How To End Iraq War

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Summ: As Americans, we must keep faith with Iraqis who kept faith with us and take responsibility for our own actions: I welcome all of the folks who have changed their position on the war over these last months and years. We need more of those votes to change if we're going to change the direction of this war. But if we've learned one thing from Iraq, it's that the judgment that matters most is the judgment that's made first.

[Op-Ed]



The saddest thing about the Bush Administration's surge of public relations in favor of the war in Iraq this week is how predictable it has become for them to make their case for war around the anniversary of 9/11.

Five years ago today -- September 12, 2002 -- President Bush made his case for war at the United Nations. He was wrong. The people who attacked us on 9/11 were in Afghanistan, not Iraq, and his case was built on exaggerated fears and empty evidence.

But conventional thinking in Washington lined up for war. Too many politicians feared looking weak and failed to ask hard questions. Too many took the President at his word instead of reading the intelligence for themselves. Congress gave the President the authority to go to war, and our only opportunity to stop the war was lost.

I made a different judgment. I opposed this war from the beginning. I opposed the war in 2002. I opposed it in 2003. I opposed it in 2004. I opposed it in 2005. I opposed it in 2006. And I introduced a plan this January to remove all of our combat brigades by March 2008.
The time to end this war is now.  My plan for turning the page in Iraq is clear:

[] remove our combat troops from Iraq's civil war by the end of 2008

[] take a new approach to press for reconciliation within Iraq

[] escalate our diplomacy with all of Iraq's neighbors and the United Nations

[] confront the human costs of this war directly with increased humanitarian aid

Our troops have performed brilliantly, but let me be clear: there is no military solution in Iraq, and there never was. The best way to protect our security and to pressure Iraq's leaders to resolve their civil war is to begin to remove our combat troops immediately.

Not in six months or a year -- now.

We must get out strategically and carefully, but our drawdown should proceed at a steady pace of one or two brigades each month. If we start now, all of our combat brigades should be out of Iraq by the end of next year.

While we change the dynamic within Iraq, we must surge our diplomacy in the region. We need to launch the most aggressive diplomatic effort in recent history to reach a new compact in the region. This compact must secure Iraq's borders, keep neighbors from meddling, isolate al Qaeda, and support Iraq's unity.

Conventional thinking in Washington says Presidents cannot lead this diplomacy. But I think the American people know better. Not talking doesn't make us look tough -- it makes us look arrogant. And it doesn't get results.

Strong Presidents tell their adversaries where they stand, and that's what I would do. Now is the time for tough and sustained diplomacy backed by real pressure. It's time to rally the region and the world to our side.

The final part of my plan is a major international initiative to address Iraq's humanitarian crisis.
There's no military solution that can reunite a family or resettle an orphaned child. It's time to form an international working group with the countries in the region, our European and Asian friends, and the United Nations.

We should increase our support for displaced Iraqis and expand access to social services for refugees in neighboring countries. It's also time to go to our friends and allies -- and all the members of our original coalition in Iraq -- to find homes for the many Iraqis who are in desperate need of asylum.

As Americans, we must keep faith with Iraqis who kept faith with us and take responsibility for our own actions: I welcome all of the folks who have changed their position on the war over these last months and years. We need more of those votes to change if we're going to change the direction of this war. But if we've learned one thing from Iraq, it's that the judgment that matters most is the judgment that's made first.

I opposed this war from the beginning, and I want to bring this country together to end this war now. The American people have the right instincts on Iraq. It's time to heed their judgment.

We have the power to do this -- not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans. We don't have to wait until George Bush is gone from office -- we can begin to end this war today, right now.

It's time reclaim our foreign policy. It's time to reclaim our politics. It's time to lead this country -- and this world -- to a new dawn of peace and unity.

(Also see my plan to end the war:  my.barackobama.com/iraqplan)

Senator Obama is a Democratic candidate for the US presidency
 


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