WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson criticized his rivals on Thursday for failing to back an immediate and complete U.S. troop pullout from Iraq, saying it was time to “get all our troops out now.”
In a speech at Georgetown University, the New Mexico governor said Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards all had taken a wait-and-see attitude about when to draw down U.S. troops.
“I say there has been enough waiting and seeing,” he said. “If you haven’t seen enough to know that we need to get all the troops out, then you aren’t watching the same war that I and the rest of America are seeing.”
Separately, Richardson’s camp did not entirely rule out the possibility that he would run for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring New Mexico Republican Sen. Pete Domenici, in the event Richardson is unable to win the Democratic presidential nomination.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll this week said he had 3 percent support. “Right now we’re 100 percent committed to winning the White House,” said Richard spokesman Tom Reynolds.
In his Iraq speech, Richardson said it was logistically possible to pull out U.S. troops from Iraq in three months or less and redeploy some of them into Afghanistan and some into quick-strike forces based in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain.
“The foundation of my Iraq plan is this: Get out now. Get all our troops out now,” Richardson said.
While Democrats are pressuring President George W. Bush to change course in Iraq, they are divided on how best to do it.
The three leading Democratic presidential contenders -- Sens. Clinton and Obama and former Sen. Edwards -- all call for withdrawing troops from Iraq.
Edwards says he would get 40,000 to 50,000 troops out of Iraq immediately and withdraw all troops within nine or 10 months. Obama has said he would withdraw one or two U.S. brigades a month from Iraq and have all troops out within 16 months.
Clinton has been less specific. She said, if elected and upon her inauguration in January 2009, she would order the Pentagon to draw up a plan to begin bringing troops home within 60 days.
At a debate in New Hampshire in late September, the three refused to promise to bring all American troops home from Iraq by January 2013, which would be the end of their first term.
Clinton, a former first lady and the front-runner for the nomination, came under fire from the others because she did not rule out continuing some combat operations.
“This is no time for political calculation or hopeful caution,” Richardson said. “Our troops’ lives are on the line.”
With more than 3,800 Americans killed in Iraq, public sentiment largely favors removing the United States from the 4-1/2-year-old conflict.
Richardson criticized Clinton for voting for a Senate resolution last week that called for the State Department to declare Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization. Richardson accused Clinton of aiding a “wrongheaded” Bush administration approach to Iran.
“Senator Clinton has it exactly backward. To accomplish our goals with Iran, we have to put diplomacy first, not saber rattling,” he said.
Clinton has defended the vote, saying a declaration would give the government the option to impose sanctions on the group. U.S. commanders have accused the Revolutionary Guards of arming Shi’ite militias in Iraq and supplying them with weaponry to attack American troops.