(Host) Vermont Governor Howard Dean is developing a series of foreign policy positions as he pursues his long shot presidential campaign. In a trip to New Hampshire on Sunday, Dean was asked several times about the Bush administration’s potential plans to attack Iraq. Deans says if that happens, America must be prepared for a ten-year conflict in the most dangerous region of the world.
VPR’s John Dillon reports.
(Sound from a restaurant gathering.) “Good to see you, good luck, let me know if I can help in any way .”
(Dillon) Much of Howard Dean’s standard stump speech is focused on domestic issues – health care, education, fiscal management. He believes that President Bush squandered his first year in office by pushing tax cuts that Dean says have condemned the country to years of deficits.
But at two campaign events in New Hampshire on Sunday, Dean heard this question several times:
(Audience member) “Just a simple question: Do you think the United States should invade Iraq?”
(Dillon) Dean says that President Bush has to offer firm evidence that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has nuclear or biological weapons.
(Dean) “There are two criteria the president will have to meet if we’re to invade Iraq. The first is, he has to show the American people, as President Kennedy did in the Cuban missile crisis, that there’s evidence he has either atomic or biological weapons and can deliver them. So far he has not made that case. So where’s the threat? We need to see that evidence.”
(Dillon) Dean says if the president does send the country into war, he needs to prepare the public for at least a decade of conflict in the Middle East:
(Dean) “If we go into Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein, which we should do if he is shown to possess atomic or biological weapons that are a threat to the United States . But we also have to be honest about how long we’re going to be there. We’re going to have American troops on the ground in Iraq for ten years. We are going to be a target for terrorists and we’re going to have our troops in the most dangerous part of the world. If we’re not honest about that, then I don’t think the president ought to have the right to make the decision to go into a war with Iraq because the American people ought to be told ahead of time what that’s going to mean to us.”
(Dillon) The Vermont governor took his presidential campaign to Arkansas last week. He’s in California Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, he goes back to New Hampshire, the state with the first presidential primary.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Concord, New Hampshire.