Iraq war still key issue in House race

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(Host) The war in Iraq continues to be a key issue in Vermont’s U.S. House race.

Democrat Peter Welch and Republican Martha Rainville both say a new federal intelligence report, that concludes that the war in Iraq has invigorated terrorist groups, is an important development.

But the two candidates strongly disagree on how the report should influence U.S. policy.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The report is an assessment of 16 different U.S. government intelligence agencies and it’s been released to both the House and Senate Intelligence committees.

The document concludes that the war in Iraq has increased the threat of terrorism across the world because Iraq has become a training ground for different terrorist groups. The assessment of the U.S. Intelligence community is that the war has galvanized terrorist organizations and helped them recruit new members.

Democrat Peter Welch says the report is clear evidence that the United States is less secure because of the war.

(Welch) “The political import is that it really should put to rest this question of whether or not the war in Iraq was a mistake. It clearly was a mistake and it’s as though the last people who are unwilling to admit that are Donald Rumsfield and George Bush. We need a Congress that is going to demand that there be a new policy that reflects the reality that unless we change direction we’re going to make America less secure, not more secure.”

(Kinzel) Republican Martha Rainville says the report provides important information and underscores the need for the United States military to stay in Iraq until Iraqi forces are ready to defend themselves.

(Rainville) “It shows even more the importance of not just withdrawing, just pulling the troops out. Because you have such an unstable situation there with the terrorist groups. You’re not going to stop them now by just withdrawing forces and I think you could also motivate them by that.”

(Kinzel) Rainville says it’s critical for the U.S. military to stay in Iraq until it achieves its goals.

(Rainville) “I think continuing to finish training the Iraqi forces, to turn them over to government control and to have a withdrawal based on succeeding at those objectives is still in our best interests and the best interests of that region.

(Kinzel) But Welch argues that this approach is a continuation of the failed policies of the past.

(Welch) “The Rainville position is essentially the Bush position to quote stay the course without defining what that course is. And what Rainville talks about is securing our military objectives without telling us what those military objectives are.”

(Kinzel) Welch and Rainville will meet in a special debate devoted to foreign policy issues Tuesday night at Middlebury College.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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