Jeb Bush Blames Hillary Clinton and Obama for Iraq’s Decline

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from The New York Times,

The war in Iraq, which dominated American presidential politics in 2004 and 2008, has returned as an issue in 2016. This time, the argument is not over whether the United States should have gone to war, but rather how the Obama administration sought to end it.

Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor seeking the Republican presidential nomination, issued a blistering attack on Tuesday on the Obama administration’s handling of Iraq and terrorism issues, asserting that Hillary Rodham Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, had “stood by” as secretary of state as the situation in Iraq deteriorated.

He said President Obama and Mrs. Clinton had orchestrated an early withdrawal of American troops, setting the stage for the chaos sweeping the region now and the rise of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

“That premature withdrawal was the fatal error, creating the void that ISIS moved in to fill,” Mr. Bush declared in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library here on Tuesday night.

“Where was the secretary of state, Secretary of State Clinton, in all of this? Like the president himself, she had opposed the surge, then joined in claiming credit for its success, then stood by as that hard-won victory by American and allied forces was thrown away.”

With his speech, Mr. Bush found himself in a position of going after Mrs. Clinton on an issue in which many Republicans argue she is vulnerable — but at the risk of reminding voters of what Republicans see as one of his own great potential weaknesses: his last name. Mr. Bush’s brother, President George W. Bush, led the United States into war in Iraq in 2003 and, when it was going badly in 2006, ordered the commitment of additional forces there in what came to be known as the surge. His father, the elder President George Bush, ordered the nation’s first invasion of Iraq in 1990.

At the same time, it put Mrs. Clinton — who lost the nomination to Mr. Obama in no small part in 2008 because she had supported the Iraq war while he opposed it — in a situation of defending how Mr. Obama sought to end the war there.

“This is a pretty bold attempt to rewrite history and reassign responsibility,” said Jake Sullivan, Mrs. Clinton’s senior policy adviser and her former aide at the State Department. “They cannot be allowed to escape responsibility for the real mistake here. They might hope we’ll all forget, but the American people remember.”

Mrs. Clinton’s aides noted that the Obama administration had inherited the war from President Bush and that it had followed the timetable he signed in withdrawing troops from the region. Mrs. Clinton opposed the surge but advocated within the administration for leaving a residual force in Iraq to maintain order there.

“American boots on the ground cannot fix Iraq,” said Mr. Sullivan, Mrs. Clinton’s policy adviser. “Only Iraqis can fix Iraq, with our support but not with our combat boots on the ground.”

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