Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign says Jeb Bush is looking to fault Democrats for the emergence of the Islamic State when it was the invasion of Iraq ordered by his brother, George W. Bush, that gave the group its start.
In a conference call with reporters ahead of Bush’s remarks tonight at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Clinton senior policy advisor Jake Sullivan called the Republican presidential hopeful’s speech a “pretty bold attempt to rewrite history and reassign responsibility.”
Sullivan, who called it “curious” that Bush choose Iraq to engage in a foreign policy debate, said Republicans “can not be allowed to escape responsibility for the real mistake.” Bush earlier this year tripped over questions about the Iraq war, the most controversial element of his brother's legacy.
Bush will argue that Obama and Clinton as his Secretary of State left Iraq too hastily, but Sullivan charged that Republicans sent in too few troops to secure Iraq in the first place and disbanded the Iraqi army.
“It’s simply wrong to assert that ISIS arose in the vacuum after American troops left,” Sullivan said, contending that the terrorist group’s forerunner was al Qaida in Iraq, which he said emerged after the U.S. invasion and signed up former Iraqi army members.
Bush will also blame the Obama administration for not leaving any troops behind in Iraq, but Sullivan noted Obama followed the withdrawal plan largely laid out by former president George W. Bush.
Bush will also criticize Clinton for only visiting Iraq once as Secretary of State, but Sullivan insisted Clinton, who voted for the war in Iraq, met multiple times with Iraq’s president and prime minister and chaired a committee overseeing the transition from military to civilian rule in Iraq.
“The key issue is not how many times does a plane touch down at the airport, it’s how intensive and effective is the engagement that leads to progress,” he said.
Sullivan said Bush criticizes the Obama administration, but didn’t offer any alternative: “What is he suggesting we do differently? More boots on the ground?” Sullivan said.
As for Clinton’s plan to defeat the Islamic State, Sullivan said she believes in using “all the tools in our disposal,” but offered no details.
“She’ll have more to say on this in weeks and months to come," he said.