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Iraq: Looking Back, Looking Forward

By Senator Russ Feingold, dailykos

On Veteran's Day, the President gave yet another speech trying to defend his Iraq policy. He uttered over 5800 words, but not once did he provide the American people any timeframe for our military mission in Iraq or any sense that he has a plan for bringing that mission to a successful end. Instead, he used the same platitudes and empty rhetoric that the American people have already made clear they don't buy. Rather than putting his efforts into a major media spin operation, the President should concentrate on getting our Iraq policy straight, and putting our nation's national security on track.

Earlier this year I called on the President to provide a flexible, public timetable for our military mission in Iraq, one that is tied to clear and achievable benchmarks. In August, I put forward a target date to complete the military mission there - December 31, 2006 - in an effort to break the taboo among my colleagues against even talking about a plan to complete that mission.

I am pleased that the silence has finally been broken and this week the Senate will be voting on an amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill that, in part, calls on the President to report to Congress with a flexible timetable to finish the military mission in Iraq and bring American troops home.

While this amendment, which I drafted with several Democratic colleagues, is a pretty modest proposal, it is clear that an increasing number of elected officials are finally realizing what a majority of Americans already know - that the President's "stay the course" rhetoric isn't a strategy for success. In fact it isn't a strategy at all.

Over two and a half years since the brave men and women of our Armed Forces were sent into war in Iraq, they are still waiting for what they should have gotten at the war's onset- a clear, realistic military strategy with a flexible timetable for achieving our mission. The American people, and our troops in Iraq, have been waiting for that for far too long, and we can't afford to wait any longer.

The President insists that he didn't mislead the country into war. From my perspective, the Administration's aggressive efforts to sell the war in Iraq didn't match up with the intelligence briefings I received. I never bought the administrations shifting justifications in the lead up to war and I voted against the resolution in the Senate. However, the President's recent efforts to suggest that those who question the basis for war are undermining our troops smack of desperation. It's important to talk about how we got into this war to begin with. But what's more important now is that the President, who didn't plan effectively for war in Iraq in the first place, acknowledge and respond to the current realities and get our Iraq policy, and our national security focus, on track.

The Senate can take the first step toward an open and honest Iraq policy by voting on Tuesday to demand clarity about our military mission there. We are finally breaking the taboo against debating a plan to complete the mission and bring the troops home from Iraq. Now we can start to put our Iraq policy on course, and refocus on the pressing national security threats that the President has neglected.



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