Give'em Hell Bill: Richardson Won't Let Media and Other Candidates Ignore Iraq

On Bill Richardson's recent push to restore the war in Iraq to the most prominent issue among the Democrats running for President, Chris Bowers writes:

While I know that everyone in American politics is supposed to have some ulterior motive behind everything they do in public, everything in my experience has indicated to me that Richardson's position on Iraq is genuine. Richardson isn't alone, either. The latest CNN poll on Iraq showed public sentiment for total withdrawal sharply rising to 39%, a clear plurality nationwide. Further, residual forces wouldn't even be an issue in the campaign were it not for Richardson. No matter what happens when the voting starts, and no matter what you may think of Richardson otherwise, that is an important contribution to the campaign. And yes, it is one reason not to be cynical about American politics.

Through his campaign stops, press releases, TV ads and postings on blogs, Richardson has been relentless in raising the issue of Iraq and forcing the media and other candidates to not ignore it.

This week Bill Richardson wrote on Huffington Post:

Right now, too many Americans are worried about keeping their jobs, keeping their homes, and making sure their kids have quality education and quality health care. But there is one issue that I believe is the linchpin to everything we want to do in a post-Bush world: Ending the war in Iraq.

In Iowa, Richardson has conducted forums on Iraq and veterans hell care in addition to regular town halls.  Here is one report from a town hall Friday night:

Ending the U.S. presence in Iraq, promising "a hero's health care" for veterans and even excusing college student loans in exchange for a year's service to the country (including the military or the Peace Corps) were among issues Richardson raised Friday evening in Ames.

A crowd of between 250 and 300 people drove through a heavy fog to fill the Great Room at the Iowa State University Memorial Union for the New Mexico governor's appearance.

Huxley resident Sue Dinsdale led off the evening. She said she'd come to oppose the war after watching her son serve two tours of duty there, and added she was impressed with Richardson's vow to extricate the United States from the struggle.

After three more warm-up speeches, including one by Richardson's wife, Barbara, Richardson admonished his listeners that talk about the war (among voters and the media) seems to be quieting down.

"People say the surge is working, (that) 'only 37 Americans died' during December. That's 37 too many," he said.

The war still is front and center among vital issues, Richardson said, not the least of which is the $500 billion it has taken to fight it - money that could have been spent on domestic problems. He vowed to remove all U.S. troops and private contractors within a year of being elected.

The war is affecting America's moral authority as well, he added.

"Now, we're a nation known for Guantanamo, and I'll get rid of that my first day in office," he said.

Richardson was asked what he'd do to correct the alleged wrongs committed by private Iraq contractors like Halliburton and Blackwater.

"Simple. I'd fire them," he said. "They're paid three times as much as our troops and they have no accountability.

"If we leave (Iraq), we can focus on international terrorism, nuclear proliferation, reducing greenhouse gas emissions," said Richardson.

He said he would help to assure other countries that "we are not the world's policeman, but the world's conscience."

Earlier in the day, Richardson stated at another event in Iowa:

I'm saying that this presidential race should be decided on who has the best plan to get out of Iraq because Iraq is at the center of whether America can come together again, whether we can have a health care plan, whether we can have clean energy and create jobs. Because of the huge expenditures we've made in Iraq we can't focus on our domestic priorities. So I'm raising it at every stop and I want every candidate to talk about precisely what they will do to get out of the war and get our troops out.

The day before he commented:  "Our troops have done a magnificent job, but it's time to go."

Here is a video clip of Richardson discussing Iraq and veterans care this week in Iowa:

Earlier this month, the Des Moines Register called for the Democrats to outline a realistic timeline for a withdrawal from Iraq, yet singled out Richardson for criticism for promising to bring all troops home within one year of taking office.  Today, the Register published a letter from former Ambassadors Dennis Jett and Leslie Alexander hitting back:

Those of us who oppose the Iraq war do not believe that Bill Richardson's taking a clear position on Iraq is pandering. Indeed, to suggest in one sentence that candidates should lay out a timetable for withdrawal - and in the next suggest that no one has to take it seriously - is the kind of equivocation that has been all too common among those who want to have it both ways. There is no plausible scenario under which the continued presence of U.S. troops could be justified, and the Register does not even attempt to conjure one ("Outline a Realistic Withdrawal Plan," Dec. 11 editorial).

There is universal agreement that there is no military solution to the situation in Iraq, only a political one. Leaving forces behind only enables the Iraqis to delay taking the necessary steps to end the violence.

Additionally, the war, through multiple and extended tours of duty, is breaking our U.S. Army and Marine Corps, which took so long to recover from Vietnam. We are seeing the effects of this on our all-volunteer force in the form of increased moral waivers, which are causing severe problems with unit cohesion and discipline. Our military is exhausted and at the breaking point.

Richardson recognizes that U.S. troops occupying Iraq indefinitely would be a disaster for those troops, for Iraq and for American security around the world. It would lead to thousands of additional dead American soldiers, prevent Iraq from reaching a peaceful settlement and continue to inflame Muslims throughout the world. It is a strategy born of the same naiveté that has consistently failed to make this country safer.

Indeed, since the British withdrew from Basra, violence there has declined by 90 percent. We would be well-served to follow their example as quickly and as safely as possible. It seems that Richardson alone understands this.

In regard to Richardson's criticism of Hillary Clinton for flip flopping on when she'll bring our troops home from Iraq, I found persuasive what a Kucinich supporter had to say on MyDD:

Bill Richardson has a perfectly valid point.

Hillary Clinton has made numerous ever-shifting positions about Iraq, and about the only real thing that we can trust that she'll actually do is continue to not tell the truth.

All through 2003/2004/2005, Clinton defended the Invasion of Iraq, praised Bush publicaly for being "resolute", and made public statements indistinguishable from fellow NeoCons Joe Lieberman & John McCain (Saddam, a man with no weapons, had to be overthrown, at the cost of billions of dollars and millions of lives).

Then she shifted her position around 2006 to being critical of Donald Rumsfeld (only when that was in vogue) and the "management" of the War (but not the immoral concept). Yet she disagreed with the idea of any withdrawal timetables or any policy (such as John Murtha's) calling for an end to the illegal occupation.

At the 11th hour, in 2007, she shifted again and started talking about bringing troops home, however, Richardson is correct that she has stated very clearly that she wants combat troops and Iraq combat missions to still remain (why?), and was dismissive of the idea of a full withdrawal.

Now, there is a shift once again, perhaps too subtle to be called a "flip-flop", but one that is not lost on anyone really paying attention. Her statement about having almost all troops out in a year is a dramatic departure from her language 9 months ago and certainly from a year ago. And it is also quite different from the statements that she made in the media only just 2-3 months ago about having troops remaining there for the next 10 years and even beyond her administration. Recall, in the debates that she said she would not commit to getting troops out by 2013 (Dodd did, Kucinich did, Gravel did, Richardson did, Edwards would not but said he didn't "expect" any left).

So, it is a completely valid point that Clinton is waffling all over the place on Iraq depending on either the audience, the polls, or on what she thinks will get her elected, or whatever.  Tell that to the families of the dead soldiers.

Unlike Dennis Kucinich or Mike Gravel or Ron Paul or Bill Richardson, etc. there is no consistency or overall principle or logic behind what she says.  She just tacks and shifts and jukes and jives around the issue to try and place herself in some preconceived "safe" political place that has to be readjusted from month to month.  Meanwhile real people are dying there each and every day, and billions of taxpayers dollars are being thrown out the window.

Simply put, Hillary Clinton has no crediblity on either Iraq or Iran.  She was wrong years ago, she is wrong now. And she has never stopped marketing the phony propaganda and White House talking-points.

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