Where Clinton, Obama, and McCain Stand on Iraq

Decision to go to war, timetables for troop withdrawal, and the effect on the war in Afghanistan

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Decision to go to War

"If I had known then what I know now, I never would have given President Bush the authority."

In 2002, Clinton voted to authorize U.S. military action in Iraq . Now, she says her vote was aimed at giving Bush more leverage for diplomacy.

"I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars."

Obama's powerful 2002 speech opposing the war has become a central theme of his campaign. He was a state senator in Illinoisat the time and didn't arrive in Washington until 2005. 

"The invasion was not a mistake. The handling of the war was a terrible mistake."

McCain became a vocal critic of Bush's tactics six months into the Iraq war. But last year, he became one of the staunchest defenders of the president's current surge strategy.

Timetables for Troop Withdrawal

"I hope to have nearly all of them out within a year."

Despite such statements, Clinton's advisers say that she believes setting a firm withdrawal deadline would be irresponsible. She has also mentioned a range of continuing missions in Iraq.

"I would end this war, and I would have our troops out within 16 months."

Obama has qualified his timetable, saying he would allow military commanders to adjust the withdrawal. He envisions a limited future troop presence in Iraq.

"The fact that we've not set a date for withdrawal and a date for surrender has improved things rather dramatically."

McCain was calling for more troops in Iraq before the surge, but he would run up against the limits of a severely strained U.S. military.

Effect on the War in Afghanistan

"We should be putting more troops in Afghanistan, not moving troops out of Afghanistan to send them to Iraq."

Clinton supports an increased deployment to Afghanistan, but only as part of a broader, coordinated boost by NATO.

"We cannot prevail until we reduce our commitment in Iraq."

Obama wants to pull troops out of Iraq in part to increase the U.S.troop presence in Afghanistan. He says he would use the extra soldiers as leverage for additional troop commitments from NATO. 

"If we cede Iraq to al Qaeda, how long will they stay the course in Afghanistan?"

McCain has offered few specifics on whether or not more troops are needed in Afghanistan, but he has recommended an increased emphasis on development aid.

View Speeches on Iraq