Former US President Bill Clinton talks to Asharq Al-Awsat about the current state of affairs in the Middle East, the Bush administration and Hillary's chances in the next US presidential elections.
Q: Iraq! We both agree that we should not have gone there, however, how do you see us going out without hurting people who helped us and causing a total destruction in the region?
A: I don’t have an answer for it…. There will always be consequences to whatever decision we take. There is no guarantee… I don’t know any painless alternatives… If we stay in Iraq – there are bad consequences, if we leave in a hurry there are consequences too! Really, there are no good alternatives.
Q: So what are we to do?
A: I think Hillary has it right that we have to make substantive reductions in troop numbers and we have got to make it IMMEDIATELY. Because our troops are stretched too thin we have to pray… that if there is another war - we should be able to respond with Air Force and Navy alone. We should just pray…
Q: What about Afghanistan?
A: Taliban is going to land a “spring offensive” - if they ever come back to power! That will create space for Al Qaeda. And yes, I am afraid we have to send more troops to Afghanistan.
Q: While we are on the subject of Afghanistan, is Bin Laden alive?
A: Well I leave it up to you… I would say: “Never underestimate your enemy!!!” We knew at the time that he was sick. He had serious problems with his kidneys. We wanted to give him a dialyses machine and that way to track him down.
Q: My second question, regarding Iraq has to do with people’s perception that Hilary flipped flopped from supporting the war at the beginning -- to now, leading the criticism against it.
A: (looks very happy about the question) I am very glad you asked this question. It is very important that you will get the word out… Hillary has not done at all. Nobody paid attention to the resolution that was presented before the House. It was not about supporting the war in Iraq or not. She reacted like everybody else from Joe Lieberman and others who voted in support. Don’t forget at that time Hans Blix and his team were still working to find out if Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. If you read the resolution carefully you would see that its message was that we should go to war if Saddam did not collaborate with the UN resolution. So I am really glad you brought this up. BECAUSE IT IS NOT TRUE what they say about Hillary… I explained the misinterpretation and when the circumstances changed she moved to her next position and now she demands an “immediate troop reduction”.