No longer do the Democratic presidential candidates have to explain their plans for Iraq or justify whether their stances on Iraq are well-founded. The debate last night was moved to whether or not the surge is working, a frivolous discussion which is meaningless for our men and women in harm’s way right now. What does it matter if the surge is working? Are we really going to stand for such ineptitude on display as Democratic candidates stand up on stage and try to calm our fears about the violence in Iraq by telling us that “the surge is working”? Are we really at a point where we have to justify the Democratic-controlled Congress’s lack of action on this Iraq war since the midterm election in 2006?
Like some kind of Wall Street broker, John Roberts framed the question in regards to National Guard units having to be sent back to Iraq on their third tour of duty by saying, “But it's also true that U.S. troop deaths have been declining steadily since the spring. And in fact, in the month of October, they were at their lowest level in nearly two years. At the same time, there has been a marked decline in the number of deaths of Iraqi people.” It was the kind of analysis of Iraq that I would have expected from Roger Ailes’ failed FOX News Business channel.
Given the time, however, the candidates were not going to dismiss the question as ridiculous and quite Republican and so, they responded. Some responded quite well to the question of “Is the surge working?” Others did quite awful, and when you look at previous answers in previous debates, you can see a pattern.
First off, it’s important to try and ascertain what exactly it is our leaders are looking to achieve in Iraq. And I haven’t a certain idea but I have weak inclinations. You hear the phrases “military solution” and “political solution” tossed around. And then you hear talk about “benchmarks,” which I can only assume is a veiled reference to the GAO report released earlier this year on Iraq failures. That said, it seems that every candidate agrees there is no military solution to this mess but some think a political solution can be achieved. Some of the candidates, however, do not see a political solution being achieved with troops there and want us out.
Richardson took Roberts head on and said:
RICHARDSON: John, we shouldn't be talking about body counts. One American death is too much.
And -- (interrupted by cheers, applause) -- what I am saying here is the surge is not working. There is less -- right now less possibility of a political solution. Three out of the 18 benchmarks -- the General Accounting Office -- have been fulfilled. Even among Republican math is a failing grade. (Laughter.) What I'm saying, also, is that look at this statistic -- 65 percent of the Iraqi people now say it's okay to shoot an American soldier. Our troops are dying -- over 3,800, two today, 60,000 wounded, casualties, mainly mental trauma.
Now, my position is that we get the troops out in a year. Leave no residual forces behind unlike some of my colleagues here that want to leave some until 2013, but not just wave goodbye because we have a responsibility, and that is, one, to get a political compromise, a U.S.-led political compromise among the three groups; that they share power -- the Sunni, the Shi'a, the Kurds -- that they share oil revenues; that we have an all-Muslim, all-Arab peacekeeping force with some European forces headed by the UN; a donor conference that involves other countries; European Union, rich Arab states contributing to the reconstruction of Iraq, where we have spent.- Advertisement -
This is an idealistic viewpoint on Iraq that all can champion. Our surge in fact has many in Iraq on edge because the violence has died down and they are wondering when it will flare back up again.
On this rare occasion, Kucinich was also given a chance to chime in:
BLITZER: Is the troop increase, as General Petraeus has put forward over these past few months, is it working?
REP. KUCINICH: No, the occupation is fueling the insurgency. In 2003, I put forth a plan to get out of Iraq. I'm actually the only one on this stage who voted against the war, voted against funding the war a hundred percent of the time -- (cheers, applause) -- and also who has a plan to bring the troops home, and they should be brought home now. (Applause.)
And let me tell you something. The Democrats in Congress have not done the right thing for the American people. They should tell President Bush we're not going to give you another time. We're not putting a bill on the floor. Bring them home now. (Cheers, applause.)- Advertisement -
Also, when you talked about Pakistan you didn't get a chance to me on that question, but I want to point something out to you, Wolf. You cannot look at Pakistan and the destabilization that's occurring in many Muslim nations without understanding the role that our aggression against Iraq has played in contributing to that destabilization. (Applause.)
So I'm speaking about a new policy of strength through peace, no more unilateralism, no more preemption, no more first strike -- to open dialogue, diplomacy, adherence to international law. (Applause.)
You’ll have to excuse, Dennis. He doesn’t quite get it that people don’t care about his views so when he gets skipped he likes to pull those fast ones where he connects the issue he was skipped on to the issue he is being asked about. It’s very presidential and smart. But it’s not like Blitzer or anyone at CNN cares. Anyways...