At MoveOn's TownHall last night, MoveOn members asked the pointed questions that the mainstream media doesn't seem to ask to Democratic contenders John Edwards, and Hillary Clinton about what they foresee as our long term presence in Iraq. See more candidates and videos here .
Edwards's response: (Lord love him, he even got a little dig in at Holy Joe)
Every day this war drags on it is worse for Iraq, worse for our troops-worse for our country. We don't need more debate; we don't need symbolic resolutions; and we don't need abstract goals-what we need are binding requirements. And we can't wait until the next president takes office in 2009. [..]
Here's what I believe ought to happen:
Simply put: Congress should use their funding authority to force President Bush to end the war and start immediately bringing American troops home from Iraq.[..]
But this is not the time for political calculation, this is the time for political courage. This is not a game of chicken. This is not about making friends or keeping Joe Lieberman happy. This is about life and death-this about war. We are done letting George Bush manipulate the rhetoric of patriotism, only to use our troops as political pawns. If Bush vetoes funding for the troops, he's the only one standing in the way of the resources they need. Nobody else.
(M)y goal is to end the war when I'm President and to bring our troops home, but as has been stated in the provisions passed by both the Democratic and the Democratic Senate, we do envision a vastly reduced residual force to remain for some limited period of time to train Iraqi troops, assuming they get their act together and begin to defend themselves, to provide logistical support for counter-terrorism missions, to protect the Kurds if necessary because they have certainly fulfilled their end of the bargain as they have tried to proceed to establish an autonomous region in the north.
And that does not mean we would have a permanent force. I am absolutely clear, we do not plan a permanent occupation or permanent bases, but in line with all of the legislation that has been passed by the Democratic majority or passed when we were in the minority going all the way back to 2005, we have tried to be responsible in saying there may be some continuing missions to protect America's vital interests, and to support an Iraqi government that we hope to be an ally going forward, assuming they are acting responsibly.
But the one that intrigued me was Bill Richardson's response. Chris Bowers from MyDD:
So far, in the entire forum, no line struck me more than Bill Richardson's "I would have no residual force whatsoever" in his opening statement (which he repeated in his response to question #1). With perfect clarity, that is exactly the line I have been looking for from Democratic candidates for President. [..]
What really makes me happy about this statement is that it came from Bill Richardson. This is a man who, earlier today, brokered a deal with North Korea to allow weapons inspectors back into the country, and who, three months ago, brokered cease-fire deal in Darfur. To use the favorite term of neoliberal hawks, no one alive today is more "serious' about foreign policy than Bill Richardson. And yet, here he is, running for President of the Unites States, and stating that the United States should have no residual force in Iraq whatsoever. Doesn't he know that "serious" people aren't supposed to say things like this? [..]
It is essential that this become the new way Iraq is framed in the Democratic primaries, and that we determine which camp each candidate fits into. Bickering over how people voted five years ago, or even how they feel about their votes five years ago, is pretty pathetic when compared to the difference between ending the war and simply reducing it in size. I will take a one-time war supporter who wants to end it, over a long-term war opponent who simply wants to reduce it in size. Ideally, I'd like to have both, (cough, Feingold, cough), but I will take what I can get.