Thursday, November 10, 2005

''Daschle calls for Iraq troop withdrawal''

"Adding his voice to the newly aggressive chorus of Democrats calling for changes in the U.S. conduct of the war in Iraq, former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle urged withdrawal of 80,000 of the more than 150,000 American troops next year.

Speaking Wednesday at Northwestern University, Daschle also said he had been given "misleading information" by the Bush administration about Iraq's weapons before the war, but said he could not go into specifics.

"I wish I could share with you the misleading information I personally was provided in September and October of 2002," he said in remarks scheduled for delivery at Northwestern University in Evanston.

The misrepresentations, Daschle said, underscore the need for Congress to repair the nation's foreign policy initiatives in order to restore the public's trust in the use of U.S. military power.

"Nowhere as much as on this principle has the president so dramatically failed the country and our military," the former South Dakota senator--who lost his bid for re-election a year ago--said in prepared remarks.

"Misusing intelligence to start a war in Iraq, failing to plan for its aftermath and refusing to level with the country or our troops about what it will now take to correct those failures is just the start," he said. And speaking earlier in an interview, Daschle applauded Democratic Senate leaders for holding an unusual secret session on Tuesday to force attention on the question whether intelligence information had been manipulated to drum up support for the war.

Daschle, who recently joined the liberal think tank Center for American Progress in Washington, said a true fix of foreign policy will require what the center calls a "strategic redeployment" of U.S. forces in Iraq.

A key component of the plan includes removing 80,000 of the American troops, including all of the Guard and Reserve forces still active in Iraq, following December's elections in Iraq.

"We learned the hard way with [Hurricane] Katrina that we do our homeland security a disservice if we keep the National Guard tied down in Iraq, when their governors--and their families--need them here at home," Daschle said.

Next, he said, 20,000 of those troops should be redeployed to Afghanistan to stop the flow of drugs out of that country--a move that he said would hamper the financing of terrorists like Osama bin Laden.

"And those 20,000 troops ought to have one other missions: to find Osama bin Laden," Daschle said. "It is long past time that we bring this man who has taken thousands of American lives into American hands."

The remaining troops in Iraq, Daschle said, would be left to work with other nations to help the United States and its allies rid the Middle Eastern nation of all terrorists.

"Trust may be a soft word, but a lack of it has hard consequences, and the consequences are often borne most heavily by our military, who are performing heroically, and deserve leadership worthy of their service," he said.

Under Daschle's scenario, the first 80,000 American troops would be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of December 2006. The remaining troops, he said, would be removed by December 2007.

"Strategic redeployment is the kind of wise and trusted stewardship of the military that America was used to until October 2002--and which it deserves again," he said.

Daschle's 26 years in Congress came to an end after he lost to Republican John Thune, who had accused the then-Senate minority leader of being an obstructionist.

In losing, the three-term senator became the first Senate leader in 52 years to lose a re-election campaign.

Since his departure from Congress, Daschle hasn't strayed far from Washington. Daschle has been working as a special policy adviser in the Washington office of the law firm Alston & Bird, advising clients on public policy issues.

In the interview prior to his speech, Daschle said he was not surprised by maneuvers Tuesday by Senate Democrats in holding the secret session on intelligence.

"I think [now] there is a recognition that a lot of the intelligence information we were given was grossly inaccurate," he said. "The question is was it inaccurate totally because of incompetence, or was inaccurate, in part, by design."

Tuesday's Senate session ended with both parties agreeing to appoint three senators apiece to review pre-war intelligence with a Nov. 14 deadline for reporting back to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

In general, Daschle said he and other lawmakers received misleading information about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, terrorist connections to Bin Laden in the Middle East nation, the level of support American troops would receive and the nature of the coalition set up to fight the war in Iraq.

"So on many different fronts, we were misled, and I think that has caused the American people to take a vastly different view of the war than they initially had," he said.

In the current political climate, Daschle said he believed it was imperative to initiate dialogue for a troop withdrawal from Iraq.

"I think that it's very important as concept because what the president and what the administration has been arguing is that it's either stay, or cut and run," said Daschle, a former Air Force intelligence officer.

"The Bush administration will at some time next year acknowledge they cannot sustain the current level of troop commitment in Iraq, and that will necessitate a change in policy," he said."-from the Chicago Tribune. No offense Tom, but Howard Dean didn't believe them then and neither did I.

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