What’s the difference between an “expedition” and a “mission”?

 In Election 2008, Iraq

As I reported recently on Voters for Peace and Security, former Senator John Edwards has been highly critical of his opponents for saying they will leave troops for combat missions after an initial withdrawal. Edwards told the Boston Globe recently that he would keep troops in Kuwait to enter Iraq for “expeditions” against Al Qaeda in Iraq.  Edwards claims that the major distinction between him and the frontrunner Hillary Clinton is that she will continue the occupation by having those troops in Iraq, though her campaign disagreed:

But a Clinton spokesman, Phil Singer, said Edwards’s comments contradicted statements he made at debates and on the campaign trail.

"You can’t end combat missions and go after Al Qaeda. That’s a combat mission," Singer said.

At the most recent debate last month, Edwards said, "Combat missions ended. Combat troops out of Iraq, period."

A spokesman for Edwards, Eric Schultz, said "whether or not troops are based in Iraq makes all the difference in whether it’s a combat mission or not."

As president, Edwards says he would immediately withdraw 40,000 to 50,000 combat troops and bring the remaining troops home by the end of his first year in office, with the exception of a small military presence to protect the US Embassy. He said he believes a withdrawal would improve the prospects for political reconciliation in Iraq and for regional diplomacy to help stabilize the country, but acknowledged there are no guarantees. 

This is exactly the kind of digging in to the details on Iraq that we want to see the candidates engaged in. Whether you use the word “expeditions” or “missions,” it’s clear that all of the Democratic frontrunners still plan a long-term presence in and around Iraq. As Peace Action West, along with military personnel and the Iraqi people have said, the best way to stabilize Iraq and allow for political reconciliation is to withdraw ALL US troops on a timeline. We will continue to make sure the presidential candidates are hearing this message on the campaign trail.

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