Elections & Voting
Democratic presidential candidates & Iraq
By Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Sep 18, 2007, 01:22

When President George W. Bush spoke to the nation last week, he alluded to the fact that the Iraq war will be continuing when he is out of office. Every Democratic presidential candidate says they believe invading Iraq was a mistake, despite what their voting record may indicate. Each one has a plan to redeploy troops. There are two factors to consider concerning the Democratic presidential candidates and Iraq:

  1. Did he/she vote to authorize the use of military force against Iraq in 2002? If the candidate was not a member of Congress in 2002, did he/she speak out against invading Iraq?

  2. What is his/her plan to redeploy U.S. troops out of Iraq?

Senator Barack Obama touts the fact that he did not vote to authorize the use of military force against Iraq in 2002. He revealed his most extensive plan to bring troops home from Iraq on September 12. Obama�s plan would remove one or two combat brigades in Iraq per month. Presently there are 20 brigades in Iraq, and General Petraeus committed to reducing them to 15 by next summer. Only 10 brigades would be in Iraq by next summer under Obama�s plan.

Unlike Obama, former Senator John Edwards voted to authorize the use of military force against Iraq. However, while speaking at the California Democratic Convention in April Edwards said, �I voted for this war and I was wrong to vote for this war. I should have never voted for this war.�

Edwards� plan to end the war requires a �major diplomatic effort� which would �engage in direct talks with all the nations in the region,� and give support for a �political solution to the sectarian violence inside Iraq, including through convening a multi-party peace conference.� Edwards� plan calls for Congress to take four legislative actions:

  1. Cap funding for troops at 100,000 �to stop the surge and implement an immediate drawdown of 40-50,000 combat troops.�

  2. Prohibit any funding to deploy new troops to Iraq �that do not meet real readiness standards and that have not been properly trained and equipped.�

  3. Repeal the authorization it gave Bush in 2002 to deploy combat troops.

  4. Require total withdrawal of combat troops in �about a year without leaving behind any permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq.

Senator Hillary Clinton also voted to authorize the use of military force against Iraq. Until this year, Clinton did not express regret concerning her vote. In 2004 Clinton said she did not regret her affirmative vote, �No, I don't regret giving the president authority because at the time it was in the context of weapons of mass destruction, grave threats to the United States, and clearly, Saddam Hussein had been a real problem for the international community for more than a decade.�

During a Democratic presidential candidates debate Clinton said, �I take responsibility for my vote. Obviously I did as good a job I could at the time. It was a sincere vote based on the information available to me. And I've said many times that if I knew then what I now know, I would not have voted that way.�

In July Clinton announced her plan for Iraq, which consists of three actions:

  1. Begin phased redeployment within her first days in office.

  2. Secure Iraq�s stability as troops withdraw.

  3. Convening a �regional stabilization group� within her first days in office with global powers, key allies, and the nation�s which border Iraq to �develop and implement a strategy to create a stable Iraq.

Senator Joseph Biden, Jr., also voted to authorize the use of military force, but he now speaks out against the Bush administration�s handling of the war. Biden has consistently voted against bills which set a timetable for withdrawing from Iraq. In a February 2007 speech, he spoke about his plan for Iraq: �Our plan recognizes that there is no purely military exit strategy from Iraq. Instead, we set out a roadmap to a political settlement in Iraq -- one that gives its warring factions a way to share power peacefully and offers us a chance to leave with our interests intact.�

Biden developed a plan for Iraq with Les Gelb, the president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. The Biden/Gelb plan consists of five steps:

  1. Establish One Iraq, with Three Regions: Iraq would have a limited federal government with three autonomous regions (Shiite, Sunni, and Kurd).

  2. Share Oil Revenues: The federal government of Iraq would set national oil policy, ensuring that revenues are distributed among the three regions.

  3. Convene International Conference, Enforce Regional Non-Aggression Pact: With the U.S. a regional security conference would be convened with Iraq�s neighbors.

  4. Responsibly Drawdown US Troops: Develop a plan to withdraw U.S. military forces from Iraq by the end of 2007, but keep a residual force of about 20,000 troops in Iraq.

  5. Increase Reconstruction Assistance and Create a Jobs Program: Provide reconstruction assistance in Iraq, and insist other countries lead in financing reconstruction.

Although Senator Chris Dodd (CT) voted to authorize the use of military force against Iraq, he told ABC News in January that he regrets his vote. As early as October 2003, Dodd expressed his misgivings about the invasion of Iraq. His plan to end the war in Iraq is based on the amendment he co-sponsored with Senators Russ Feingold and Harry Reid. The amendment, which was defeated, would begin redeploying U.S. troops from Iraq within 120 days and would complete redeployment by April 30, 2008.

One of the first former U.S. senators to publicly oppose the use of military force against Iraq, Maurice �Mike� Gravel pointed out during the June debate for Democratic presidential candidates that the war in Iraq was �facilitated by Democrats.� He stated during another debate that he would �commence an immediate and orderly withdrawal of all U.S. troops that will have them home within 60 days.� He reasoned that 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.�

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, like Obama, voted against authorizing the use of force against Iraq. On February 28, he introduced House Resolution 1234, calling it �a plan to end the war in Iraq, which calls on the international community to provide peacekeepers and security forces that will move in as our troops leave.� The exact text of the resolution states, �the United States should end the occupation of Iraq immediately, simultaneously with the introduction of a United Nations-led international peacekeeping force pursuant to an agreement with nations within the region.� The resolution also called for all U.S. contractors and sub-contractors in Iraq to �return . . . turn over all contracting work to the Iraqi Government.� Referred to the House committees on Armed Services and Foreign Affairs, the resolution has not yet been voted on.

Elected as governor of New Mexico in 2002, Bill Richardson has consistently spoken against the invasion and occupation of Iraq. He developed what he terms a �Seven Point Plan for Iraq.� The plan consists of the following points:

  1. De-authorize the war now. Congress should pass a resolution which de-authorizes the war �under Article I of the US Constitution and the War Powers Act.�

  2. Troops out in six months. Congress should set a date to pull out all military troops, and appropriate funds for the withdrawal and redeployment of troops.

  3. No residual forces left behind. All troops should be withdrawn, with no �residual forces left in Iraq.�

  4. Promote Iraq reconciliation. An Iraqi Reconciliation Conference should be promoted by the U.S. which would �bring the factions together to seek compromises and to begin confidence-building measures, including the end of militia violence.�

  5. Work with all neighbors and allies. A regional conference should be convened �to secure the cooperation of all neighbors . . . in promoting peace and stability.� The key objectives of the conference would be �guarantees of non-interference, as well as the creation of a multilateral force of UN peacekeepers.� The multilateral force would be comprised mostly of �non-US, primarily Muslim troops.�

  6. Global cooperation in reconstruction. A donor conference should be convened to �fund Iraq�s reconstruction.�

  7. Redeploy to address real threats. Troops must be redeployed to Afghanistan �to stop the resurgence of the Taliban and to fight the real terrorists who attacked this country on 9-11.�

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