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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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John Edwards spoke at Plymouth State University today. His stump speech included:

…[W]e’re going to talk about two things: The War in Iraq and what’s happening with Iran right now…I think you, as New Hampshire Primary voters, deserve something from Presidential candidates. Every Presidential candidate says they’re going to end the War, but you deserve more than that. You deserve to know know specifically what they intend to do to end the war because, if they cannot give you specifics, they have not thought out what they’re going to do to end this war.

I think there should be basic questions every candidate should be required to answer. First, do they have a specific plan? How many troops are they going to withdraw? How quickly will they draw down, how quickly will the war come to an end? Second (and I’ll answer all these questions for you for myself), how many combat troops are they going to have in Iraq at the end of their first year in office?

Let me answer those two first. I will draw 40-50,000 troops out immediately and I will have all combat troops out in Iraq in nine months.

Third, are they going to continue combat missions in Iraq? Because–for me, I will not, just to be clear.– I will not continue combat missions. To me, continuing combat missions in Iraq is continuing the War! And then last last, are they going to keep permanent bases in Iraq, to station combat troops in Iraq? I will not.”

…This occupation has to be brought to an end for America’s sake and the sake of the rest of the world.

…I want to talk about Iran for just a second. Because y’all have watched Bush and Cheney rattle their sabers on Iran, for those of who watched the lead up to Iran, it’s a frightening thing to watch because we’ve heard this song before…the Neocons are at the same game again. The same game!

…We have to stop Bush and Cheney. We cannot let them continue on this march to war with Iran.

Question: I agree with what you’ve said: we never should’ve gone in, the whole concept of preemptive war makes me want to vomit. But we did go there and we have destroyed the infrastructure of this country. There are hundreds of thousands of civilians dying because of our destabilizing. What do we owe [the Iraqi] children who have had their education and futures taken away, and their clean water and food? What happens to them when we leave?

Answer: I think that’s a very fair question. I would say several things in response to that. One is no one believes, even Bush doesn’t believe, there’s a military solution in Iraq. And there’s not. Not unless, and until, the Sunni and Shī‘a leadership reach some political reconciliation there will continue to be significant violence in Iraq.

…I think we have some ongoing responsibility to help them with rebuilding their infrastructure, which is what you specifically asked about. I’ll go a step beyond that. I think that we shift the responsibility to them to reach a political compromise, which I think is what this proposal does, taking 40-50,000 troops out of Iraq says “we’re leaving. We’re not just talking about it, we’re actually leaving” and continuing it while we put pressure on them to reach a political compromise, I think maximizes the chances for that compromise to be reached.

I do think we need to engage the other countries–particularly the Syrians and Iranians–as we’re leaving and no longer occupying Iraq, they have an intense self-interest in a stable Iraq. For example, in Iran you don’t want to see a million refugees coming across your western border. And you also don’t want to see a broader Middle Eastern conflict between Sunni and Shī‘a because you’re very much _____[inaudible] in a mostly Shī‘a country.

I do think over the longer term, there’s the responsibility for the President to do something that Bush has never done which is to think about the possibility of bad things happen. And, anybody who says to you “this is my plant from Iraq–which I think you deserve from every presidential candidate–and I’m telling you it will be successful, they are not telling the truth because we are in a bad situation and the choices are not attractive. There’s no way to predict with certainty what’s going to happen.

What we have to do is exercise our best judgment and maximize the chances for success. We’ve had four plus years now of Bush lying and misleading about what happening in Iraq. The American people should know the truth about how hard it is and how unpredictable it is.

Two things we have to prepare for are the possibility starts to spread outside the boarders of Iraq. Secondly, the worst I guess, is genocide; the Shī‘a will try to systematically eliminate the Sunni. I think that both cases we have to be prepared–with the international community. Very different from than what we’ve seen in unilateral ____ [inaudible] with Bush–with the international community for those possibilities.

Question 2: Will you negotiate with Iran without pre-conditions?

Answer: It depends on what level of negotiation you’re asking about. I think America should engage directly with Iranians, [inaudible] Iraq and on the nuclear question. I think in both cases with should engage and negotiate with them directly.

I would not, as President, personally meet with Ahmadinejad unless, and until, there was serious evidence that it would be productive because he’s used America as a weapon in his PR campaign around the world. We have to be smart, I’m talking now about the highest level, about what the President does with Ahmandinejad.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t engage them. We should engage them. We should negotiate with them directly, there is no question. Not just on Iraq, but on the nuclear question. For example, on the nuclear question, I think there’s a very clear path for America. If we work –and by the way, this quick declaration of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which Bush did and the Senate led the way for, was done without consulting in anyway our friends in Europe. It was stupid, profoundly stupid because the Europeans are the ones with economic leverage with Iran. The Europeans are the ones we need to work with to try and stop this. And once again, Bush and Cheney acted unilaterally, ignored our friends in Europe…– but here’s what I think America should do. We should engage our friends in Europe who have economic leverage, the European banking system and we should put a proposal on the table for the Iranian people in a very open way because this is one of the most pro-American population in the Muslim world. They rallied for America after September 11th on the streets of Tehran.

So what I think America should be doing–America and our friends in Europe–is say “give up your nuclear ambitions and what we’ll do is help you with your economy (they’re economy is in shambles). If you don’t give up your nuclear ambitions, there will be economic consequences. There has to both. They have to see the downside and the upside to giving up their nuclear ambitions. Just to be clear, there’s a great dispute– including with former leaders– going on inside of Iran right now about this ____ [inaudible] and Ahmandinejad is the most bellicose and vocal about it to the rest of the world. This is like the rest of the world saying “America is like Bush.” America is not like Bush…

…My point is, if we make a reasonable proposal, very publicly with our friends in Europe, to the Iranian people, I think there’s a real potential for success if we recognize the political instability that Ahmadinejad is faced with in his own country.

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Bill Richardson spoke at Gibson’s Bookstore this morning. Here’s what he had to say on nuclear:

In the last Presidential debate three years ago [between John Kerry and George W. Bush], the last question was “what is the number one issue facing this nation?” John Kerry said “non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.” George Bush hesitated and then said “I agree.”

The Bush administration has done nothing to shrink the nuclear arsenal. It seems a bit hypocritical to me. It’s ok for India and Pakistan, but not Iran. So I’m wondering, do you agree this is a critical issue? And if so, as president, what would you seek to do to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in this world?

Someone in the crowd said “great question!”

Answer: The first week I would seek two treaties. 1. The treaty of all nations with nuclear weapons to dramatically reduce the number of nuclear weapons. We have 10,000 nuclear weapons. We don’t need anymore; we need fewer. I would work with the Russians to immediately cut in half the number. We don’t need to fund new warheads.

2. We also need a treaty on loose nuclear weapons and fissionable material on enriched uranium so rogue nations and terrorists do not have those weapons.

I would be an arms control president.

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Question: Will you take the nuclear option off the table with Iran?

Answer: [paraphrased]. Dodd committed to no first use of nuclear weapons and called for world wide abolition of the world’s 27,000 nuclear weapons.

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Senator Clinton wrote in Foreign Affairs today:

Neither North Korea nor Iran will change course as a result of what we do with our own nuclear weapons, but taking dramatic steps to reduce our nuclear arsenal would build support for the coalitions we need to address the threat of nuclear proliferation and help the United States regain the moral high ground. Former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former Defense Secretary William Perry, and former Senator Sam Nunn have called on the United States to “rekindle the vision,” shared by every president from Dwight Eisenhower to Bill Clinton, of reducing reliance on nuclear weapons.

To reassert our nonproliferation leadership, I will seek to negotiate an accord that substantially and verifiably reduces the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. This dramatic initiative would send a strong message of nuclear restraint to the world, while we retain enough strength to deter others from trying to match our arsenal. I will also seek Senate approval of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by 2009, the tenth anniversary of the Senate’s initial rejection of the agreement. This would enhance the United States’ credibility when demanding that other nations refrain from testing. As president, I will support efforts to supplement the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Establishing an international fuel bank that guaranteed secure access to nuclear fuel at reasonable prices would help limit the number of countries that pose proliferation risks.

She does not call for complete nuclear abolition as Obama, Edwards, Shultz, or Kissinger has.

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Hillary Clinton was at the YWCA in Manchester today giving a policy speech on the importance of supporting families (especially young mothers) and spoke about expanding the Family Leave Act. She didn’t take any open questions from the audience, but did shake hands with attendees after her presentation. NH Peace Action got two questions to her about nuclear weapons at this time.

Question 1: I’m five months pregnant and really appreciate what you had to say this morning. However, I’m worried about really large issues too, like nuclear weapons. Will you work towards the elimination of nuclear weapons as president?

Answer: Yes I will.

Questioner then asked: You’ll commit to work towards abolition?

Answer: Yes. I have an article coming out in Foreign Affairs that outlines what I will do.

Question 2: “Thank you for talking about supporting women and girls. Will you also support Iraninan women and girls by taking nuclear weapons off the table regarding Iran?”
Answer: “Oh yes, nuclear weapons are off the table.”

Edited to add: Senator Clinton’s staff denies she said the above quote. 

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Question 1: In the ancient classic The Art of War, the author Sun Tzu promotes a strategy that results in victory without battle. It seems like your an advocate of that strategy. I would like to know what your views on dealing with Iran.

Answer: Dealing with Iran. I’d talk to Iran. I would initiate the dialogue. I would look at who, in Iran, are elements that America can talk to. Now, I’m not sure the President Ahmadinejad is, but there are moderate clerics; there are moderate elements in that country which I would reach out to. People to people first; students to students; business to business; artists to artists; religious leaders to religious leaders. Not always the government. Forty percent of Iranian people voted against Ahmadinejad when he took office. So there are elements–in fact if you watched the news two days ago, there was a student uprising calling Ahmadinejad a dictator. So there are democracy movements out there.

I would say to Iran “look, it makes no sense for you to have nuclear weapons; it makes no sense for you to help terrorists in Iraq”–which they are doing. Lets have a community of interests. Maybe you can have nuclear power supervised outside Iran. You want stability in Iraq, lets find a way to [garbled]. But if you don’t respond, they we have to look at other measures. Some measures are sanctions. Iran is a country that doesn’t have–although it has all this plentiful oil–it only has one oil refinery so they import half of their gasoline; import half of their food. Sometimes it’s going to have to take putting that kind of pressure.

But I would first [garbled] Iran into Syria. We want to make things better in the Middle East, we don’t have a Middle East Peace Envoy, I would start one. Secondly, I would declare the Two State Solution–Israel and Palestine–the Palestinian state, don’t attack Israel. The Palestinian state as the basis for a new Middle East Peace Talks, but you have to talk to Syria. How do you not talk to one of the main actors, as this President doesn’t want to do?

I was in North Korea six months ago, and we got the North Koreans to shut down their nuclear reactor. We got them to give us six of our remains of soldiers. It’s called dialogue, negotiation, diplomacy. It’s what [Niargadatta] Maharaj said: You don’t make peace with your friends, you make peace with your enemies.

Question 2: I loved your Georgetown speech, which I read, and you talked closing down things like Ospry and Starwars, but one thing I wondered about is where would you put that money. I’ve been waiting all these years for that Peace Dividend. Are we finally going to see it?

Answer: I’m glad you asked me that because it’s $57 billion I propose taking out of the Pentagon, you mention Ospry, the F-22, these are outdated Cold War weapons systems. Missile defense is untested, yet we’re spending billions on it. Nuclear weapons modernization, just out of my own state, they’re made at me at Los Alamos and [garbled]. But do we need to modernize existing nuclear warheads? We need to get rid of nuclear weapons. I will reduce the number and negotiate a reduction.

I said the $57 billion, I would move to my education plan which costs $60 billion, which I outlined to you earlier, which is almost a direct trade off. I think it’s important that we tell voters how we’re going to pay for things. We have a $9 trillion dollar debt and it’s to Japan, commercial banks, China. We have to act on that; it’s irresponsible not to.

Question 3: I am very glad to hear you want to get rid of nuclear weapons. I would like to know what steps you would take to reduce the number of US nuclear weapons down from 10,000.

Answer: We have 10,000, you’re absolutely right. I would first go to Putin and I would say “We haven’t had an arms control agreement since the early Clinton years. Lets jointly reduce.” Then eventually, under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, we’re all committed to reducing to zero. I’m for that, but I want to see the other side negotiate too; I want to see the other side give too. I don’t want to just do it unilaterally, but I think if we take the lead, others will follow.

Even more important than nuclear weapons, my biggest fear is what’s called “loose nuclear weapons.” A piece of enriched uranium, plutonium, this size [Richardson held up his hand] in the hands of a terrorist. I think we need a treaty of what’s called fissionable material. We’ve got to get the North Koreans, Iran, Russia, nuclear producing states to basically to have this new agreement to contain the exportation to terrorists. This is really serious.

My worst nightmare, is through the two borders, Canada and Mexico, some material gets through and used on an American city. This is why we need detection equipment.

Question 3: Will you commit to absolute elimination of all nuclear weapons on this planet?

Answer: Eventually. But it’s got to be negotiated.

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