CHICAGO – Illinois Democratic Sen. Barack Obama on Tuesday called for a troop reduction in Iraq and criticized the Bush administration for questioning the patriotism of people who speak out against the war.
"I believe that U.S. forces are still a part of the solution in Iraq," according to a prepared text of Obama's speech to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. "The strategic goals should be to allow for a limited drawdown of U.S. troops, coupled with shift to a more effective counter-insurgency strategy that puts the Iraqi security forces in the lead and intensifies our efforts to train Iraqi forces."
Following the Dec. 15 Iraqi elections, Obama said the United States should focus over the course of the next year on how to reduce its troops there.
"Notice that I say 'reduce' and not 'fully withdraw,"' Obama said.
The freshman lawmaker also joined the chorus of politicians defending decorated Vietnam War veteran Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., who was criticized by the Bush administration, other Republicans and the public after calling for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops.
"We watched the shameful attempt to paint John Murtha — a Marine Corp recipient of two purple hearts and a Bronze Star — into a coward of questionable patriotism," Obama said.
Obama said Americans want to find solutions to the "difficult and complicated situation in Iraq."
"The President could take the politics out of Iraq once and for all if he would simply go on television and say to the American people 'Yes, we made mistakes. Yes, there are things I would have done differently. But now that we're here, I am willing to work with both Republicans and Democrats to find the most responsible way out,"' Obama said.