Michele Bachmann: U.S. got "kicked out" of Iraq

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., on CBS' "Face the Nation," October 23, 2011.

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann on Sunday joined the chorus of GOP contenders lambasting President Obama for his decision to withdraw nearly all troops from Iraqby the end of the year. She contended that the United States had been "kicked out" of the country "by the very people we liberated," and that the decision was "more politically-based than military-based."

Bachmann, in an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation," said it would be unwise to withdraw troops from the country while its political status remained tenuous, and argued that "if you look at every time we have deposed a dictator, the United States has always left troops behind to be able to enforce the fragile peace."

Host Bob Schieffer asked Bachmann, "Do you think, congresswoman, that the American people, with the budget situation the way it is, really want to keep a large contingent of American troops in iraq indefinitely?"

"Of course not. No one wants to do that," she replied, but said there should be a temporary transition."

"We're going from the point of leaving to leaving zero troops behind," Bachmann said. "Once we're finished in Iraq, we'll have more troops in Honduras than we'll be leaving behind in Iraq."

According to the plan Mr. Obama outlined Friday, about 150 American troops will remain in Iraq following the December withdrawal. Approximately 550 American military personnel are currently stationed at an air base in Soto Cano, Honduras as part of a joint task force with the Honduran military.

U.S. and Iraqi officials have debated for months whether to honor America's planned December 31 deadline for troop withdrawal, set in 2008, amid concerns that the full withdrawal of U.S. forces could put the country at risk and impede Iraq's political progress.

Many U.S. officials wanted to leave several thousand military trainers in the country past the end of this year, but, as the Associated Press reported Sunday, "Iraqi leaders have adamantly refused to give U.S. troops immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts, and the Americans have refused to stay without it."

Bachmann suggested Sunday it wasn't even the president who was behind the decision to withdraw troops, but rather an advisor - someone who no longer even works at the White House.

"It seems more political-based than it does military-based, this decision, so it's more like a 'General Axelrod' is making this decision to take the troops down to zero," said Bachmann, referring to former White House aide David Axelrod, who now works in Chicago on the president's re-election campaign.

Bachmann also argued Sunday that Iraq had "disrespected" the U.S. in outlining its conditions for continued U.S. presence there, and urged Mr. Obama to "return to the negotiating table" with the Iraqi government and demand full reimbursement for the $700 billion America has spent on the war over the last eight years.

"The problem is, we've put a lot of deposit into this situation with Iraq," Bachmann told CBS' Bob Schieffer. "To think that we are so disrespected and they have so little fear of the United States that there would be nothing that we would gain from this? That's why I've called on President Obama to return to the negotiating table.

"The Obama administration has said they've gotten everything they wanted. They got exactly nothing," Bachmann said. "I believe that Iraq should reimburse the United States fully for the amount of money that we have spent to liberate these people. They're not a poor country. They're a wealthy country. I think that they need to do that, because what we will be leaving behind is a nation that is very fragile and will be subject to dominance by Iran and their influence in the region. That's not good."

Bachmann argued that by withdrawing its military presence from Iraq, the U.S. would be leaving Iran "waiting in the wings" to "exert its dominance and influence in this region."

"That's not good for anyone," she said. "The United States has expended 4,400 lives, over $800 billion in toil and blood and treasure. While we're on the way out, we're being kicked out by the very people that we liberated."

Bachmann objected to the Iraqi government's demands and said, if she were president, she would not comply with the Iraqis' demands on continued U.S. involvement there. But she also said it was Mr. Obama's foreign policy "failures" that had led to those demands in the first place.

"We could not allow our troops to be subject to that," Bachmann said. "But again, we are there as the nation that liberated these people. That's the thanks that the United States is getting after 4,400 lives were expended and over $800 billion? So on the way out, we're being kicked out of the country? I think this is absolutely outrageous what's happened.

"I think President Obama clearly is not respected. The United States is not respected. And the president has been a failure when it comes to foreign policy."

"You say 'failure,'" Schieffer said, "but just last week Muammar Qaddafi was killed. Awlaki, the al Qaeda leader is dead. Osama bin laden is dead. Doesn't the president have a few things he can point to his accomplishments in foreign policy here?"

"Of course. I would agree that the world is better off because all three of those actors are no longer with us, I absolutely agree with that. But I oppose the president putting us into war in Libya.

"Don't forget, the president has put us into two additional wars. One is Libya, and the recent one was at the request of Uganda," she said, referring to the president's recent decision to deploy 100 troops to Uganda to help combat the rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

"One thing that we should have learned in the last 12 years is that once we are involved in a foreign involvement, in a foreign entanglement, it's very difficult to get out. It's usually at a great price," she continued. "Secretary Gates is the one who said that america had no vital interest in Libya. So yes, the world is better off without Muammar Qaddafi, but there's also a risk. This is just a snapshot in time. We don't know yet, Bob, who will be the true leader in Libya. It could be the Muslim Brotherhood. It could be more extremist elements. Plus we also know that the shoulder-fired rockets have gone missing. This is very dangerous and a very dangerous world. Libya is a very volatile situation."

"You just said in answer to an earlier question, we always leave troops behind" after a dictator is deposed, Schieffer added. "Shouldn't that argue that if you're saying that, that maybe we should figure out some way to leave some troops in Libya. Is that what you're saying?"

"It appears that that will not be the case, according to the early reports that we're getting," Bachmann said. "Again my position was that we should not have gone to Libya in the first place. I opposed President Obama going into central Africa, into Uganda as well."