Iraq and the Big Lie
by Matt Stoller, Wed Apr 11, 2007 at 01:24:28 PM EDT
I have asked how Clinton can say that she will end the war and that she will keep troops in Iraq. Now I have a question for Edwards on his recent statement. I want to point out just how strange it sounds. Here's the first sentence.
When we say complete withdrawal we mean it. No more war. No combat troops in the country. Period.
So that means no combat troops in the country, unequivocably. Or does it?
If John Edwards is president, we're not going to leave the American Embassy in Iraq as the only undefended embassy in the world, for example. There will be Marine guards there, just like there are at our embassies in London, Riyadh, and Tokyo. And just the same, if American civilians are providing humanitarian relief to the Iraqi people, we're going to protect them. How in good conscience could we refuse to protect them and then allow humanitarian workers to be at risk for their lives or the work not to happen at all? Finally, it's also Senator Edwards' position that we will have troops in the region to prevent the sectarian violence in Iraq from spilling over into other countries, for counter-terrorism, or to prevent a genocide.
But this means combat troops in the country.
Preventing genocide, protecting an embassy, and protecting humanitarian workers are all good things, though whether they are possible at this point is a different question. But that's not the point of this post. Having combat troops in country just cannot be reconciled with "No combat troops in the country." These two statements are mutually exclusive. Period.
Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson, and Dennis Kucinich have stepped up and made a choice about Iraq and they should be rewarded for their honesty. Edwards is still pretending that you can just outright contradict yourself on Iraq and expect no one will notice. Or maybe he's not pretending, and genuinely doesn't understand that these two statements cannot both be true at the same time. Regardless, it doesn't matter whether this is a problem of judgment or intelligence. A contradiction is a contradiction, and Edwards supporters will hold him accountable for this. We need to end the war, and that means every one of us, regardless of who we support, has our job to do. Let's end this horse race nonsense, and focus on building a progressive country. I have given to Obama, Edwards, and Clinton, and I intend to let them know that I'm paying attention to what they say. Genuine support does not mean blind obedience, and in fact it means the opposite.
So Edwards supporters, you're up.
Update: I should add, to be fair to Edwards, that this is far better than Senator Clinton's plan, though it's something less than Richardson's. I wish there were not such an obvious and open contradiction here, but that's really the fault of the foreign policy 'establishment', which won't tell us the truth about what's really going on and just how bad our strategic situation is.
Update (Chris): Isn't anyone bothered that the first reaction of people to the Richardson plan was to call it naive, and the second reaction has been to attack Matt and msyelf--including smears against Matt--for pointing out that it is a contradiction to say you are going to completely withdraw all troops, but keep some in the country for varying purposes?
There are differences between the varying residual force plans, and those differences are important and need to be noticed. But it just doesn't make any sense to say that you are withdrawing all forces, and then say what the remaining forces will be doing. And no, embassy protection is not a contradiction in the opposite direction. And no, it is not Matt's fault that there is a contradiction in what many candidates are saying .
If candidates want to say they will almost entirely pull out of Iraq, and leave a residual force behind, that would be fine, because it isn't a contradiction. If you think leaving a residual force behind is a good idea, that is at least something concrete, even though I disagree with you. If you would like to see all troops removed, and the candidate you support comes close enough to sharing that opinion for you, that is also a separate issue. But to attack Matt for pointing out an obvious contradiction is unfair to Matt, not to mention probably unfair to whichever candidate you are supporting. Should we next call health care plans that leave 5% of the country uninsured "universal health care," and then defend candidates who make that claim too? How much sense would that make? And to whom would we be doing a service?
Update again (Matt): Some people are raising the point that we have troops protecting embassies all over the world, so having troops in Iraq to protect our embassy would be consistent with that principle. I suppose since this point has come up several times, it's worth rebutting. As a general rule, it's good to have marine guards stationed in American embassies. The exception is when we invade and cause a civil war in a country whose populations hate us and sanction attacks on American troops and, um, embassies.