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Senate candidates on Iraq

The Top Story by Chris Graham

Jim Webb says that the George Allen campaign has tried to paint a picture of the two Senate candidates’ positions on the war in Iraq that has them basically agreeing with each other on what needs to be done.

The Democrat Webb wonders how his Republican opponent can even begin to do that – given the widely diverging views that the candidates have on the Iraq war.

“Our foreign policy is in total disarray. The beginning of fixing that is to get our combat troops out of Iraq. And we can do that with the right leadership,” Webb said at a campaign event in Staunton last month.

“These people have blinders on. The mantra used to be, Cut and run, cut and run, cut and run. Now it’s, Stay the course, stay the course, stay the course. As Colin Powell said the other day, in one of his rare breaks with the administration, Every course has a finish line. And they aren’t defining the finish line. And it’s going to be up to us to define a finish line that will allow us to get our combat presence out of Iraq and at the same time improve over time the stability of the region. And that can be done – that can be done with the right kind of leadership,” Webb said.

Later, in an interview with reporters, Webb spelled out what he means by the phrase “right kind of leadership.”

“The first thing we need is a clear announcement of United States policy that we have no desire for a long-term occupation of Iraq. And they have not said that clearly and unequivocally. That would calm down the insurgency, I think,” Webb told The Augusta Free Press.

“The second thing that we need to do is to get an international consortium of the leaders of countries that are in that region and have historical and cultural ties with Iraq to get them to overtly become involved in a diplomatic solution. There’s only so much you can do with military force. That is the step that we’ve been needing to take for the last two years. And until we do that, I don’t think we’re going to be able to solve it,” Webb said.

Allen laid out his own vision for Iraq during a debate with Webb on NBC’s “Meet the Press” last month that is clearly different from what Webb thinks needs to be done.

“Staying the course is meaning that we don’t tuck tail and run, that we don’t retreat, that we don’t surrender,” Allen said. “This is a central battle front in the war on terror, and it’s not just the president or the vice president or me saying that, that’s what Al-Qaeda says, because Al-Qaeda’s designs and their goals are to have a caliphate, Islamic caliphate from, from Indonesia to Spain, with the capital being in Iraq, an oil-rich area.

“We cannot allow Iraq, which – where Al-Qaeda was and is now – we cannot allow them to have that haven for terrorist activity,” Allen said.

Webb said his chief criticism of Republicans with regard to Iraq is that they “have no plan” for going about doing what they say they want to do.

“And anyone who tries to advance some sort of a solution, they just try to knock down the specifics of one plan rather than the approach,” Webb said.

“Once you can convene that international conference, get the parties to the table, you can start getting our conventional troops out of there relatively soon,” Webb said.

“And getting all of them together, there is historical precedent. For instance, right after 1991, Gulf War I, we convened a conference in Madrid where they got the leaders of the countries together to talk about the future of the region – and actually after the invasion of Afghanistan, when we were starting to talk about how to put the Afghani government together, we got all the countries around that region, including India, Pakistan and Iran, to the table to try to work on a formula. So I don’t think this is an enormously difficult thing for the United States to do. We just need the kind of leadership that will put the energy in it and do it,” Webb said.


(Published 10-04-06)

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