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Daschle Favors Eventual End to Slaughter
MARY CLARE JALONICK
WASHINGTON - Former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle is calling for all U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2007.
The South Dakota Democrat, defeated for re-election last November, planned to outline his foreign policy vision in Chicago Wednesday evening - two days before a planned visit to the politically pivotal state of Iowa.
Daschle has been generally quiet since his defeat but has increased his public appearances in recent weeks. He has not ruled out a presidential run in 2008 and has said he would like to increase his role in public service.
In an advance copy of the speech obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday, Daschle said that in the last five years, there has been an increase in terrorism and AIDS, an "oil-based energy policy" and "a world opinion that now holds America in lower esteem than ever before."
"Looking at all of these things together, you would have to conclude - American foreign policy today is broken," he said.
Daschle outlines several principles for repairing the policy, including a "strategic redeployment" that would draw down the first 80,000 of the 150,000 American troops in Iraq by the end of 2006.
The remaining troops should leave Iraq by the end of the next year, Daschle says.
At the same time, Daschle says in the speech, the troop reductions in Iraq should free up the military to redeploy an additional 20,000 troops to Afghanistan.
He says he has "thought and prayed an awful lot" about the decisions he made in the fall of 2002, when Congress gave Bush the authority to invade Iraq.
"I often get asked whether I made the right or wrong call," Daschle said in the prepared remarks. "The way these questions are often asked of me, it feels as if it's some kind of game of political gotcha. It is indicative of a disconnected self-indulgence in Washington that believes what matters most is what Washington does and how it feels about what it has done."
He adds that he received deceptive information in the lead-up to the war.
"I wish I could share with you the misleading information I personally was provided in September and October of 2002," he says. The prepared remarks did not say who gave him the information.
This is not the first time Daschle has blamed Bush for a botched policy in Iraq.
In a speech to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees on March 17, 2003, Daschle said he was "saddened, saddened that this president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to war. Saddened that we have to give up one life because this president couldn't create the kind of diplomatic effort that was so critical for our country."
That quote often was used against him in the 2004 campaign.