Despite what other Democrats are telling you, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in particular, you cannot end the war and still have American troops in Iraq. That simply does not make any sense. The war started with the arrival of American troops in Iraq, and it will continue as long as American troops remain in Iraq. Now, 93% of Iraqi Sunnis and 50% of Iraqi Shias not only don't want American troops in Iraq, but they actually condone attacks against American soldiers in Iraq. How can the war ever end if we leave American troops in a country where the majority of the population condones attacks against our troops? It can't. How can the war ever end when American troops are still stationed in Iraq and conducting a litany of different military missions in the country, as both Clinton and Obama have clearly argued they should? It can't. You can't say that you will end the war and then say what you will have American troops do in Iraq once the war is over while still hoping to make sense.
One of my greatest frustrations as a Democratic and progressive activist has been finding prominent Democrats who will take up popular progressive positions and messaging, and make the case for those positions nationwide. In 2002 and 2003, this frustration was centered around finding Democratic leaders who would speak out against the war before it began, even though a large percentage of America was yearning for someone to take up that mantle. Thus, Howard Dean emerged. In 2005, this frustration was centered around finding Democrats who would speak out in favor of withdrawal, even though a majority of the country favored withdrawal. Thus, Ned Lamont emerged. Now, for over five months, I have tried to push for a more prominent public debate on Democratic plans for residual forces in Iraq. This time, is has been Bill Richardson who has shown leadership on this issue. Not only has he repeatedly pledged to have no residual forces in Iraq, the largest focus of his campaign to date has been trying to force a public debate on residual forces in Iraq. He has deservedly risen in Iowa and New Hampshire polls as a result.
I am thrilled to be working with Bill Richardson on this issue. While this ad is not an official endorsement of Bill Richardson's candidacy, it is an endorsement of his no residual forces plan for Iraq. It is an endorsement of his leadership on the issue. It is an endorsement of the need for a public debate on how many troops Democrats plan to leave in Iraq, what those troops will do, and how long they will stay in Iraq. Every Democrat should be aware of all candidate plans for residual forces in Iraq before they decide who to support in the primaries. Just because a candidate says he or she will end American military involvement in the war in Iraq does not mean that he or she is actually proposing to end American military involvement in the war in Iraq.
The best estimates for Senator Clinton and Senator Obama's plans are at least 40,000 residual troops, and possibly more than 60,000. That is not an end to the war, and as such is unacceptable. They could argue that their plans would require fewer troops, but they refuse to do so, and the sound of that refusal is deafening. I will not endorse any candidate in the primaries who plans to leave a significant number of American troops in Iraq. I also do not particularly appreciate it when candidates try to blur these key differences on residual forces, which Senator Edwards has done in the past. This is an issue where we need leadership, not blurring and obfuscation.
A thirty-second version of this ad will appear in New Hampshire, starting tomorrow. I want to again thank Bill Richardson for continuing to show leadership on this issue, as he has consistently done in the past on foreign policy. From freeing American hostages, to brokering a cease fire in Darfur, to negotiating the return of weapons inspectors to North Korea, and now to engaging the debate on no residual forces, Bill Richardson is a leader on American foreign policy. Despite both media and campaign silence, we will continue to push this debate forward.