But Reid, too, is known for making strange remarks. Angle tried to score by reminding the debate audience that Reid had once said the Iraq war had been lost. "That emboldened our enemies, demoralized our troops and endangered them, and you need to apologize to them, Senator," Angle chided. Reid countered with the many things he's done for veterans and his endorsement from the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
A: There is no doubt that because we put American troops in Iraq, more American troops in Iraq, that they are doing a magnificent job. They are making a difference in certain neighborhoods. But the overall strategy is failed because we have not seen any change in behavior among Iraqís political leaders. That is the essence of what we should be trying to do in Iraq. Thatís why Iím going to bring this war to a close. Thatís why we can get our combat troops out within 16 months and have to initiate the kind of regional diplomacy, not just talking to our friends, but talking to our enemies, like Iran and Syria, to try to stabilize the situation there. This year, we saw the highest casualty rates for American troops in Iraq since this war started. The same is true in Afghanistan. If we have seen a lowering violence rate, thatís only compared to earlier this year. Weíre back to where we started back in 2006.
A: The surge is not working. There is less possibility of a political solution right now. Three out of the 18 benchmarks of the Government Accountability Office have been fulfilled. 65% of the Iraqi people now say itís OK to shoot a US soldier. Our troops are dying. Over 3,800, two today, 60,000 wounded, casualties, mainly mental trauma. We get the troops out in a year, leave no residual forces behind. Not just wave goodbye because we have a responsibility. That is: one, to get a political compromise, a US-led political compromise among the three groups that they share power -- the Sunni, the Shia, 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 $500 billion.
A: No. The occupation is fueling the insurgency. In 2003, I put forth a plan to get out of Iraq. Iím actually the only one on this stage who voted against the war & the funding the war 100% of the time, and has a plan to bring the troops home. They should be brought home now. And let me tell you something, the Democrats in Congress have not done the right thing for the American people. They should tell Bush that weíre not going to give you another dime. Weíre not putting a bill on the floor. When you talked about Pakistan, you cannot look at Pakistan & the destabilization that is occurring in many Muslim nations without understanding the role that our aggression against Iraq has played in contributing to that destabilization. I am speaking about a new policy of strength through peace, no more unilateralism, no more preemption, no more first-strike, open-dialogue diplomacy, and adherence to international law.
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 donít put our men and women in uniform into these highly densely-populated urban areas where theyíre nothing more than referees in a civil war.
A: Two responses people in public life never like to give: ďI made a mistakeĒ and ďI donít know.Ē Theyíre two very reasonable answers to questions. When you make a mistake, thereís nothing wrong with admitting that, in my view. Iíve made them in the past, Iíll 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. Itís a legitimate question to talk about. We donít 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? Iím of the view that we ought to begin redeploying forces immediately.
A: How much more chaos could we be creating in Baghdad? There are 23 militias operating in Baghdad, not including insurgents and Baíathists, 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, canít 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 donít particularly like.
When someone wants to be president, they have to have the clarity of vision to be able to make the right decisions on life and death matters. I saw the same information that all these other candidates saw. I studied the same reports that they studied. I came to a different conclusion because everything I saw was there was no proof that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11 or had weapons of mass destruction. People are looking for a president who has the ability to do the right thing when it matters the most, and Iíve demonstrated that.
A: Iíve had this plan, in legislative form, and that is, itís time to end the occupation. Congress must cut off the funds. The administration must be told no more money. Thereís money there to bring the troops home for sure. But when you cut off the funds, you go to the world community, you say, ďLook, we know the occupationís been fueling the insurgency. Weíre going to close the bases, end the occupation, bring our troops home,Ē and once you do that, the international community will be prepared to have a peacekeeping and security force move in.
Iíve talked to people at the UN, people who have worked on international security and peacekeeping missions and military experts about this and they agree -- end the occupation. Thatís the first step, but itís not enough. You have to have a program for reconciliation between the Shiíites, the Kurds, and the Sunnis. The U.S. occupation will not permit that to happen. We have to have honest reconstruction.
What was the biggest reason we went to Iraq? Oil! Most American people are aware that if Iraq had not had oil, highly unlikely we would have gone in there. And the reason right now why privatization is on the table is because the Bush administration is doing everything it can to stay in Iraq so they can use their resources & influence to effect the privatization of oil. And itís wrong. We need to make sure the Iraqi people control thei oil and stop any efforts to try to change their national laws.
And we have to have a reconciliation program between Iraqis and the American people because we did real harm to the people there. They had no quarrel with us. Our occupation is illegal.
A: My vote was a sincere vote based on the facts and assurances that I had at the time. And I have taken responsibility for my vote, and I believe that none of us should get a free pass. It is up to the voters to judge what each of us has said and done. But I think the most important thing now is to focus on what we have to do together to try to force this president to change direction.
Q: Why are you against bringing the US troops home right now by cutting off funding?
A: I have introduced legislation to stop the escalation & to protect our troops. My legislation also says to the Iraqis: Enough. We are not going to fight your battles. We are not sending our young men and women in. You have to be on the front lines of your own defense. People ask me, ďwhy donít you want to cut money for American troops?Ē I want to cut money for Iraqi troops, because theyíre not standing up and fighting the way that they have said they would.
A: First of all, I think that I vastly underestimated the incompetence of this administration. I really mean it. Remember, they did it pretty well in Afghanistan. They acted responsibly. Almost every major network, almost every major editorial board in America said that they were acting responsibly. And when [Bush] came forward with this plan for Iraq, his wanting this authority, we assumed heíd act equally as responsibly. But they have been absolutely irresponsible.
I wrote a report six months before we went to war, called ďThe Decade After Iraq.Ē It stated we would not be greeted with open arms. There would not be enough oil to pay for the war. Weíd be there for five to 10 years, and we better not go unless weíre prepared to go with a lot more forces. And so I assumed they would understand that. And that was a giant mistake I made -- assuming their competence.
There is a way to do this the right way. Not one person but me has offered a specific political solution for inside Iraq. The Iraqis canít do it by themselves. Thatís why Iíd get the Permanent Five of the Security Council; I would bring in the major Muslim nations; and I would put immense pressure upon the regional partners there to stay out of Iraq.
Iíd put pressure on Iraq for a federal system. Thatís what their constitution calls for. It says Iraq is a de-centralized federal state. And this president continues to try to have a strong central power thatís not within the capacity.
We need to be leaving Iraq. We need to start leaving now. We should draw down 40,000 to 50,000 troops now. We should continue an orderly redeployment out of Iraq over the course of the next year or so. We ought to engage the Iranians and the Syrians directly in to help stabilizing Iraq.
Weíve had six years of a president who will take no responsibility for what heís done, six years of a president who is incapable of admitting that he was wrong, incapable of admitting that heís made a mistake. Itís time for a different kind of leadership in this country.
A: Well, whether itís good enough I think is between her and her conscience, itís not for me to judge. For me to talk about America being a moral leader in the world again, it was important for me to stand on a foundation of truth. For me the truth was, and still is, that there were two things that I was concerned about when I cast my vote [for the war]. One was the possibility that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. I came to the conclusion that he did, but I was wrong about that. Second, I was concerned about giving George Bush this authority because I was worried he wouldnít do the things that he needed to do in the lead-up to the war. In hindsight, I should never have given George Bush the authority that I gave him in 2002, and I have to take responsibility for that.
Iím here today because thatís not my America and itís not your America. Five-year-olders should not be frightened in this country. And so I want to challenge every single one of you and ask the simple question: What have you done today to end this war in Iraq? It needs to be ended now, not six days from now, not six months from now, not six years from now, it needs to be ended now! And itís up to you.
A: Congress takes the authority they have under the Constitution, and the moral authority that we expect them to show, and we say to the president, ďMr. President, weíre no longer going to fund this war.Ē
Weíre in the middle of a civil war inside a civil war. It is not going to be responded to and answered militarily. Itís a political solution that is required, and only the Iraqis themselves have the power and the capacity to do it. As long as we are in the middle of this, that political resolution is actually being sidestepped; it is being delayed; it is not being enhanced by our presence there.
If we have troops to take anyplace or put anyplace in the world, letís put them back in Afghanistan and letís get the job done that we were supposed to do a number of years ago. Letís find bin Laden. Letís hold those folks who hurt us responsible.
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