The Quiz Show on Iraq
In this post, I reproduce a fairly reasonable sample of quotes from 2008 Presidential candidates (Democratic and Republican) talking about Iraq at different points in time over the past several years. Each of these candidates believe that they have principled positions that will make them the best general election candidates against their primary opponents, and the best President. The quotes are reproduced as is from the original sources but the full context is sometimes not included. This is intentional - because in the general election the full context will almost never be available from the media and in attack ads and stump speeches. What readers should do - without cheating by clicking on URLs - is:
(a) Identify which of these candidates has been anti-war and continues to be anti-war, and
(b) Identify the names of each of the candidates who are quoted below
You can of course grade yourself after you have guessed the answers, by clicking on the URLs. Then you can decide how effectively each of these candidates will be able to run in a general election, on the topic of their Iraq record, against whomever their opponent turns out to be. (NOTE: I've grouped all the quotes by year and all emphasis is mine).
Helpful Tip#1: One of these candidates is a war veteran.
Helpful Tip #2: Each of the candidates quoted here repeatedly voted in favor of continuing to fund the Iraq war without timelines for at least a few years. So, for any of them (especially one particular candidate) to disingenuously claim to have been consistently anti-war would be more than laughable.
Unhelpful Tip#3: I won't tell you how many candidates are quoted below - candidates identified using different alphabets could be one and the same person.
Let me begin by saying that although this has been billed as an anti-war rally, I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances. The Civil War was one of the bloodiest in history, and yet it was only through the crucible of the sword, the sacrifice of multitudes, that we could begin to perfect this union, and drive the scourge of slavery from our soil. I don't oppose all wars.
What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.
What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income - to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression. That's what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics. Now let me be clear - I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity. He's a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.
But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history. I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of Al Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars.
Let's fight to make sure that the UN inspectors can do their work, and that we vigorously enforce a non-proliferation treaty, and that former enemies and current allies like Russia safeguard and ultimately eliminate their stores of nuclear material, and that nations like Pakistan and India never use the terrible weapons already in their possession, and that the arms merchants in our own country stop feeding the countless wars that rage across the globe. You want a fight, President Bush?
Some people favor attacking Saddam Hussein now, with any allies we can muster, in the belief that one more round of weapons inspections would not produce the required disarmament, and that deposing Saddam would be a positive good for the Iraqi people and would create the possibility of a secular democratic state in the Middle East, one which could perhaps move the entire region toward democratic reform.
This view has appeal to some, because it would assure disarmament; because it would right old wrongs after our abandonment of the Shiites and Kurds in 1991, and our support for Saddam Hussein in the 1980's when he was using chemical weapons and terrorizing his people; and because it would give the Iraqi people a chance to build a future in freedom.
However, this course is fraught with danger. We and our NATO allies did not depose Mr. Milosevic, who was responsible for more than a quarter of a million people being killed in the 1990s. Instead, by stopping his aggression in Bosnia and Kosovo, and keeping on the tough sanctions, we created the conditions in which his own people threw him out and led to his being in the dock being tried for war crimes as we speak.
If we were to attack Iraq now, alone or with few allies, it would set a precedent that could come back to haunt us. In recent days, Russia has talked of an invasion of Georgia to attack Chechen rebels. India has mentioned the possibility of a pre-emptive strike on Pakistan. And what if China were to perceive a threat from Taiwan?
So Mr. President, for all its appeal, a unilateral attack, while it cannot be ruled out, on the present facts is not a good option.
Even though the resolution before the Senate is not as strong as I would like in requiring the diplomatic route first and placing highest priority on a simple, clear requirement for unlimited inspections, I will take the President at his word that he will try hard to pass a UN resolution and will seek to avoid war, if at all possible.
Because bipartisan support for this resolution makes success in the United Nations more likely, and therefore, war less likely, and because a good faith effort by the United States, even if it fails, will bring more allies and legitimacy to our cause, I have concluded, after careful and serious consideration, that a vote for the resolution best serves the security of our nation. If we were to defeat this resolution or pass it with only a few Democrats, I am concerned that those who want to pretend this problem will go way with delay will oppose any UN resolution calling for unrestricted inspections.
This is a very difficult vote. This is probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make -- any vote that may lead to war should be hard -- but I cast it with conviction.
My vote is not, however, a vote for any new doctrine of pre-emption, or for uni-lateralism, or for the arrogance of American power or purpose -- all of which carry grave dangers for our nation, for the rule of international law and for the peace and security of people throughout the world.
And it is unfortunate that we are at the point of a potential military action to enforce the resolution. That is not my preference. It would be far preferable if we not only had legitimate cooperation from Saddam Hussein and a willingness on his part to disarm and to account for his chemical and biological storehouses, but if we had a much broader alliance and coalition.
The only reason that my original anti-war speech was removed from my website was a judgment that the speech was dated once the formal phase of the war was over, and my staff's desire to continually provide fresh news clips.
"This is the first time that I have seen a parallel to Vietnam," [he] declared, "in terms of information that the administration is putting out versus the actual situation on the ground. I’m not saying the situation in Iraq now is as bad as Vietnam. But we have a problem in the Sunni Triangle and we should face up to it and tell the American people about it."
There's not that much difference between my position and George Bush's position at this stage. The difference, in my mind, is who's in a position to execute...
[He] said Saturday he would be willing to send more soldiers to Iraq if it is part of a strategy that the president and military leaders believe will stabilize the country and eventually allow America to withdraw.
A quick withdrawal would add to the chaos there and make it "an extraordinary hotbed of terrorist activity," he said.
It would also damage America's international prestige and amount to "a slap in the face" to the troops fighting there, he said.
[He said] that more troops probably will be required to protect polling places during next month's elections, prosecute the fight against the insurgency and help reconstruct Falluja, the volatile city where U.S. forces have been conducting an operation.
"The problem we have here is that the Pentagon has been reacting to initiatives of the enemy rather than taking initiatives from which the enemy has to react to," he said.
"And the problem, when you react, you have to extend people on duty there, which is terrible for morale. There's a terrific strain on Guard and reservists. If you plan ahead, then you don't have to do some of these things."
...When I was here last at the end of 2003, at least with respect to Baghdad, I was not under as severe security restrictions as we are at this time. So obviously, the number of attacks average about 50 a day, we're told. But there are parts of the country that are fairly secure and stable. I think the important thing is to recognize that the Iraqi security forces are now more engaged, and have to be, and the new Iraqi government, as it takes hold, will assume greater and greater responsibility for dealing with the insurgency. So we are watching this and trying to gather as much information as possible, but it's really now going to be largely up to the Iraqi people and their new government to determine how effective this insurgency is in the future.
...we have just finished meeting with the current prime minister, the deputy prime minister and the finance minister, and in our meetings, we posed the question to each of them as to whether they believed that we should set a firm deadline for the withdrawal of American troops. To a person, and they are of different political parties in this election, but each of them said that would be a big mistake, that we needed to make clear that there is a transition now going on to the Iraqi government. When it is formed, which we hope will be shortly, it will assume responsibility for much of the security, with the assistance and cooperation of the coalition forces, primarily U.S. forces.
So I think that what the American people need to know is, number one, we are very proud of our young men and women who are here, active duty, Guard and Reserve. We've seen many of them today, and we'll see more of them tomorrow. And so we all can be very grateful for their service and also very admiring of their sacrifice for other people's freedom. But secondly, we need to make sure that this new government in Iraq can succeed. There are lots of debates about, you know, whether we should have, how we should have, decisions that were made along the way with respect to our involvement here. But where we stand right now, there can be no doubt that it is not in America's interests for the Iraqi government, the experiment in freedom and democracy, to fail. So I hope that Americans understand that and that we will have as united a front as is possible in our country at this time to keep our troops safe, make sure they have everything they need and try to support this new Iraqi government.[...]
I mean, there is a lot of reason when we're back at home to argue about this policy. But at this point in time, I think that would be a mistake. I don't believe we should tie our hands or the hands of the new Iraqi government. Now obviously, as this government has stood up and takes responsibility, there may come a time when it decides for its own internal reasons that we should set such a deadline and withdrawal agenda. But right now I think it would be a mistake.
We don't want to send a signal to the insurgents, to the terrorists that we are going to be out of here at some, you know, date certain. I think that would be like a green light to go ahead and just bide your time. We want to send a message of solidarity. And in addition, I would hope that at this point now, we could get more international support. It is not in anyone's interests, not, you know, the people in this region, in Europe or elsewhere around the world, for the Iraqi government to be brought down before it even can get itself together by violent insurgents. So it's not only U.S. commitment, I think and hope that there should be commitment from others as well.
But having visited Iraq, I'm also acutely aware that a precipitous withdrawal of our troops, driven by Congressional edict rather than the realities on the ground, will not undo the mistakes made by this Administration. It could compound them.
It could compound them by plunging Iraq into an even deeper and, perhaps, irreparable crisis.
We must exit Iraq, but not in a way that leaves behind a security vacuum filled with terrorism, chaos, ethnic cleansing and genocide that could engulf large swaths of the Middle East and endanger America.
It's not acceptable to conduct a war where our goals and strategies drift aimlessly regardless of the cost in lives or dollars spent, and where we end up with arbitrary, poll-driven troop reductions by the Administration - the worst of all possible outcomes.
[...] I would like nothing more than for our military involvement to end.
But I do not believe that setting a date certain for the total withdrawal of U.S. troops is the best approach to achieving, in a methodical and responsible way, the three basic goals that should drive our Iraq policy: that is, 1) stabilizing Iraq and giving the factions within Iraq the space they need to forge a political settlement; 2) containing and ultimately defeating the insurgency in Iraq; and 3) bringing our troops safely home.
What is needed is a blueprint for an expeditious yet responsible exit from Iraq. A hard and fast, arbitrary deadline for withdrawal offers our commanders in the field, and our diplomats in the region, insufficient flexibility to implement that strategy.
For example, let's say that a phased withdrawal results in fifty thousand troops in Iraq by July 19, 2007. If, at that point, our generals and the Iraqi government tell us that having those troops in Iraq for an additional three or six months would enhance stability and security in the region, this amendment would potentially prevent us from pursuing the optimal policy.
It is for this reason that I cannot support the Kerry Amendment.
[He] added: "Rumsfeld will go down in history, along with McNamara, as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history." Donald Rumsfeld served as President Bush's secretary of defense from January 2001 to December 2006. Robert McNamara was Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War.
"If this strategy doesn't succeed, we will have to devise another strategy," [he] said. "But I have to hasten to add there are no good options." One of those options, [he] said "is to withdraw to the borders (of Iraq) to try to keep other countries from interfering. Maintaining our bases in Kuwait and other places. There are a lot of scenarios."
[He said we] "have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted." ... . . In an interview with the Des Moines Register, [he] immediately backpedaled saying, "I was actually upset with myself when I said that, because I never use that term."
But, [his] use of the term in a very public setting has forced [him] to elaborate on that apology....Monday night, "Even as I said it, I realized I had misspoken."
"Americans are very frustrated, and they have every right to be," about the situation in Iraq, [he] said. "We've wasted a lot of our most precious treasure, which is American lives."
"Last evening, I referred to American casualties in Iraq as wasted," [he] says. "I should have used the word, sacrificed, as I have in the past. No one appreciates and honors more than I do the selfless patriotism of American servicemen and women in the Iraq War. We owe them a debt we can never fully repay. And America’s leaders owe them, as well as the American people, our best judgment and honest appraisal of the progress of the war, in which they continue to sacrifice.
"As I have said many times, I believe we have made many mistakes in the prosecution of the war. With a new Commanding General and a new strategy, we are now trying to correct those mistakes, and I believe we have a realistic chance to succeed.
"That does not change the fact, however, that we have made many mistakes in the past, and we have paid a grievous price for those mistakes in the lives of the men and women who have died to protect our interests in Iraq...."
I advocate a phased redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq to begin no later than May first with the goal of removing all combat forces from Iraq by March 2008.
The war is long and hard and tough. I'm not here to tell you, "Mission accomplished"...
The war was "terribly mismanaged" and Rumsfeld will go "down as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history"...
"The hunt for Osama bin Laden must be pursued until we find him and either capture him or kill him," [he] said. "It is naive not to understand how important a symbol Osama bin Laden is to would-be terrorists and radical Islamic extremists all over the world"
"I do believe that history shows us Americans will not continue to support an overseas engagement involving the loss of American lives for an unlimited period unless they see some success," he said. "And then, when they run out of patience, they will demand that we get out."
If President Bush vetoes an Iraq war spending bill as promised, Congress quickly will provide the money without the withdrawal timeline the White House objects to because no lawmaker "wants to play chicken with our troops," [the Senator] said Sunday.
"My expectation is that we will continue to try to ratchet up the pressure on the president to change course," [he] said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I don't think that we will see a majority of the Senate vote to cut off funding at this stage."
Our message to the President is clear. It is time to begin ending this war -- not next year, not next month -- but today.
We have heard for years now that as the Iraqis stand up, our troops will stand down. Every year, we hear about how next year they may start coming home. Now we are hearing a new version of that yet again from the President as he has more troops in Iraq than ever and the Iraqi government is more fractured and ineffective than ever.
Well, the right strategy before the surge and post-escalation is the same: start bringing home America's troops now.
I was the greatest critic of the initial four years, three and a half years. I came back from my first trip to Iraq and said, This is going to fail. We’ve got to change the strategy to the one we’re using now.
I will remove one or two brigades a month, and get all of our combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months.
I think it's hard to project four years from now, and I think it would be irresponsible. We don't know what contingency will be out there.
What I can promise is that if there are still troops in Iraq when I take office -- which it appears there may be, unless we can get some of our Republican colleagues to change their mind and cut off funding without a timetable -- if there's no timetable -- then I will drastically reduce our presence there to the mission of protecting our embassy, protecting our civilians, and making sure that we're carrying out counterterrorism activities there.
I believe that we should have all our troops out by 2013, but I don't want to make promises, not knowing what the situation's going to be three or four years out.
...it is my goal to have all troops out by the end of my first term. But I agree with [...]; it is very difficult to know what we are going to be inheriting. Now, we do not know, walking into the White House in January of 2009 what we are going to find.
What is the state of planning for withdrawal? That's why last spring I began pressing the Pentagon to be very clear about whether or not they were planning to bring our troops out. What I found was that they weren't doing the kind of planning that is necessary, and we've been pushing them very hard to do so.
...could I just clarify that, you know, I said there may be a continuing counterterrorism mission, which, if it still exists, will be aimed at Al Qaida in Iraq. It may require combat, special operations forces or some other form of that. But the vast majority of our combat troops should be out.
And again the option of setting a date for withdrawal is a date for surrender and we would then have many more casualties and many more American sacrifice, if we withdraw with setting a date for surrender.
It appears that not only is [Bush] refusing to do that, but that he has continued to say he can enter into an agreement with the Iraqi government, without bringing it for approval to the United States Congress, that would continue America's presence in Iraq, long after President Bush leaves office.
I find that absolutely unacceptable. And I think we have to do everything we can to prevent President Bush from binding the hands of the next president.
So I've introduced legislation that clearly requires President Bush to come to the United States Congress. It is not enough, as he claims, to go to the Iraqi parliament, but to come to the United States Congress to get anything that he's trying to do, including permanent bases, numbers of troops, all the other commitments he's talking about as he's traveling in that region.
I'm on record as saying exactly that, as soon as I become president, we will start withdrawing within 60 days. We will move as carefully and responsibly as we can, one to two brigades a month, I believe, and we'll have nearly all the troops out by the end of the year, I hope.
WHO ARE THE CANDIDATES?
Candidate A = D = F = G = J = L = N = Q = T = U = Sen. Barack Obama
Candidate B = C = I = R = V = X = Y = Sen. Hillary Clinton