Sanders and Welch call for Iraq timetable

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(Host) Senator-elect Bernie Sanders and Congressman-elect Peter Welch both say it’s critical to establish a specific timetable to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.

They say they’re disappointed that a special commission reviewing future U.S. policies in Iraq isn’t backing such an approach.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Although the Baker Commission isn’t scheduled to formally release its report until next week, the basic recommendations of the panel have been made public.

The commission has studied this issue for the last 8 months and it will recommend shifting U.S. troops from a combat role to one of supporting the Iraqi army.

While the panel will back efforts to withdraw troops in the future, it won’t support a firm timetable to achieve this goal.

Senator elect Bernie Sanders doesn’t think these recommendations go far enough:

(Sanders) “I think the evidence is quite strong now that our presence in Iraq is counter productive to the war on terrorism and I think it’s time to bring our troops home as soon as possible. I think we should have our troops home, virtually all of them, within the next year. So I don’t think that this report goes anywhere near as far as it should and where the American people want it to go.”

(Kinzel) Congressman elect Peter Welch says the commission’s recommendations do represent a important change in policy but he says they fall far short of what’s needed.

(Welch) “It’s time I think for Congress and the president to be candid with the American people. It’s a question of when we’re going to make the hard decisions. A timetable, I do continue to believe, is quite important as a way of making it very clear to the Iraqis that they’ve got to step up and assume responsibility for their own future, and also to make it clear that it is simply not the job of the American military or the American taxpayer to be the referee in a civil war in Iraq.”

(Kinzel) The Bush Administration and a number of national news operations have debated this week if the war in Iraq has become a civil war. The Administration strongly denies that this is the case. Senator Patrick Leahy says it’s time for the president to recognize the reality on the ground in Iraq.

(Leahy) “There’s no way that we can sides in a civil war. There’s no way that we can stop a civil war that’s gone this far from going any further. And I think for the White House to have this attitude of stay the course’ we’ve already been there longer than we were in World War II and this is ridiculous.”

All three members of the state’s 2007 Congressional delegation say they hope the new Democratic majorities in the House and Senate will be successful in changing U.S. policy in Iraq.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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