Town Hall Highlights: Permanent Occupation

Bill Scher

Below are excerpts from yesterday’s MoveOn.org Virtual Town Hall, regarding the issue of permanent occupation of Iraq.

From Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del.:

I’m against building permanent US Military bases in Iraq, and I’ve led this fight to make sure we don’t do that.

Last year I introduced a law barring US Military bases in Iraq. In fact I introduced it three different times because although it passed the Senate each time, it got kicked out by the House. We finally got it put in the appropriations.

I’m doing this same thing this year. Just two weeks ago, the same provision got through banning a permanent military bases in Iraq by the United States…

…we have to knock down the belief that we’re there for oil, and we have to knock down the ability of anyone in this administration misguided enough to believe that our mission actually has anything to do with oil or permanent military basing in Iraq. Absent that, we’ll never be able to get it right.

From Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.:

…we do envision a vastly reduced residual force to remain for some limited period of time to train Iraqi troops, assuming they get their act together and begin to defend themselves, to provide logistical support, for counter-terrorism missions, to protect the Kurds if necessary, because they have certainly fulfilled their end of the bargain as they have tried to proceed to establish an autonomous region in the North.

And that does not mean we would have a permanent force. I am absolutely clear: we do not plan a permanent occupation or permanent bases.

But in line with all of the legislation that has been passed by the Democratic majority, or passed when we were in the minority, going all the way back to 2005, we have tried to be responsible in saying there may be a continuing mission to protect America’s vital interests, and to support an Iraqi government that we hope to be an ally going forward, assuming they are acting responsibly.

From Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.:

I believe that we oughta start re-deploying this evening, and over the next year, we can do that very safely, provide all the support our troops would need.

We need to have a finishing date. I’m a supporter of Feingold-Reid. I believe that we ought to have an end-date of March of ’08 to provide a year-long opportunity for redeployment.

I’m willing to accept during this year’s time, that training could go on the Kurdish areas of Iraq, that you could provide some border security on the Syrian and possibly on the Iranian border as well, it’s some possibility.

But the overwhelming bulk of our troops ought to be moved, in my view, either to Afghanistan, where we’re in deep trouble today, or we ought to be looking at a possibility of — most of these people, clearly the ones who’ve been there several years, back home. Others, you might provide some ability to have them in Qatar or Kuwait.

From Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio:

…once the United States declares its intentions to withdraw United States troops and close military bases, that’s the point at which we can engage the world community. We need to take a new direction in Iraq, and that direction is out.

From Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M.:

…if I were President today, I would withdraw American troops by the end of this calendar year. I would have no residual force whatsoever.

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