You have served magnificently. Now you are coming home.
Isn't that what we want to hear our next President say? That's what Bill Richardson said yesterday in Iowa.
Have Obama, Clinton or Edwards ever said this? They refuse to pledge to bring home all U.S. troops, even by 2013. 2013 is too late. Why settle for a President that can't figure out today that the war is a disaster and unequivocally calls for the withdrawal of our troops?
Richardson criticized other candidates and the news media for shifting focus away from the war:
Perhaps they think that because fewer of our troops have died lately that Americans don't care anymore. Well, we do and I dare the media to tell the families of the 37 troops who were killed last month that this issue doesn't deserve front-page coverage.
A version of this message was originally posted on MyDD as part of its candidate series.
Richardson argues that a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces is the only way we will have leverage over the warring factions to compromise, while our presence fuels the insurgency. In an Op Ed published in the Washington Post last September entitled "Why We Should Exit Iraq Now," Richardson wrote:
So long as American troops are in Iraq, reconciliation among Iraqi factions is postponed. Leaving forces there enables the Iraqis to delay taking the necessary steps to end the violence. And it prevents us from using diplomacy to bring in other nations to help stabilize and rebuild the country.
The presence of American forces in Iraq weakens us in the war against al-Qaeda. It endows the anti-American propaganda of those who portray us as occupiers plundering Iraq's oil and repressing Muslims. The day we leave, this myth collapses, and the Iraqis will drive foreign jihadists out of their country.
I have yet to read anything by Clinton, Obama or Edwards capturing this insight on the Iraqi conflict. Throughout the campaign, when pressed, they refuse to commit to a withdrawal of all U.S. forces by any time frame, including 2010 or 2013:
Some have accused Richardson of pandering in his call for a prompt U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Of course, these were the same voices that supported our invasion. As noted in the Des Moines Register, Richardson's plan is more than a withdrawal:
“We don’t just wave goodbye,” Richardson said, adding he would call a reconciliation conference in Iraq to implement accords to end the war. He would also establish an international donor conference and build a United Nations-sanctioned and predominantly Muslim peacekeeping force.
“The bottom line is this: Our presence in Iraq is blocking reconciliation by the parties and fueling hatred of the United States around the world. We are less safe staying in Iraq than leaving. We need to get our troops out in order to focus on our real security needs, and upon our needs at home.”
But isn't the surge working? Writing this month in the Huffington Post, Richardson's answer is:
It isn't. The conventional wisdom, that after just a few months of declining casualty rates, victory is around the corner is rosy-eyed nonsense. If you listen to Washington insiders, we've turned that corner again and again - so many times we may just be walking in circles.
Casualties have fallen three months in a row on nine previous occasions during the 5 years we've been in Iraq - nine times. Each time we've been fed the same lines: "Mission Accomplished," "Dead Ender," "Last Throes." On each of those nine occasions, however, casualties have risen back to newer more tragic levels.
I'm not sure who decided what number of American troop deaths is an "acceptable" cost to buy a declaration of "victory," but last month 37 American troops died. After nearly five years of war, the only "acceptable" number of deaths is zero.
. . . Only one thing will bring long-term stability in Iraq: political progress. The stated purpose of the surge was to give Iraqi politicians the breathing room to take the necessary steps towards real reconciliation. That has not happened - and those on the ground know it. Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister, Barham Salih, last month flatly declared "There will be no reconciliation . . .this is a struggle about power," and Iraq's Vice President (and most important Sunni politician) recently echoed that with "there has been no significant progress in months."
Political progress is impossible as long as our troops are on the ground, making the status-quo possible for Iraqi politicians and leading Iraqi citizens to doubt whether we'll ever leave. There is no military solution to this problem, so our military should not be there.
Yesterday in Iowa, Richardson emphasized that there is no U.S. military solution to the war in Iraq, and outlined a new vision for America at home and abroad:
It's an American Dream, in which all of our troops are coming home. In which our government works for the middle class.
. . .To those who say we can't beat the lobbies and pass health care reform: I know we can -- because I did it.
All kids twelve and under in my state today have access to health insurance, and we are going cover everyone else by 2010.
When I am President, every family will have access to the same health insurance that Congress and the President have,
And our veterans will have a Heroes Health Card so that they can the care they deserve wherever they need it. We're going to require full, mandatory funding of the VA health care system. And we're going to start treating mental trauma such as PTSD the same way we treat physical wounds -- like the battlefield injuries that they are.
Here is Richardson's speech: