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Feingold says Democrats will announce intentions for Iraq

John Byrne

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Democrat takes swipe at Secretary of State Rice

WASHINGTON -- Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) says Senate Democrats will soon introduce more elements of their party’s plan to resolve foreign policy with regard to Iraq. “You’ll see more evidence of that coming out of the Democratic caucus this week,” he told RAW STORY.

The Wisconsin legislator is at the vanguard of his party as the only senator to propose a date for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Though he's introduced a target date -- Dec. 31, 2006 -- his party has struggled to articulate a cohesive plan for the turbulent nation. Only Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) has joined him in calling for troops to be withdrawn.

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That may soon change. Feingold says some of his colleagues are warming to the idea of a timetable, but he didn’t want to identify particular senators by name. He spoke to RAW STORY in an interview Wednesday.

“I don’t want to characterize their minds,” he explained. I’ve had a number of people who’ve said, ‘I’m very close to your position. I’m almost there.’”

“I think the administration has tried with some success in intimidating Democrats,” he added, causing “some Democrats to be way too timid or meek on this issue.”

Feingold rebuked the Bush Administration’s claim that the invasion of Iraq has not spawned further terrorism. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Newsweek last month that the U.S. “challenged” insurgents whose movement had been “growing for some time.”

The Wisconsinite pointed out that it was the Bush State Department that issued a report in 2001 stating al Qaeda was not operating in Iraq. While noting that the terrorist network existed in 25 other countries, including the United States, it did not include Iraq on the list.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, asked whether Iraq was a hotbed for insurgents by Newsweek last month, said, “The argument that I find rather bizarre is that somehow we created more of them by going after it, when, in fact, I think what had happened was that they had not been challenged… And now they’re being challenged.”

Feingold said her statement “makes absolutely no sense.”

“She is just literally making things up, saying that Iraq was a hotbed of terrorism before we went there,” he averred. “The recruiting is done because we are there.”

Critics, however, say a United States pullout from Iraq would lead to a bloodbath. Vice President Cheney said Monday that if the U.S. withdrew, insurgents would overrun Iraq and kindle instability in the Middle East.

"If the terrorists were to succeed, they would return Iraq to the rule of tyrants, make it a source of instability in the Middle East and use it as a staging area for ever greater attacks,” Cheney remarked.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani added his voice against withdrawal Wednesday, saying coalition troops were "vital" to protect the Iraqi people.

Feingold disagrees.

“The idea that you stay in a situation that isn’t going the right way just for the sake of saying that you’re staying the course is a potentially disastrous approach,” the senator said. “The idea that things would be much worse if we let Iraqis take over I think is questionable. A lot of the recruiting is based on the idea that it is a permanent American occupation.”

The Judiciary Committee senator also fielded a question from RAW STORY on Able Danger, a covert intelligence project that is said to have identified the lead hijacker from 9/11 before the catastrophe. The Pentagon has sought to keep the officers in the program from testifying by revoking clearances and pressuring senators to cancel hearings.

“I’m very concerned that there may be more to these stories and the mistakes that were made and the government has got to be come clean on what happened prior to 9/11,” Feingold said. “We’ve got to know whether they’re hiding the ball on this. There has to be some accountability.”

The most vociferous war critic in the Senate was absent from a protest against the war in Washington in late September. Only a handful of congressmembers were present at the event.

“I was already scheduled long before to be in Wisconsin,” Feingold said. “I think it was a very good thing that the rally was held but I was never able to attend.”

Asked about speculation that he was positioning himself to be the Democrats’ anti-war presidential candidate in 2008, he said, “I would never make policy positions relating something to Iraq based on a political goal. I’m taking a position I’m taking on Iraq based on the work I’ve been doing.”

Correction: Senator Feingold has not introduced a firm date for the pullout of American troops from Iraq; the date is intended as a target date.

Originally published on Thursday October 6, 2005.

 


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