MR. GIBSON: Would you have seen this kind of greater security in Iraq if we had followed your recommendations to pull the troops out last year?
SEN. OBAMA: Let me respond. I think the bar of success has become so low that we've lost perspective on what should be our long- term national interests. It was a mistake to go in from the start, and that's why I opposed this war from the start.
It has cost us upwards of $1 trillion. It may get close to 2 (trillion dollars). We have lost young men and women on the battlefield, and we have not made ourselves safer as a consequence.
Now, I had no doubt -- and I said at the time, when I opposed the surge, that given how wonderfully our troops perform, if we place 30,000 more troops in there, then we would see an improvement in the security situation and we would see a reduction in the violence. But understand, we started in 2006 with intolerable levels of violence and a dysfunctional government. We saw a spike in the violence, the surge reduced that violence, and we now are, two years later, back where we started two years ago. We have gone full circle at enormous cost to the American people.
What we have to do is to begin a phased redeployment to send a clear signal to the Iraqi government that we are not going to be there in perpetuity. Now, it will -- we should be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in. I welcome the genuine reductions of violence that have taken place, although I would point out that much of that violence has been reduced because there was an agreement with tribes in Anbar province -- Sunni tribes -- who started to see, after the Democrats were elected in 2006, you know what, the Americans may be leaving soon, and we are going to be left very vulnerable to the Shi'as. We should start negotiating now. That's how you change behavior.
And that's why I will send a clear signal to the Iraqi government. They will have ample time to get their act together, to actually pass an oil law, which has been -- they've been talking about now for years.
They will actually be able to conduct de-Ba'athification. We will support them in all of those efforts. But what we can't do is to continue to ignore the enormous strains that this has placed on the American taxpayer as well as the anti-American sentiment that it is fanning and the neglect that's happening in Afghanistan as a consequence.
His statement that the Sunni in Anbar are a minority is ludicrous. That province is primarily Sunni. The reason for the change of the tribes relates to added security, added funding for development and primarily because they got very tired of living with the Al-Qaeda tyrants that tried to kill their way into controlling the areas and evicting US troops.
Read the section with questions on Iraq. It's pretty indicative of a group who would prefer to see us fail for political benefits rather than make the area stable and peaceful.