EXCLUSIVE: Clinton on Politics of Terror

Taking a break from his work at the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto on Monday, former President Clinton warned Republicans not to politicize the London terror arrests, slammed Sen. Joe Lieberman, whom he campaigned for just a couple weeks ago, and tackled some of the controversies surrounding his work to fight AIDS.

"I don't think the thought in that London bomb plot has any bearing on our Iraq policy," Clinton said.

"The Republicans should be very careful in trying to play politics with this London airport thing, because they're going to have a hard time with the facts."

Clinton said that the London terror plot had raised two questions about the Republicans' political strategy.

"They seem to be anxious to tie it to al Qaeda. … If that's true, how come we got seven times as many troops in Iraq as in Afghanistan?" he said. "Why have we imperiled President [Hamid] Karzai's rule and allowed the Taliban to come back into the southern part of Afghanistan? Why was Iraq deemed to be seven times more important than finding the al Qaeda leaders for the last five years?"

Secondly, Clinton asked why the administration and congressional leadership had opposed tighter security on cargo containers at ports and airports.

Clinton's AIDS Mission

ABC News spoke with the former president at the International AIDS Conference, where he was promoting the William J. Clinton Foundation's work on HIV/AIDS.

It is helping provide low-cost medicine to nearly half a million impoverished people with HIV/AIDS around the world.

"It needs doing, and it's both the right thing to do in terms of our national self-interest and on a purely personal moral basis," Clinton said.

"It's imperative. … Too many people are dying, not only because there's not enough prevention, but also because we don't get affordable medicine out to them and we don't reach children early enough and we don't build health-care networks in rural areas. All these things require organization and systems that I know how to do."

Clinton, who will turn 60 on Saturday, praised President Bush's program to fight AIDS, though he acknowledged some concerns about the administration's requirements.

Almost a third of the prevention funding goes to abstinence and related programs, which Clinton said were often not effective.

"The fact that they require 30 percent of the money to be spent on abstinence education -- that is a big chunk of money when you consider how expensive the medicine and other things are," Clinton said.

"On the other hand, you have to give them credit. They are getting $3 billion a year out there that wouldn't have been out there otherwise, and they have saved a lot of lives."

Clinton said that considering all the money the Bush administration was spending on wars while giving tax cuts, "they're still giving quite a bit of money to AIDS. That's good."

On Sunday at the conference, Microsoft founder Bill Gates -- who has pledged almost $2 billion to combat AIDS -- said that women and girls in developing nations needed to become more empowered in order for the fight against HIV/AIDS to succeed.

Clinton agreed, but said it was difficult to change cultures.

"It's much more likely for HIV to be spread in areas where women's and girls' role in society are weak and where they are not valued and not developed," he said.

"What we try to do is to send in role models that will change that. One of our representatives is a young woman who was infected as a result of a rape. And when people see her, they see she's not ashamed. She doesn't feel stigmatized. "

Clinton on Lieberman

Clinton also discussed Sen. Joe Lieberman's loss in Connecticut's Democratic primary last week to anti-war liberal Ned Lamont.

Lieberman has characterized his loss -- and the need for his subsequent independent run -- as liberals in the party purging those with the Lieberman-Clinton position of progressiveness in domestic politics and strong national security credentials.

"Well, if I were Joe and I was running as an independent, that's what I'd say, too," Clinton said.

"But that's not quite right. That is, there were almost no Democrats who agreed with his position, which was, 'I want to attack Iraq whether or not they have weapons of mass destruction.'"

"His position is the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld position, which was, 'Does it matter if they have weapons? None of this matters. … This is a big, important priority, and 9/11 gives us the way of attacking and deposing Saddam.'"

Clinton said that a vote for Lamont was not, as Lieberman had implied, a vote against the country's security.

Clinton said other Senate Democrats who had voted to give Bush the authority to go to war -- including his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York -- who may be weighing a 2008 presidential run, had hoped that the threat of war would force former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to comply with U.N. inspections.

"They [Democrats] felt, frankly, let down that the U.N. inspectors were not permitted to finish, and they were worried that we were devoting attention away from Afghanistan and the hunt for [Osama] bin Laden and al Qaeda, which was a huge, immediate threat to our security in the aftermath of 9/11, as we saw [with] this foiled British plot continues to be," Clinton said.

Clinton did not discuss his wife's possible presidential bid in 2008, and said he was pleased with the work she was doing in the Senate right now.

Clinton said he campaigned for Lieberman because they had been friends for 35 years, and Clinton did not want the Democratic Party split over Iraq.

No matter how a Democratic congress member voted on Iraq, Clinton said that he or she was not responsible for the constant mistakes in judgment that had been made since the overthrow of Saddam.

"And no Democrat, no matter how much he or she was against it, can escape responsibility for the consequences of whatever we do now," he said.

"That is, what do we do now that's good for America's security, that's good for the world's security, good for the fight against terror?"

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