Talking Iraq With Bill Richardson

Today, I had a chance to talk for about ten minutes with Governor Bill Richardson. The entire conversation focused on Iraq. Here is what I learned:
  • Apart from a contingent of marines to protect the American embassy, he does indeed mean "no residual force whatsoever." No American troops in Iraqi to serve as trainers, no American counter-terrorism units in Iraq, no American troops to protect humanitarian workers--no any of that. Also, since marines are part of every American embassy contingent, he did not consider that a residual force. He would keep American troops in the region, but not in Iraq itself.

  • His rationale behind this plan is that no matter what residual American forces are doing in Iraq, they will both be targets and serve as one of the main justifications for continuing violence in the country. His solution is to convene a regional diplomatic conference, in which American withdrawal can be used as leverage, to bring in security forces from neighboring countries such as Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.

  • Governor Richardson agreed when I asked him if he felt other candidates were being disingenuous when they claimed they were in favor of total withdrawal, but still wanted residual American military forces in Iraq to accomplish x, y, and z. He promised that is a distinction he would draw, and an issue he would repeatedly raise in public during the campaign. I told him that would probably help him quite a bit, looked forward to that issue being discussed, and thanked him for his time.
First, let me say that I completely agree with Bill Richardson on Iraq. This is the best plan I have seen for Iraq from any Democratic candidate, bar none. Further, given Richardson's long list of diplomatic accomplishments, I also have confidence that he would be able to successfully carry out this plan. At a minimum, this man needs to be the Secretary of State in the next administration. I am not ready to endorse him for President based simply on this plan, but it does mean he is one of a very small number of candidates on my radar for the primaries. Judging by the numbers from the house party poll on Iraq, where he finished a strong second, I think he accomplished that for a large number of other, dedicated netroots activists as well.

Now, you have every right to disagree with Richardson's plan. Also, even if you agree with Richardson's plan, you also have every right to argue that other candidates come "close enough" to your view on Iraq, and that other issues are in play when determining which candidate to support. What I hope this accomplishes is that we end the charade where some candidates claim they are for total withdrawal, and then list the various tasks a residual American military force will carry out in the country if he or she becomes President. How many troops we keep in Iraq--a lot, some, a few, or none--is an issue that needs to be discussed in the campaign, and I am thrilled that someone with the foreign policy accomplishments of Bill Richardson is leading the charge for "none." Determining the varying levels of American military presence in Iraq proposed by different candidates is a far, far more fruitful way for Iraq to become an issue in the Democratic primary than arguments over who voted for what back in 2002, and how they feel about those votes five years later. As progressive activists, this is absolutely a discussion we need to have, and I look forward to taking part in it.

Tags: Bill Richardson, Iraq, President 2008 (all tags)



Re: Talking Iraq With Bill Richardson

Also, even if you agree with Richardson's plan, you also have every right to argue that other candidates come "close enough" to your view on Iraq, and that other issues are in play when determining which candidate to support.

That's where I am.  I have to wonder, though, about contractors.  I'd rather pull out the contractors and leave the troops than pull out the troops and leave the contractors.

by jallen 2007-04-13 11:00AM | 0 recs
Matt's gonna pissed

that Richardson wants to have an embassy. Stoller's very opposed to our keeping an embassy there.

But thanks Chris for clearing this up--you could have saved yourself a lot of trouble by having this conversation before going up with that diary and post.

by david mizner 2007-04-13 11:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Talking Iraq With Bill Richardson

Okay. I'm sold.

What Governor Richardson means by "USA Out of Iraq" is what I mean by "Out of Iraq."
Anything less is just prolonging the agony.

Governor R. is best on Iraq.  I'll cross that off.

Now, let's talk
a)health care
b)global warming
c)the deficit.

by clio 2007-04-13 11:08AM | 0 recs
Sadly for Bill Richardson

he's soon going to have to answers questions about another issue. Now that he's gaining a little traction he's going to have to answer Steve Clemons's question: ons/ ml

"I will frame this as a "question" for Bill Richardson.

Have you behaved inappropriately or not in public settings with female members of your government administration, jokingly or not? Have you gestured to female public servants and political appointees -- who work as colleagues with you -- and made lewd gestures, specifically pointing to them and then pointing at your crotch with a room full of media and other politicos there in the room?

I ask this not to demean or undermine Richardson.

I ask it because I was not in the room when this particular incident occurred but many others were -- and rumors have long swept around Santa Fe that Bill Richardson makes a constant festive joke out of demeaning women. These incidents don't have to do with the comments by Lt. Governor Diane Denish that Richardson is a "touchy" and "feely" Governor. They have to do with questions about a far more crude kind of gesture that demeans professional women."

Now way round this issue. If he wants to be president, he has to answer this charge.

by david mizner 2007-04-13 12:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Sadly for Bill Richardson

This is a bunch of crap.  Is this really an issue?  I could care less if he did or didnt.  But none of this came out until a couple people blogged about it.  What makes this an issue?

by DocD 2007-04-13 12:38PM | 0 recs
More Innuendo and Rumor


There's not been one allegation made against Governor Richardson, only rumor perpetuated by Steve Clemons on Huffington Post, and commenters here and on Daily Kos. As Americans, we are innocent until proven guilty. So to discount Governor Richardson's candidacy based on salacious rumors is ridiculous and short-sighted.

Steve Clemons admits he wasn't in the room and that's why he's asking the question. Why should Bill Richardson have to answer the question at all when Clemons himself refers to them as rumors, and no allegations have been made?

by Ken Camp 2007-04-13 12:56PM | 0 recs

there's just to much chatter about it, and yes, I realize that I'm adding to the chatter, but it's not going to go away. Did it come from nowwhere? Maybe so, in which he should express his outrage at the slander. Because if he becomes a serious contender, reporters are going to ask him. He'd be doing himself a favor by addressing the allegation sooner than later. I'm not discounting his candidacy (though, truth be told, a moderate with a charisma deficit is unlikely to win the nomination) but as a pure bit of political analysis, he needs to do his best to put these rumors to bed. Believe me, he doesn't want to wait till one of the other campaigns put its out there just before the Nevada Primary.

by david mizner 2007-04-13 01:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Sorry

you're such a troll.

by colorless green ideas 2007-04-13 03:21PM | 0 recs

Counter terrorism and training iraqis isn't important to him and outsourcing whatever job left to do in iraq to turkey, syria, and egypt makes sense to him.

it's nice to know where he stands.

but it's not disingenuous to end the war as it has been defined up until now (trying to stop the civil war) and also believe we still need a few troops left in iraq to take care of other, quite different issues.

it's quite simply an issue where there can be some disagreement without calling the other candidates disingenuous.

don't vote for the other candidates if you want every last single troop out of iraq.

vote for richardson.

by Stewieeeee 2007-04-13 11:10AM | 0 recs
Undermining terrorism is more important ...

... to him than having a "counter terrorism" tag as an excuse to extend the occupation.

Really, it ought to be more important to all the candidates.

However, it is good that there is a pro-bogus-free-trade, anti-universal-health-care candidate that also supports complete withdrawal from Iraq, because it makes it a lot easier for complete withdrawal to emerge as the consensus position, no matter what your views on domestic policy and international economic policy.

by BruceMcF 2007-04-13 11:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Talking Iraq With Bill Richardson

Yes -- Richardson has made the sale with me on Iraq. Interesting that he came in second among the MoveOn folks who actually heard him (houseparty voters) but simply didn't command the attention of enough other viewers of the YouTube tidbits to get a similar position in the overall MoveOn poll. He has to get out there.

Meanwhile, I want to think about his stuff on immigration -- that will he is make or break temptation: just as Hillary has to prove she has the balls to be a militarist, Richardson may feel tempted to prove he can be tough on immigrants. The stuff on his website is mixed bag.

Not ready to jump for him yet, but interested.

by janinsanfran 2007-04-13 11:23AM | 0 recs
Town Hall

He came across very effectively in the Town Hall meeting.  Sounded confident and competent, pointed to his broad and deep foreign policy experience.

by jayackroyd 2007-04-13 11:45AM | 0 recs
I think he has room to grow

Edwards and Obama are certainly leading among the Iowa Democrats I know, but I do hear quite a few people saying they want to learn more about Richardson. I would not be surprised to see him make a move here later in the year if he puts resources into building an organization in Iowa.

by desmoinesdem 2007-04-13 11:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Talking Iraq With Bill Richardson

Totally agree, Chris.

He's not my over-all candidate, but I've become much more interested in everything else he has to say.

by Coral 2007-04-13 11:37AM | 0 recs
Clinton and Richardson

These two are the only two candidates who have taken a clear stance that makes sense and won't collapse in the event.

Clinton would continue an occupation indefinitely.  There are arguments for this involving the absence of a national defense force in Iraq. Unless some security arrangement can be brokered with states that have a history of conflict with each other, US forces would have to remain.

Richardson takes a different tack. He'd remove the troops as a means, imo, to goad the other states into a security arrangement. This also is clear and  makes sense.

Of course, both courses won't work--there is going to be a civil war before any security arrangements can be made. This administration is incapable of laying the foundations for such a security conference.  Our hopes rather have to lie in Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Saudi Arabia coming to the conclusion that a chaotic Iraq 150,000 American soldiers is not a good thing, and work out an arrangement that can be used to pressure the US to withdraw.

Not holding my breath on that one either.  But at least Clinton and Richardson are taking clear positions that are free of doubletalk.  Now, you can note that there is conflict in what Clinton is doing now in supporting withdrawal by March 08, and saying on the campaign trail. But I think those two positions are not mutually exclusive. Get them out as soon as possible, is what she is saying. But if the US is still in Iraq when she is president, then she will need to remain for some indefinite period of time.

by jayackroyd 2007-04-13 11:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Talking Iraq With Bill Richardson

Well, he sold me, but I always figured I'd sign on to RIchardson's foreign policy. Maybe it's my innate worship of Great Leaders, but I just think Richardson knows more than me about foreign policy.

I hope, however, that instead of drawing simplistic cartoons of all the candidates, using Richardson's stance as a litmus test, we'll try to retain some nuance.

A) This candidate is for no residual force, except at the embassy, and troops in the region.
B) That candidate is for no residual force, except at the embassy, and to protect officially-sponsored humanitarian relief projects, and troops in the region.
C) Another candate is for all the above, plus a contingent of X-thousand troops to train the Iraqi troops.
D) The last candidate isn't willing to make any promises, giving only vague guidelines as he or she feels that the situation is so fluid that getting locked into a single approach is a mistake.

Whatever. I just hope we don't say that Candidate C is the good progressive ande everyone else is selling out the movement. Or that people only support one approach because of hero worship.

Let's argue these things on the merits, not the labels.

by BingoL 2007-04-13 11:58AM | 0 recs
i am certainly in richardson's camp on this one

his position is closest to my own, and i have long said that iraq is the penultimate issue of this election.

with a democratic congress, i think that we could get bill on board with universal health care and fair trade.  i'm honestly just not as concerned about those two issues until we can disengage in iraq.  realistically, unless we are willing to borrow and spend like bush has done, we won't have the money to fix our social ills until we stop throwing billions of dollars down the drain in iraq.  

by annatopia 2007-04-13 12:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Talking Iraq With Bill Richardson


I like Richardson's argument for a 100% withdraw of troops because it removes the primary agitator (the embassy, to me, was never up for debate). But I am VERY curious as to his plan for after all US troops are out of the country. If you get the chance, press him on how truly willing he thinks neighboring countries would be to help out. And if the "help" they offer could be useful and not just pushing their own sectarian interests. We all know Saudi Arabia wants a Sunni state and Iran wants a Shia state, but would they be willing to work towards stability first, and influence later? Dying to know Richardson's take on this.

by LandStander 2007-04-13 12:09PM | 0 recs
This is a good step

but it doesn't make his position on other issues better.

His answer to one of the other questions at Moveon involving Iraqi oil was pretty muddled if I recall.

and again, this isn't a plan, its a goal. There's a lot missing here folks and we shouldnt just give him a pass on the hard part - the actual implementation and responding to events - for the sake of his admirable goal. He does have great foreign policy experience, but extracting 150,000 troops in an extremely violatile situation with so many forces at play, shouldn't be glossed over or treated lightly.

by okamichan13 2007-04-13 12:27PM | 0 recs
Re: This is a good step

There's a lot missing here folks and we shouldnt just give him a pass on the hard part - the actual implementation and responding to events - for the sake of his admirable goal

How do you plan to hold Richardson responsible at this point for implementation of his plan and responding to events? Only the next President of the United States gets to implement his or her plan. And none of the candidates will do it before we vote in primaries or a general election. Bottom line: Richardson has the best plan for ending the debacle in Iraq. Vote for him and you'll see it implemented.

by Ken Camp 2007-04-13 01:03PM | 0 recs
here's his oil response

ELI PARISER: And now, one final question: Do you support efforts to keep large U.S.-based oil companies from retaining the rights to Iraqi oil fields?

GOVERNOR RICHARDSON: Well, this is a decision that would be made in that reconciliation conference that I said I would pursue. I believe this decision should be made by the Iraqi people. By the Sunni, the Shia, the Kurds... obviously, US leverage would be useful to try to obtain, but at the same time I think it's important that we find ways to have a reconciliation process where oil revenues are divided. This is a major source of income... of economic development for Iraq, and I think it's important to let the Iraqi people make this decision. If it's the condition of the United States to have this kind of Iraqi control of oil fields by US companies, I would reject that. It's what's best for the Iraqi people, and we must let them make this decision in the context of an American withdrawal, in the context of a reconciliation conference of the three ethnic groups.

seems about as straightforwards you can get, especially this line: "If it's the condition of the United States to have this kind of Iraqi control of oil fields by US companies, I would reject that."

by colorless green ideas 2007-04-13 03:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Talking Iraq With Bill Richardson

You know, i was really caught up in the Obama rockstar wave...but i've since come down from that and Bill Richardson really does seem to be the candidate for me. Of course, whether he's able to survive long enough to stick around and win some primaries worries me because he doesn't have the machine clinton has and he doesn't have the excitement around him that Obama has.

But he has the right ideas....i'll guess we'll see if thats enough to win these days.

by freaktown 2007-04-13 12:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Talking Iraq With Bill Richardson

Could someone other than me please write up a diary explaining why Richardson is so unpalatable so I don't have to?  If I wrote it, it would be too heated.

by jallen 2007-04-13 12:38PM | 0 recs
it just depends on your focus

i am not solid on richardson yet, (you can see, he's my third  choice), and edwards definitely has the best domestic policy agenda, especially on healthcare, but i haven't delved into his trade positions yet.  however, richardson is the only candidate that really gets the energy issue; i know edwards is saying all the right things, but he doesn't really "get it". energy is my #1 issue, with iraq/foreign policy a close 2nd and richardson is as of yet unequaled in those areas. i am willing to overlook imperfect domestic positions, just as many edwardsites and obamans are willing to look over foreign policy imperfections.

by colorless green ideas 2007-04-13 03:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Talking Iraq With Bill Richardson

I like Richardson's unequivocal position on withdrawal, but his vision of a regional force comprised of Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia is troubling.  Two of the three are repressive dictatorships. The Saudi's are particularly suspect, as the Salafi or Wahabi brand of Islam that fuels Al Qaida originates there.  We can't forget that the Saudi's don't allow females to drive or appear in public without a male chaperone.  Also, this plan distinctly favors Sunni over Shia.  That's not a fire we need to stoke, nor a fight that demands our participation.  Where are the real wonks when you need them?

by Yo Duh 2007-04-13 12:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Talking Iraq With Bill Richardson

There are a lot of issues that affect all of us every day.  But i am sure that if Richardson was president and he did what he talks about in bringing all of our troops home, this issue is the most important in impacting every American's life either directly or indirectly.  We are squandering money and lives in Iraq needlessly, and all of our government's resources are devoted to this issue.  This is the kind of stand i have been waiting to hear.  With a president like this we can stop terrorism.  Beating terrorism with a war rather than diplomacy cannot work

by DocD 2007-04-13 12:45PM | 0 recs
Is This Less Than it Seems?

A regional diplomatic conference with US troops as leverage?

Does he mean that US troops will not be removed until this diplomatic surge has reached a conclusion?

There are lots of questions that need to be asked.

It seems to me just at first blush that the other candidates are speaking of unilateral actions and Richardson is speaking of multi-lateral actions. Is this a case of apples and oranges? Are the other candidates simply talking about phase one and Richardson is on to phase two?

by Judeling 2007-04-13 01:13PM | 0 recs

You get them out of the civil war.

You don't have be in the streets to train iraqis and keep track of real terrorists.

apparently this is still too difficult for a lot of people to understand.

by Stewieeeee 2007-04-13 01:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Talking Iraq With Bill Richardson

Two issues:

1. "No American troops in Iraqi to serve as trainers, no American counter-terrorism units in Iraq, no American troops to protect humanitarian workers--"

a. Why then is he keeping them in the region?

b. How many troops is he planning on keeping in the region?

2. "His solution is to convene a regional diplomatic conference, in which American withdrawal can be used as leverage, to bring in security forces from neighboring countries such as Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia."

If there are no takers as far as putting in troops from the neighboring countries, then what?  How does the threat of our imminent withdrawal leverage other countries to get involved in a civil war we couldn't contain?  This sounds great, but for me the devil will be in his details.

by Kingstongirl 2007-04-13 01:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Talking Iraq With Bill Richardson

There are some things I don't agree with Richardson on, notably his support for guns.

But there is no more important job for the next president than to repair America's relationships with the world.

None of the other candidates is even close to him in this regard.

We need this guy.

by rothsf 2007-04-13 03:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Talking Iraq With Bill Richardson

I like Bill Richardson a lot, and this is a big part of the reason why. I'm still with Edwards, and I don't see that changing, but I'm really excited about the thought of an Edwards/Richardson ticket. Not only would it kick ass electorally (we'd have the Southwest minus Utah, plus Florida for sure), but it's probably the best combination of knowledge, vision, and experience of any two candidates in the race.

Also, is it just me or is Bill Richardson the Bizarro Dick Cheney? He'd bring experience and gravitas to any Democratic ticket, but with a long record of accomplishment and not pure evil.

by Gpack3 2007-04-13 04:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Talking Iraq With Bill Richardson

If you're not yet sold on Richardson because of his Iraq policy, then here are a couple of others.

Gov. Richardson has signed into law a bill that would legalize medical marijuana.

Asked by the Associated Press about the political risk involved, Richardson replied "So what if it's risky? It's the right thing to do...This is for medicinal purpose, for ... people that are suffering. My God, let's be reasonable." trategist/2007/04/medical_marijuana_refo rms_gain.php

Gov. Richardson has negotiated a deal with the North Koreans to dismantle the reactor and to allow nuclear inspectors into the country.

So far, Gov. Richardson is the only presidential candidate able to get things done. His accomplishments are consistent with American values as expressed by Thomas Jefferson:

The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, are the first and only legitimate object of good government.

by Hempy 2007-04-13 09:33PM | 0 recs

only kucinich actually cares about the iraqis.

his plan is full of compassion for the iraqi people.

this war has been a bad thing for america.

for iraq, it has been a total disaster far far worse than 911 was for america.

by common terry 2007-04-14 01:40AM | 0 recs
Richardson Sounds Like Biden on Iraq

Why isn't anyone making the Biden connection here?

Richardson gets the credit he deserves for his no residual force in Iraq position. But look at what Biden is saying on this point:

"Maintain in OR NEAR Iraq a small residual force -- perhaps 20,000 troops -- to strike any concentration of terrorists, help keep Iraq's neighbors honest and train its security forces." (emphasis added)

The Biden-Gelb plan is at or

Granted, Biden is not adamant, as Richardson is, about leaving no residual force in Iraq itself, but his plan clearly anticipates and recommends that as an option.

In fact, the Biden and Richardson approaches to Iraq look virtually identical. The central provision of Biden's plan is to "establish one Iraq, with three regions." Specifically, Biden would:

"Federalize Iraq in accordance with its constitution by establishing three largely autonomous regions -- Shiite, Sunni and Kurd -- with a strong but limited central government in Baghdad;

Put the central government in charge of truly common interests: border defense, foreign policy, oil production and revenues; and

Form regional governments -- Kurd, Sunni and Shiite -- responsible for administering their own regions."

Under an oil revenue sharing arrangement, Biden would:

"Gain agreement for the federal solution from the Sunni Arabs by guaranteeing them 20 percent of all present and future oil revenues -- an amount roughly proportional to their size -- which would make their region economically viable; and

Empower the central government to set national oil policy and distribute the revenues, which would attract needed foreign investment and reinforce each community's interest in keeping Iraq intact and protecting the oil infrastructure."

Now, look how Richardson responded in the interview with Jonathan Singer, posted here on MyDD a couple of weeks ago:

"If I were President today, I'd get out by the end of this calendar year. But I would do that with diplomacy, two diplomatic initiatives. One, a US-led diplomatic effort to get the three religious sects together -- the Sunni, the Shia, the Kurds -- in a reconciliation effort that would basically share power, coalition government, divide oil revenues in a Dayton-type structure of three entities governed by an Iraqi federal government. In other words, not three separate states but a loose confederation of three entities that are one Iraq."

Biden, too, cites Dayton as the model for his plan.

The full Richardson interview is at 4/5752

Is Richardson saying basically the same thing as Biden on Iraq, or are there important differences? Perhaps someone who knows both plans well can weigh in....

by horizonr 2007-04-14 11:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Talking Iraq With Bill Richardson
Tasteless rumors aside. Richardson is clearly more qualified to run this country than anyone in either party running for president.
I support his solution for Iraq because unlike the others he is not pandering to the side that we stay to keep the peace. Its pretty clear there is only war because we're still there. We will remain a target so long as we patrol the streets. Our best efforts will be on the otherside of the border. This isn't about winning or loosing, its about doing whats best for America.
Richardson's record is not only wide ranging, but exceptional.
As for the unfounded rumors, I seriously doubt he would accomplished a tiny slice of what he's done if he had done any of what he's been accused of.
I doubt he's perfect, but then who is?
by Rafe 2007-09-03 08:51AM | 0 recs


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