Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards took part in a town hall forum on "Good Morning America" today, answering questions from host Diane Sawyer, audience members in New Orleans and e-mails from viewers.
You can read a portion of the transcript from today's "GMA Town Hall" below.
Sawyer: Let us start, we just heard Chris Cuomo tell us the news out of Iraq this morning. It is a big week in decision making in Washington this morning.
But I want to play what the president said at the end of last week. Because he seems to be saying that there's only two ways to go, two kinds of people in America right now, and you've got to choose which side you are on.
You were one of the first people saying we need to withdraw from Iraq, do you think the fight is lost?
Edwards: No, I don't think it's lost but I think the president is dead wrong about what's happening, he has a completely unrealistic view and has for a long time about what's happening in Iraq. Things have not gone well, and it's obvious to anybody in America, and the president unfortunately is not willing to change plans or change course and the American people are demanding on it.
Sawyer: The president says you either think it's lost or victory is possible. Do you think victory is still possible? Military victory?
Edwards: Depends on your definition of victory. Not military victory, there was never a possibility of a military victory.
And basically, what's happening is the Shiites and the Sunnis have a political conflict that is the base of all the violence in Iraq, and until that conflict is resolved by the Iraqis, there's going to continue to be violence there.
Sawyer: But you have talked about withdrawing 40-50,000 troops immediately and then within a year virtually pulling all out...what does that say to the Iraqi people? Where does that leave them? What if ethnic cleansing begins? Do you send troops back in, what do you do?
Edwards: Well let's start with the first part of your question. I think what it says to the Iraqi people is that you have now reached the stage in which you have to take the responsibility for your own country. What's happened is there has not been a serious effort of compromise, between the Shiite leadership, Maliki and the Sunni leadership, and as a result this conflict has continued.
I think first of all, we are saying to them you're going to have to take responsibility. I do think, and I can tell you as president what I would do besides withdrawing combat troops over a period of time, I do think we need to maintain a presence in the region.
Sawyer: In the region or inside Iraq?
Edwards: No, inside the region, which means once our combat troops are gone, which means we need a rapid deployment of force in Kuwait, we're going to need to beef up our presence in Afghanistan, naval presence in the Persian Gulf, and may, if we get permission, station some troops in Jordan.
Sawyer: Do you think there is a real possibility of a regional calamity if American troops pull out of Iraq, which is the White House's argument?