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October 2007

October 28, 2007

Biden's Plan For Iraq

In August, Senator and Presidential Candidate Joe Biden wrote a Washington Post editorial titled, "A Plan To Hold Iraq Together." It describes a plan conceived with Les Gelb, the Council On Foreign Relations president emeritus, to "de-centralize" Iraq's government and give more power to regional, ethnically based municipalities. Under this new system, regional governments would be created for Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish populations. Baghdad would not be a part of any one region, and instead would act as a hub for the federal government, which would be in charge of common interests such as border security and distribution of oil wealth. (Biden calls oil "the glue that binds the country together.") In addition to changes in political structure, the plan also calls for a troop reduction, although Biden says that troops would still be necessary to "keep neighbors honest" and fight terrorists.

In September Biden's plan gained serious traction in the Senate, which passed a non-binding resolution supporting the plan with strong bipartisan support.

In the Mideast, Biden's plan has not been so popular. US Labor Against War recently publicized a communication they received from Hassan Juma’a Awad, president of the Iraq Federation of Oil Unions/General Union of Oil Employees in Basra. Here is his letter:

I would like to convey to you the opinion of Union of Gas and Oil in Iraq on the latest statement  of the US Congress regarding the partitioning of Iraq.  The General Union of Oil and Gas denounces the statements from the US Congress that suggest the partitioning of Iraq into different parts. At the same time that we are denouncing such statements, we also reject this cowardly act that is aimed at the security and stability of our country, Iraq.  Such a statement on the part of the US Congress demonstrates clearly that US occupation forces have failed to control Iraq.

Iraq will be united in spite of what the US says.  We are calling on the Iraqi government and Iraqi Parliament to reject such statements that signify the US government's hatred and meanness toward the people of Iraq - the people who managed to confront all sorts of conspiracies and ill-fated schemes during the past period.

In neighboring Syria, President Bashar al-Assad warned that dividing Iraq, particularly the creation of a separate Kurdish state, could cause the region to “explode.” He called on nations in the region to support Iraq’s unity.

October 23, 2007

Senator Clinton Speaks in Las Vegas

Sunday morning, October 21st, Hilary Clinton held a "Discussion on Health Care" at a senior citizen

center in Las Vegas. I had my question specifically related to Voter for Peace campaign ready - which I

had to adapt since she was only discussing health care issues. My question was the following:

“Senator Clinton, you spoke about how the Bush administration’s misguided priorities would rather provide ‘no bid contracts to Halliburton, than improve our healthcare system; and recognize that ‘America is ready for change’. Generals and captains across the board have said that there is no military solution in Iraq - a war that is costing US tax payers hundreds of billions of dollars. If you are elected president, would you commit to an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq?”

However, as the Review Journal -Nevada’s daily newspaper, observed in their opening sentence from the article covering this event: “most people didn't want to ask her a question so much as tell her a

story” (http://www.lvrj.com/news/10711666.html). She made certain that the issue of health care

remained the focus calling only on the elderly, (one woman was sitting directly behind me, while my

hand was raised from the beginning of the Q&A) and the disabled.

Later that afternoon there was a Clinton rally, where she gave a brief summary of campaign issues, as was also observed by the Review Journal, “touching on foreign policy, the economy, education, energy and, of course, health care. The biggest cheer, as always at Democratic campaign events, came when she declared her commitment to ending the Iraq war.” I left the event feeling thirsty and hungry, with the words, of ‘when’ and ‘how’, racing through my mind.

Fred Thompson, Ron Paul disagree on "Islamic Fascism"

As we reported, candidate Fred Thompson launched his campaign as an aggressive proponent of the Iraq occupation and the War on Terror by invoking the specter of "Islamic Fascism."

"It is a global war -- Islamic fascism has declared it upon us,"

"They play by no rules and they are intent on bringing down Western civilization and the United States of America."

Ron Paul, the Republican party's anti-war candidate, confronted Thompson's heated language head on. When a reporter from the Arab-American News asked Ron Paul what he thought of the term "Islamic fascism," Paul responded,

"It's a false term to make people think we're fighting Hitler,"

"It's war propaganda designed to generate fear so that the war has to be spread."

October 22, 2007

Nevada Carpenters for Edwards – October 20

I attended the Carpenter's union hall meeting for John Edwards on Saturday morning, where several hundred union workers attended. The Carpenters Union in Nevada, one of the largest and most politically active unions in the state with over 12,000 members, endorsed Edwards for President last month. Edwards has also received support from the United Steel Workers of America and the Transport Workers of America, giving him the largest bloc of labor support for any presidential candidate in Nevada. They first showed a film about the erosion of the working class in the US, and went on to show Edwards commitment to the middle class labor issues. He did not take any questions after his presentation.
However, afterwards, I elbowed my way past throngs of eager carpenters to shake Senator Edward's hand, and had the opportunity to ask him if he was opposed to the development of new nuclear weapons in the US. He paused, smiled, turned to the crowd and said, "Yes, I am. And I can even do better than that—and would like to do away with all nuclear weapons".
Thank you very much Senator Edwards-that is exactly what I wanted to know!

Voter Guide Update: Mike Gravel on new nuclear weapons

Our Voters for Peace and Security voter guide currently lists former Senator Mike Gravel as having no clear position on new nuclear weapons. Our researchers found information about his extensive work while in Congress to stop nuclear testing in the 1970s, but not an explicit statement of opposition to the development of new nuclear weapons.

Chris Petherick, Chief of Staff for Gravel’s campaign, sent Peace Action West this clarification today:

“Senator Gravel is opposed to the new production of nuclear weapons. In fact, he has said that the United States is in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty because of the U.S. military's continued production of nuclear weapons. At the South Carolina Democratic primary debate, on MSNBC Apr 26, 2007, Senator Gravel voiced his concerns: ‘Who is the greatest violator of the non-proliferation treaty? The United States of America. We signed a pledge that we would begin to disarm, and we're not doing it. We're expanding our nukes.’”

Keep checking back with voter4peace.org to get more updates as candidates’ positions are clarified or changed.  You can download the updated version of the voter guide on the Voters for Peace and Security homepage.

October 19, 2007

Barack Obama in Las Vegas - October 18

Obama_1018 Senator Obama arrived at Cheyanne High School, greeted by about 1,500 people in a packed standing room-only auditorium. As the Senator walked in, I got a chance to shake his hand, while at the same time ask him face-to-face if he was going to end the war. To which he looked me dead in the eye, smiled and repeated twice, before climbing on the podium, “that’s what I’m going to do.”

In his speech he mentioned his plans to remove 1-2 brigades a month for the next 16 months until all the troops had been removed. He followed it by repeating three times, “I will end this war,” to standing ovations across the hall. 

During the question and answer segment , he called on me and I got the chance to ask him the following:

Thank you for calling on me Senator Obama. You spoke about leading by example, yet you have also said that you will leave ‘all options on the table when it comes to Iran’. If you are elected President, what will be your position on Iran with U.S. nuclear weapons, such as the Reliable Replacement Warhead?

He did not address the issue of whether or not he would use nuclear weapons in Iran, but he did proclaim loudly and clearly that "military solutions will not work in Iran and that we need to work on "better diplomatic relations" in the world. He also said that he “would reach out to Russia to begin nuclear non-proliferation."

It would be interesting to know if part of non-proliferation includes current U.S. stockpiles.

Gov. Bill in Boulder City - October 2

Albuquerque Journal Staff Writers John Fleck and Jeff Jones, in an article titled, “Gov. Bill vs. Candidate Bill Richardson,” exposed a letter sent to eight members of Congress in which Gov. Richardson
objected to:

a proposed 3.2 percent cut in the budget of the National Nuclear Security Administration, which funds work at Sandia and Los Alamos national labs in New Mexico. Together, the two nuclear weapons labs employ 22,000 people, most of them in New Mexico and the majority of them working on nuclear weapons programs. The threat to cut the labs' budget, would signify cuts to these most important national security resources.

On the same day Gov. Richardson appeared at an event in Boulder City, a perfect opportunity for him clarify the conflicting statements he had made denouncing the development of new nuclear programs.
So I asked him the following:

Gov. Richardson, I want to thank you for taking a consistently strong stand against the development of new nuclear weapons. However, I was disappointed to see your letter today’s Albuquerque Journal opposing cuts to nuclear weapons labs in to the Los Alamos lab, in NM, a facility that develops and produces nuclear weapons. Can you clarify your seemingly contradictory position on this issue?

To which he began by talking about the long history of Los Alamos and other labs in New Mexico. Then he went on to say how he's opposed to nuclear weapons development, how we should negotiate an end to nuclear non-proliferation and that there are 10,000 types of nukes around. Someone else in the audience followed by asking his position on nuclear waste storage. The Governor noted his long opposition to build a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain. Gov. Richardson also said that he opposes alternatives to Yucca Mountain, and the creation of regional storage sites, "because of the transportation issue." Instead, he said he would order national laboratories to research nuclear waste disposal. The Presidential hopeful concluded his discussion by saying that we should be the world’s conscious, not the world’s police.

Richardson’s campaign spokesperson Tom Reynolds, said that the Gov. "continues to be the hardest-working advocate for New Mexico and its residents. His record speaks for itself." Maybe a point of reference for the Governor would be to begin taking clearer position on what’s right for the nation’s foreign policy, and not only when it’s popular to do so in his state.



October 13, 2007

Sam Brownback: Iraq = War on Terror

During Tuesday night’s Republican presidential primary debates, Senator Sam Brownback connected the 2003 invasion of Iraq with 9/11 and the war on terror.  When asked if dependence on Middle East Oil constituted the invasion, Brownback replied:

"I don’t believe that in the least. We went to Iraq—on the war in Iraq, what I voted for was the war on terrorism."

Borrowing rhetoric from President Bush, Senator Brownback linked the invasion of Iraq to terrorism.

“And it was in 2003, this was in close proximity to 2001, when we had the 9/11 crisis, and I wasn’t going to trust that Saddam Hussein wasn’t going to mix terrorists with weapons of mass destruction.”

Senator Brownback did concede that no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, but favors a continued occupation.

“We haven’t found the weapons of mass destruction, but that doesn’t mean we leave. And I think the Bush administration has generally done well military [sic].”

See the New York Times for a full transcript.

Fred Thompson: Tail Between Our Legs

Siding with President Bush’s policy regarding this year’s 30,000 troop increase in Iraq during Tuesday’s Republican primary debate, Senator Fred Thompson introduced himself as a staunchly pro-war candidate, criticizing only the initial Iraq strategy.

“Clearly, to me, we didn’t go in with enough troops… But now we’re showing signs of progress.”

Thompson continued by criticizing troop withdrawal from Iraq.

“Now that we see a window of opportunity for things to turn around and us to stabilize that place and not have to leave with our tail between our legs.”

Criticizing the Democratic controlled congress, Fred Thompson stressed his belief that continued involvement in Iraq is essential to national security.

"It’s strange to me to think that the average 20-year-old serving us in Iraq knows more about what it takes for our national security than the average 20-year veteran on Capitol Hill.”

Senator Thompson also warned that withdrawal from Iraq “would make for a more dangerous United States of America.”

See the New York Times for a full transcript.

October 11, 2007

Fred Thompson Gives Small Preview of Foreign Policy

DEARBORN, United States (AFP) —Ex-senator and TV star Fred Thompson held his own among US Republican presidential hopefuls in his first debate, vowing to "battle Islamic fascism" as he and the other candidates sought to charm the party's dubious hardliners.

"It is a global war -- Islamic fascism has declared it upon us,"; said Thompson, who played a gritty prosecutor in internationally syndicated crime drama "Law & Order."

"They play by no rules and they are intent on bringing down Western civilization and the United States of America," he said.


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