Hillary Clinton opposed Iraq surge for political reasons, Gates says in memoir

Greg Nash

Hillary Clinton once said her opposition to the troop surge in Iraq was politically motivated, according to former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

In Gates’s new memoir, obtained by The Washington Post, he paraphrases Clinton in a meeting saying she opposed the surge because she would have to face then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in the Democratic primary. 

Gates also paraphrases President Obama during the same meeting as “vaguely” conceding that his opposition to the surge was politically motivated as well.

The former Pentagon chief said hearing the admissions from the president and secretary of State was “as surprising as it was dismaying.”

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According to the Post, Gates writes: “Hillary told the president that her opposition to the [2007] surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary.  . . . The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.”

Gates commends Clinton in other spots in the book as “smart” and “pragmatic.”

“I found her smart, idealistic but pragmatic, tough-minded, indefatigable, funny, a very valuable colleague, and a superb representative of the United States all over the world,” Gates writes in another section.

Obama and Clinton both initially opposed the surge of more than 20,000 additional troops into Iraq in January 2007.

Clinton first came out against the surge in December 2006 after news of the plan leaked. She announced her plans to run for the White House the following month.

The Iraq War became a defining issue during the 2008 primary campaign because Obama had initially opposed the war in Iraq, while Clinton voted in its favor during her time in the Senate.

Obama ended up winning the 2008 Iowa Caucus — the first nominating state — over Clinton, going on to seal the nomination.

Clinton is again seen as a likely contender for the White House in 2016. She leads in early polling and has said she will make a decision about another run sometime this year. 

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