Chris Dodd on War & Peace
Democratic Sr Senator (CT)
A: This is 16 agencies that have drawn this conclusion, it wasn’t just one. So it’s a very compelling case that’s been made for exercising caution and pursuing what I’ve advocated, and that is, pursuing as much of a diplomatic solution to the problems that Iran poses. And there are some. It would be foolish to say otherwise here
A: Well, certainly, considering under the circumstances we’re talking about here. I think the vote in September [that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards proliferators of mass destruction] was very important. We’re all seeking to be the nominee of our party, seeking the presidency.
A: We’ve misplaced priorities. We’ve got a problem growing by the hour in Afghanistan & Pakistan and all of our attention is in Iraq. The longer we remain committed to that effort, the greater the danger is for our country.
Q: But if the US were to leave quickly right now, just as the surge is beginning to show some signs of progress, the whole thing could collapse and all that progress would be for naught.
A: Look, we’ve been at this longer than WWII now, $2 billion every week here. How much longer, at what great cost do I have to continue to listen to that argument? Yes, the surge is working. What happens when we begin to redeploy? Are we going to stay there permanently? I don’t think we can, nor should we.
A: The question is not just how you bring the troops out, but why are we there? As president of the United States, your first responsibility is to guarantee the safety and security of the American people. And so the question you must ask yourself as president: Is the continuation of our military presence enhancing that goal? I happen to believe very strongly that this policy of ours, military involvement in Iraq, is counterproductive. We’re less safe, less secure, more vulnerable and more isolated today as a result of the policy. So I believe that we ought to begin that process of redeployment here.
Q: Will you pledge as commander in chief that you have all troops out of Iraq by January of 2013?
A: I will get that done.
A: Well, I think too much has been made of the assessment on the surge. Whether you agree with their assessment on the surge, that the violence is down, or you disagree with it, as many studies do, that’s really not the issue. The issue is, of course, fundamentally, are we safer, are we more secure, less vulnerable, today as a country? Is Iraq closer to becoming a nation-state or not? And that’s really the issue at hand here. And I think the conclusion I’ve reached, as well as many others have, is that despite all of these efforts over four and a half years, I think we’re less secure, less safe, more vulnerable today as a result of this policy, and that Iraq seems to be further removed from achieving that reconciliation that this space was supposed to be created by the surge.
A: I don’t. I think we’ve come to the point where it’s time to call this for what it is. This is a civil war in the country. $10 billion a month, $2 billion every week, not to mention the cost of lives, what it’s cost the Iraqis themselves, the emergence of al-Qaida in the country, developing a sort of incubator for terrorism. In the coming days in the US Senate, I’ll offer that we terminate the funding.
Q: But do you think you can get enough political support among Republicans to make it veto-proof?
A: I doubt it at this point, but I’ll start anyway. I think we should have started it earlier here to build that case. And even many Republicans have serious doubts and reservations. [Bush’s] language is so eerily reminiscent of language I heard 40 years ago about showing more patience, wait a little longer, this may work down the road, that frankly, many of us who went through that are saying today that’s enough.
A: Well, first of all, I think in this debate about the forces in Iraq--what time they come out, how many come out, and when they come out-- the underlying question is the safety and security of our country. We’re running for the presidency of the US. The first obligation and job of an American president is to keep this country safe and secure. I would argue that today presently our troops in Iraq are doing just the opposite of that. We’re more vulnerable, less safe, more insecure today as a result of the presence there because we’ve turned Iraq into an incubator for jihadists and terrorists. And I’ll strongly support in the coming days efforts here to terminate that participation based on firm deadlines. Then we ought to be taking those resources and putting them into Afghanistan here so that you have a serious effort here to go after Osama bin Laden.
DODD: I made a mistake in that vote in 2002. I don’t deny that. But when you make a mistake on something like this, you ought to stand up and say so. It was a mistake to suggest somehow that going in unilaterally here into Pakistan was somehow in our interest. That is dangerous. And I don’t retreat from that at all.
OBAMA: I did not say that we would immediately go in unilaterally. What I said was that we have to work with Musharraf, contingent on him doing something about that.
DODD: I believe we should. I didn’t come to that decision a long time ago. It’s been an evolving situation here. I think most would agree today that we’re more isolated today, our moral standing in the world has suffered terribly over the last number of years as a result of our involvement in Iraq. We’re feeling less secure, more vulnerable today. My view is there’s a greater likelihood that the Iraqis, if they understand that this is not an open-ended process here, there’s a beginning time and an end time for our military involvement here, and that we’re willing to help train troops and help on counter-terrorism, but that come the first of April next year, our military participation is over with.
GINGRICH: I disagree deeply. There are young men and women risking their lives in uniform who are dramatically going to be demoralized by the idea of who’s the last person to die trying to win in Iraq.
GINGRICH: You’d pass the supplemental immediately. You would encourage the Iraqis to triple the size of their regular army. You would establish a nationwide ID card with biometrics so you can actually track everybody in the country.
DODD: What you’re suggesting is terribly naive to assume that all of these things are going to happen with a government that can’t even leave the green zone to get out and function. You’ve got almost 80% of the population of that country thinks we’re the source of their chaos. A majority in the parliament called for a date certain forced to leave. $8 billion a month, and we’re building an army of radicals and the generation coming along, as a result of Iraq. We’re bogged down in this matter. The war on terror’s the legitimate war. The war on terror’s being neglected.
GINGRICH: The Baker-Hamilton Commission suggested that we engage Iran and Syria, who are our enemies in the region. The fact is the Iranians want us defeated. The Iranians are providing weapons, training and money to defeat us. This would be like saying, “Why don’t we turn to Nazi Germany to help us manage fascist Italy?”
GINGRICH: I believe we send a signal to enemies to wait patiently and destroy the country as soon as we leave. If this Congress passes a definitive end of American involvement, every enemy we have on the planet will exalt & claim it’s an enormous victory, and they will increase their recruiting. They don’t plan to stop in Baghdad. They are coming here as soon as they can get here.
DODD: I think just the opposite. The world is waiting for the US to lead again. We’re bogged down in a situation here where we’re losing credibility. The great moral reputation of the US has suffered terribly as a result of this. It’s time for us to say that there’s a new mission here, a change in course that will allow the possibility of Iraqis to decide they want to be a country. The status quo and escalating this conflict in Iraq on the assumption there’s a military solution, I think has been disproven and discredited.
A: Not at all. This is a civil war going on in Iraq. This is not the US versus Al Qaida. It’s Shia versus Sunnis tearing each other apart. It’s gone on for centuries, but particularly here right now. The US is being asked to, in a sense, referee a civil war. And at $2 billion a week, $8 billion a month, Americans believe that we have done all we can possibly do, and Iraqis have to decide whether or not they want to end this civil war and the sectarian violence. The idea that this is a winnable conflict by the US -- every military leader from the very outset have said this is not a situation where there’s a military victory for us here. So the point has arrived, I think, for all of us that the status quo is unacceptable and that we should begin redeploying our troops.
A: Well, why not go to the place where Al Qaida really poses some threats? Why not go after Osama bin Laden where we know he’s hiding out, instead of being bogged down in a situation where we’re being used and isolated -- and radicalizing elements in that part of the world -- more and more every single day? A change is necessary here, Chris. And clarity in that change I think is what has been missing here. I think too many Iraqis, Sunnis and Shias, would like us to stay there to satisfy their own particular interests. I think it’s after four years, after $400 billion -- $2 billion a week, $8 billion a month -- we clearly need a change in strategy here. This present status quo is not working at all.
A: I believe it is. I don’t think the stakes have ever been higher for us as a country. We’re more vulnerable today. We’re far less secure. We’re more isolated in the world as a result of this policy. This is a failed policy. We need to understand that we’ve got to move beyond this policy. We need bolder, experienced leadership that will take us in a different direction than where we’re clearly headed. I’m proud to support the Feingold-Reid legislation, which does exactly as you’ve described it. It would impart an end date at the end of next March. Also we need to engage in the robust diplomacy that we haven’t been engaged in. This administration treats diplomacy as if it were a gift to our opponents; a sign of weakness, not a sign of strength.
A: I believe that we ought to begin re-deploying our troops this evening. I’m the one that believes that, as others have stated it, there’s no military solution at all to Iraq. We need to move away from this idea that there’s a military solution. I’ve felt that for the last several years. And so, I believe that we ought to start re-deploying this evening, and over the next year, we can do that very safely, provide all the support our troops would need. We need to have a finishing date. I believe that we ought to have an end-date of March of ‘08 to provide a year-long opportunity for redeployment. I’m willing to accept during this year’s time, that training could go on the Kurdish areas of Iraq, that you could provide some border security on the Syrian and possibly on the Iranian border as well. But the overwhelming bulk of our troops ought to be moved, in my view, either to Afghanistan, Qatar or Kuwait.
A: I believe the President should seek authority from Congress in advance of taking military action against Iran or any other state for that matter. Now, under extreme circumstances, unforeseen circumstances, emergencies, I think it would be appropriate for the President, any President, to act to repel an attack in our country or armed forces that are legally positioned around the world. But even after that it seems to me, after the emergency, any President ought to come back to the Congress and succeed in getting that authority. It’s going to be critically important for a number of reasons: constitutionally, under war powers resolutions it requires that. But also it’s important to have the American public be engaged in these decisions, or you run the risk of these policies [losing] support during difficult times.
A: Well, they’re going to get it, apparently, but I regret it. I was [in Iraq] in December, and [people there] really felt that injection of a force of US military in these large, urban areas did not make much sense at all [and that task should be done by Iraqi forces]. Obviously, this is a civil war going on, and expecting US forces to be a referee in civil war in large urban areas doesn’t make a lot of sense to many people. So I regret we’re taking this step. I don’t think it’s going to work. I think it’s going to be incumbent upon the Iraqis themselves to pull this together. Their political leaders in the country to sit down and work this out, and frankly, if that doesn’t happen, our military presence there isn’t going to achieve it for them. So, I regret we’re taking this step.
A: That kind of language I think has no appropriate place today. Look, the war is all over the world today. We’ve had some 10,000 terrorist attacks. The suggestion somehow that if we’re staying in Iraq, it’s going to stop the problems occurring in London, Madrid and South Korea and elsewhere, I think has been done away with by most people who have thought about this at all. We’ve got a serious problem. We need to build international cooperation in order to succeed in this effort against global terrorism. The notion somehow that if we stay in Iraq, we’re going to deal with this problem, I think, has just been debunked over the last number of months and I hope we can move beyond that.
A: We ought to begin redeploying forces immediately out of those highly densely-populated areas in Baghdad. We could be doing things like border security, training Iraqi soldiers and policemen to do the job for themselves; providing some effort in counterterrorism--I think would be a legitimate use of those people. But don’t put our men and women in uniform into these highly densely-populated urban areas where they’re nothing more than referees in a civil war.
A: How much more chaos could we be creating in Baghdad? There are 23 militias operating in Baghdad, not including insurgents and Ba’athists, possibly al Qaeda elements. The idea that 17,000 people in a city of 6 million people are going to sort out that kind of conflict I think, as what everyone has said, can’t be done, including General Petraeus before he received the job he did, said more troops do not get you more security. Every officer we talked to, when the surge was being discussed, said this is a mistake. The Baker-Hamilton commission said you cannot solve this problem through military force. We need a surge in diplomacy, begin negotiations even with people we don’t particularly like.
A: No, what I was saying here was, ”Look, at least we are moving here politically.“ What makes us think at this particular junction that 17,000 more people, young men and women, injecting them in a city that’s being ripped apart by, by sectarian violence is going to sort that out? We need to move to a different strategy. The emphasis needs to be on robust, muscular diplomacy, deal with regional leaders, insist upon the kind of political leadership inside the country, and then ask our military people to do the border kind of security, the training that can be done, the counterterrorism activities, but get them out of these major urban areas.
A: No, no one’s suggested pulling out quickly here. 17,000 young Americans injected into the city of Baghdad of six million people with Sunnis fighting Shias, Shias fighting Sunnis, where you have Baathists and you have insurgents and maybe some al-Qaeda elements, all of this competing for power in that country, and expecting this increase to solve that problem, I think is terribly misguided.
Q: Would you start withdrawing troops this year?
A: I would. I think you can bring down those numbers.
Q:But if you take troops out of Iraq, don’t you make it less secure?
A: Not necessarily at all. This is the false assumption that somehow more troops bring you more security. I think you need to get away from that premise.
A: Two responses people in public life never like to give: “I made a mistake” and “I don’t know.” They’re two very reasonable answers to questions. When you make a mistake, there’s nothing wrong with admitting that, in my view. I’ve made them in the past, I’ll make them in the future. It was a mistake, in my view, to vote the way we did five years ago on that resolution. Certainly the information we had about imminent use of weapons of mass destruction was a major factor, I think, that people made the decision they did. It’s a legitimate question to talk about. We don’t need to compound that mistake by continuing to make ones in the future. I think the more important question, is where do we go from here? I’m of the view that we ought to begin redeploying forces immediately.
Proponents support voting YES because:
Sen. LIEBERMAN: Some of our colleagues thought the Sense of the Senate may have opened the door to some kind of military action against Iran [so we removed some text]. That is not our intention. In fact, our intention is to increase the economic pressure on Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps so that we will never have to consider the use of the military to stop them from what they are doing to kill our soldiers.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
Sen. BIDEN. I will oppose the Kyl-Lieberman amendment for one simple reason: this administration cannot be trusted. I am very concerned about the evidence that suggests that Iran is engaged in destabilizing activities inside Iraq. Arguably, if we had a different President who abided by the meaning and intent of laws we pass, I might support this amendment. I fear, however, that this President might use the designation of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity as a pretext to use force against Iran as he sees fit. [The same was done with the Senate resolution on Iraq in 2002]. Given this President's actions and misuse of authority, I cannot support the amendment.
Proponents recommend voting YES because:
Our troops are caught in the midst of a civil war. The administration has begun to escalate this war with 21,000 more troops. This idea is not a new one. During this war, four previous surges have all failed. It is time for a different direction. It is time for a drawdown of our troops.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
This resolution calls for imposing an artificial timeline to withdraw our troops from Iraq, regardless of the conditions on the ground or the consequences of defeat; a defeat that will surely be added to what is unfortunately a growing list of American humiliations. This legislation would hobble American commanders in the field and substantially endanger America's strategic objective of a unified federal democratic Iraq that can govern, defend, and sustain itself and be an ally in the war against Islamic fascism. The unintended consequence of this resolution is to bring to reality Osama bin Laden's vision for Iraq; that after 4 years of fighting in Iraq the US Congress loses its will to fight. If we leave Iraq before the job is done, as surely as night follows day, the terrorists will follow us home. Osama bin Laden has openly said: America does not have the stomach to stay in the fight. He is a fanatic. He is an Islamic fascist. He is determined to destroy us and our way of life.
Calling for the urgent deployment of a robust and effective multinational peacekeeping mission with sufficient size, resources, leadership, and mandate to protect civilians in Darfur.
Legislative Outcome: Agreed to by Senate by Unanimous Consent.
"America's reputation internationally has been severely damaged and critical military, diplomatic, and intelligence resources have been diverted from the war in Afghanistan--a war I supported, and a country this administration has increasingly neglected. And now, after so many errors, so many lives, and so much damage, this administration is again raising the prospect of yet another war in the Middle East--this time a war with Iran.
"I fear this administration has learned nothing from the colossal error, colossal misjudgment in the invasion of Iraq. Let me be clear: I am gravely concerned about Iran's activities in the region and its nuclear agenda. But any offensive action against Iran must be approved by Congress.
"Recent statements by this administration give me concern that this administration is considering just this--an offensive military action against Iran without the consent of Congress. Both Pres. Bush and Vice Pres. Cheney have made public remarks about Iran that suggest an administration readying for military aggression. We know Cheney's historic views on fundamental checks and balances in our constitution. They are disturbing."
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GOP: Sen.John McCain
GOP V.P.: Gov.Sarah Palin
Democrat: Sen.Barack Obama
Dem.V.P.: Sen.Joe Biden
Constitution: Chuck Baldwin
Libertarian: Rep.Bob Barr
Constitution: Amb.Alan Keyes
Liberation: Gloria La Riva
Green: Rep.Cynthia McKinney
Socialist: Brian Moore
Independent: Ralph Nader