Election 2008

Renewed Violence Will Test Candidates on Iraq

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The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq looms for presidential candidates as renewed violence returns the issue to the forefront this election year. Rapid withdrawals could create new dangers for U.S. troops in Iraq, but keeping troops where they are also invites criticism.

DANIEL SCHORR: Partly because public attention has shifted to the faltering economy, the Bush administration has been fairly successful recently in neutralizing the issue of troops in Iraq, but not for much longer.


NPR Senior News Analyst, Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: President Bush has indicated that there will be a pause in troop withdrawals after July, which practically ensures an acrimonious debate at the height of the election campaign. Already, the administration appears to be going into a defensive crouch.

When ABC's Martha Raddatz asked Vice President Dick Cheney during a recent Middle East trip about the two-thirds of Americans who say the war in Iraq was not worth fighting, Cheney replied, so? Then he proceeded to say the administration would not be thrown off course by fluctuations in public opinion polls.

Last September under pressure from Congress, the president announced that he would withdraw five combat brigades, two Marine battalions, and one Marine expeditionary unit by July. That would leave roughly 140,000 troops in Iraq, slightly more than before the surge. But some commanders began lobbying for a pause in the drawdown. Fearful that rapid reductions would leave the remaining forces dangerously exposed to insurgent action and would hurt morale.

President Bush said yesterday, it was just a matter of letting the dust settle to see where we're at. But suspending troop withdrawals for an indefinite period risks plunging the Iraq issue into the middle of a fall campaign. Already, Senator John McCain is saying that further troop withdrawals would have disastrous consequences.

Republican Senator Chuck Hagel has so far withheld his endorsement for McCain saying, I think we're in a quagmire. Both Democratic candidates, Senator Obama and Clinton, have issued statements promising to bring the American troops home. And some 25 Democratic candidates for Congress are endorsing what they call a responsible plan to end the war in Iraq.

It looks like a long, hot summer and fall arguing about troops in Iraq.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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