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War is hot topic at listening session

(Published Tuesday, June 7, 2005 10:58:27 AM CDT)
Gazette Extra
By Mike DuPre', Gazette Staff

CLINTON-The Iraq War is a mess that's only getting messier, Sen. Russ Feingold said before and during a listening session Monday.

"The mantra for Fox News is that we only hear the bad news," Feingold, a Democrat, said of the media outlet thought by many observers to be right wing.

"I was over there (in February), and we don't hear enough bad news," Feingold said before the session.

He traveled with four other senators, including Republican John McCain and Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. The other four voted in support of the Iraq War, while Feingold opposed it.

Despite their initial support, Feingold said, his colleagues, who had visited Iraq before, told him the situation had deteriorated badly.

During the session, Feingold called the war an "amazing mess. � If you want to get depressed, you should read the appallingly flippant answers" that Bush administration officials gave during Senate hearings before the war.

The answers generally boiled down to the war would be a cakewalk, Feingold said.

And, he said, that two months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Bush administration released a list of two dozen countries it said al-Qaida operated in, but Iraq was not listed.

One of the people at the listening session said he was troubled that the Bush administration seems bent on following the path of "preventive war." He referred to the so-called "Downing Street memo," minutes of a meeting of British officials about Iraq eight months before the war.

The Times of London published the memo May 1.

The following is an excerpt from The Times report as listed on the newspaper's Web site:

"C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Feingold told his audience: "I can't tell you the amount of comment I've heard on the Downing Street memo."

He said he soon would be at a breakfast meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Feingold said he would question Blair closely about the memo and prewar intelligence, which the Bush administration has admitted was wrong but which it maintains was not rigged to justify war.

American war deaths have topped 1,670, Feingold noted, adding that it's past time for the administration to set a withdrawal date.

"I've said for some time that we need a timetable," Feingold said.

The schedule should be flexible and have fallback positions to allow for changes in conditions in Iraq, he said, but a timetable is needed to give both the American and Iraqi people some sense of when American troops will leave Iraq.



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