Tallahassee Democrat – May 25, 2004
Nader calls for Iraq withdrawal
He says U.S. should leave by year's end
By Maria Recio
NEW YORK - Ralph Nader delivered a strong call Monday night for America to withdraw from Iraq by the end of this year, a stand that threatens to lure anti-war voters to his independent presidential campaign and away from Democrat John Kerry.
In an early-evening speech before the prestigious Council of Foreign Relations in New York City, Nader said Iraq faces a choice between two futures. In one, he said, Iraq could stay on its current course and remain a "puppet regime" under Washington's control. Or, he said, "we could declare a set date for corporate and military withdrawal - let's say the end of the year."
The independent presidential candidate also called for replacing U.S. forces with a peacekeeping force from the United Nations - although the U.N. hasn't agreed to such a plan and Nader is in no position to negotiate it.
Nader argued that his plan would restore stability to Iraq and make it easier for the country to hold internationally supervised elections and continue rebuilding and distributing humanitarian aid. Nader also called for the withdrawal of U.S. corporations, such as Halliburton, that have won lucrative contracts from the Bush administration to oversee Iraq's reconstruction.
Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate, also calls for greater involvement in Iraq by the United Nations and NATO troops, but unlike Nader, he hasn't called for withdrawal of U.S. forces by any certain date. Instead, Kerry emphasizes that U.S. troops must stay indefinitely because America's strategic interests in the Middle East would be at risk if Iraq slides into civil war and radical Muslims expand their influence.
That stand opens Kerry's campaign to possible defections by anti-war voters, such as those who rallied last winter to the anti-war banner of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, even though Dean now supports Kerry. It's issue No. 1 in Nader's arsenal," said Steven Schier, a professor of political science at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., one of the 18 or so "swing" states that could tilt either way in November in a close election. "If there is any issue that's going to peel voters away from Kerry to Nader, it's the war.
Nader also called Monday evening for Bush's impeachment, saying he prosecuted a war under false pretenses. "To say Bush has exaggerated the threat of Saddam Hussein is pretty much commonly accepted," Nader said. "... The fabrications, deceptions and prevarications rise to high crimes and misdemeanors and warrant impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives."
Many Democratic loyalists are worried enough about Nader to act. One effort, called www.StopNader.com, announced Monday that within 10 days it will begin airing a TV ad in critical swing states arguing that a vote for Nader is in effect a vote for Bush.
Last week a similar group launched www.thenaderfactor.com. The group is funding TV ads in Wisconsin and Arizona that feature people who voted for Nader in 2000 and regret it, saying their votes helped elect Bush. Nader pulled almost 100,000 votes in Florida, for example, and Democrat Al Gore fell only 537 votes short of Bush there.