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Sunday, February 18, 2007
Diplomacy, Not Force, Is Gov.'s Iraq Solution
By Thomas J. Cole
Journal Investigative Reporter
Bill Richardson was in the Governor's Mansion in the spring of 2003 when President George W. Bush sought authority from Congress to invade Iraq.
Richardson said at the time that he was disappointed that the United Nations had failed to hold Iraqi President Saddam Hussein "to the highest standards."
He also said he would have preferred that the United States had the support of the U.N. Security Council for its invasion of Iraq.
But Richardson added, "I think this is the time when we have to support our troops. I think this is a time when we unify as a country."
In his biography, "Between Worlds," published in 2005, Richardson wrote that he was convinced that Saddam's weapons of mass destruction posed a threat to the United States and its interests.
"No weapons were found, and now we know that our intelligence was deeply flawed. Had I known then what I know now, I would not have supported the president's decision to go to war," Richardson wrote.
By the fall of 2003, Richardson was publicly critical of the handling of the war.
"We cannot keep paying $87 billion every year, with our troops getting killed ...," he said. "There's no plan for reconstruction, for exit, and we need to have a plan that involves other nations, United Nations and a sharing of the burden."
In his book, Richardson wrote of the need for the United States to "see this mission through" in Iraq.
"We mustn't stay in Iraq past the point where the new government asks us to leave, but neither can we unilaterally pull out before the Iraqis have achieved control over their own internal security.
"We owe them the opportunity to make their democracy work. We must not undermine their efforts now."
Today, Richardson wants U.S. troops out of Iraq before the end of the year, saying the United States has done its part and it's time for Iraqis to take responsibility for their security.
"A struggle between a country's warring factions, where both sides hate the United States, is not worthy of one more lost American life," he told the Democratic National Committee on Feb. 3.
Richardson wants U.S. troops redeployed to Afghanistan and other countries in the region to combat terrorism and other threats to the United States.
He has called for a reconciliation conference in Iraq, a Middle East peace conference and talks between the United States and Syria and Iran.
"America must return to our tradition of diplomacy and international leadership," Richardson said in December. He also has said, "We need to have a political solution because there is no military solution."
Richardson has said the United States cannot tolerate nuclear weapons in Iran.
"I would engage the Iranians directly. What we need to do is use diplomacy, coercive diplomacy, potentially sanctions instead of talking about using military options," he has said.
Richardson was a congressman when President George H.W. Bush sought authorization for the first Iraq war in January 1991.
"My gut is with Bush, but my heart and conscience are with sanctions," Richardson said after a morning meeting with the president at the White House.
The next day, Congress authorized Bush to use military force to drive Iraq from Kuwait. Richardson voted against the authorization.
"In retrospect, that was a mistake," Richardson wrote in his biography. "During my time (later) as U.N. ambassador, I became convinced of Saddam Hussein's deceptions."
Where Richardson stands
Opposed to border fence. Supports doubling the number of Border Patrol agents, path to legalization for undocumented workers, guest-worker program, employer sanctions for hiring illegal immigrants. Has said the immigration-reform movement is bigger than the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
ENERGY: Has said global warming isn't a myth and has supported programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Has called for man-on-the-moon-like commitment to reduce dependence on foreign oil from 65 percent to 20 percent over 10 years. Said the first step should be to increase mandatory vehicle fuel efficiency to 40 miles per gallon.
HEALTH CARE: Opposed to single-payer health-care coverage system. Supports use of marijuana for medical purposes, embryonic stem cell research.