Democrat Says Declining Casualties in Iraq is Not Progress

Terence P. Jeffrey | Editor in Chief | Monday, November 26, 2007

Democrat Says Declining Casualties in Iraq is Not Progress

( - New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democratic presidential candidate, said Sunday that the decline in U.S. casualties in Iraq -- which has accompanied the increase in U.S. troops in that country -- is not a sign of progress.

"Progress shouldn't be measured by casualty counts, body counts," Richardson told host George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week."

Stephanopoulos pressed Richardson on the issue, confronting him with points made earlier in the program by Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a Republican presidential candidate, who has been a leading defender of the troop-surge policy that President Bush has pursued since the beginning of the year.

"But governor," said Stephanopoulos, "do you concede that we have seen real progress in bringing down the violence? We do see refugees returning home, and you heard Senator McCain say that we are beginning to see reconciliation at the local level even though they are still in transition at the federal level."

"Violence ... ebbs and flows, George," answered Richardson. "I believe that no American death is worthy of saying body counts have gone down. Forty died in October. Sixty-five percent of the Iraqi people in a recent poll say it is okay to shoot at an American soldier.

"Until we withdraw all our forces, the political reconciliation that we all want -- a multinational peacekeeping force, a donor conference, the three groups in Iraq, the Sunni, the Shia, and the Kurds coming together, a unification of the country -- is not going to happen."

Richardson contended that real progress in Iraq is dependent on a U.S. withdrawal from that country. "What I believe, George, is that all of this talk about casualty counts going down, that is wrong," said Richardson.

"That is not how you measure progress. You measure progress by: Is there movement toward political compromise? The answer is no. Is there movement towards a division of oil revenues? No. Is there movement toward regional stability, with Iran and Syria perhaps participating in a constructive way? The answer is no.

"The best way to achieve a political solution in Iraq," he said, "is to withdraw our forces."