Feingold seeks troop withdrawal
Sen. Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat, will call Thursday for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq by Dec. 31, 2006.
Feingold, who is exploring a run for the presidency in 2008, told U.S. News: "I believe I am the first senator [to set a deadline]. It says: Here is the date by which we ought to finish the mission."
While polls indicate widespread discontent in this country over President Bush's conduct of the war in Iraq, few Democrats have offered any real alternative to Bush's policy of "staying the course."
Even this June, when Feingold introduced a resolution in Senate that called on the president to clarify the mission in Iraq and lay out "a plan and timeframe for accomplishing that mission," the senator did not call for a deadline for withdrawing troops.
Back then, Feingold said he was not dictating "deadlines or dates certain . . . because drawing up timeframes is best and most appropriately left to the Administration, in consultation with military leaders."
Now, however, Feingold has changed his mind and believes a deadline is necessary.
"I offered a resolution and tried to engage colleagues and asked the president to give us a vision," he said. "The president has simply refused to give us a mission or timeframe to bring the troops home."
Feingold also said that many within his own party are afraid of demanding a withdrawal of troops from Iraq for fear of being branded unpatriotic or anti-military.
"I call what I am doing breaking the taboo," Feingold said. "The senators have been intimidated and are not talking about a timeframe. We have to make it safe to go in the water and discuss this. A person shouldn't be accused of not supporting troops just because we want some clarity on our mission in Iraq."
While Feingold is aware some will accuse him of playing into the hands of the insurgents and strengthening terrorism, he says the Iraq war has made America less and not more safe.
"The president's policy in Iraq has played into the hands of the terrorists," he said. "Iraq is now the principal training ground for terrorists."
While Feingold is proposing a deadline for American troop withdrawal, he says it can be a flexible deadline.
"It's a target date," he said. "If we believe we need a little more time we may have to continue [in Iraq].
Feingold outline three possibilities:
"One, we achieve our goals in the timeframe and we are able to bring our troops home. "Two, we make progress but not quite as fast as hoped and we might need flexibility. Or three, things might get much worse and we might decide that we simply can't achieve our goals. But at least a time frame measures how we are doing."
Feingold will announce his deadline Thursday at a "listening session" in Marquette, Wis.
"The concern about the Iraq war is very, very deep," Feingold said. "What we have now is sort of directionless policy with no real sense of how this ends. A deadline will help us a great deal to stabilize the situation in Iraq."