Following his speech on the economy at New York’s Cooper Union, Amy Goodman asks Sen. Barack Obama why he is not calling for a total withdrawal of US troops from Iraq in accordance with the 70 percent of Iraqis who say they want the US out. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: Obama was speaking at the Cooper Union. I had a chance to briefly interview him as he was shaking people’s hands after he left the stage. I asked Obama why he’s not calling for a total withdrawal of US troops from Iraq in accordance with the 70 percent of Iraqis who say they want the US out.
AMY GOODMAN: Senator Obama, quick question: 70 percent of Iraqis say they want the US to withdraw completely; why don’t you call for a total withdrawal?
SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Well, I do, except for our embassy. I call for amnesty and protecting our civilian contractors there.
AMY GOODMAN: You’ve said a residual force —-
SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Yeah, but -—
AMY GOODMAN: — which would be tens of thousands of troops.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Well, no. I mean, I don’t think that you’ve read exactly what I’ve said. What I said is that we do need to have a strike force in the region. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in Iraq; it could be in Kuwait or other places. But we do have to have some presence in order to not only protect them, but also potentially to protect the territorial integrity.
AMY GOODMAN: Would you call for a ban on the private military contractors like Blackwater?
SEN. BARACK OBAMA: I’ve actually — I’m the one who sponsored the bill that called for the investigation of Blackwater and those folks, so —-
AMY GOODMAN: But would you support the Sanders one now?
SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Here’s the problem: we have 140,000 private contractors right there, so unless we want to replace all of or a big chunk of those with US troops, we can’t draw down the contractors faster than we can draw down our troops. So what I want to do is draw -— I want them out in the same way that we make sure that we draw out our own combat troops. Alright? I mean, I —-
AMY GOODMAN: Not a total ban?
SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Well, I mean, I don’t want to replace those contractors with more US troops, because we don’t have them, alright? But this was a speech about the economy.
AMY GOODMAN: The war is costing $3 trillion, according to Stiglitz.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA: That’s what -— I know, which I made a speech about last week. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Senator Barack Obama at the Cooper Union in New York.