Sunday, August 21, 2005

FEINGOLD STEPS UP Russ Feingold, the maverick Democratic senator from Wisconsin, has raised his profile in the last few days by calling for a target date to be set for Iraq withdrawal.

Here's some of what he had to say this morning on Meet The Press:

MR. GREGORY: Explain why you've taken this step at this point. Why set this target date?

SEN. FEINGOLD: Well, it's been a long time coming. I didn't support the war in Iraq in the first place. But once the country decided to go into Iraq, I felt it was very important that we do the best we can to success and support our troops...

I tried first to simple offer a resolution a couple of months ago to ask the president to give us a sense of his own of how long this will take and give the world a sense of when we might finish what some people call an American occupation. We didn't get any response from the president. His last speech was just a bunch of the same slogans we hear all the time.

And, frankly, we got very little reaction from the members of the Senate. So I felt it was time to at least put on the table an idea, get the discussion going, break the taboo and say, "Look, let's see if we can remove the troops after we succeed with a series of steps by the end of December 2006. Let's see if we can have a target date that will work."

MR. GREGORY: Do you think that target date is knowable, that a success date is knowable at this point and that the president is simply holding back?

SEN. FEINGOLD: Well, I think it's possible. This is what I've noticed in the other times that we've done things well in Iraq. This is what we've done. We've set a target date for the transfer of sovereignty, and we said it was a good thing that we did it a day early. We set a target date for elections, in January 31, and some people said it would never happen. When it happened, it was a good thing. We set a target date for the constitution, and it's taking a few days more, but when that constitution is achieved, it's going to be a wonderful thing for the Iraqi people and a step forward.

Why wouldn't you want a vision, an idea of when we can measure success in terms of time and when the American people can know that our brave and courageous men and women can come home? It seems better than just having a stay-the-course concept, which is what the president seems to have.


SEN. FEINGOLD: You know, the Democrats are making the same mistake they made in 2002, to let the administration intimidate them into not opposing this war, when so many of us knew it wasn't a good idea. And same thing with this taboo on talking about a timeline. It doesn't make sense. If the terrorists and the insurgents really thought that, why wouldn't they just stop blowing us up right now? Why wouldn't they just let us leave and then take over?

More importantly, let me tell you the conversation I had in the Green Zone from one of the top generals in Iraq when I was there with Senator Clinton and Senator McCain. I said, "Off the record, your own view, would it help if we had a timeline to let the world know that we're not staying here forever?" And this is what he said, verbatim. He said, "Nothing would take the wind out of the sails of the insurgents more than having a timeline in place." So this is a false argument. It's a phony argument that doesn't really address the reality that we are actually causing more insurgents, more terrorism and more problems from all around the world coming into Iraq because we don't have a vision for success and completion of the mission.


SEN. FEINGOLD: The question here is do we succeed in the fight against al-Qaeda and the extremist elements around the world that are attacking us? That's number one. As important as the Iraqi democracy is and as wonderful as it is that we make progress in that regard, the most important thing is protecting the lives of Americans here and abroad, and if this Iraq operation is inconsistent with that, at some point, we may have to consider leaving. And that's why I'm hoping that we can create a time frame for success and then bringing home our troops.

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.