John Edwards Campaign Statement On Complete Withdrawal
by Chris Bowers, Wed Apr 11, 2007 at 12:31:17 PM EDT
When we say complete withdrawal we mean it. No more war. No combat troops in the country. Period. But we're also being honest. 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 in the region means in the region - for example, existing bases like Kuwait , naval presence in the Persian Gulf , and so forth. I hope this helps explain Senator Edwards' position. Thanks for standing up for what we all believe in.Troops to defend the embassy are fine, since the embassy is actually American soil. Also, troops in the region are fine. I am not advocating for a total withdrawal from the Middle East.
Leaving troops in Iraq to defend American non-governmental personnel is a bit of a gray area. It certainly does seem different from both "having no residual force whatsoever" and from having a "continuing military mission in Iraq." I have asked the Edwards campaign if this includes a training program for Iraqi troops, or if it includes a role for "counter-terrorism" forces inside Iraq itself, because I think those are two important differences we can identify in varying Iraq plans. After all, both immediately before and after the Vietnam War, troop training and counter-communism missions continued even after other, large military operations had ended. If we are still training Iraqis via American troops in Iraq, and / or engaging in military-backed "counter-terrorism" efforts on the ground, are we really ending the war? I don't think so.
I have repeatedly said on MyDD that I am not a policy guru. However, as with the fight over the Iraq Accountability Act, the continuing and overarching importance of Iraq feels like it is forcing me to become one on this issue. There are a lot of nuances here. Does a candidate support a residual military force? What is the size and composition of that force? Will that force be used to protect the embassy? Will it be used to defend American civilians in Iraq (which has historically often been a pre-text for broader colonial intervention)? Will a residual military force be used as part of a military training operation for Iraqi troops inside the country? Will it be used as part of "counter-terrorism" efforts in the country, which would basically mean the war in Iraq wouldn't end at all? It is important to understand the difference between the candidates on all of these sub-issues, because each of these questions offers further insight into just how committed a candidate is to ending the war in Iraq if s/he becomes President.
Update: More from Edwards:
Training troops is the kind of activity Senator Edwards wants to occur during the 12-18 months he has proposed before our complete withdrawal. This is the period where well concentrate on helping Iraqis stand on their own, and increased training of their troops will forward that mission.OK, I take this to mean that he is not in favor of keeping troops in Iraq after the withdraw to continue training. Overall, it seems like a good plan, but still second best to Richardson. I just wish he would stop saying that he wants to remove all troops, when some will stay to protect American civilians. Just say "almost all troops" will be withdrawn.