Senator Barack Obama, who is running for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 2008, is now calling for the complete withdrawal of all US combat forces from Iraq by March 31, 2008 to counter what he called President Bush's "dangerous and ill-conceived escalation." Going further than all other candidates, he has introduced legislation - dubbed the "Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007" - that would make this a reality:
"The American people have waited, the American people have been patient. We have given chance after chance for a resolution that has not come," Obama said on the floor of the US Senate.
"The time for waiting in Iraq is over. The days of our open-ended commitment must come to a close, and the need to bring this war to an end is here... In a civil war where no military solution exists, this redeployment remains our best leverage to pressure the Iraqi government to achieve the political settlement between its warring factions that can slow the bloodshed and promote stability."
The Illinois Democrat said his plan focuses on reaching a political solution in Iraq, protecting US interests in the region, and bringing the war to "a responsible end."
His bill is one of several resolutions and amendments to be debated in the Senate in the coming days on Bush's plan for a "surge" of 21,500 additional US troops in Iraq. Details include:
-A mandatory drawdown of US troops to begin no later than May 1, 2007 with the goal of removing all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008.
-Allowing for a "limited number" of US forces to remain in Iraq for the purpose of force protection, counter-terrorism, and training Iraqi security forces. Furthermore, the withdrawal could be temporarily suspended, subject to the agreement of Congress, if the security situation in Iraq improves.
-Stepped-up diplomatic efforts to achieve peace and stability in the region and would tie future economic aid to the government's reaching various "benchmarks."
This move sets Obama apart from others, such as Senators Hillary Clinton or Christopher Dodd, who are simply calling for defunding the surge and capping troop levels at their current rate (which, essentially, keeps the war policy as it currently is). The plan is also more realistic than Joe Biden's who calls for the partitioning of Iraq, and more specific and strategic than calls for withdrawal by other candidates such as John Edwards, Bill Richardson, and Tom Vilsack.
Most importantly, I feel this is the best and most responsible plan of action in Iraq we can take now, as I've detailed before in previous post. I expect this bill to be debated to its fullest extent, and I urge Democratic and Republican war-opponents to vote for it, and by doing so, vote for real change to our strategy in Iraq.