Republican candidates find one more reason to stay in Iraq

 In Election 2008

Republican presidential hopefuls agreed during last night’s Univision debate that the recent decline in violence in Iraq represents a signal to continue the troop presence in the region. With the exception of Rep. Ron Paul, who has opposed military intervention in the region, and Tom Tancredo, who boycotted the debate because of the Spanish language format, all the other potential nominees were just short of declaring US victory.

Until Sunday, only one candidate, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, had emphasized his support for the troop increase, a stance that over the last year coincided with his fading status as a GOP front-runner.

“We are winning,” declared former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, whose candidacy has experienced a surge of its own in recent weeks into the top tier of GOP contenders.

Former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee said the U.S. “must prevail” in the war, and added, “I agree with my colleagues. I believe that we are.”

Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, for example, said that the goal in Iraq should be a “victory for America.” The phrase was striking because Bush himself, who often touted the U.S. strategy for victory, recently dropped the word “victory” from his lexicon as part of an administration effort to avoid appearing to overstate progress.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney also said that the surge was working. “We’re going to have stability and security there, and American lives will be saved by virtue of the extraordinary sacrifice of American servicemen,” Romney said.

The difference seems to be in the rhetoric. Where as in the past the Republican contenders were cautiously supportive of the war, citing the country’s instability as the main reason for continuous troop presence, last night the tune was far more positive, mentioning decrease in violence as the main reason for continuous US troop presence. So no matter what, the common denominator is that the troops stay. I wonder if any scenario would be right for us to begin bringing our troops home.

In contrast, earlier this month, British army officials announced that violence in Basra had fallen 90% after the withdrawal of their troops, a far greater drop than the one touted by Republican candidates last night, but we didn’t hear any of them praising the withdrawal as a sign of success. As usual, supporters of the occupation are selectively choosing which facts to share based on what is politically advantageous. When will we stop making Iraq a political issue and begin making sound policy decisions?

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