Portsmouth Herald: Obama pushes Iraq pullout
By Shir Haberman
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., refused to bash his leading presidential primary opponents New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards " over their vote to go to war in Iraq, despite several attempts to get him to do so during a teleconference with New Hampshire reporters Wednesday.
"I prefer to think of it as an affirmative reflection about how I approach these kinds of problems and how I might handle future conflicts," Obama said when asked about his 2002 speech opposing U.S. intervention in Iraq made while he was still an Illinois state legislator. "Voters can draw some conclusions about our respective manners in how we sifted through the case the (Bush) administration offered."
Calls aimed at getting responses from both the Clinton and Edwards campaigns were not returned.
The Illinois senator was asked why he submitted legislation last week to begin the pullback of U.S. troops from Iraq beginning on May 1, 2007, with a completion date of March 2008, when he had voted in opposition to a pullout bill in 2006. Obama responded that the 2006 bill came on the heels of popular elections in Iraq that created a new government and that he wanted to send that government a message of U.S. support.
However, since that time things have changed, he said.
"The Iraqi government has not used that time (since the 2006 legislation was defeated) to try to bring the parties together, but has used it to dig in to their sectarian agendas," Obama said.
As to what would happen once the U.S. troops pull back, Obama had no answer "" only hopes.
"I don't think anyone can answer that question," he said. "I would hope we would work internally (inside Iraq) and with other members of the international community to solve the problems there."
Obama claimed without a withdrawal deadline there is no incentive for Iraqis or the international community to take action.
"None of this will happen while we are engaged in an open-ended occupation," he said.
Obama's bill is not aimed at pulling all U.S. troops out of harm's way, however. It would keep some troops in the region to prevent a wider war, and to go after al-Qaida and other terrorists. Just how many troops would remain in the region would have to be worked out, he said.
"We have to have some sort of over-the-horizon force in the region, but the number has to be determined based on a broader strategy," he said, noting that the war in Afghanistan is not over.