2008 Election Issues: Iraq


Jan. 30, 2008 -- Few issues divide Republican and Democratic presidential candidates more than Iraq. The Democrats talk about "ending the war" and "bringing the troops home."

But go beyond the bumper sticker quotes and it gets a little muddy.

All the major Democratic candidates say they want to bring the troops home. But they also want to keep some U.S. troops in Iraq to go after al-Qaida, protect diplomats and aid workers. They are vague as to how long those troops would stay.

The Republican candidates talk of success and victory, but with little detail. What happens if the Iraqi government fails to meet the benchmarks President Bush outlined last year? How would the candidates pressure the Iraqi government? Would they threaten to withdraw troops? Withhold money? They give no answers.

Here, a look at where the presidential candidates stand on Iraq:

The Candidates on Iraq
Democrats Republicans
Sen. Hillary Clinton. Photo: Getty Images

Sen. Hillary Clinton (NY): Clinton says that it's time to begin ending the war, and she says as president, she would bring home American troops "as quickly as we can." But if you listen carefully, Clinton would not bring all the troops home. She would keep "specialized units" in Iraq to go after al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations, to provide security for U.S. troops and personnel and to train Iraqi forces. She doesn't say how large these specialized units would be or how long they would stay.

Sen. John McCain. Photo: Getty Images

Sen. John McCain (AZ): McCain repeatedly pressed for an increase in U.S. troops in Iraq long before the so-called "surge" in forces. McCain says he will fight the Democrats on any early withdrawal from the region, which he terms "a date for surrender." McCain has said that American troops could be in Iraq for many years and will gradually draw down as Iraqi security forces are trained and equipped.

Sen. Barack Obama. Photo: Getty Images

Sen. Barack Obama (IL): Obama says, "Now is the time to end the war in Iraq." He wants to bring home one or two brigades each month until all are home, which he says would take roughly 16 months. But, he says, for a "limited time" he would keep "some troops" in Iraq to protect diplomats and carry out strikes against al-Qaida. Obama doesn't say how many troops this would take.

Sources: Candidate Web sites and speeches.