June 6, 2007

erinflanagan.jpg Erin lost her younger brother in Iraq and asked how the GOP candidates would end the conflict in Iraq.

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Erin: It is. Unfortunately, my beloved little brother, 1st Lieutenant Michael Joseph Cleary, was killed in action in Taji, Iraq, eight days before he was to return home on December 20th of 2005. He was the best of the best and answered the call to serve our country. My family has been devastated by the loss.

As a member of an American family who has suffered so greatly at the choices made by the current administration, I desperately would like to know what you as commander in chief would do, both in the halls of the American government, to bring the parties together, as well as on the desert sands of the Middle East to bring this conflict to a point in which we can safely bring our troops home.

Amanda posts her NBC spot where Erin says that her question wasn't answered:

On NBC News this morning, Flanagan said that none of the candidates actually answered her question. “Obviously, I know it’s a tough one, and I knew when I asked it,” Flanagan said. “But I think — I truly believe that’s what the American public wants to know: how we can work together to get out.”

HUNTER: OK. Absolutely.

The key to leaving -- and, incidentally, thank you for his service.

And I want to let you know, my son...


I want to let you know that my son Duncan, the day after 9/11, joined the Marine Corps, quit his job, did two tours in Iraq. He's in Afghanistan right now.

First, I want you to know that it's worth it.


What he did was worth it.

And if we can achieve a country in Iraq that will not be an state sponsor of terrorism for the next 5 to 10 to 20 years, that will be a friend, not an enemy, of the United States, and will have a modicum of freedom, that is in the national interest of the United States, just like establishing a free Japan on the other side of the Pacific was in our interest after World War II, just like providing freedom and a protective shield for Salvador in Central America was in our interest.

So what I would do, and what we need to do right now, and we are doing, is standing up the Iraqi army. There is 129 battalions of Iraqis that we've trained and equipped.

We need to start moving them into the combat zones where they displace the heavy American combat forces. Then we can pull our forces out. We can bring them home or send them wherever Uncle Sam needs them again.

BLITZER: Thank you.

HUNTER: That's how we leave Iraq the right way.

BLITZER: Thank you, Congressman.

Senator Brownback, I'd like you to weigh in.

BROWNBACK: If I could.

And thank you for your family's service and what your brother did. That's incredible and an incredible gift that he and your family have given us.

And I think you've identified the right thing. It's not about leaving, and it's not about being defeated. It's about getting the situation to a point that we can turn it over to Iraqis, and then us pull back from the front of the line.

That's why I'm putting forward tomorrow a bill, and this would be about a three-state solution in Iraq -- a Kurdish state, a Sunni state, a Shia state -- with Baghdad as the federal city, in a loose, weak, federated system; oil revenues equally divided.

And it's a bipartisan bill. We will have bipartisan support.

We've got to pull together here to win over there.

BLITZER: Senator...

BROWNBACK: And we can do this together, but we haven't put yet forward, this administration, a political solution that will be long- term and durable.

BLITZER: Thank you. Thank you, Senator.

BROWNBACK: That's what we've got to do.

BLITZER: Senator McCain, is that a good idea, to divide up Iraq into three separate...

BROWNBACK: It's not divided. It's three states, one country.

MCCAIN: It's not -- ma'am, I want to tell you thank you for your brother's service and sacrifice to our country. We are proud of you and your endurance, and we're proud of your sacrifice.

This war -- I'm going to give you a little straight talk. This war was very badly mismanaged for a long time. And Americans have made great sacrifices, some of which were unnecessary because of this management of the war -- mismanagement of this conflict.

I believe we have a fine general. I believe we have a strategy which can succeed, so that the sacrifice of your brother would not be in vain, that a whole 20 million or 30 million people would have a chance to live a free life in an open society, and practice their religion, no matter what those differences are.

And I believe that if we fail, it will become a center of terrorism, and we will ask more young Americans to sacrifice, as your brother did.

This is long and hard and tough. But I think we can succeed.

And God bless you.


BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.

Jennifer, go ahead with your next question.

VAUGHN: Cynthia Kiernan is here with us tonight.

Cynthia, you live in Merrimack, New Hampshire.


VAUGHN: You can go ahead and stand up.

And you brought your husband with you?

QUESTION: Yes. Michael served in Iraq.

And we have a question regarding the government in Iraq. Everyone's talking about, "Pull our troops out; pull our troops out." Well, considering they've lived under a dictatorship for the last 30 years or so, what are we going to do to make sure they have a government in place before we do pull our troops out and they're able to help themselves? Otherwise, we're just putting them in a position to accept another terrorist leader.


VAUGHN: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: Well, we've had four years to do this and it hasn't worked.

The biggest incentive for them to take upon themselves the responsibility is just for us to leave.

PAUL: We don't need to lose 100 men and women every month, more than a thousand per year.

And so, if you want it done, you want them to take over, you've got to give them an incentive.

So I think we should immediately stop patrolling the streets. That's a policeman's job. It's not the work of the Army. We're not fighting a military battle. We're in a different type of warfare right now.

So the sooner we recognize that, the sooner we can make sure that no more Americans will die.

We have a lot of goodness in this country. And we should promote it, but never through the barrel of a gun. We should do it by setting good standards, motivating people and have them want to emulate us.

But you can't enforce our goodness, like the necons preach, with an armed force. It doesn't work.

Woodrow Wilson was telling us about that, in promoting democracy a long time ago.

BLITZER: Thank you.

PAUL: It doesn't work and we have to admit it.

BLITZER: Thank you, Congressman.


Let me bring Mayor Giuliani in.

I don't know if you consider yourself a neocon, but go ahead and respond to what Congressman Paul said.


GIULIANI: Michael, thank you very much for serving us, and thank your family for their tremendous sacrifice.

I'd like to put it in a slightly different context. I believe that your service for us and your brother's sacrifice is one of the reasons we're safe now in the United States.

I believe that this terrorist war began way back in the 1970s. They attacked us in 1993 in New York. They attacked us again in 2001 in a horrible way.

And I believe that what we're doing in Iraq, if we can get it right, is going to help reduce the risk for this country. And if we get it wrong, this is going to be much, much worse for us.

And part of what we have to do and we haven't done right is take on that responsibility of nation-building. We created that responsibility for ourselves when we overthrew Saddam Hussein, which we did very effectively. It was one of the greatest military actions in American history, overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

But we didn't accomplish the second step. People can only embrace democracy when they have an orderly existence. And we have to help provide that. We didn't want that role, but it is our role.

And we have to train our military to do it.

We should probably have an IraqStat program, in which we measure how many people are going to school, how many factories are open, how many people are going back to work.

We had to get into the nitty-gritty of putting an orderly society together in Iraq. It is not too late to do it.

And I'd just like to ask, I'd just like to ask one question I didn't get to ask before, when you said, if General Petraeus comes back in September and reports that things aren't going well, what are we going to do?

But suppose General Petraeus comes back in September and reports that things are going pretty well. Are we going to report that with the same amount of attention that we would report the negative news?

Can you help us out?

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