Mike from Blue Hampshire interviewed Senator Chris Dodd on Sunday and used his time to try to address what the senior senator from Connecticut thinks ending America's presence in Iraq really means.
Most Democratic politicians support ending the war within the next year to year and a half. But for many, including notably Hillary Clinton, withdrawal of our combat forces means keeping bases within Iraq and tens of thousands of advisers to train Iraqi troops. That is, withdrawal doesn't really mean the same thing for every Dem. Bill Richardson has said he wants "no residual force whatsoever," which is pretty much the strongest statement by any first or second tier Democrat to that effect before Dodd's today.
Mike: There's some concern about the bases we've built in Iraq, and whether the candidates are clear about whether we are turning those bases back over to the Iraqis or whether we would somehow retain possession of those?
Dodd: Well, my view is you don't need American bases in Iraq. We've got plenty of base capacity in the region.
Mike: So you'd commit to "over-the-horizon" vs. continued --
Dodd: It's a much preferable choice.
Bill Scher has done a good job bringing the candidates statement on the extent to which withdrawal will be complete together. And while the spectrum of answers from Democratic candidates seems to weigh heavily against having permanent bases, the certitude with which Dodd and Richardson have come out against them clearly leads the pack. Withdrawal cannot be evaluated in the absence of what politicians are saying about American military advisers, troop trainers, and rapid response forces. Drawing down a majority of our forces would be a step in the right direction, but it is hardly all that is needed to extricate ourselves from Bush's mess. There must be commitment to ending all possibility of Americans dying because of the Republican administration's failed Iraq policies -- that can only come when withdrawal plans include specific actions taken to take all American soldiers from Iraq.
Senator Dodd and Governor Richardson are moving the discussion to where it needs to be. But this isn't just about taking a more respectable, sensible position within the Democratic field. The discussion on permanent bases being held within the Democratic primary field will help determine how the country on whole thinks about what a withdrawal of American forces would look like. Inevitably pro-war Republicans will be driven into a sputtering fury over the thought of not getting to have permanent bases, complete with Halliburton run Pizza Huts and McDonalds. No doubt media pundits will question the seriousness of Democrats for having the audacity to suggest that we should not lay down permanent roots in Iraq. But the positions espoused by Dodd and Richardson must be held publicly and forcibly.
When Democratic presidential candidates make the future of their campaigns about the smartest course of actions for ending American involvement in the quagmire in Iraq, they create cover for other Democrats to stand by them and do the same. This, in turn, will create an atmosphere where Congress feels empowered to do its job and legislate a withdrawal of American forces. Dodd and Richardson are showing real leadership here, exactly the kind that is requisite to end the war in Iraq and bring all of our troops home to the heroes welcome they deserve.
Cross posted at My Left Nutmeg.