A: I welcome the progress. This notion that Democrats donít want to see progress in Iraq is ridiculous. I have to hug mothers in rope lines during town hall meetings as they weep over their fallen sons and daughters. I want to get our troops home safely, and I want us as a country to have this mission completed honorably. But the notion that somehow we have succeeded as a consequence of the recent reductions in violence means that we have set the bar so low itís buried in the sand at this point. We went from intolerable levels of violence and a dysfunctional government to spikes and horrific levels of violence and a dysfunctional government. Now, two years later, weíre back to intolerable levels of violence and a dysfunctional government.
CLINTON: In Sen. Obamaís recent book, he clearly says he thought that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons, and that he still coveted nuclear weapons. By the summer of 2004, Sen. Obama said he wasnít sure how he would have voted.
A: I donít think itís consistent with the Iran resolution, for example, which specifically stated that we should structure our forces in Iraq with an eye toward blunting Iranian influence. It is yet another rationale for what weíre doing in Iraq, & thatís a mistake. Weíve got to focus on diplomacy. The president has to lead that diplomacy, which is why Iíve said I would convene a meeting of Muslim leaders upon taking office because I think we have to send a strong signal that we are willing to listen and not just talk, and certainly not just dictate or engage in military action. But the real key for the next president is someone who has the credibility of not having been one of the co-authors of this engagement in Iraq. I am in a strong position to be able to say I thought this was a bad idea in the first place. We now have to fix it. We have to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in.
In 2002, when Obama opposed war with Iraq, he knew he would run for the Senate in 2004 and this stand might cost him the election. No other major Democratic candidate for president opposed the war before it happened.
A: Well, after hearing two days of testimony, letís be clear on exactly what they said. That after putting an additional 30,000 troops in, far longer & more troops than the president had initially said, we have gone from a horrendous situation of violence in Iraq to the same intolerable levels of violence that we had back in June of 2006. So, essentially, after all this weíre back where we were 15 months ago. And what has not happened is any movement with respect to the sort of political accommodations among the various factions, the Shia, the Sunni, and Kurds that were the rationale for surge and that ultimately is going to be what stabilizes Iraq. So, I think it is fair to say that the president has simply tried to gain another six months to continue on the same course that heís been on for several years now. It is a course that will not succeed. It is a course that is exacting an enormous toll on the American people & our troops.
GRAVEL: Our soldiers died in Vietnam in vain. In Iraq, thereís only one thing worse than a soldier dying in vain; itís more soldiers dying in vain.
Q: Are the troops in Iraq dying in vain?
OBAMA: I never think that troops who do their mission for their country, are dying in vain. But what I do think is that the civilian leadership and the commander in chief has a responsibility to make sure that they have the plans that are going to allow our troops to succeed in their mission.
EDWARDS: I donít think any of our troops die in vain when they go and do the duty thatís been given to them by the commander in chief. No, I donít think they died in vain. But I think the question is: What is going to be done to stop this war? What we need to do is turn up the heat on George Bush and hold him responsible and make this president change course.
A: One of the enormous difficulties of this war has been the strain itís placed on our men and women in uniform. We have seen our Army and our Reserves and our National Guard all being stretched to a breaking point. Thatís one of the reasons why I proposed that weíre going to have to increase the size of our ground forces, so we can stop the sort of rotations that weíve been placing them on, which have been putting enormous strai not only on the soldiers themselves, but also their families. But we are one signature away or 16 votes away from ending this war. Now, if the president is not going to sign the bill that has been sent to him, then what we have to do is gather up 16 votes in order to override his veto. We canít expect that we can continue to impose a military solution on what is essentially a political problem, and thatís what we have to organize around.
The withdrawal has to begin soon. Itís time to end this war. Itís time to refocus our efforts on the wider struggle against terror, and itís time for us to work much more aggressively diplomatically both inside Iraq and regionally if weíre gonna see the kind of stability in Iraq that all of us hope for.
A: We have to realize that the entire Middle East has a huge stake in the outcome of Iraq, and that we have to engage neighboring countries in finding a solution. Now, I believe that includes opening dialogue both Syria and Iran. We know these countries want us to fail. Iím under no illusions there, but I also know that neither Syria nor Iran want to see a security vacuum in Iraq filled with chaos, and terrorism, and refugees and violence, since those could have a destabilizing effect on the entire region, including within their own countries. So, even as we remain steadfast in our opposition to their support of terrorism, even as we continue to put pressure on Iran to stand down on its nuclear ambitions, itís absolutely critical that we talk to the Syrians and the Iranians about playing a more constructive role in Iraq.
We shouldnít be sending more troops to Iraq, we should be bringing them home. Itís time to find an end to this war. Thatís why I have a plan that will begin withdrawing our troops from Iraq on May 1st of this year, with the goal of removing all of our combat forces from the country by March of 2008.
We have to make sure weíre not as careless getting out of this war as we were getting in, and thatís why this withdrawal would be gradual, and would keep some US troops in the region to prevent a wider war and go after Al Qaeda and other terrorists.
But above all, itís a plan that recognizes a fact that just about everyone in the world understands except the White House--there is no military solution to this war.
A: The initial military was extraordinarily successful in moving into Iraq, and it exceeded all expectations, even those of us who expected the military to be successful were stunned and impressed by how efficient our military and our brave fighting forces were in executing it. But missing 380 tons of explosives being used on roadside bombs is an enormous error, particularly when the Bush administration had been warned by the Atomic Energy Commission. Keyes has suggested that somehow Iím načve to question how weíve gone about this war in Iraq. It strikes me that the Bush administration has been načve throughout. It was načve to think that weíd be greeted as liberators in Iraq. Itís been načve in thinking that somehow this would actually diminish recruitment for terrorism. In fact, itís accelerated it. Itís been načve with respect to how difficult itís gonna be to secure the peace, and our troops and our taxpayers are suffering from those errors.
OBAMA: There was no connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. This war has made us less safe. Osama bin Laden roams free in the hills of Afghanistan.
KEYES: The breathtaking naivete of the assertion that there is no connection between Al Qaeda & Saddam Hussein when Saddam was providing payments to the families of Hamas suicide bombers who had ties to Al Qaeda. I worked on the National Security Council staff. Maybe thatís why I understand the situation a little better than Barack Obama. Those ties are real and we cannot afford to let them operate.
OBAMA: I donít think that Mr. Keyes knowledge of the situation is better than Donald Rumsfeldís or the other experts who have confirmed that there was no connection between those who perpetrated the attacks of 9/11 and Iraq. This was an ideologically driven war. But now we do have a hotbed of terrorism to fight in Iraq.
A: The War on Terror has to be vigorously fought. Where we part company is how to fight it, because Afghanistan in fact was not a preemptive war, it was a war launched directly against those who were responsible for 9/11. Iraq was a preemptive war based on faulty evidence-and I say that not in hindsight, or Monday-morning quarterbacking. Six months before the war was launched, I questioned the evidence that would lead to us being there. Now, us having gone in there, we have a deep national security interest in making certain that Iraq is stable. If not, not only are we going to have a humanitarian crisis, we are also going to have a huge national security problem on our hands-because, ironically, it has become a hotbed of terrorists as a consequence, in part, of our incursion there. In terms of timetable, Iím not somebody who can say with certainty that a year from now or six months from now weíre going to be able to pull down troops.
DODD: I think itís highly irresponsible to suggest we may be willing unilaterally to invade a nation who weíre trying to get to be more cooperative with us in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
CLINTON: I think it is a very big mistake to telegraph that and to destabilize the Musharraf regime, which is fighting for its life against the Islamic extremists.
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Newly elected in 2008 & seated in 2009:
Newly appointed in 2009;
special election in 2010:
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Up for 6-year term in 2010:
(13 Democrats; 15 Republicans)
Senate Votes (analysis)