Wednesday, September 19, 2007

W.H. candidate: Troops fuel sectarian violence

By Nedra Pickler - The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Sep 19, 2007 17:46:19 EDT

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson said Wednesday that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq has contributed to the sectarian violence rather than bringing stability to the war-torn nation.

“There’s no question there’s tribal and ethnic hatreds,” Richardson told The Associated Press. “But when those tribal and ethnic hatreds are fueled by American policy of hostility, then you make the situation worse.”

In an interview with AP editors and reporters, the governor of the state of New Mexico argued that all combat and non-combat troops should be removed from Iraq because their presence is only contributing to violence.

“It’s not a guarantee of success, my plan, but at least it’s stability,” Richardson, a former U.N. ambassador, said.

He is not in the top tier of candidates for his party’s nomination in 2008 but is doing better than some others in the race.

“American foreign policy is being bled dry by the invasion of Iraq,” he said.

Iraq was the primary topic of Richardson’s hourlong interview, but he discussed several other issues as well. Among them, he:

* Said he would lift the trade embargo with Cuba in exchange for the release of political prisoners.

* Said he would consider banning assault weapons if there were an effective way to do so, although he said past efforts have been “a joke.”

“I believe you don’t need Uzis to go hunting,” said Richardson, referring to Israeli-made assault rifles. He has been a proponent of gun rights and had the backing of the National Rifle Association. “If there is an effective way to ban them, I’d take a look at it. But past bans don’t work.”

* Said Republicans appeared to be giving up on outreach to minorities by refusing to attend their presidential forums and debates. “Whatever happened to their outreach to Hispanics?” he said.

* Proposed an effort to deal with $83 billion in corporate welfare much like the military’s base closure commission. It “would look at all the goodies that involve corporate welfare and have an up-or-down vote like we do with base closures, because otherwise they nitpick you to death.”

* Said he was making a “mad dash” as the third fundraising quarter ends and would raise about as much as he did in the first two quarters — $6 million $7 million.

* Compared his campaign to the underdog candidacies of Bill Clinton in 1992 and John Kerry in 2004. “I’m going to win this nomination,” he said. “You watch.” He said he knows he needs a strong finish in Iowa and New Hampshire, two early voting states with presidential preference polling, to stay in the race.

“I’ve got to beat one of the top three,” he said.

Richardson criticized Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards * His leading rivals for the presidential nomination — for plans to pull out combat troops from Iraq but leave residual forces behind. He said he would keep the Marines that guard the U.S. embassy in Baghdad but would withdraw all other military personnel.

“Who is going to take care of non-combat troops? The Iraqis?” Richardson asked. He said he would move a small contingent mostly of Special Forces to Kuwait and more troops into Afghanistan, although he would leave the specific number up to military leaders.

What planet is this guy from? Our troops are fueling the violence??? We already know that he does NOT honor our fallen heroes. I don't think he has a snowball's chance... We can either win in Iraq or we can lose. Let's let our troops do their jobs without the so-called support of defeatists like Richardson.

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