On Wednesday, in a desperate attempt to shore up support for his failed "surge" strategy, President Bush compared a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq to America's withdrawal at the end of the Vietnam War. The president is wrong. We don't need anymore troop surges, we need a diplomatic surge.
We must get all our troops out of Iraq as soon as possible.
In 1968, Richard Nixon ran on a platform of ending the war with honor. It took 7 years to get the last American soldier out of Vietnam. In the meantime, tens of thousands more Americans died. Countless civilians died in Vietnam, in Cambodia and the killing fields, and millions more ultimately had to flee their homes.
Dragging out the process of withdrawal will be tragically worse in terms of U.S. lives lost and in terms of the instability we will create by staying longer.
We have now been in Iraq longer than it took to win World War II. My plan for Iraq ends the war with the fewest possible U.S. casualties and it moves the Iraqis' reconciliation process forward. My position has been consistent and unwavering.
Some say that all of the Democratic presidential candidates have the same position on Iraq. I strongly disagree.
Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards have all proposed leaving residual troops in Iraq indefinitely, which will only drag out the process to the detriment of all involved.
I would pull ALL of our troops out -- they have become targets, and only a complete withdrawal makes sense.
That means no airbases, no embedded soldiers training Iraqi forces, no troops in the Green Zone. Zero troops. I would leave the customary marine contingent at our Embassy, but if that became unsafe, then I'd bring them home too. Only then can the diplomatic process of reconciliation and reconstruction truly begin, and the US must lead the way in making it happen.
On Sunday, at the ABC debate in Iowa, I asked the other candidates directly: how many troops would you leave behind? 25,000? 50,000? 75,000? For how long?
I am still waiting for an answer.