Debate Scorecard on Iraq
The candidates basically split into a) those who wanted gradual withdrawal with political arrangements and perhaps some troops left in Iraq; and b) those who wanted an immediate and complete military withdrawal, followed by diplomacy.
Biden, Clinton and Obama seemed to be in the gradualist camp, though Obama did not say whether he would keep some troops in Iraq.
Dodd, Edwards, Gravel, Kucinich, and Richardson wanted immediate and complete withdrawal.
There is thus a clear break between 3 of the sitting senators and the other candidates on this issue, which goes to matters of pragmatism, geopolitics, and the future American position in the Middle East. Elsewhere, Clinton has said she’d keep troops in Iraqi Kurdistan. Biden wants a soft partition of the country as a prelude to US gradual withdrawal.
With regard to Iraq, I did a keyword search and tried to pull out the candidates’ stances. This time, I’ll post them in alphabetical order:
BIDEN: Anderson, you’ve been there. You know we can’t just pull out now. Let’s get something straight. It’s time to start to tell the truth. The truth of the matter is: If we started today, it would take one year, one year to get 160,000 troops physically out of Iraq, logistically.
That’s number one.
Number two, you cannot pull out of Iraq without the follow-on that’s been projected here, unless you have a political solution. I’m the only one that’s offered a political solution.
And it literally means separate the parties; give them jurisdiction in their own areas; have a decentralized government, a federal system. No central government will work.
And, thirdly, the fact of the matter is, the very thing everybody’s quoting is the very legislation I wrote in January. It said: Begin to draw down combat troops now; get the majority of the combat troops out by March of ’08.
There’s not one person in here that can say we’re going to eliminate all troops…
COOPER: OK, time.
BIDEN: … unless you’re going to eliminate every physical person who’s an American in Iraq.
CLINTON: American ground troops I don’t think belong in Darfur at this time. I think we need to focus on the United Nations peacekeeping troops and the African Union troops.
We’ve got to figure out what we’re doing in Iraq, where our troops are stretched thin, and Afghanistan, where we’re losing the fight to al Qaeda and bin Laden. . .
since the election of 2006, the Democrats have tried repeatedly to win Republican support with a simple proposition that we need to set a timeline to begin bringing our troops home now.
I happen to agree that there is no military solution, and the Iraqis refuse to pursue the political solutions. In fact, I asked the Pentagon a simple question: Have you prepared for withdrawing our troops? In response, I got a letter accusing me of being unpatriotic; that I shouldn’t be asking questions.
Well, one of the problems is that there are a lot of questions that we’re asking but we’re not getting answers from the Bush administration.
CLINTON: And it’s time for the Republicans to join us in standing up to the president to bring our troops home. . .
CLINTON: You know, I put forth a comprehensive three-point plan to get our troops out of Iraq, and it does start with moving them out as soon as possible.
But Joe is right. You know, I have done extensive work on this. And the best estimate is that we can probably move a brigade a month, if we really accelerate it, maybe a brigade and a half or two a month. That is a lot of months.
My point is: They’re not even planning for that in the Pentagon. You know, Mr. Berry, I am so sorry about the loss of your son. And I hope to goodness your youngest son doesn’t face anything like that.
But until we get this president and the Pentagon to begin to at least tell us they are planning to withdraw, we are not going to be able to turn this around.
And so, with all due respect to some of my friends here — yes, we want to begin moving the troops out, but we want to do so safely, and orderly and carefully.
We don’t want more loss of American life and Iraqi life as we attempt to withdraw, and it is time for us to admit that it’s going to be complicated, so let’s start it now. . .
DODD: . . . It has been said from the very beginning: There is no military solution to this civil war in Iraq. . . I think it’s incumbent upon the Congress. . .
There is a sense of disappointment. We should set that time certain. I don’t normally advocate that here, but I know of no other way we’re going to convince the political and religious leaders in Iraq to take seriously their responsibility to decide to form a nation-state or not.
I think by saying with clarity here that we are withdrawing and redeploying our forces out of there, robustly pursuing diplomacy, which we have not done at all here. This administration treats statecraft and diplomacy as if it were a gift to your opponents here.
We need to have a program here that allows us to become much more engaged in the region. . .
DODD: I have advocated, again, that we have our troops out by April of next year. I believe that the timeframe is appropriate to do that. I would urge simultaneously that we do the things we’ve talked about here, and that is pursue the diplomatic efforts in the region to at least provide Iraq the opportunity to get on its feet. But I believe our military ought to be out before that. . .
EDWARDS: I don’t think any of our troops die in vain when they go and do the duty that’s been given to them by the commander in chief. No, I don’t think they died in vain.
But I think the question is — the question is: What is going to be done to stop this war?
The other people have raised the question earlier. And in fact, Senator Obama spoke just a minute ago about the White House agreeing that the parliament, the Iraqi parliament could take a month-long vacation because it was too hot, while our men and women are putting their lives on the line every day.
Here’s my question. While the Iraqi parliament is on vacation, is George Bush going to be on vacation in Crawford, Texas?
What we need to do is turn up the heat on George Bush and hold him responsible and make this president change course.
It is the only way he will change course. He will never change course unless he’s made to do it. . .
GRAVEL: . . . I’ll tell you, John, it’s a set up question. Our soldiers died in Vietnam in vain. You can now, John, go to Hanoi and get a Baskin-Robbins ice cream cone. That’s what you can do. And now we have most favored nation trade.
What did all these people die for? What are they dying for right now in Iraq every single day? Let me tell you: There’s only one thing worse than a soldier dying in vain; it’s more soldiers dying in vain. . .
KUCINICH: . . . The answer to your question, ma’am, is: Yes, it is politics. The Democrats have failed the American people. When we took over in January, the American people didn’t expect us to give them a Democratic version of the war. They expected us to act quickly to end the war.
And here’s how we can do it. It doesn’t take legislation. That’s a phony excuse to say that you don’t have the votes. We appropriated $97 billion a month ago. We should tell President Bush, no more funds for the war, use that money to bring the troops home, use it to bring the troops home. . .
KUCINICH: The underlying assumption here is that we’re going to be in Iraq until the next president takes office, and I reject that totally. People can send a message to Congress right now — and this is in a convention of this appearance — they can text peace, and text 73223, text peace. Send a message to Congress right now, you want out.
I introduced a plan four years ago, Anderson, that was a full plan to remove our troops. I’m the only one on this stage — excuse me — who not only voted against this war, but voted against funding the war.
It is not credible to say you oppose the war from the start when you voted to fund it 100 percent of the time, 70 percent, 5 percent of the time. Let’s get real about this war. Let’s get those troops home and let’s take a stand and do it now. Send a message to Congress now. . .
KUCINICH: No [MY RIVALS ARE NOT GREEN ENOUGH]. And I think that the reason is that if you support, for example, in Iraq, if you say that Iraq should privatize its oil for the U.S. oil companies, then what you’re doing is you’re continuing a commitment to use more oil. If you believe that all options should be put on the table with respect to Iran, that’s about oil.
So we need to move away from reliance on oil…
OBAMA: . . . At this point, I think we can be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in. But we have to send a clear message to the Iraqi government as well as to the surrounding neighbors that there is no military solution to the problems that we face in Iraq.
We just heard a White House spokesman, Tony Snow, excuse the fact that the Iraqi legislature went on vacation for three weeks because it’s hot in Baghdad. Well, let me tell you: It is hot for American troops who are over there with 100 pounds worth of gear. . .
OBAMA: I would [MEET WITH IRAN, SYRIA, OTHER BADDIES]. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them — which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration — is ridiculous.
Now, Ronald Reagan and Democratic presidents like JFK constantly spoke to Soviet Union at a time when Ronald Reagan called them an evil empire. And the reason is because they understood that we may not trust them and they may pose an extraordinary danger to this country, but we had the obligation to find areas where we can potentially move forward.
And I think that it is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them. We’ve been talking about Iraq — one of the first things that I would do in terms of moving a diplomatic effort in the region forward is to send a signal that we need to talk to Iran and Syria because they’re going to have responsibilities if Iraq collapses.
They have been acting irresponsibly up until this point. But if we tell them that we are not going to be a permanent occupying force, we are in a position to say that they are going to have to carry some weight, in terms of stabilizing the region. . .
RICHARDSON: There’s a big difference on Iraq between me and the senators, and here’s where it is.
The lives of our young troops are more important than George Bush’s legacy.
This is what I stand for: I believe we should bring all the troops home by the end of this year, in six months, with no residual forces — no residual forces.
This is critically important. A hundred American troops are dying every month. And this war is a quagmire. It’s endless. . .
RICHARDSON: The diplomatic work cannot begin to heal Iraq, to protect our interests, without troops out. Our troops have become targets. You are going to say six months, because it might provoke a civil war. There is a civil war. There is sectarian conflict.
The time has come, and I get challenged. I have no troops left. One hundred are dying a month. . .