Iraq: The Real Cost of War Can't Be Ignored

At each stop I make in this campaign, there are a lot of issues that I can talk about. Right now, too many Americans are worried about keeping their jobs, keeping their homes, and making sure their kids have quality education and quality health care.

But there is one issue that I believe is the linchpin to everything we want to do in a post-Bush world:

Ending the war in Iraq.

Some of my fellow candidates have decided to stop talking about Iraq. I'm not sure if they think the surge is working, or just that their polls tell them it is simpler and safer to follow the media's lead and just forget our brave troops and what this war is costing us.

Well, I believe that "easy" isn't necessarily right, so even if I'm the only person speaking the truth on this issue, I'm not going to stop.

I'm going to keep talking about ending this war and getting all of our troops out every chance I get.

The fact is, we cannot move forward on any of the issues that matter until we extract ourselves from this black hole that is robbing us of precious lives, money and time.

And we simply can't wait until 2013 to get this done.

Some of my fellow Democrats are willing to leave troops in Iraq for 5 years or longer -- the Republicans are talking decades -- yet still think we can make the dramatic changes here at home we need. But spending $10 billion a month on a war and working towards universal health care, building a new energy economy, and ending our dependence on foreign oil is an equation that doesn't add up.

It doesn't add up financially.

It doesn't add up morally.

It doesn't add up for America.

A few weeks ago, my campaign launched a very strong website which details the core problem I have with the Iraq plans of Senator Edwards, Clinton and Obama -- they won't even commit to getting all of our troops out of Iraq by 2013 -- almost five years from now.

And today, I'm proud that we've released another TV ad to bring attention back to this issue.

I'm going to do everything I can to make sure we don't forget this war, and forget what we need to do to end it.

Ending the war means getting all the troops out -- there is no room for rhetorical hair-splitting. We're either in or we're out. Now, or the war continues.

We hadn't planned on this, but I'm glad today is the day this ad is coming out -- because just yesterday Congress lost another chance to end this war, choosing instead to once again give Bush what he needs to draw out this tragedy even longer.

Where is the leadership? Just this week, with the fight over telecom immunity, we saw what can happen when a single Senator shows up and stands up for what's right, and yet, yesterday four senators in this race who say they oppose the war -- Senators Obama, Clinton, Dodd and Biden -- were all away while the president got what is essentially another blank check.

This Congress was elected to end this war and they have once again failed to stand up to President Bush. Yesterday, they didn't even show up ready to fight.

With a long history of repelling occupying forces, the people of the Middle East are very sensitive to foreign occupation. So long as U.S. troops occupy those lands, millions of Iraqis and those in surrounding nations will see American troops as jihadist propaganda portrays us -- as occupiers there to repress them and plunder their oil. If we want them to believe we won't occupy Iraq indefinitely, then we need to act like we won't -- and get our troops out.

In addition, our presence in Iraq perpetuates Iraq's political stalemate and undermines political reconciliation. As long as U.S. troops are there, the Iraqi factions have every incentive to jockey for power, rather than to reconcile and compromise.

As president, I will get all of our troops out, and I will get them out my first year in office.

A slow redeployment over many years would only prolong the suffering of Iraqis, and delay the process of reconciliation and reconstruction. The longer we take to redeploy, the longer our troops are in harm's way. While redeployment must be done carefully, as determined by our military leaders, to maximize political impact and minimize harm, we can't afford to drag it out over many years.

2013 is over five years from now. If we still have troops in Iraq in 2013, the Iraqis sure won't think the war is over. And neither will the American people.

I have profound differences with my opponents.

Senator Edwards says he will remove combat troops, but not necessarily non-combat troops, and not necessarily by 2013. This contradicts military doctrine that states non-combat troops must be withdrawn first with combat troops providing protection. Leaving non-combat troops behind will either turn them into combat troops or leave them as targets without any support.

Senators Obama and Clinton talk about ending the war, but when given the chance to commit to withdrawing troops by 2013, they both declined. They both say they will end the war, but I also remember hearing that when we elected a Democratic majority to Congress in 2006.

If we have a Democratic President willing to keep us in this war for five more years, what chance do we have of restoring our place in the world? Of creating real peace in the Middle East? Of having the diplomatic strength to broker peace in Darfur or Pakistan or North Korea?

If we have a Democratic President who is willing to keep us in this war for five more years, what hope do we have of funding full care for all of our veterans who have been injured and need our help?

What hope do we have of giving health insurance to children? Of paying teachers a living wage? Of dealing with global warming?

I think the answer speaks for itself.

I won't stop talking about Iraq, because you can't talk about solving any problem we face without talking about Iraq. We can't forget that.

Read several of the Governor's past posts on Iraq here, here and here.