2008 Democratic primary debate, sponsored by Facebook, Jan. 5, 2008: on War & Peace


Barack Obama: Al Qaida is based in northwest Pakistan; strike if needed

Q: You said back in August you would go into western Pakistan if you had actionable intelligence to go after it, whether or not the Pakistani government agreed. Do you stand by that?

A: I absolutely do stand by it. We should do everything in our power to push and cooperate with the Pakistani government in taking on Al Qaida, which is now based in northwest Pakistan. And what we know from our national intelligence estimates is that Al Qaida is stronger now than at any time since 2001. And so, back in August, I said we should work with the Pakistani government, first of all to encourage democracy in Pakistan so youíve got a legitimate government, and secondly that we have to press them to do more to take on Al Qaida in their territory; and if they could not or would not do so, and we had actionable intelligence, then I would strike. The two heads of the 9/11 Commission a few months later wrote an editorial saying the exact same thing. I think itís indisputable that that should be our course.

Source: 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Democratic primary debate Jan 6, 2008

Barack Obama: FactCheck: No, violence in Iraq is LOWER than 2 years ago

Obama vastly understated the improvement in the security situation in Iraq when he said, ďWe saw a spike in the violence, the surge reduced that violence, and we now are, two years later, back where we started two years ago.Ē There was indeed a spike in the violence in Iraq during the last two years that has been receding as of late. Most recently, nearly all statistical indicators show that violence is sharply lower than it was two years ago, according to the Brookings Institutionís Iraq Index.
Source: FactCheck.org on 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Democratic debate Jan 5, 2008

Barack Obama: Al Qaida is stronger than before thanks to the Bush doctrine

Part of the reason that we neglected Afghanistan, part of the reason that we didnít go after bin Laden as aggressively as we should have is we were distracted by a war of choice. Thatís the flaw of the Bush doctrine. It wasnít that he went after those who attacked America. It was that he went after those who didnít. As a consequence, we have been bogged down, paid extraordinary--an extraordinary price in blood and treasure, and we have fanned the anti- American sentiment that actually makes it more difficult for us to act in Pakistan. It is absolutely true that we have to, as much as possible, get Pakistanís agreement before we act. And thatís always going to be the case. But we have to make sure that we do not hesitate to act when it comes to Al Qaida. Because they are currently stronger than they were at any time since 2001, partly because we took our eye off the ball.
Source: 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Democratic primary debate Jan 6, 2006

Barack Obama: The surge reduced violence, but at enormous cost

The bar of success has become so low that weíve lost perspective on what should be our long-term national interests. It was a mistake to go in from the start, and thatís why I opposed this war from the start. It has cost us upwards of $1 trillion. It may get close to $2 trillion. We have lost young men and women on the battlefield, and we have not made ourself safer as a consequence. I had no doubt, and I said when I opposed the surge, that given how wonderfully our troops perform, if we place 30,000 more troops in there, then we would see an improvement in the security situation and we would see a reduction in the violence. We started in 2006 with intolerable levels of violence and a dysfunctional government. We saw a spike in the violence. The surge reduced that violence, and we now are, two years later, back where we started two years ago. We have gone full circle at enormous cost to the American people.
Source: 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Democratic primary debate Jan 6, 2006

Barack Obama: Begin a phased redeployment to send a clear signal

What we have to do is to begin a phased redeployment to send a clear signal to the Iraqi government that we are not going to be there in perpetuity. We should be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in. I welcome the reductions of violence that have taken place, although I would point out that much of that violence has been reduced because there was an agreement with tribes in Anbar province. Sunni tribes, who started to see, after the Democrats were elected in 2006, the Americans may be leaving soon. We should start negotiating now. Thatís how you change behavior. Thatís why I will send a clear signal to the Iraqi government. They will have ample time to actually pass an oil law, which theyíve been talking about now for years. We canít continue to ignore the enormous strains that this has placed on the American taxpayer, as well as the anti-American sentiment that it is fanning, and the neglect thatís happening in Afghanistan as a consequence.
Source: 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Democratic primary debate Jan 6, 2006

Bill Richardson: Get bin Laden in Pakistan unilaterally, if Pakistan canít

OBAMA: [to EDWARDS and RICHARDSON]: I stand by my statement that I would go into western Pakistan if we had actionable intelligence to go after al Qaeda, whether or not the Pakistani government agreed.

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 hereís a man who has not stood up for his democracy, he is virtually in a situation where heís 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.

Source: 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Democratic primary debate Jan 6, 2006

Bill Richardson: We have an opportunity to get Musharraf to step aide

We have to be on the side of the Pakistani people, not the dictator. What we have today is an opportunity to get Musharraf to step aside & use the leverage of the assistance weíve given him. Most of the assistance that weíve given him--$11 billion--he hasnít used to go after terrorists. Heís put it in military assistance for his fight against India. The money has been stolen. If we stand on a foreign policy of principle & human rights, along with protecting our security, that is the best direction.
Source: 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Democratic primary debate Jan 6, 2006

Hillary Clinton: Ok to target Al Qaeda in Pakistan; we did that 10 years ago

OBAMA: [to CLINTON]: I stand by my statement that I would go into western Pakistan if we had actionable intelligence to go after al Qaeda, whether or not the Pakistani government agreed.

CLINTON: We did take action similar to what has been described about 10 years ago, based on what was thought to be actionable intelligence, sending in missiles to try to target bin Laden and his top leadership who were thought to be at a certain meeting place. They were not taken out at the time. So we have to be very conscious of all the consequences. I think itís imperative that any actionable intelligence that would lead to a strike inside Pakistanís territory be given the most careful consideration. And at some point--probably when the missiles have been launched--the Pakistani government has to know theyíre on the way. Because one of the problems is the inherent paranoia about India in the region in Pakistan, so that weíve got to have a plan to try to make sure we donít ignite some kind of reaction.

Source: 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Democratic primary debate Jan 6, 2006

Hillary Clinton: Begin troops withdrawal within 60 days after elected

Weíre serving notice on the Maliki government that the blank check theyíve had from Bush is no longer valid. Weíre going to have to have intensive diplomatic efforts. I donít think anyone can predict what the consequences will be. We have to be ready for whatever they might be. We have to figure out what to do with the 100,000-plus American civilians who are there working at the embassy, not-for-profits or businesses, and all the Iraqis who sided with us, like the translators who helped the Marines in Fallujah whom I met, who said they wouldnít have survived without them. Are we going to leave them? This is a complicated enterprise, so it has to be done right. Last spring, I began demanding that the Bush administration tell us whether they were undertaking the kind of planning necessary for the withdrawal. Clearly, theyíre not. As soon as I am elected, I will task [senior military and] security advisers to provide such a plan and to begin to execute it within 60 days.
Source: 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Democratic primary debate Jan 6, 2006

Hillary Clinton: Withdraw troops within 60 days after taking office

The purpose of the surge was to create the space & time for political reconciliation, for the Iraqi government to do what only it can do & trying to deal with the myriad of unresolved problems that confront it. We have the greatest military in the world. We send in more of our troops, they will be able to dampen down the violence. But there has not been a willingness on the part of the Iraqi government to do what the surge was intended to do, to push them to begin to make the tough decisions. In the absence of that political action, 23 Americans dying in December is totally unacceptable. There is no more cause for us to be there if the Iraqis are just not going to do what they need to do to take care of their own country. Itís time to bring our troops home & to bring them home as quickly and responsibly as possible. I donít see any reason why they should remain beyond today. Bush doesnít intend to bring them home. I have said when Iím president I will. Within 60 days, Iíll start that withdrawal
Source: 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Democratic primary debate Jan 6, 2006

John Edwards: Get bin Laden, period, even if in Pakistan

Q: [to Obama]: You said back in August you would go into western Pakistan if you had actionable intelligence to go after al Qaeda, whether or not the Pakistani government agreed. Isnít that essentially the Bush doctrine? We can attack if we want to, no matter the sovereignty of the Pakistanis?

OBAMA: No, that is not the same thing, because here we have a situation where Al Qaida is in the territory of Pakistan. And this is not speculation. This is not a situation where we anticipate a possible threat in the future.

Q: Senator Edwards, do you agree with him?

EDWARDS: If I as president of the United States know where Osama bin Laden is, I would go get him, period. This man is the mastermind of a mass murder in the United States of America. He is public enemy number one, as Al Qaida is.

Source: 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Democratic primary debate Jan 6, 2006

John Edwards: Pull 40,000 to 50,000 troops out in 1st year as President

In the first year that I am president, I will pull 40000 to 50000 troops out. I will continue a steady redeployment of combat troops out of Iraq until they are all out within about 9 to 10 months. If my military leadership says we need some more time to make sure that we can do this in the most effective, efficient, & the safest way for my troops, of course Iíd be listening to what they have to say. But I will end combat missions in Iraq in the first year, and there will be no permanent military bases.
Source: 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Democratic primary debate Jan 6, 2006

John Edwards: Stop propping the Sunni and Shia up with American lives

It is the responsibility of the president and the commander in chief to make policy decisions. I would always listen to my uniformed military leadership--directly, not filtered through civilians. But if you look at what happened in Iraq when the Brits began to pull their troops out, in the part of Iraq where those troops were located, there was a significant reduction in violence. What the whole purpose--just to be clear with people--the whole purpose for the surge was to create some environment where there could be political progress and political reconciliation between Sunni and Shia. Everyone believes, even Bush acknowledges that thatís what weíre trying to accomplish. How do you get there? Look at the loss of American lives; $600 billion and counting; and thereís been essentially no political progress. I donít believe that there will be political progress until we make it clear that weíre going to stop propping the Sunni and Shia up with American lives and with American taxpayer dollars.
Source: 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Democratic primary debate Jan 6, 2006

  • The above quotations are from 2008 Democratic primary debate, sponsored by ABC News, Facebook, and ABC affiliate WMUR-NH; Jan. 5, 2008; final debate before New Hampshire primary; at St. Anselm College in Manchester.
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