Bill Richardson on War & Peace
Democratic Governor (NM); Secretary of Commerce-Designee
A: Absolutely not. I welcome this positive news, obviously. We want to see a reduction in the violence, but the questions that I would ask, has there been progress among the political groups in Iraq for a reconciliation? The answer is “Very limited.” Has there been progress in dividing up the oil revenues so that there can be a reconciliation? The progress is minor. Has there been an effort to reach out, in a very tough way, to Iran, to Syria, to have a regional agreement that involves a potential U.N. peacekeeping force, a reduction of tensions? The answer is no.
This policy is not working. And you talk about energy; you talk about health care and education, we are spending billions on this war with no end, when we should be spending these billions at home on education, on health care, on human resources, on helping our people.
A: The Constitution assigns to Congress, not to the President, the power to declare war. However, in the case of an imminent threat, when there is no time to go to Congress, the Commander in Chief may, and indeed must, act to protect the United States. Given that the Iranian nuclear program does not pose such an imminent threat, if the President believed it was in the US national interest to attack Iranian nuclear sites, he should seek prior authorization from Congress.
A: I would make the pledge. It would be through diplomacy. And what we’re also talking about is not just Pakistan. We’re talking about enriched uranium, a loose nuclear weapon, nuclear materials, fissionable material throughout the world. Even more of a threat than nuclear weapons is a loose nuclear weapons crossing the border. So what we need is an international agreement. But the key has to be diplomacy.
A: Yes, I would. I want to just say to you that, in my judgment, we have to use diplomacy. There is a redline. We cannot permit Iran to use nuclear weapons. What you do is Ahmedinejad--it’s very difficult to deal with him. But there are moderate elements in Iraq. There are moderate clerics. There’s students. There’s a business community. We can achieve a compromise on the nuclear issue. In exchange for them having a nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear power, they don’t develop nuclear weapons--carrot & sticks, diplomatic initiatives, economic incentives. The problem is we saber-rattle. This resolution in the Senate saber-rattles. It’s critically important that we talk to North Korea, & to Syria, & that we talk to Iran. It’s going to take skilled diplomacy. If we’re going to resolve the situation in the Middle East, if we’re going to get Iraq to stop Iran’s helping terrorists, we have to engage them vigorously, potentially also with sanctions.
The Bush administration thinks that using military power is the way to solve the world’s problems. Yet our experience in 1997, working multilaterally to contain Saadam, brought us together with other nations. We employed force in a strategic way, in collaboration with our allies, patrolling Iraq’s skies and the Persian Gulf. Today, instead, having used force almost unilaterally to invade Iraq, and having conducted the war and reconstruction so badly, we are isolated. As a result, Iraq is in civil war.
In 1997, we sent a very clear message to Iraq that you have to back off, you have to start behaving, and there are going to be consequences unless you do. International cooperation worked better than unilateral action.
My view is that the US should work closely with Persian Gulf nations, with our allies, and with UN Security Council members to create a multi-lateral security arrangement for the Persian Gulf. No region in the world demands more international attention. We need to have dialogue with Iran, not just close our eyes and shake our fists.
It is in Iran’s interest, as well as Saudi Arabia’s and the other Arab states’, to move oil safely through the Straits of Hormuz. It is the one interest, putting aside religious and cultural differences, that might constructively engage those nations with each other.
A: I have a fundamental difference with Sen. Obama, Sen. Edwards & Sen. Clinton. Their position basically is changing the mission. My position in bringing all troops out of Iraq is to end the war. The American people want us to end this war. Our kids are dying--and my position is, that you cannot start the reconciliation of Iraq, a political settlement, an all-Muslim peacekeeping force to deal with security & boundaries & possibly this issue of a separation [into 3 states], until we get all our troops out, because they have become targets.
Q: How are you going to do this in one year?
A: We have been able to move our troops within three months--240,000--in and out of Iraq through Kuwait. I would bring them out through roads through Kuwait and through Turkey. I would leave some of the light equipment behind.
A: Well, yes. I think he’s flat wrong. His policy is failing. Here’s what I believe can happen. If we withdraw our troops, you’ve got the insurgents that have been united today with Al Qaida, with the terrorists, against our troops. That’s what unites them. If we get out, then the insurgents will start fighting the terrorists--nobody likes foreign fighters in Iraq. What we need is diplomacy. So I’m not just saying the US should get out. We should take our presence out, put some forces in Kuwait, where we are wanted, put some forces in Afghanistan, where Al Qaida and terrorism are a threat, and then bring a regional solution by our U.S. diplomacy engaging and leading, instead of overreaction and contributing to a surge that is only making things worse.
Polarization is not going to resolve getting us out of Iraq and bringing America again to a great place in the world where we used to be. The key to uniting this country, I believe, is to end this war in Iraq now.
African-American community has disproportionately been one of those with the most pain in this war. It affects military families with the least resources. But the African-American community saw early that this was a war that made no sense. The African-American community was right and George Bush was wrong.
GIULIANI: The problem [with] the Democrats is, they’re in denial. That’s why you hear things like you heard in the debate the other night that, you know, Iran really isn’t dangerous, it’s 10 years away from nuclear weapons. Iran is not 10 years away from nuclear weapons.A: Would you use tactical nuclear weapons if necessary to prevent Iran from having a nuclear bomb?
A: You know, I was just horrified at that Republican debate. They want to keep these flawed policies in the Middle East and Iraq going. I would talk to Iran, but I would build an international coalition that would promote and push economic sanctions on them. Sanctions would work on Iran. They are susceptible to disinvestment policy.
EDWARDS: If I as president of the United States know where Osama bin Laden is, I would go get him, period.
RICHARDSON: If we have actionable intelligence that is real and if Musharraf is incapable, which he is--because here’s a man who has not stood up for his democracy, he is virtually in a situation where he’s losing control--then you do take that action. However, first you use diplomacy. And diplomacy is to try to get what is best for the United States. And that is a democratic Pakistan with free and fair elections, and a concerted effort on the part of Musharraf or whoever is in the leadership in Pakistan to go after the terrorists in those safe havens which they have not done.
Another part of the mission was not on anyone’s radar. We wanted to persuade the Taliban to expel Osama bin Laden or extradite him to the US, where he was under indictment for complicity in the 1991 World Trade Center bombing.
My message was that there was a chance of US aid to help rebuild Afghanistan & gain broader international recognition, but not unless they made peace with their opposition. The Taliban agreed to talks.
On bin Laden, I struck out. His expulsion would do wonders for [Afghanistan]’s standing in the international community. I requested an audience with Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Taliban leader and the key to bin Laden. That would give me the opportunity to convey President Clinton’s deep concern about Bin Laden’s terrorist activities and his use of Taliban territory as a base. Later, on the evening news, NBC reported that bin Laden had threatened to kill me.
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 it’s 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: Both are distinguished public servants, but they’re basically serving an administration who has a failed policy. They’re being team players. So, I’m not convinced. In my judgment, the surge is not working. There’s only a political solution to this disastrous war. There is no military solution. In essence, what they’re talking about is that there’s going to be a withdrawal of 30,000 troops in a year [to return to 130,000 troops]. In my judgment, this war cannot end unless all our troops are out.
Q: You’re suggesting that by the end of the 2008, there should be no troops in Iraq?
A: If you really want to end this war, we have to take our troops out because our troops have become targets. If you leave them there, the Iraqis won’t be serious about starting the political reconciliation, and we would be unable to bring an all-Muslim peacekeeping force & a reconstruction process that would include Iran & Syria.
A: Well, here’s my view. There’s already a civil war. There’s sectarian conflict. This Iraqi situation’s about to implode. If we withdraw all of our troops, then a possible rebuilding of Iraq can happen with a political reconciliation talks pushed by the United States. I would push it personally if I were president. A date and type agreement that would involve a partition, that would involve Iran and Syria being part of a reconciliation so that Iraq doesn’t implode. What brings everybody together, what unites all the region together, is that nobody wants thousands of Iraqi refugees. Nobody wants an implosion. I know the region. I was UN ambassador. I spent 80% of my time on Iraq.
A: My plan is that, to end this war, we have to get all the troops out, all of them. Our kids are dying. Our troops have become targets. My plan has diplomacy, a tri-partite entity within Iraq, a reconciliation among the three groups. I would have a division of oil revenues. I’d have an all-Muslim peacekeeping force, headed by the UN, a donor conference. But none of this peace and peace building can begin until all of our troops are out.
A: I will take whatever steps are necessary to protect the security of the US. By withdrawing from Iraq, the real peace and reconciliation in that country can begin. We can get the three groups together, we can have an all-Muslim peacekeeping force, we will have a donor conference to rebuild that country. And then we can focus on what really affects American foreign policy.
I’m optimistic about our country. I’m optimistic about the Democratic Party. We have the majority in Congress. And we’re going to put a Democrat in the White House.
I have a different view. The fundamental difference [from other candidates’ view] is how many troops each of us would leave behind. Other than the customary Marine contingent at the embassy, I would leave zero troops behind. Not a single one. And if the embassy isn’t safe, then they’re all coming home too.
So here is Bill Richardson’s position: no air bases, no troops in the green zone, no embedded soldiers training Iraqi forces, because we all know what that means. It means that our troops would still be out on patrol with targets on their back.
Clearly my colleagues in this campaign think it’s responsible to have an ongoing military role in Iraq. I respect that. They voted not once, but twice to leave troops behind. [If you believe in leaving no troops behind], you can sign our petition at notroopsleftbehind.com.
A: I’m pleased with that progress and I respect him very much, but the reality is that our troops have become the targets. This is an outright civil war, a sectarian conflict.
Q: There is even talk now of having some sort of Korea-like presence in Iraq for decades to come. Is that unacceptable?
A: It is totally unacceptable. I’ve been in Korea many, many times, in North Korea and South Korea. The South Koreans want us there. There is no outright shooting taking place. It’s totally a different situation. And my concern is that the surge that we proposed, the policy of continuing this conflict with more troops, is going to leave us more vulnerable to Al Qaida.
A: I respect him very much, but the reality is that our troops have become the targets. This is an outright civil war, a sectarian conflict.
Q: There is even talk now of having some sort of Korea-like presence in Iraq for decades to come. Is that acceptable?
A: Well, it is totally unacceptable. I’ve been in Korea many, many times. It’s totally a different situation. And my concern is that the surge that we proposed, the policy of continuing this conflict with more troops, is going to leave us more vulnerable to Al Qaida. Our obsession with Iraq has caused us to lose focus in the fight against international terrorism and Al Qaida, nuclear proliferation, a loose nuclear weapon, and other challenges that we face, like global climate change, other issues that affect our national security in the region.
A: No. I believe the Democrats in Congress missed a great opportunity. The American people want us to get out of Iraq, and we must because it’s hurting our national interest. What the Democrats have been doing is focusing on the wrong initiative, and that is more funding cuts, more timetables. What I would propose is a deauthorization resolution, under the War Powers Act, Article I, that basically allows the Congress to determine whether we’re at war at not. And what has happened now is that the first resolution that was voted on several years ago is not operative anymore. Sadaam Hussein is out, there are no weapons of mass destruction, the American people are totally against this war. I believe a deauthorizing resolution would pass.
Q: You would have voted against a bill that did not have a fixed withdrawal date.
A: As UN ambassador, 80% of my time was spent on Iraq. I know the region well. But look where we are now. There’s a civil war. We must withdraw all our troops because our troops today are a target.
Q: But that’s totally contrary to your book. So you’re now saying what you wrote in the book is no longer operative?
A: No, when we went into Iraq, I wanted to support the troops. But after incompetency, deceitfulness by this administration, the fact that there’s no WMD, the link to al-Qaeda was enormously suspect--there is no basis for us to be there.
A: What we need to do is disengage our troops but set up a three-pronged diplomatic effort: One, a reconciliation of all the three religious and ethnic groups in Iraq--the Sunni, the Shia and the Kurds--for a division of power, coalition government, divide up oil revenues, a date and type separation of three entities. Two, an all-Muslim peacekeeping force that I believe could provide security for Iraq, along with the Iraqis. And three, a donor conference to deal with reconstruction. The Iraqis are not helpless. They have 300,000 security forces, they have $150 billion in oil reserves, they’ve had three elections, they have a constitution, they have democratic institutions. It is time for them to take over.
Q: But there’s only 6,000 Iraqi troops that can stand alone and operate independently of US forces.
A: Yeah, but there’s 330,000 security forces that are being trained. The Maliki government [needs to] step up to the plate.
A: No. Because our troops are targets. And you cannot start reconciliation, you cannot start unifying the region until everyone believes that the American military presence is going to go. Like Yitzhak Rabin said, you don’t make peace with your friends, you make peace with your enemies. It means talking to Iran, it means talking to Syria, getting an all-Muslim peacekeeping force--Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia--to be part of an all-Muslim effort that secures Iraq.
Q: But no residual force?
A: I would have troops where they’re wanted, in our bases in Kuwait. I would have a contingency in case of an international terrorist attack. Our involvement in Iraq has led us to fail to focus on the true threat, al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Q: So you regret supporting the war initially?
A: Yes, I do. It was a mistake
Q: But you said you knew more about the region than anybody else.
A: Well, yeah. But it was a mistake. I openly state that.
A: No. Let me be very clear about my position. This war is a disaster. We must end this war. This is what I would do if were president today. I would withdraw all of our troops, including residual troops, by the end of this calendar year. I would use the leverage of that withdrawal, coupled with intensive diplomacy in three areas.
A: If I were President today, I would withdraw American troops by the end of this calendar year. I would have no residual force whatsoever. What I would do coupled with that withdrawal, using the leverage of an American withdrawal of forces, would be to convene two diplomatic conferences. One, in a US-led effort to get the three sects--the Sunni, the Shia, the Kurds--to put them in a room and I would say, you’re gonna divide up oil revenues, you’re gonna divide up cabinet ministries, there’s gonna be three entities in Iraq, based on the Dayton Accords. At the same time, a US-led security conference to deal with two issues: reconstruction and Iraq’s future security. That means that we also invite Iran and Syria. We have to look at Iraq not in an isolated way, we have to look at the whole Middle East, the Persian Gulf, the Israeli-Palestinian situation, and you get Iran and Syria to invest in the stability of the region.
Iraq accepted Resolution 687 three days after it was passed in 1991. Given that hundreds of thousands of US military were on his doorstep, Saddam had little choice. At first, inspections seemed to go according to plan. By Aug. 1991, Iraq was throwing up roadblocks. It failed to make full disclosure of its proscribed weapons & programs, which was a requirement of 687. It blocked the use of helicopters by inspectors. New resolutions were passed, their demands either ignored or compromised by Saddam.
Our resolution represented the will of the international community, but frankly, it did not matter much if we were not prepared to back it up.
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George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)