Richardson: remove ALL troops from Iraq now

Several Democratic presidential candidates appeared before an AFSCME meeting in DC today.  Here’s the AP story.  Here’s the Reuters story.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is the next Democratic presidential hopeful scheduled to visit Iowa with stops here Friday and Saturday. Here is the text of the speech Richardson delivered today (on his campaign website).

Richardson spoke with Radio Iowa this afternoon just after his speech to AFSCME members.

"This Iraq war policy is a disaster.  I know the region.  I know the players," Richardson said during that telephone interview.  "…What I’ve proposed is what I believe is the realistic policy on Iraq and that is that we should pull out all of our troops by the end of this calendar year — all residual forces.  I believe that our troops have become targets.  They’ve done a magnificent job but when 60 percent of the Iraqi people say it’s OK to shoot at an American soldier that until we complete the withdrawal, none of the strong diplomacy can happen.

"Using the leverage of the withdrawal, get the three groups in Iraq to have a coalition government, divide oil revenues, divide territory, get an all-Muslim peacekeeping force to hangle security, get Iraq and Syria involved in the negotiations.  I believe those two countries don’t want civil war and chaos on their borders and a bunch of refugees.

"…The distinction I’m trying to draw with the other candidates is they leave an indefinite number of troops (in Iraq) — 20,000, 30,000 is it? — for how long/ And if you look at the resolutions passed in the congress and the appropriations bills, it says to continue training Iraqi security forces and my point is if you’re going to withdraw, you withdraw.  You don’t leave a third of the forces there for other reasons.  I would keep troops in the region, in Kuwait, for other contingencies (like) international terrorism.  I would redeploy those forces in Afghanistan where we need it but this policy in Iraq is been a failure and our troops are now bearing the brundt. Thirty-five-hundred now killed and there is no end in sight.  The Iraqis should take over the security of their country and that’s a distinction between me and the other candidates and that’s what I was trying to draw today."

Question: American troops remain in Bosnia  They remain in Korea.  They don’t, obviously, remain in Vietnam so by drawing this comparison, are you comparing past American conflicts in those places?

"Well, the difference is that in Korea our troops are wanted and we do need them there because there’s a threat from North Korea, Richardson replied.  "..I was just there two months ago.  Tensions have been reduced.  (The North Koreans) handed over some MIAs to me – six from the Korean War, so there’s progress there and in Bosnia, there is basically a peace to keep.  In Iraq, we are viewed as the occupiers and the American troops, who have done a magnificent job, now have targets on their back and I believe the strongest policy is one that we withdrawal but we use the leverage of the withdrawal to bring diplomacy to bear.  That’s a distinction I’m trying to make with me and the other candidates."

Question:  During the most recent debate, your rival Hillary Clinton made the comment that basically, all the candidates sort of agree on Iraq.  Are you trying to say to Democratic activists, ‘Hey, not so fast.’

"I am trying to say to Democrats in Iowa and other important states that we do have some policy differences.  We do want to get out of Iraq but the methodology is different.  I want it to be thorough, comprehensive, and I want it to happen soon with no residual forces (left in Iraq).  It’s important that we be clear and we draw these distinctions," Richardson concluded.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.