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Dodd Challenges All Presidential Candidates To Lead On Ending War

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Bob Geiger

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Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), a candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, gave an amazing speech last night in Iowa that discussed America's place in the world, the need to rebuild United States prestige in the wake of the George W. Bush presidency and the imperative to exit the Iraq civil war far sooner than later. "Our policy is not only failing to make Iraq more secure. By sapping our military of its strength and America of its leadership in the world, the Bush/McCain policy has made America less secure," said Dodd of the ill-advised troop surge that has shown no results. "The hour is late. It is time to begin putting our country on a more secure path. The moment has arrived for leadership that stands up and announces without equivocation that prolonging this war will not make us more secure Â- ending it will." Dodd, who was the first presidential candidate to endorse the Feingold-Reid bill to force Bush to withdraw all American troops from the Iraq quagmire by cutting off all funding for that effort in 2008, called on all other candidates to show similar leadership and announce support for the measure. "Tonight, I am calling on all the candidates in this race to join me in clearly standing up to the President once and for all by stating their support for the Feingold-Reid legislation that sets a firm timetable to end this war by March 31st, 2008," said Dodd. "After more than 3,200 lives lost, tens of thousands wounded and $400 billion spent, it is time to bring an end to a war that at every turn has failed to make America safer." In a speech called "Beyond Iraq and Into An Era of Bold Engagement" that was delivered to the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy in Des Moines, Dodd took respectful, but direct aim at Republican presidential candidate John McCain for his blind support for Bush's mismanagement of the war. He also pointed out that a bunch of Iraqis were killed in the same open-air market where McCain took his "safe" -- and heavily-guarded -- stroll in Baghdad recently.
"And so, the uncertainties and dangers of this moment are palpable. To understand where we are today and what course we must now pursue, you must start with Iraq. Just today, my Republican colleague who also seeks the Presidency spoke about our involvement there. "I understand that while he acknowledged setbacks in our efforts in Iraq, he reiterated his support for the President's troop surge strategy, arguing that it is succeeding and that we cannot afford to redeploy our troops out of Iraq. "No one questions Senator McCain's patriotism. He is a war hero and a friend. But like the President, he is wrong. "According to a news report, the day after Senator McCain toured a Baghdad marketplace - a visit guarded by 100 American soldiers, three Blackhawk helicopters, and two Apache gunships - 21 Shia workers from that same market were ambushed, bound and shot to death north of the capital. "Senator McCain's market visit makes clear the point many of us have made for some time. We don't need a surge of troops in Iraq Â- we need a surge of diplomacy. "The Bush/McCain Doctrine is not succeeding Â- it is failing."
And Dodd was equally hard on the Bush administration for squandering the goodwill the world felt toward America in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks and taking it to the opposite extreme by turning the world against us.
"At that moment, America was poised to lead in the 21st century as we had in the last. But in case after case, this Administration has not led Â- and as a consequence, the world has not followed us, leaving us less respected, less secure and more isolated. Instead of uniting the world against global terrorism, the Bush Administration divided our allies, preemptively taking America to war with Iraq. "Instead of preparing the alliances and institutions of the last century for the often harsh realities of the new one, the Bush Administration turned their backs on them. From the UN and NATO to the Geneva Conventions and the Kyoto Protocol, no agreement, no framework was too significant to belittle, to weaken, to discredit Â- regardless of how important they were to America's security. "At a moment when the character and temperament of who sat in the United States Chair at the United Nations Security Council never mattered more, the Bush Administration circumvented the Congress to seat John Bolton Â- the personification of disdain for not simply the United Nations, but the very notion of multilateral diplomacy."
Dodd went on to describe his belief that the Iraq war has been a devastating distraction from real threats facing America and articulated his plan to refocus and rebuild the U.S. military to the state of readiness it had before Bush took office. "In Afghanistan, I will redouble our efforts to capture Bin Laden, dismantle al Qaeda, and neutralize the Taliban once and for all to keep America safe. On the first day of a Dodd Presidency, I will begin rebuilding the military this Administration has hollowed out," said Dodd. "I will reorient our defense budget to reflect national security priorities, expanding the size of our Army and Marine Corps and investing in critical defense infrastructure. I will begin repairing, replacing and recapitalizing the war-battered fleets of tanks, trucks and helicopters, which have been operated at three to five times beyond their normal capacity." Of more immediate concern is what Dodd calls a need for greater diplomacy to resolve the Iraq problem, and to chart a dramatically different direction in what historians will one day call the biggest foreign policy mistake in U.S. history. "Never in my lifetime has there ever been an election with more at stake for America, for the world Â- indeed, for the common values of all humanity," said the Connecticut Senator, who has served in the Senate for 26 years. "For all the uncertainties in the world today, what is clear is that six years of a Bush Presidency have made America and the world less secure, not more secure Â- our place in the world less certain." And Dodd ended by talking about a major reason he is running for president... One that every one of us with children or young relatives understands as we ponder the last seven years and what George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have set up for the next generation. "For me this is personal. My daughter, Grace, was born two days after the September 11th attacks Â- from the hospital, we could see the smoke rising from the Pentagon," said Dodd in closing his speech. "Recently, as Grace was getting ready for school, she looked up at me and said, 'I wonder what my day is going to be like.' A moment later, she looked up again and said these exact words: 'I wonder what my life is going to be like.' She had just turned 5. That, my friends, is why I am running for President. Because the answer to that question is what I have been talking about today." "Let our children and grandchildren say that at the beginning of the 21st Century, after an uncertain start, America returned to her heritage. America led again." You can read more from Bob at BobGeiger.com.
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Bob Geiger is a writer, activist and Democratic operative in Westchester County, NY.
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