Saturday, February 26, 2005

Feingold Returns from Iraq Trip

As you may have known, Senator Feingold was part of a Senate delegation that visited Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tunisia during the past week. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has a good article about the trip including Senator Feingold's thoughts on the current situations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Below, I've quoted some of the more interesting parts of the article, but you should definitely read the whole thing.
Just back from a tour of Iraq and Afghanistan, Senate Democrat Russ Feingold said Friday he continues to view the ultimate success of the U.S. mission in Iraq as "dicey" and said the contrast with progress and security in Afghanistan is "striking."

"I am very concerned whether this situation (in Iraq) is moving in the right direction. It is very much in doubt in my view," said Feingold, who said the success of the recent Iraqi elections was "being exaggerated to some extent to the exclusion of many of the problems that remain."...

Feingold praised the U.S. troops he met with for showing "incredible courage and resolve."

But noting the severe constraints on the senators' movements in Iraq, Feingold said, "The fact that we were in that kind of a lockdown was one of the most important lessons" of the trip, emblematic of the security threats and lack of stability.

Other senators on the trip who had visited Iraq in 2003 said the security situation was markedly different this time, with much less freedom of movement and a far more fortified environment in Baghdad. ...

Feingold contended before the war that invading Iraq would not advance the fight against terrorism, and he has argued since then that ensuing events have validated his position.

Feingold said he also differs with the senators he traveled with over how to approach future U.S. troop withdrawals. While his colleagues oppose a timetable for getting out, Feingold said he believes a "timetable with conditions and flexibility is the way to go."

He argued that by laying out the path for withdrawal, the U.S. would help defuse the presence of American troops as a political issue for anti-American Iraqis. ...

Feingold said he was "heartened" about Afghanistan as a result of the trip, citing the attitudes of Afghanis toward the U.S. presence and the security situation.

Like Senator Feingold, I was opposed to the Iraq War from the beginning. I believe that Iraq didn't pose a serious threat to the United States at the time and that it had no real connection to terrorism. I think the case can definitely be made that the war in Iraq has made things worse in terms of terrorism by providing the terrorists with motivation, new recruits, and a new theater of activity.

I agree with the Senator about the benefits of having a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

I was really interested by the Senator's positive comments on Afghanistan; honestly, you don't hear much about Afghanistan in the media much more, but what I remember hearing wasn't very positive, although not as negative as the situation in Iraq.

A final detail from the article that I thought was really interesting is that Senator Feingold was the only member of the delegation who isn't on the Armed Services Committee and who voted against the war, and that he was invited to join the delegation by it's leader-Senator John McCain.

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