Lamont speaks of Iraq withdrawal

Democratic Senate candidate Ned Lamont SOM ’80 argued Wednesday against prolonged U.S. military involvement in Iraq, saying that the United States needs to refocus on the fight in Afghanistan and rebuild relationships with allies Lamont said were alienated by the Bush administration’s actions following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

In a policy speech delivered at Yale Law School, Lamont outlined his national security proposals and elaborated on his view of America’s continued role in Iraq. U.S. troops, he said, need to remain in the region to provide humanitarian aid and to assist in training Iraqi troops, but they should not continue to bear the responsibility of maintaining the country’s internal security.

“Ours is not an open-ended commitment,” Lamont said. “[Iraqis’] political destiny is in their own hands.”

Though Lamont stopped short of calling for U.S. troops to be moved from Iraq to Afghanistan, he said the United States’ focus on Iraq has drained soldiers and money from what he characterized as the more important fight in Afghanistan, where he said terrorists are now able to regroup.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67, running as an independent following his loss to Lamont in the August Democratic primary, has argued that Lamont has waffled on the questions of when and how to bring troops home from Iraq. A SurveyUSA poll released Tuesday showed Lieberman leading Lamont by 13 percent, with Lieberman winning the support of 76 percent of those voters who approve of Bush’s position on Iraq.

“Lamont has taken eight different positions on Iraq and counting in the course of the Senate campaign,” wrote a blogger working for the official Lieberman campaign blog, “The Full Lamonty”. “If Ned Lamont can’t even articulate his own position on Iraq, how can Connecticut trust him to take on the difficult task of articulating and helping to implement a responsible withdrawal of American troops?”

Lamont did not provide a specific timetable for his proposed withdrawal of troops, but said he would bring a “sense of urgency” with him to Washington. He also emphasized the need for the United States to rebuild its alliances with other nations in Europe and Asia as it tries to contain the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea.

“Remember international coalitions?” Lamont said in an aside while discussing the decision by President George H.W. Bush ’48 not to occupy Iraq following the first Gulf War.

Although the speech was billed as a policy speech, Lamont spent much of it criticizing his opponent for failing to hold Bush accountable by “rubber-stamping” presidential policy on Iraq.

“We also need judgment, and judgment has been conspicuously missing in Washington,” Lamont said.

The Lamont campaign has recently attacked Lieberman for missing Senate votes on Iraq, though the Lieberman campaign has said previously that Lieberman did not miss votes where his vote would have changed the outcome.

Those at the speech said Lamont was clear in explaining his views, though some said Lamont did not seem entirely at ease delivering the speech, which lasted for half an hour.

“He showed that he’s thought this out and has a strategy,” said Paul Nunez, a legislative assistant to New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr.

Brendan Gants ’08, president of the Yale College Democrats, said Lamont seemed more comfortable speaking during the short question-and-answer session that followed the prepared speech.

“He’s one of those rare politicians who actually does better off the cuff than reading from a script,” he said.

Lamont was introduced at the speech by Paul Bucha, a retired U.S. Army Captain and recipient of the Medal of Honor. Bucha said fewer U.S. citizens have been energized by the Iraq war compared to the student uproar that he said ended the Vietnam War, and he praised Lamont for entering public life and questioning the judgment of U.S. leaders on Iraq.

Gants said Lamont will speak again on campus soon as the guest of the Yale College Democrats.

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