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Hillary Clinton: No regret on Iraq vote

'How could they have been so poorly prepared for the aftermath?'



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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said she is not sorry she voted for a resolution authorizing President Bush to take military action in Iraq despite the recent problems there but she does regret "the way the president used the authority."

"How could they have been so poorly prepared for the aftermath of the toppling of Saddam Hussein?" the New York Democrat asked Tuesday night on CNN's "Larry King Live."

"I don't understand how they had such an unrealistic view of what was going to happen."

April has become the deadliest month for U.S. forces in Iraq since the war began more than a year ago. The U.S.-led coalition faces insurrections on several fronts, including the Sunni Muslim stronghold of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, and the militia of a Shiite Muslim cleric in Najaf in the south.

To the disappointment of some antiwar liberals in her Democratic base, Clinton, the former first lady, voted in favor of the Iraq war resolution in October 2002.

"Obviously, I've thought about that a lot in the months since," she said. "No, I don't regret giving the president authority because at the time it was in the context of weapons of mass destruction, grave threats to the United States, and clearly, Saddam Hussein had been a real problem for the international community for more than a decade."

But she said the Bush administration's short-circuiting of the U.N. weapons inspection process didn't permit "the inspectors to finish whatever task they could have accomplished to demonstrate one way or the other what was there."

She also said the failure to plan properly for the post-war period "is the hardest to understand."

Since the invasion of Iraq a year ago, no weapons of mass destruction have been found. The Bush administration has cited evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime had the capability to produce such weapons.

The lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq contradicts years of intelligence indicating Saddam had such weapons, which also was the conclusion of officials in the Clinton administration.

"The consensus was the same, from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration," she said. "It was the same intelligence belief that our allies and friends around the world shared.

"But I think that in the case of the [Bush] administration, they really believed it. They really thought they were right, but they didn't let enough sunlight into their thinking process to really have the kind of debate that needs to take place when a serious decision occurs like that."

She conceded that making such decisions is "very tough" for the occupant of the Oval Office.

"That's one of the reasons why I think it's important to have a president who asks a lot of questions, who is intellectually curious, who seeks out contrary points of view, who doesn't just surround himself with people who see the world the same way," she said.

"You have to have a decision-making process that pushes a lot of information up and asks a lot of hard questions. You don't get that sense from this White House."

Clinton also said her impression of the Bush White House is that "it's a very close-knit, quite insular team that basically talks to itself and has very strong convictions -- which is admirable -- that are not shaken by evidence or any factual differences in what they intend to do."

On a different topic, Clinton once again eschewed any interest in the vice presidential slot on the Democratic ticket this year, saying she would turn down Sen. John Kerry, the presumed nominee, if he asked her to be his running mate.

"I'm so happy being senator from New York right now. I love my life. I love my job. I want to see it through," Clinton said. "The people of New York took a chance on me, and I'm well aware of that.

"I said I wouldn't run, and I really mean it. I'm not going to run."

Elected in 2000, Clinton faces re-election in 2006.


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