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Feingold Debunks Myths about US Policy in Iraq
t r u t h o u t | Press Release
Friday 09 September 2005
Senator Russ Feingold has called on the President to issue a flexible timeframe for the completion of the military mission in Iraq and has suggested December 31, 2006 as a target date for returning American troops home from Iraq. In discussing his proposal, he has been debunking several myths about US policy in Iraq.
Myth #1: There are only two options for the US in Iraq: 'stay the course' or 'cut and run.'
Senator Feingold: "This is a false choice offered by the President. The course we are on in Iraq is not sustainable, nor is it making the US more secure. At the same time, I am not in the "cut and run" or "immediate withdrawal" camp, nor do I propose a hard deadline for troop withdrawal, regardless of conditions on the ground. I believe that our military still has a mission to complete but the President needs to make clear what the mission is, and what our plan to get the job done is. We can't hold ourselves accountable for getting our troops the support they need to get the job done if we never clearly define where we are going, or when we plan to get there, in the first place."
Myth #2: Fighting terrorists in Iraq means we will not have to fight them elsewhere.
Senator Feingold: "It would be nice to believe that these terrorists will be swept into Iraq only to be annihilated by US forces. But that kind of "roach motel" approach to fighting is hardly a strategic vision. At its best, it is wishful thinking - and more wishful thinking is just what our Iraq policy and our strategy for fighting terrorism do not need. Terrorist networks exist around the world. Fighting terrorists in Baghdad does not mean that we won't have to fight them elsewhere, and, sadly, we need only look at the headlines over the past few weeks to find the terrible evidence of this hard fact. We need a tough, smart global strategy to combat and defeat terrorist networks, not a misguided belief that Iraq is the solution to the national security challenge before us."
Myth #3: If the US issues a clear timeframe for the remaining military mission in Iraq, the insurgents will simply wait us out.
Senator Feingold: "This doesn't make a lot of sense. If the insurgents wanted to wait until we withdrew in order to execute their plans, why wouldn't they cease all attacks now, lay low, let everyone believe that stability has been achieved, and spring up again once the US presence in Iraq is dramatically reduced?
We need to be honest about the fact that one day, the US will withdraw from Iraq, and it will not be secret when we do. Does the Administration believe that the insurgents will be entirely defeated at that point? Is it really our policy to stay in Iraq until every last insurgent is defeated? The Secretary of Defense has acknowledged that ultimately, "foreign forces are not going to repress that insurgency," rather it is going to be defeated by the Iraqis themselves. If the remaining military mission is to train Iraqis to provide for their own security, we ought to be able to articulate a clear plan for getting that job done and have public benchmarks for success.
Moreover, providing a clear, public plan and timeframe for the remaining US mission could undermine both the recruiting efforts and the unity of insurgents; while encouraging Iraqi ownership of the transition process and bolstering the legitimacy of the Iraqi authorities."
Myth #4: Those who resist staying the current course fail to understand that if the US military leaves, Iraq will degenerate into dangerous chaos.
Senator Feingold: "Frankly, parts of Iraq are already in a state of dangerous chaos. And it's clear that the US military presence won't be able to guarantee security for Iraqis in the long run. As many senior leaders have acknowledged, ultimately only a political solution, devised and agreed to by Iraqis, can point the way toward stability - not the indefinite presence of American troops on the ground.
We need to take a hard look at the nature of the insurgency in Iraq. Since the foreign troop presence is helping efforts to recruit foreign terrorists, and since nationalism and a sense of humiliation among some Iraqis are causing them to join forces with foreign terrorists to resist what they see as an occupation, sticking around indefinitely will not help to achieve stability.
Intense US diplomatic and political engagement and support will likely be needed long after the troops are withdrawn. I also expect that we will continue some important degree of military and security cooperation with the Iraqis, as we work with them and with others around the world to combat terrorist networks, whether they are operating in Iraq or Afghanistan or England or elsewhere."
Myth #5: Any discussion of policy options beyond "staying the course" is a symbol of weakness that will embolden terrorists.
Senator Feingold: "It is simply not true that anything other than a firm commitment to support more of the same is somehow weakness. The course we are on is not leading to strength - it is weakening our military and it is strengthening our enemies. The US Army is rapidly nearing the breaking point and the American public is increasingly and rightly uneasy about our policy. Meanwhile the terrorists operating in Iraq are adapting to our own techniques and increasing in sophistication, even as they use Iraq to rally additional support around the world. This is not a winning US strategy. The way to defeat terrorists is to make sure that our Iraq policy is consistent with the global fight against terrorism, rather than letting Iraq dominate our security strategy and drain vital security resources for an unlimited amount of time."