Bill Clinton: Antiwar?

The former president calls the war in Iraq a "big mistake."

Published November 16, 2005 9:48PM (EST)

It's yet unclear as to how effective President Bush's recent attempts to defend his Iraq policy, fend off Democratic criticism and boost his dismal poll numbers will be in the long run, but one thing seems certain: It can't get any easier when a high-profile supporter of the war calls the conflict in Iraq "a big mistake."

Yep, that's coming from former President Bill Clinton speaking to a group of Arab students in Dubai. "The American government made several errors ... one of which is how easy it would be to get rid of Saddam and how hard it would be to unite the country," he said.

Up until now Clinton has been a cautious supporter of the war, consistently pronouncing the effort in Iraq a worthy goal if democracy can be established, but always quick to cite the Bush administration's mistakes pertaining to the conduct of the war. But Clinton has refrained from condemning the entire operation in Iraq in such sweeping language. With John Edwards' recent mea culpa in the Washington Post, and now Clinton's rebuke of Bush's Iraq policy, are we witnessing the beginning signs of a shift toward some kind of Democratic consensus relating to the war? Will other centrist Democrats follow Clinton and Edwards' lead in the coming days and weeks? Can we expect any imminent changes on the war from Hillary's camp?

We'll have to wait and see. But as the Senate put increased pressure on Bush yesterday to divulge more public information about the war and provide plans for some kind of exit strategy, Bush's forceful repudiations of war critics and slick public relations efforts may not be enough to save him at this point.

By J.J. Helland

J.J. Helland is Salon's editorial fellow in New York.

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