Democrats, the 2008 Elections, Iraq, and the Antiwar Movement

At the end of the month, United for Peace and Justice–one of the largest antiwar groups in the United States–will hold a series of regional antiwar demonstrations around the United States to oppose the ongoing war in Iraq and to demonstrate the “breadth and depth of antiwar sentiment” in the United States. For residents of Grand Rapids and Michigan, the nearest regional demonstration will be held on October 27 in Chicago.

However, the Chicago convergence is showing that there are fractures within the antiwar movement as the 2008 elections approach. The organizing committee for the Chicago antiwar march has invited Illinois Senator Barack Obama to speak, despite the fact that Obama’s stated plan on the war would do little to end the occupation. He essentially offers the same muddled and watered down proposals as most other Democrats in the House of Representatives and the Senate offer, mainly reducing the number of troops in Iraq but leaving a United States presence in the country indefinitely. The decision to have Obama speak has received considerable criticism, with some antiwar groups announcing that they are withdrawing their endorsements of the Chicago event (1, 2, 3) or calling for alternative protests. Moreover, there has been opposition to the invitation extended to Illinois Senator Dick Durbin who has voted in support of the ongoing occupation and has had antiwar demonstrators arrested at his office. Without going into every detail of Obama’s position on the war, his positions on Iraq are not consistent with the demands of the demonstration which include “fund human needs, not the war,” “stop the violence at home and abroad, no wider wars,” “defend our civil liberties and immigrant rights,” and “bring all our troops home now.”

However, the October 27 event raises broader questions about the antiwar movement and the strategy that some sectors–especially those that are more aligned with the Democratic Party–will be taking as we enter 2008. None of the so-called “top tier” Democratic Party presidential candidates have offered plans to substantively end the United States occupation of Iraq, instead they offer plans that would attempt to maintain the occupation with fewer troops and offer tepid at best critiques of United States foreign policy. Moreover, the majority of those seeking the Democratic Party nomination voted to authorize military action back in 2002, and among those who were in office back in 1998, supported the Iraq Liberation Act that made regime change in Iraq the official policy of the United States. Moving beyond Iraq, many of these candidates have aggressive positions on Iran, the so-called “war on terror,” and United States economic and military dominance of the world. It is also worth noting that the Iraq Summer campaign, a nation-wide effort designed to “direct” antiwar energy towards “strategic” targets, focused entirely on Republicans, despite the fact that there were numerous Democrats around the country who can and should be the target of sustained antiwar activism.

Getting too close to any of these candidates poses a risk for the antiwar movement. This is especially true if one looks at the 2004 presidential elections, when much of the antiwar movement adopted an “Anybody but Bush” strategy. This meant that significant sectors of the antiwar movement either worked for or adopted a position of silence on the candidacy of Senator John Kerry, a candidate whose position on Iraq was more or less that he would do a better job fighting the war than President Bush. The antiwar movement by-and-large did not support the candidates for office that had what could be described as “antiwar” positions. There was little give and take between the antiwar movement and the Kerry campaign, and instead the antiwar movement largely gave its vote to Kerry without making any real demands of him.

While it’s impossible to absolve the antiwar movement of responsibility for its decision in 2004–Kerry’s position was certainly well-known and clearly articulated by Kerry himself–in the spirit of avoiding a similar mistake in 2008, Media Mouse decided to review the candidates for the Democratic Party’s 2008 nomination. Without going through every statement the candidates ever made on Iraq, we went through the following methodology–looking at their plans for the Iraq War on their website, reviewing recent news releases, and examining key votes on the war since the 2002 decision to authorize the use of military force. It is also worth noting that we did not go through and detail every component of each bill listed in our tally, however, the overwhelming majority of these bills–even those listed as “withdrawal” bills–would keep an unknown number of troops in Iraq or a neighboring country. Similarly, our research is not exhaustive, and indeed should be seen as a starting point. However, we hope that it will spark discussion and encourage the antiwar movement to start making demands of candidates and evaluate the efficacy of aligning themselves with political candidates. Now is the time to make such demands, as the “top tier” candidates have refused to pledge to have all United States troops out of Iraq by 2013. If they can’t pledge to end the occupation by 2013, how can they expect us to believe that they will “end the war now”?

The following candidates are included:

Joe Biden

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On his website, Senator Joe Biden lists Iraq as an important “issue” area, describing his policy in Iraq as “A Way Forward.” Biden begins his section on Iraq by stating that:

“President Bush does not have a strategy for victory in Iraq. His strategy is to prevent defeat and to hand the problem off to his successor. As a result, more and more Americans understandably want a rapid withdrawal, even at the risk of trading a dictator for chaos and a civil war that could become a regional war. Both are bad alternatives.”

While he offers no evidence prove that a “rapid withdrawal” would mean “chaos” and a larger “civil war,” Biden argues in favor of a “third way.” Biden argues that his plan would accomplish “the two objectives that most Americans share: to bring our troops home without leaving chaos behind.” To do this, Biden’s plan for Iraq calls for federalizing the country with regions allotted to Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis. Under his plan, the regional governments would be given autonomy over most affairs in their region, with a strong central government that would address “common interests” such as border defense, foreign policy, oil production, and revenues. In order to get the Sunni population on board with the plan, Biden would guarantee them 20% of all present and future oil revenues (a number proportionate to their population). Biden’s plan would also give the central government power to set national oil policy and distribute revenues.

At the same time, Biden calls for a “regional security conference” via the United Nations with Iraq’s neighbors to get pledges of support for the power-sharing agreement and respect for Iraq’s borders. The conference would also aim to have Iraq’s neighbors participate in stabilizing and not undermining Iraq, while convening an international group of “major powers” that would use their influence to guarantee the success of the plan. This would be paired with increased reconstruction assistance conditioned on the protection of minority and women’s rights as well as the creation of a jobs program. Other countries–especially “the oil-rich Arab Gulf countries”–would be urged to take the lead in funding reconstruction efforts.

Finally, Biden’s plan would “responsibly drawdown US troops.” This means that US military commanders would be ordered to develop a plan to withdraw and re-deploy “almost all” U.S. forces from Iraq by the summer of 2008. It also calls for the military to “maintain in or near Iraq a small residual force — perhaps 20,000 troops — to strike any concentration of terrorists, help keep Iraq’s neighbors honest and train its security forces.” In the text describing his plan, Biden’s website further states the goal of this residual force as a means of to “keep Iraqis and their neighbors honest.”

It is worth noting that in response to a query at a recent Democratic presidential debate on whether they would pledge to remove all troops by 2013, Biden said that he would have the troops out provided that there was not a “political solution” in Iraq.

Biden’s Voting Record on Iraq

Since becoming a Senator in 1973, Biden has voted the in the following manner on Iraq-related legislation:

  • 10/01/07 – 2008 Defense Appropriations Bill with No Withdrawal Plan: NOT VOTING
  • 09/21/07 – Levin Amendment to reduce number of US soldiers from Iraq within 90 days of enactment: YES
  • 09/19/07 – Webb Amendment to add mandatory rest time between deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan: YES
  • 07/18/07 – Levin Amendment to reduce the number of US soldiers from Iraq within 120 days of enactment: YES
  • 05/24/07 – Emergency Departmental Supplemental Appropriations Bill of 2007: YES
  • 04/26/07 – Emergency Departmental Supplemental Appropriations Bill of 2007 with withdrawal language: YES
  • 03/29/07 – $122 billion war spending bill including language calling for combat troops to begin withdrawing from Iraq this summer: YES
  • 03/15/07 – Non-binding resolution to direct the president to begin the phased redeployment of US forces from Iraq: YES
  • 06/22/06 – Amendment to the annual defense appropriations bill calling for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq but setting no deadline: YES
  • 06/22/06 – Amendment to the annual defense appropriations bill calling for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq by July 1, 2007 with soldiers remaining to train Iraqis: NO
  • 12/21/05 – Defense Department FY2005 Appropriations Bill: YES
  • 11/15/05 – Bill Requiring President to Report Every Three Months on US Policy in Iraq: YES

  • 05/10/05 – Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act: YES
  • 10/17/03 – Emergency Appropriations of $87 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan: YES
  • 07/22/04 – Defense Department FY2005 Appropriations Bill: YES
  • 04/03/03 – Appropriations for Operations in Iraq: YES
  • 10/11/02 – Use of Military Force Against Iraq: YES
  • 10/05/98 – Iraq Liberation Act making it the official policy of the United States to support regime change in Iraq: YES

Hillary Clinton

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On her website, Senator Hillary Clinton has an issue area titled “Ending the War in Iraq.” Her discussion of the Iraq War begins by stating:

“America is ready for a leader who will end the war in Iraq and a president who will respect our Armed Forces by properly planning for the missions we ask our troops to undertake. If the Bush administration won’t, as president and commander in chief, Hillary will end this war.”

Clinton goes on to state that the Iraq War “has imposed a tremendous cost on our troops, their families, and our budget. Four years after the start of the war, the violence continues to grow, and there is no end in sight.” She expresses opposition to “the surge” and states that “the war in Iraq has imposed a tremendous cost on our troops, their families, and our budget.”

Clinton touts two specific plans, legislation designed to revoke the president’s authority to wage war in Iraq and her “Iraq Troop Protection and Reduction Act.” That act would cap troop levels at their January 1, 2007 level and, according to Clinton:

“Require President Bush to begin removing the troops from Iraq within 90 days of passage, or Congress will revoke authorization for the war.

Put an end to the blank check to the Iraqi government and give them real benchmarks with real consequences if they fail to meet them.

Require the Secretary of Defense to certify that all troops sent to Iraq have the training and equipment they need.”

Her website’s “Newsroom” section contains a July 10, 2007 release that outlines her “plan to end the war in Iraq.” It is a three-step plan that she claims would “bring our troops home, work to bring stability to the region, and replace military force with a new diplomatic initiative to engage countries around the world in securing Iraq’s future.” This would include “a phased redeployment” to begin withdrawing troops within sixty days, a plan to provide quality health care to service members, and shifting aid efforts to focus on stabilizing Iraq rather than propping up the government. In addition, Clinton would launch an “intensive diplomatic initiative in the region.” This group would include key allies and all of the states bordering Iraq to “develop and implement a strategy to create a stable Iraq.” This strategy would have three goals–“non-interference” in Iraq by Iraq’s neighbors, “mediation” between sectarian groups, and “reconstruction funding” including honoring past promises and pledging additional money. Finally, Clinton says that:

“as we replace military force with diplomacy and global leadership, Hillary will not lose sight of our very real strategic interests in the region. She would devote the resources we need to fight terrorism and will order specialized units to engage in narrow and targeted operations against al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in the region.”

Clinton was one of the candidates at an October 2, 2007 debate who would not pledge to remove US troops from Iraq by the end of their first term.

Clinton’s Voting Record on Iraq

Since becoming a Senator in 2000, Clinton has voted in the following manner on Iraq-related legislation:

  • 10/01/07 – 2008 Defense Appropriations Bill with No Withdrawal Plan: NOT VOTING
  • 09/21/07 – Levin Amendment to reduce number of US soldiers from Iraq within 90 days of enactment: YES
  • 09/19/07 – Webb Amendment to add mandatory rest time between deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan: YES
  • 07/18/07 – Levin Amendment to reduce the number of US soldiers from Iraq within 120 days of enactment: YES
  • 05/24/07 – Emergency Departmental Supplemental Appropriations Bill of 2007: NO
  • 04/26/07 – Emergency Departmental Supplemental Appropriations Bill of 2007 with withdrawal language: YES
  • 03/29/07 – $122 billion war spending bill including language calling for combat troops to begin withdrawing from Iraq this summer: YES
  • 03/15/07 – Non-binding resolution to direct the president to begin the phased redeployment of US forces from Iraq: YES
  • 06/22/06 – Amendment to the annual defense appropriations bill calling for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq but setting no deadline: YES
  • 06/22/06 – Amendment to the annual defense appropriations bill calling for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq by July 1, 2007 with soldiers remaining to train Iraqis: NO
  • 06/15/06 – Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2006: YES
  • 05/04/06 – Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2006: YES
  • 12/21/05 – Defense Department FY2006 Appropriations Bill: YES
  • 11/15/05 – Bill Requiring President to Report Every Three Months on US Policy in Iraq: YES
  • 05/10/05 – Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2005: YES
  • 04/21/05 – Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2005: YES
  • 07/22/04 – Defense Department FY2005 Appropriations Bill: YES
  • 10/17/03 – Emergency Appropriations of $87 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan: YES
  • 04/03/03 – Appropriations for Operations in Iraq: YES
  • 10/11/02 – Use of Military Force Against Iraq: YES

Christopher Dodd

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In his website’s “issues” area, Senator Christopher Dodd describes his Iraq policy as a means of “Ending the Iraq War Responsibly and Safely.” Dodd argues that the Iraq War has “made us less secure, more vulnerable and more isolated.” Consequently, Dodd argues that there is only one way to “responsibly” end the war, which is “to set a firm deadline tied to funding.” Dodd argues that:

“the time for giving President Bush blank checks is over and that we should begin safely redeploying U.S. combat troops out of Iraq, beginning immediately and completed within one year. Iraq must assume the responsibility of policing and governing itself. There isn’t an Army big enough or Treasury deep enough if Iraqis aren’t willing to fight for that for themselves.”

To do this, he touts a Senate amendment he offered with Senators Reid and Feingold that would begin redeploying combat troops out of Iraq within 120 days, provide full funding for redeployment, and complete redeployment by April 30, 2008. Dodd outlines three “narrowly targeted exceptions”–“the protection of U.S. personnel and infrastructure, specific counterterrorism operations, and assistance with the training and equipping of Iraqi forces.” He further argues for a “surge” in diplomacy including “direct negotiation” with all nations of the Middle East and the convening of a regional summit.

Dodd was one of the Democrats who at a recent debate pledged that by January 2013 there will be no US troops in Iraq.

Dodd’s Voting Record on Iraq

Since becoming a Senator in 1980, Dodd has voted the in the following manner on Iraq-related legislation:

  • 10/01/07 – 2008 Defense Appropriations Bill with No Withdrawal Plan: NOT VOTING
  • 09/21/07 – Levin Amendment to reduce number of US soldiers from Iraq within 90 days of enactment: NO
  • 09/19/07 – Webb Amendment to add mandatory rest time between deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan: YES
  • 07/18/07 – Levin Amendment to reduce the number of US soldiers from Iraq within 120 days of enactment: YES
  • 05/24/07 – Emergency Departmental Supplemental Appropriations Bill of 2007: NO
  • 04/26/07 – Emergency Departmental Supplemental Appropriations Bill of 2007 with withdrawal language: YES
  • 03/29/07 – $122 billion war spending bill including language calling for combat troops to begin withdrawing from Iraq this summer: YES
  • 03/15/07 – Non-binding resolution to direct the president to begin the phased redeployment of US forces from Iraq: YES
  • 06/22/06 – Amendment to the annual defense appropriations bill calling for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq but setting no deadline: YES
  • 06/22/06 – Amendment to the annual defense appropriations bill calling for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq by July 1, 2007 with soldiers remaining to train Iraqis: NO
  • 12/21/05 – Defense Department FY2005 Appropriations Bill: NOT VOTING
  • 11/15/05 – Bill Requiring President to Report Every Three Months on US Policy in Iraq: YES
  • 07/22/04 – Defense Department FY2005 Appropriations Bill: YES
  • 10/17/03 – Emergency Appropriations of $87 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan: YES
  • 04/03/03 – Appropriations for Operations in Iraq: YES
  • 10/11/02 – Use of Military Force Against Iraq: YES
  • 10/05/98 – Iraq Liberation Act making it the official policy of the United States to support regime change in Iraq: YES

John Edwards

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On his website, former Senator John Edwards lists Iraq as an important “issue” area and describes his “plan to end the war in Iraq.” In the opening of his Iraq section, Edwards is quoted saying:

“We don’t need debate; we don’t need non-binding resolutions; we need to end this war. In order to get the Iraqi people to take responsibility for their country, we must show them that we are serious about leaving, and the best way to do that is to actually start leaving.”

His section on Iraq outlines several steps including opposition to “the surge” and immediate withdrawal of 40,000 to 50,000 combat troops, opposing funds for troops that have not been adequately trained and funds that will be used to escalate the war rather than training troops, withdrawing all combat troops within nine to ten months, and increasing diplomatic efforts with all countries in the region–including Iran and Syria–to end Iraq’s sectarian fighting. Edwards also argues that military’s current operations in Iraq lacks legal legitimacy as the authorization for war did not give Bush “the power to police a civil war.” Finally, Edwards would prohibit permanent military bases in Iraq although he would:

“retain sufficient forces in the region to contain the conflict and ensure that instability in Iraq does not spill over into other countries, creating a regional war, a terrorist haven, or a genocide.”

Edwards has called for the Senate to use its ability to cut funding and even the filibuster to ensure that a bill with a timetable for withdrawal is signed. Despite this strong rhetoric, Edwards was one of the Democratic Party presidential candidates who declined to promise to withdraw troops by 2013 at a recent Democratic candidate debate.

Edwards Voting Record on Iraq:

John Edwards served in the United States Senate from 1998 to 2004 and voted in the following manner on Iraq-related legislation:

  • 07/22/04 – Defense Department FY2005 Appropriations Bill: NOT VOTING
  • 10/17/03 – Emergency Appropriations of $87 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan: NO
  • 04/03/03 – Appropriations for Operations in Iraq: YES
  • 10/11/02 – Use of Military Force Against Iraq: YES

Mike Gravel

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Former Senator Mike Gravel’s “issues” page places the Iraq War at the top of his concerns and says that his position is “clear and consistent:”

“to commence an immediate and orderly withdrawal of all U.S. troops that will have them home within 120 days. The sooner U.S. troops are withdrawn, the sooner we can pursue aggressive diplomacy to bring an end to the civil war that currently consumes Iraq. Senator Gravel seeks to work with neighboring countries to lead a collective effort to bring peace to Iraq.”

Additionally, Gravel calls for a “U.S. corporate withdrawal” and would hand over reconstruction contracts to Iraqi businesses in order to empower Iraqi nationals to reconstruct their own country. Gravel also mentions the human toll of the war, citing more than 3,300 US troops killed, 50,000 permanently maimed, tens of thousands with PTSD, and an Iraqi civilian death toll of three-quarters of a million.

Gravel has pledged to bring troops out of Iraq by 2013 and has reminded Senators that:

“you stop the debate by voting every single day on cloture, every day, 20 days, and you’ll overcome cloture. The president vetoes a law; it comes back to the Congress, and in the House at noon, every single day, you vote to override the president’s veto. And in 40 days, the American people will have weighed in, put the pressure on those — you tell me that the votes aren’t there, you go get them by the scruff of the neck. That’s what you do. You make them vote.”

He said that despite the political consequences, such a move is worth candidates suspending their campaigns if “it stops the killing” in Iraq.

Gravel was not in the Senate when votes on Iraq were taken.

Dennis Kucinich

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On his website’s “Strength Through Peace” section, Representative Dennis Kucinich says that he is the “only democrat running for President who has voted against authorizing the war in Iraq and against funding its continuation.” Kucinich has announced a “comprehensive” plan to leave and stabilize Iraq, releasing it in January 2007 as President Bush was preparing to launch his “surge.” Kucinich’s plan includes an announcement that the United States intends to withdraw, use current funding to pay for the withdrawal and closing of military bases, return all US contractors to the United States and hand over contracts to Iraqi companies, convene a regional conference to get the input of Iraq’s neighbors, prepare and authorize a United Nations peace-keeping force, develop and fund a national reconciliation process, restart the reconstruction process, make the US and Britain reparations, respect Iraqi sovereignty by setting aside initiatives to privatize Iraq’s oil resources and other assets, set a plan to stabilize Iraq’s economy, reject IMF and World Bank structural adjustment programs, and establish a policy of truth and reconciliation between the people of the United States and Iraq.

Unlike other candidates, Kucinich has introduced his plan in its entirety as legislation in the House of Representatives.

At a recent Democratic presidential debate, Kucinich pledged to have all troops out of Iraq by 2013.

Dennis Kucinich’s Voting Record on Iraq

Since being elected in 1997, Kucinich voted on the following Iraq-related legislation:

  • 10/02/07 – Bill Requiring Secretary of Defense to Report to Congress on Status of Withdrawal Planning: NO
  • 08/05/07 – Department of Defense Appropriations, Fiscal Year 2008: NO
  • 08/02/07 – Mandatory Troop Reset Periods Between Deployments to Iraq: YES
  • 07/25/07 – Ban on Permanent Bases in Iraq: YES
  • 07/12/07 – Redeployment from Iraq Bill (would not required immediate withdrawal or set firm deadlines): NO
  • 05/24/07 – Departmental Appropriations for Defense, Security, and Hurricane Recovery: NO
  • 05/10/07 – Emergency Departmental Supplemental Appropriations Bill of 2007: NO
  • 04/25/07 – Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill of 2007 with Iraq Withdrawal Timetable: NO
  • 03/27/07 – Emergency supplemental spending bill for the “War on Terror:” NO
  • 02/16/07 – Iraq War Policy Resolution Criticizing “the Surge:” YES
  • 06/20/06 – Defense Department FY2007 Appropriations Bill: NO
  • 06/13/06 – Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act: NO
  • 03/17/06 – Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act: NO
  • 12/19/05 – Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act: NO
  • 06/20/05 – Defense Department FY2006 Appropriations Bill: NO
  • 05/05/05 – Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2005: NO
  • 03/16/05 – Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2005: NO
  • 07/22/04 – Defense Department FY2005 Appropriations Bill: NO
  • 06/22/04 – Defense Department FY2005 Appropriations Bill: NO
  • 11/07/03 – Defense Department FY2004 Authorization Bill: NOT VOTING
  • 04/03/03 – Emergency Wartime Supplemental Appropriations Act; NO
  • 10/10/02 – Use of Military Force Against Iraq: NO
  • 10/05/98 – Iraq Liberation Act Making Regime Change US Policy: YES

Barack Obama

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On his website, Senator Barack Obama touts his “Plan to End the Iraq War” and the fact that he spoke out against the Iraq War in a 2002 speech. Obama’s “issues” section on Iraq says that Obama has “a plan to immediately begin withdrawing our troops engaged in combat operations at a pace of one or two brigades every month, to be completed by the end of next year.” As part of this plan, Obama would call for a United Nations convened constitutional convention in Iraq, would develop a new regional security compact with Iraq’s neighbors, and would take “immediate steps to confront the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Iraq.” Obama’s site also says that “the surge” has been effective in reducing violence to 2006 levels, but he argues that is unacceptable. He further says “Iraq’s political leaders have made no progress in resolving the political differences at the heart of their civil war.”

In a September 12, 2007 speech, Obama outlined his “plan to end the war.” He called for the “responsible removal of our troops from Iraq’s civil war” arguing that there is “no military solution” for the Iraq War and that Iraqi leaders must take responsibility for their political differences and the “civil war” taking place in the country. Regarding the removal of troops, Obama said:

“We should enter into talks with the Iraqi government to discuss the process of our drawdown. We must get out strategically and carefully, removing troops from secure areas first, and keeping troops in more volatile areas until later. But our drawdown should proceed at a steady pace of one or two brigades each month. If we start now, all of our combat brigades should be out of Iraq by the end of next year.”

Obama argues that this strategy is part of an attempt at “applying real pressure on Iraq’s leaders to end their civil war.” However, Obama argues that there will be a continued United States presence in Iraq:

“We will need to retain some forces in Iraq and the region. We’ll continue to strike at al Qaeda in Iraq. We’ll protect our forces as they leave, and we will continue to protect U.S. diplomats and facilities. If – but only if – Iraq makes political progress and their security forces are not sectarian, we should continue to train and equip those forces. But we will set our own direction and our own pace, and our direction must be out of Iraq. The future of our military, our foreign policy, and our national purpose cannot be hostage to the inaction of the Iraqi government.”

He further outlines a plan for a United Nations-convened constitutional convention that would remain in session until a new constitution is adopted that satisfies “key political benchmarks” including “new local elections and reversing debaathification.” In addition, Obama calls for a regional security compact that would address the “problems” of Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Syria. Finally, Obama calls for an “international initiative” directed at addressing Iraq’s humanitarian crisis. Obama says that aid to displaced Iraqis from the United States should increase from $138 million to $2 billion.

If his plan is adopted, Obama argues that the United States will be able to maintain its position of “global leadership” in the world. Moreover, it will help the United States in Afghanistan by “stepping up our commitment there, with at least two additional combat brigades and a comprehensive program of aid and support to help Afghans help themselves.”

Following criticism of his failure to pledge to end the Iraq War by the end of his first term at a Democratic presidential debate, Obama clarified his position on October 2, 2007 by stating that:

“I will begin to remove our troops from Iraq immediately. I will remove one or two brigades a month, and get all of our combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months. The only troops I will keep in Iraq will perform the limited missions of protecting our diplomats and carrying out targeted strikes on al Qaeda. And I will launch the diplomatic and humanitarian initiatives that are so badly needed.”

Obama’s Voting Record on Iraq

Since becoming a Senator in 2004, Obama has voted the in the following manner on Iraq-related legislation:

  • 10/01/07 – 2008 Defense Appropriations Bill with No Withdrawal Plan: NOT VOTING
  • 09/21/07 – Levin Amendment to reduce number of US soldiers from Iraq within 90 days of enactment: YES
  • 09/19/07 – Webb Amendment to add mandatory rest time between deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan: YES
  • 07/18/07 – Levin Amendment to reduce the number of US soldiers from Iraq within 120 days of enactment: YES
  • 05/24/07 – Emergency Departmental Supplemental Appropriations Bill of 2007: NO
  • 04/26/07 – Emergency Departmental Supplemental Appropriations Bill of 2007 with withdrawal language: YES
  • 03/29/07 – $122 billion war spending bill including language calling for combat troops to begin withdrawing from Iraq this summer: YES
  • 03/15/07 – Non-binding resolution to direct the president to begin the phased redeployment of US forces from Iraq: YES
  • 06/22/06 – Amendment to the annual defense appropriations bill calling for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq by July 1, 2007 with soldiers remaining to train Iraqis: NO
  • 06/15/06 – Emergency Supplemental Appropriations, Act 2006: YES
  • 05/04/06 – Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act 2006: YES
  • 12/21/05 – Amendment to the annual defense appropriations bill calling for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq but setting no deadline: YES
  • 11/15/05 – Bill Requiring President to Report Every Three Months on US Policy in Iraq: YES
  • 05/10/05 – Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2005: YES

Bill Richardson

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On his website, Bill Richardson lists Iraq as a major issue area. According to the site, Richardson has a “one-point plan” on the Iraq War, with that point being to “end it.” Richardson clarifies this by stating that it is essential to get all troops out of Iraq quickly and safely.

Richardson elaborates on his plan, referring to it as “new realism” on the war. The plan actually has seven components which include “de-authorizing” the war by revoking the president’s authority to wage the war, removing troops within six months and fully funding their withdrawal with the goal of getting them out as soon as “humanly possible,” removing all US troops and leaving no “residual forces” as the continued US presence is driving the insurgency and foreign participation in it, promoting an Iraqi reconciliation conference, promoting a regional conference on Iraq with the goal of deploying United Nations peacekeeping forces, convening a donor conference to increase funding for reconstruction, and redeploying troops to Afghanistan to continue fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda and leaving a force in Kuwait.

On Richardson’s main page on Iraq, he reminds visitors that the United States has “rotated up to 240,000 troops into and out of Iraq in as few as 3 months” and that it is technically and physically possible to undertake a rapid withdrawal. In a recent speech, Richardson also said that “we must also remove the private mercenaries” from Iraq. In the same speech, he further criticized the plans of other Democratic candidates as “changing the mission, not ending the war.”

In response to a question at a recent Democratic presidential debate, Richardson said that he was willing to pledge to have all troops out of Iraq by 2013.