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Reason 15 to Vote Obama: Ending the Occupation

One of the first things that attracted me to the candidacy of Senator Obama was his opposition to the Iraq Occupation. We’ve had disagreements — he believes we should make the Iraqis use their surplus to rebuild Iraq and I believe we owe Iraqis reparations for our invasion and our initial failure to secure anything beyond the oil ministry. As the occupying power, we have an obligation to pay for the repairs to bring the country back to its prewar condition. Improvements beyond that are up to a sovereign Iraqi government, but we must fund repairs to that point. It doesn’t matter that the occupied nation can afford it. It is one of the costs of conquering a country in civilized times.

Despite these differences, Senator Obama and I are mostly on the same page. He is also on the same page with the Iraqi people and the government of Iraq, which as of this writing asked us to withdraw all US troops by 2011.
While I would make the case for withdrawing military forces even if they wanted us to stay while they bickered; it is imperative to leave now that we are being asked to by the elected government of Iraq.

Obama understands this. That’s why his plan for Iraq included the following months ago:

A Responsible, Phased Withdrawal

Barack Obama believes we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. Immediately upon taking office, Obama will give his Secretary of Defense and military commanders a new mission in Iraq: ending the war. The removal of our troops will be responsible and phased, directed by military commanders on the ground and done in consultation with the Iraqi government. Military experts believe we can safely redeploy combat brigades from Iraq at a pace of 1 to 2 brigades a month that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 – more than 7 years after the war began.

Under the Obama plan, a residual force will remain in Iraq and in the region to conduct targeted counter-terrorism missions against al Qaeda in Iraq and to protect American diplomatic and civilian personnel. He will not build permanent bases in Iraq, but will continue efforts to train and support the Iraqi security forces as long as Iraqi leaders move toward political reconciliation and away from sectarianism.

Preventing Humanitarian Crisis

Barack Obama believes that America has both a moral obligation and a responsibility for security that demands we confront Iraq’s humanitarian crisis—more than five million Iraqis are refugees or are displaced inside their own country. Obama will form an international working group to address this crisis. He will provide at least $2 billion to expand services to Iraqi refugees in neighboring countries, and ensure that Iraqis inside their own country can find sanctuary. Obama would also work with Iraqi authorities and the international community to hold the perpetrators of potential war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide accountable. He would reserve the right to intervene militarily, with our international partners, to suppress potential genocidal violence within Iraq.

Surging Diplomacy

Barack Obama will launch an aggressive diplomatic effort to reach a comprehensive compact on the stability of Iraq and the region. This effort will include all of Iraq’s neighbors—including Iran and Syria, as suggested by the bi-partisan The Iraq Study Group Report. This compact will aim to secure Iraq’s borders; keep neighboring countries from meddling inside Iraq; isolate al Qaeda; support reconciliation among Iraq’s sectarian groups; and provide financial support for Iraq’s reconstruction and development.

The Status-of-Forces-Agreement

Obama believes any Status of Forces Agreement, or any strategic framework agreement, should be negotiated in the context of a broader commitment by the U.S. to begin withdrawing its troops and forswearing permanent bases. Obama also believes that any security accord must be subject to Congressional approval. It is unacceptable that the Iraqi government will present the agreement to the Iraqi parliament for approval—yet the Bush administration will not do the same with the U.S. Congress. The Bush administration must submit the agreement to Congress or allow the next administration to negotiate an agreement that has bipartisan support here at home and makes absolutely clear that the U.S. will not maintain permanent bases in Iraq.

There is only one major candidate in this race who has pledged to end the occupation of Iraq in accordance with the desires of the Iraqi people. One candidate who understands that as in welfare, an endless blank check to a client state does no favors. That candidate is Barack Obama and I hope you’ll join me in voting for him on November 4th.

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