News Release

Clinton’s Big Lie from Last Night


“We bombed them for days in 1998 because Saddam Hussein threw out inspectors.”
— Hillary Clinton, Jan. 31, 2008

Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, is the author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He said today: “If facts matter, then it should matter that Hillary Clinton chose to rely on such a basic falsehood during the debate when she flatly stated: ‘We bombed them for days in 1998 because Saddam Hussein threw out inspectors.’ In fact, just prior to the Clinton administration’s several days of bombing Iraq in December 1998, the U.N.’s UNSCOM weapons inspectors left Iraq when UNSCOM head Richard Butler withdrew them — because the Clinton administration made it clear that the U.S. government was about to start bombing.”

Solomon added: “That false statement by Hillary Clinton during the debate Thursday evening came as she was trying to verbally navigate what were her most difficult moments of the night: about her vote for the October 2002 congressional resolution that authorized an invasion of Iraq. At that point in the debate, she was arguing that she had made what she called a ‘reasoned judgment’ which assumed that Saddam Hussein had a record of blocking inspectors so they couldn’t find his weapons of mass destruction. In the process, her extreme distortion of history — asserting that the four-year absence of U.N. inspectors from Iraq was because Saddam ‘threw out inspectors’ in December 1998 — goes to the core of her candor about the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq and her rationale for voting to authorize it.

“Any journalists interested in fact-checking Senator Clinton’s claim that ‘We bombed them for days in 1998 because Saddam Hussein threw out inspectors’ would be well-advised to stick to relying on the original reportage of what occurred in December 1998. Since then, a self-referential myth has developed in retrospective news coverage of those events, with journalists and politicians alike frequently recycling the false assertion that the four-year absence of U.N. inspectors from Iraq began when Saddam kicked them out of the country.”
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Zunes has recently written a series of articles on the candidates and their foreign policy positions, including “The Foreign Policy Agenda of the Democratic Front-Runners: Comparisons on Some Key Issues.” He said today: “Senator Clinton, in Thursday night’s debate, claims that she voted to authorize war against Iraq because ‘we needed to put inspectors in.’ However, Saddam Hussein had by that time already agreed to a return of the weapons inspectors. Furthermore, Senator Clinton voted against the Levin amendment, which would have granted authority to invade Iraq if Saddam defied subsequent U.N. demands. Instead, Senator Clinton voted to give President Bush the authority to invade Iraq at the time and circumstances of his own choosing regardless of whether inspectors returned. Indeed, unfettered inspections had been going on in Iraq for months at the time the Bush administration launched the invasion that Senator Clinton had voted to authorize.”

Zunes is Middle East editor for Foreign Policy in Focus, professor of politics at the University of San Francisco and the author of Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism.
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For background, see FAIR’s
Iraq and the Media: A Critical Timeline” (3/19/07)
Common Myths in Iraq Coverage” (11/27/02)
There They Go Again: The Washington Post’s Iraq Tall Tale” (3/6/00)

Video of last night’s debate segment is available on YouTube.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167