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U.S. Presidential Hopefuls Bush, Clinton Spar Over Iraq

"Rushing away from danger can be every bit as unwise as rushing into danger, and the costs have been grievous," Jeb Bush said. (file photo)
"Rushing away from danger can be every bit as unwise as rushing into danger, and the costs have been grievous," Jeb Bush said. (file photo)

Leading presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton have traded blame for who's responsible for the continued instability in Iraq.

Twelve years after President George W. Bush led the United States into the 2003 Iraq war, his brother, now a Republican presidential hopeful, accused Democrats of abandoning Iraq before the job was done.

Jeb Bush accused Clinton, his Democratic White House rival and a former secretary of state, of allowing the brutal emergence of the Islamic State militant group by withdrawing troops from Iraq too fast.

"It was a case of blind haste to get out," Bush told an audience in California. "Rushing away from danger can be every bit as unwise as rushing into danger, and the costs have been grievous."

He noted Clinton only visited Iraq once during her four years as America's top diplomat.

Bush's remarks dredged up a bitter argument that has long bedeviled Washington and the American public.

A successful invasion of Baghdad was followed by a prolonged occupation that featured sectarian violence and an increasingly debilitated central government.

The Iraq war, in addition to being a point of contention between Republicans and Democrats, may have also cost Clinton the 2008 Democratic nomination to antiwar candidate Barack Obama.

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton

In 2002, Clinton voted in favor of authorizing Bush's invasion as a senator from New York, a vote she later said was a mistake.

But in the face of Jeb Bush's latest charges, her campaign defended her record.

"This is a pretty bold attempt to rewrite history and reassign responsibility," said longtime foreign policy aide Jake Sullivan, a front-runner to become Clinton's national security adviser if she is elected.

"President Bush signed an agreement that required us to be out by 2011. They cannot be allowed to escape responsibility for the real mistake here," Sullivan said, saying Islamic State emerged from Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which flourished after the U.S. invasion.

"It didn't exist before the invasion. It emerged in no small part as a result of President Bush's failed strategy. And it gained strength by signing up former Sunni military officers -- officers from the army that the Bush administration disbanded," he said.

In his speech, Bush said that the United States must now take the fight to Islamic State.

"Instead of simply reacting to each new move the terrorists choose to make, we will use every advantage we have to take the offensive, to keep it, and to prevail," he said. "In all of this, the United States must engage with friends and allies, and lead again in that vital region."

Bush suggested more American troops should be stationed in Iraq, and they should get more involved in combat operations, to defeat IS, though he did not provide any specifics.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and AP
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