(Host) Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator elect Bernie Sanders both say they will strongly support efforts by Democratic leaders to re-deploy thousands of U.S. troops out of Iraq in the next 6 months.
Key Senate Democrats say they’ll move to implement the policy when they take over control of the U.S. Senate in January.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:
(Kinzel) Senate Democratic leaders made it very clear this week that they plan to push for the implementation of a number of new strategies in Iraq when they regain control of Congress early next year.
One of their goals is to re-deploy thousands of U.S. soldiers from Iraq to neighboring countries. The troops would be in a less dangerous environment but they would still be able to return to Iraq in case of an emergency.
Senator Patrick Leahy thinks this approach makes a lot of sense:
(Leahy) “I think it’s very doable to redeploy the troops like that. I think a lot of the military that have talked to be privately say they think it’s doable. We have to look at that, and I certainly would.”
(Kizel) Leahy believes there’s a striking similarity between what’s currently happening in Iraq and the final year of the Vietnam War.
(Leahy) “People were saying, boy if we leave Vietnam they’re going to take over and they’re going to be a threat to the United States’ and on and on. And now, a few decades later, the President of the United States is going to Vietnam to sign trade agreements. And I think that something like this, you have to look at the long term. And it’s going to be in Iraq’s best interests, but especially it’s going to be in the United States best interests to get out of there.”
(Kinzel) Senator Elect Bernie Sanders notes that he’s been calling for major policy changes for many months. He says this effort is a good first step.
(Sanders) “I think we need fundamental changes in our policy in Iraq. I think we need to bring our troops home as soon as possible. And I hope that all of them or virtually all of them will be home within the next year. So getting started sooner rather than later is a step in the right direction.”
(Kinzel) Some Republican observers say the Democrats risk being identified as the party that “lost Iraq” if these new policies are put into place and the country descends into a bitter civil war.
Sanders bristles at this suggestion.
(Sanders) “The horrible destruction and loss of life and chaos and decline in basic services that is taking place in Iraq today tells us that we need a change of policy. And I don’t think it would be fair for anybody to criticize those of us who wanted to change policy from what’s happening right now. What is happening now is a unmitigated disaster. I think most of the American people understand that and we do need to change our policies.”
(Kinzel) Former Secretary of State James Baker is heading a commission that is currently reviewing U.S. policies in Iraq.
Both Leahy and Sanders say the commission’s report could help their effort to withdraw troops in the coming year.
For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.