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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Troops out?

Although Gordon Brown announced yesterday that British troop numbers in Iraq will be reduced to 2,500 next spring, there is no sign that the USA will be following suit. Not under the present President anyway.

That does not mean that there is no debate about a withdrawal amongst candidates in next year's Presidential election. Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton at least, continues to attract controversy for her position, which seems very similar to that adopted by the British Prime Minister:

'A retired U.S. Army general visiting the state to campaign for Hillary Clinton said yesterday she does not oppose the Iraq war -- and she said she's never heard Clinton oppose it, either.

Retired Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, the Army's first woman to reach the three-star rank, said she supports Clinton's promise to withdraw the majority of U.S. troops from Iraq if she is elected President. But Kennedy said she does not consider her position to be opposing the war as it is currently being conducted.

"Senator Clinton has it exactly right," said Kennedy. "If she is elected, her plan is to bring together the chairman of the joint chiefs, the Secretary of Defense and the National Security Council and get them to create a plan that will have the withdrawal begin within 60 days."
Kennedy said she does not consider such a position opposition to the war.

"I'm from the Vietnam era, and in the Vietnam era, we were very cut-and-dried," Kennedy said.

"You were for the war or against the war, and being against the war was, 'Hell, no, I won't go.' I don't buy into that one single bit.

"The reality is, here we are now," she said. "We have got to be responsible in the way we transition from war to just being in support of the Iraqis in some less prominent way; some way that gets us out of the neighborhood and being in between opposing internal forces. It's not our job to sort out their civil conflict. They are the only ones with the authority to fix it. You can go in any time you want to as a third country, but it will never get fixed by you. People in their own country have got to do it."

Kennedy said, "I don't oppose the war. I think it's being very badly led by the civilian leadership." And, she added, "I have not ever heard (Clinton) say, 'I oppose the war.' I've heard her say that we need to begin withdrawal under a plan led by the military and defense secretary. I've heard her say we need to create a regional stabilizing group by allies, by leaders in the world and by all of the states that are bordering Iraq. That is a very important idea and the point of that group is to create incentive and assurances that will keep the neighboring countries from becoming involved and entering Iraq. That's a much more sophisticated thing than saying, 'I oppose the war.'"

Kennedy said she does not believe that her position and Clinton's is damaging to troop morale.
"I'll tell you this," Kennedy said. "It's terrible for morale for soldiers to think they are fighting a war when they themselves don't know why they are there. They can be given all kinds of really good leadership and good leaders can hold them together at the immediate level. But long-term, it's a betrayal of our soldiers to send them to war with reasons that keep shifting on the basis of apparently pretty deceptive reasoning and lying to the public by the Republican administration. That is not good for morale at all.'

There are others though who believe that the groundwork is being laid for an attack on Iran and that votes by Hillary Clinton and others, which have labelled the Iranian Army as a terrorist organisation, are laying the groundwork for such an offensive:

NEW HAMPTON, Iowa -- At a campaign stop here, Hillary Clinton sparred verbally for several minutes with a man who pressed her on her recent vote to call Iran's army a terrorist organization.

Randall Rolph, from nearby Nashua, asked why he should support Clinton's candidacy when she did not appear to have learned any lessons from having voted to authorize force in Iraq.

Rolph said after the event that he was a registered Democrat who had come with an open mind but that he would not be supporting Clinton after the way she responded.

"Who in this room believes we aren't going to attack Iran before Bush leaves office?" Rolph said.

Let us hope that Brown's 'distinctive' foreign policy rejects such options altogether.

While it might smack of a somewhat Machiavellian realpolitik to suggest that Hillary is simply the most electable animal in the Democratic Party's litter of candidates, it's also probably true.

It's because of this weary pragmatism that most registered card-carrying members of the Democratic Party like myself are still sending money to Move On.org, Dennis Kucinich, Governor Richardson, and other anti-war candidates/groups, in an effort to move our Centrist candidates (Clinton, Obama, Edwards) further to the left before we crown one our warrior against the (seemingly endless) Bush debacle.

All the candidates must acknowledge the well-documented influence upon U.S. politics of the Israeli (no I don't mean American Jewish) lobby, which means beating their chests against the boogeyman in iran.

The only real risk of an invasion there comes from the desperately foundering Republican Neocons who drove Bush under Karl Rove into the Iraq quagmire.

Alas, I fear that Bush could initiate another crazy war, even without the help of a bizarrely supportive and subservient Blair, in an effort to salvage his dismal polls and inevitably disastrous legacy.
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