that we are willing to
be open and have partnerships and build coalitions that
are more than just in name.
I think this moment in American history is fraught
with danger and challenge. And if you look back at our
security goals in World War II, they were clear. The
Cold War was clear. The post Cold War era prior to 9/11
was a little more muddled. Because it wasn't as obvious
what our strategic objectives were and how we would
Now we do have once again a very clear adversarial
relationship between us and those who would do us harm
and who would pervert religion and attempt to obtain
power for their own purposes.
But just proclaiming the evil of our adversary is
not a strategy. Just assuming that everyone will understand
that we are well motivated and people to be trusted
is beyond the range of human experience as I understand
This administration is in danger of squandering not
just our surplus, which is already gone in financial
terms, but the surplus of good feeling and hopefulness
that they inherited and that we had in almost global
unanimity over after 9/11.
We are a resilient, optimistic, and effective people.
And I'm confident we can regain our footing. But it
needs to be the first order of business, not only for
the administration, but for the Congress and for the
American public. And it's my hope that this conference
will provide more ammunition and more support for those
of us who are trying to get back on the right track
and to give America a chance to lead consistent with
our values and ideals. Thank you, very much. [applause]