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Editorial: The courage to question

By the Capital Times
An editorial
June 13, 2005

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., did not buy the spin that said the U.S. needed to invade and occupy Iraq. And he is not buying the spin that says all is now well in that Middle Eastern country.

"The mantra for Fox News is that we only hear the bad news (about Iraq). I was over there (in February), and we don't hear enough bad news," the senator told a listening session in Clinton this week.

The war, says Feingold, has turned into an "amazing mess."

The senator, who voted against authorizing the Bush administration to launch the military adventure that has cost almost 1,700 American lives and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives, is blunt about the need to establish a timetable for getting U.S. troops out of the quagmire.

Feingold is reading the situation right. Unfortunately, most members of Congress have not had the courage to go to Iraq. Nor have they had the courage to question how the U.S. troops ended up in the mess they're in.

The Wisconsin senator is the refreshing exception to the rule in Washington.

He does not hesitate to identify the people whose spin sold the war. Feingold reminded the crowd in Clinton, a Rock County community near the Illinois border: "If you want to get depressed, you should read the appallingly flippant answers" that Bush aides provided when they appeared at Senate hearings before the launch of the war in March 2003.

By and large, Feingold said, the administration line was that the invasion would be easy and that the occupation would see U.S. troops greeted with flowers. Instead, they continue to be targeted by car bombs and snipers' bullets.

While most members of the Senate appear to be content to let the administration off the hook, Feingold is paying attention to Americans who are asking for more information about whether the president and his aides faked up their case for war.

When someone at the listening session asked about the "Downing Street memo," minutes of a meeting of British officials before the war at which it was suggested that the Bush administration intended to "fix" the facts in order to justify an attack on Iraq, Feingold treated the allegations with appropriate seriousness.

"I can't tell you the amount of comment I've heard on the Downing Street memo," said the senator, who promised to pursue the issues raised by the memo with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and others. Of course, Blair and Bush are denying any wrongdoing.

At a press conference Wednesday, Bush said of the allegations that intelligence was doctored, "There's nothing farther from the truth." The president then claimed that the decision to use military force was "our last option." Blair, who in Britain is referred to as "Bush's poodle," echoed his master with his assertion: "The facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all."

After all the revelations about official deceit and deception, however, it would be absurd to accept Bush and Blair at their word.

The issues raised by the Downing Street memo are too troubling to be casually dismissed. Feingold needs to keep raising them, as do other members of Congress.

The route out of the mess in Iraq begins by identifying how our troops got there in the first place. And getting to the bottom of the issue of "fixed" intelligence is essential to that process.



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