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Archive for the ‘Edwards (D)’ Category

Following are excerpts from an interview by Michael R. Gordon of The New York Times with John Edwards, conducted Sunday on the Edwards campaign bus as it drove between campaign stops in western Iowa. Some of the questions have been edited for brevity and clarity. The full transcript can be found here.

Q: How did you go from a plan that emphasized the gradual reduction of forces and training of Iraqi forces to a plan that calls for removing all of the forces within 10 months?

A: Because it is now two years later. The question from my perspective is that I have never believed that there was a military solution in Iraq, don’t believe it today. I think the issue is how do you maximize the chances of achieving a political reconciliation between Sunni and Shia, because I think that political reconciliation is the foundation for any long-term stability in Iraq.

They have now, at this moment, had well over four and a half years to make some serious progress toward a political solution. They have not done it, and so what we have been doing has not worked. It clearly has not worked.

And my view is that we need to shift the responsibility to them, make it clear that we are leaving. That is where the 8 to 10 brigades come from. Then, as aggressively as can reasonably be achieved, to continue a steady redeployment until all combat troops are out in roughly 9 to 10 months. Now I am not married to that specific timetable. If my military leadership came to me and said, ‘We need another month’ or some additional time, I would certainly take into consideration what they are saying. But it is my job as commander in chief to set the policy parameters.

Q: Wouldn’t your plan essentially pull the rug out from underneath the nascent Iraqi security force while we are trying to transfer more responsibility onto their shoulders?

A: I think it is a fair question. My judgment is that the critical component is not military. The critical component is political. Even Bush said when he proposed the surge that the purpose for the surge was to create a security environment that would allow some serious security progress. Well, we have had some diminution in violence — no doubt about that — I think in part because Baghdad is largely a Shia city now, and the ethnic groups have been segregated. But the bottom line is that there has been some diminution in violence, and still there has been absolutely no political progress. And the reason is because America continues to stay there and prop up these political leaders who are making no serious effort to make progress.

The fundamental tenet of the way I examine and make policy judgments, which is the job of the president, under these circumstances is that is not my job to make day-to-day military decisions on the ground. It is my job is to set the policy priorities, and I believe is that the correct policy framework is that what we have been doing is not working. We have to shift the responsibility to them.

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Presidential candidates John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul respond to the War and Law League’s presidential questionnaire.

All presidential candidates were invited to respond.

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New Hampshire Indy Media reports:

Edwards finally did take the stage, dressed in blue jeans and speaking of his common-man roots, not his current wealth and power. He showed respect for the audience’s intelligence and time, taking unusually specific stands in a concise way. He committed to an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, based on a carbon trading and auctioning system that would be used to fund alternative energies. He opposes any new nuclear power plants. He said that case-by-case efforts to limit nuclear weapons proliferation is good, but that we need to bring about total nuclear disarmament. He said there would be no permanent US bases in Iraq, and that he would start removing “combat troops” immediately. His central theme was confronting corporate influence in Washington (particularly over health care) and said he would not negotiate with the drug companies.

Take a look at the rest of the article.

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I went to see Edwards tonight in Manchester and asked a question about nukes and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and he was pretty strong, called himself ‘out there’ on the issue in calling for the US to lead a worldwide effort to eliminate nukes; referenced the Sam Nunn, Henry Kissinger plan and agreeing with my point about the US’ double standard on nukes – added himself that we are not just stockpiling them but developing new ones, that it was part of the problem he’d referred to earlier about Iran and Pakistan, we can’t deal with this issue on an ‘ad hoc’ basis one country and one situation at a time but needed a comprehensive plan to get rid of them.

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I managed to get my question to the microphone at the John Edwards event yesterday at The Governor’s Inn, and thought you might be interested …

I asked him, after telling him how I though we spent far too much of our tax dollars on the pentagon, if he would cut back on military spending, and if so, by what percentage.

He first responded by asking me to hold up high the NH Priorities cookie that I referenced in my question to the crowd and cameras, saying that he had just won the Iowa endorsement for Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities. He praised that organization and NH Priorities and the good work on educating people about spending excess.

Edwards then proceeded to say there are many ways we can and should cut down on spending, particularly on the development or deployment of nuclear weapons. He said we should withdraw from Iraq completely which is our biggest expense, and that he would lead the world on eliminating all nuclear weapons. He also said we should cut our star wars spending. Beside that, he said we would have to proceed cautiously on any other cutbacks of standard military spending so as not to jeopardize jobs.

After the event, I spoke with him briefly in private, and told him I think he should bring up those points more often, as there is a huge contingency out there that wants to hear this. He agreed.

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Question: Thank you very much for taking my call. I heard you speak in Meredith yesterday and was quite pleased to hear you call for worldwide nuclear abolition. I want to know, will you put your money where your mouth is and publicly disarm US nuclear weapons so the world knows your serious about nuclear abolition?

Answer: [paraphased] he does not want to unilaterally disarm but does want to promote worldwide abolition.

(34:20)

Click here to listen to the show

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John Edwards spoke to a packed room at Hart’s Turkey Farm today.

Question: If elected, what will your policy be towards Pakistan? In my view the most dangerous international situation confronting our country.

Answer: It certainly is at this time a very, very dangerous situation. Lets start with the problem and then I’ll tell you what I’ll do.

The problem is you have an unstable leader, Musharraf who has promised all these democratic and economic reforms that he has not followed through on. You have a very radical element within Pakistan, and they have a nuclear weapon. And they are in constant conflict, particularly with India, over the issue of Kashmir. That’s the background for what’s happening, and then again, of course, you’ve got Musharraf declaring the equivalent of marshal law, suspending the government and suspending the constitution.

So, what should America do? The danger of course is, if he gets disposed, some dangerous radical group takes over the government and then they have a nuclear weapon which they can choose to use or turn over to a terrorist organization. So there’s a great risk associated with this.

Let me say one thing before I got into specifics about Pakistan because I think it relates to why I think they’re so dangerous. Pakistan has a nuclear weapon. A.Q. Khan, who developed the nuclear weapon for Pakistan, has spread this technology around the world. And I think the notion that over the long term, over the next 50-75 years, America can successfully stop the spread of nuclear weapons in an ad hoc way –IE: Iran’s about to get a nuclear weapon so everyone’s focuses on what we’re going to do with Iran; we’re worried about North Korea is doing; we see what’s happening in Pakistan–that idea, that will not, that, you can’t sustain that. Sooner or later this stuff is going to get out. It’s too easy to spread. So the question is what should America do for the LONG TERM and I’ll tell you what I’ll do with Pakistan.

For the long term, and I think the answer to this–and what I would do as President– is to lead a long term initiative to rid the world of nuclear weapons. Pakistan is the living, breathing example of what we’re talking about.

Now, what should we be trying to accomplish in Pakistan? There should be several things we’re trying to accomplish. One is, the northwest part of Pakistan–which is Al-Qaeda’s been operating and where many speculate bin Laden’s may be–that part of the country needs to be under control. Second, they need to hold the elections that have been promised to be held in January. Third, we need to be supporting the democratic reformers–those within the Pakistani government–who are actually trying to sustain some level of democratic reform. And, we need to make sure their nuclear weapons are safe, that they’re not going to get into the hands of someone that shouldn’t be in the hands of. I think those are the basics of which we’re trying to accomplish there, all of which are aimed at creating some level of stability.

There are a number of things we can do. We’ve given about 10 billion dollars in aid to Pakistan. We’ve asked for very little in return. In fact, a lot of that aid has gone to empowering Musharraf as opposed to helping the Pakistani people. We need to use the aid and reform the way we’re providing aid. That’s number one. That’s our leverage.

Second, we have very little expertise within our State Department–within the American government–on Pakistan. The history of Pakistan, the Pakistani people, what they’re sensitive about, what they care about, and we need real experts within our government. Sounds basic and fundamental, but it’s frightening to see how little we know. And how little expertise we have within the American government on the issue of Pakistan.

Third, instead of just dealing with this issue alone, we should be doing it–like a lot of things–multilaterally, which means we need to bring other countries in who have as much of an interest as we do, and [inaudible].

Last, we need an intense diplomatic effort so that we, and our other friends around the world, are working diplomatically, both with the Pakistani government and with the friends of Pakistan, to ratchet up pressure on Musharraf to do the right thing.

So I think it’s all those things in combination that are not so simple–it’s a pretty sophisticated way of dealing with it over the long term but that’s what I think we ought to be doing.

At the end of the day, the way to keep these situations under control is we ought to be leading the world in the long term initiative to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Question: Achieving a peaceful and stable Iraq requires more than the withdrawal of US troops. Please tell us what thoughts you have regarding the role of the US in reconstruction, political development, and regional diplomacy.

Answer: The key to stability in Iraq–and I think this is the one thing everyone agrees on, we just differ on how to get there– is there has to be some political compromise between the Sunni and the Shi’a. Without that political compromise there can’t be civility. Because it the underlying foundation for all the violence.

The question becomes–and this is where we diverge–how do you maximize pressure on the Sunni and Shi’a leadership to try to reach some political compromise?

Bush’s argument, which I think is ridiculous, is that we keep pouring American money and troops and sooner or later things will get better. That really–that will not work. It’s not worked for years and it’s not going to work now.

What I would do is I would make it first clear that we are leaving by pulling 40-50,000 combat troops out immediately, and then I would continue a steady withdrawal over about 9 or 10 months so that all combat troops were out by then. That would be accompanied by an intense effort to bring the Sunni and Shi’a to the table and pushing them to reach a political compromise. Because they see the handwriting on the wall. America is not going to continue to prop them up.

I do think–I would get the combat troops out and end combat missions entirely. I do think we have a longer moral obligation to help them rebuilding their infrastructure [questioner said “considering we destroyed it”]. Correct, that’s exactly right. For that reason we should do that.

Now, I think the other piece of this is crucial and this is part of your question [looking at the questioner] is what do we do with the other countries in the region? What do we do with particularly Iran and Syria who have been largely ignored in this effort to stabilize Iraq? Well, the Iranians have a clear interest in a stable Iraq. I mean, if you think about this through the eyes of the Iranians, they don’t want a million refugees coming across the border, and they also don’t want to see a broader Middle East conflict between Shi’a and Sunni because Shi’a are about 10-15% of the Muslim world. About 85-90% are Sunni. So if you’re a Shi’a dominated country, which Iran is, a broader Middle East conflict is very dangerous for them. So, they have an interest in a stable Iraq, and the Syrians are different but they also have an interest in a stable Iraq –they’re also concerned about refugees, economic stability, etc–so I would intensify the diplomatic effort, not just with Iran and Syria but with Turkey and all the countries in that region. Because all of them have an interest in a stable Iraq.

And I would get all combat troops out of Iraq and end combat missions but I don’t think we should abandon the region. I think that we should keep a naval presence in the Persian Gulf, I think that we probably need some quick reaction forces in Kuwait–because of any thing that can happen in that part of the world–and maybe it’s safe [?] for us to increase our presence in Afghanistan because things have gone badly there. The Taliban has reemerged, the heroin trade is way up and particularly in the south the Taliban’s strength has reemerged.

So I think those are the things I would do over the long term.

You know there’s this issue in northern Iraq where the Turks are right now, and that’s an issue where we need intense diplomacy with the Turkish government to prevent that situation from exploding.

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