Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama went to Clinton, Iowa, today to restate his views on the war in Iraq."I was looking for the headline, ‘Clinton supports Obama,’" Obama joked during a telephone interview with Radio Iowa — referencing his opponent Hillary Clinton.
Obama told a crowd at Ashford University in Clinton that it’s time to begin a steady withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq, with the goal of completing that withdrawal by the end of 2008. "Some" troops would remain to protect the U.S. Embassy and U.S. citizens who remain behind if Obama’s plan were followed.
"The main principle is not having permanent bases in Iraq and make sure that we have a presence in the region that sends a message to other super powers that we are not going away," Obama told Radio Iowa.
According to Obama, Americans have "had enough" of the war in Iraq and the best way to get Iraqis to reconcile their own differences is to remove American troops from the middle of a civil war.
"We also have to make sure that our diplomatic posture and our humanitarian efforts are coordinated and aggressive," Obama said, referencing the estimated four million refugees that have fled Iraq. "That’s something that I wanted to make sure was part of the discussion."
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told the Associated Press that Obama is suggesting a "flee-in-the-face-of-success" strategy. "If Mitt Romney considers having put an additional 30,000 troops, spend billions of additional dollars only to have the same levels in violence in Iraq that we had back in June of 2006 without any political reconciliation among the Iraqis as a success, then the Republican Party’s in more trouble than I thought," Obama said.
Obama has a dim view of the value of the so-called "surge" of American troops in Iraq. "We have essentially gone back to exactly where we were 15 months ago — levels of intolerable violence and a dysfunctional Iraqi government and so I think it would be very hard to argue that somehow we’ve seen significant change of the sort that we could call success," Obama said.
Obama suggested violence levels in Iraq have merely gone from "horrendous" to "intolerable."
"I am here to say that we have to begin to end this war now. Not tomorrow. Not the next day. Not six months from now, but now," Obama said to applause from the standing-room-only crowd gathered at Ashford University in Clinton.
Obama would begin a steady withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq now, with a goal of completing that withdrawal by the end of 2008.
"You know, I welcome all the folks who have changed their position on the war over these last months and years," Obama said. "We need more of those folks to change if we are going to change the direction of this war."
Obama told the crowd he had opposed the war before it began, an attempt to contrast himself with rivals like Hillary Clinton who voted in 2002 to give the president authority to go to war in Iraq.
"My plan for ending the war would turn the page in Iraq…by taking a new approach," Obama said.
A transcript of Radio Iowa’s interview with Obama is available over on The Blog.
Dave Vickers of KROS in Clinton contributed to this report.