"I would leave zero troops behind. Not a single one," Democratic presidential candidate and New Mexico governor Bill Richardson told a conference of cheering liberal activists in Washington, DC on Tuesday.
Other than the customary Marine contingent at the embassy, Richardson said he would leave, "No airbases. No troops in the Green Zone. No embedded soldiers training Iraqi forces. Because we all know what that means--It means that our troops will still be out on patrol with targets on their backs."
Vocal opposition to the Iraq war has become the hallmark of the democratic primary race, as candidates jockey to define their public image as closely aligned with the anti-war sentiments currently dominating so many American minds.
Speaking at a conference sponsored by the Campaign for America's Future, Gov. Bill Richardson burnished his anti-war credentials by taking the hard line on the potential for a lasting presence of US troops in Iraq, even announcing a "No Troops Left Behind" Website where people can sign a petition in support of near-immediate and total withdrawal of US troops.
"Where I differentiate with the other candidates is I leave no residual forces," Richardson said, "My view is this: We cannot do the hard diplomatic work in Iraq until our forces are withdrawn."
Richardson criticized his Democratic opponents for not pushing through legislation that would secure the withdrawal of US troops.
"With all due respect to my outstanding Democratic colleagues - Senators Clinton, Obama, Dodd and Biden - they all voted for timeline legislation that had loopholes.... Those loopholes allow this president, or any president, to leave an undetermined number of troops in Iraq indefinitely. And this is the same legislation that former Senator Edwards says we should send back and back to the president over and over again until he signs it."