Feingold talks Iraq, Afghanistan...and Alabama
There's a great new interview with Senator Feingold up at Wispolitics.com. You can read the whole thing here. In it Senator Feingold discusses his recent trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, his thoughts on some of President Bush's recent appointments, and, of course, his upcoming return to Alabama.
When talking about his trip to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Senator again emphasized the differences between the current situations in the two nations, and some of the reasons behind them.
Bump: Why do you think there is more instability in Iraq?
Feingold: We had many, many conversations about this, and the sense you got in Afghanistan and what we were told was people of Afghanistan were not only outraged by the Taliban and the presence of al-Qaeda in their country, but that they were just exhausted from the wars they'd been through. They'd not only had the war against Russia, they'd had years of militias fighting for every inch with each other in Kabul; then the Taliban took over and established a brutal regime. They were just plain exhausted and were grateful and welcomed not just the United States but also the whole international community. In other words, they wanted us there.
It's much more complicated in Iraq, where there are certainly people who wanted us there but there are others who are outraged that we are there, who see it as an inappropriate, unilateral American occupation. That doesn't mean it can't succeed, but it makes it much more difficult and you have really two very different enemies. They may or may not be cooperating, but they're two completely dangerous enemies in Iraq. One is this very potent group of these former Ba'athists, the former Saddam Hussein people. They lost their jobs; they lost their power. They're not the suicide bombers typically; they're the ones that just don't like the fact that the Americans came in and put the Shiites in the driver's seat over the Sunnis.
The other group that is more deadly - arguably - the ones that actually do the horrendous suicide bombings are these foreign terrorists, basically allies of al-Qaeda and al-Zarkawi, who have come in there in pretty significant numbers and are using Iraq as the number one training ground for terrorism in the world. It used to be Afghanistan; now it's Iraq. So I think our military people and our policy people are a little confused about who they're really fighting, and I think that's causing problems as well. Sometimes I think they have to end up fighting people who they think are terrorists but they're actually just people who are mad we're there. So it's really quite messy and complicated.
The Senator also reiterated his support for a timetable for US withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
Bump: What needs to happen before the occupation can end in Iraq, and what is your best guess for when it will end?
Feingold: Well, I happen to be one that believes we'd all be better off, the Iraqis and the Americans, if we had a timetable established when we say we're going to try to end the occupation. That doesn't have to be absolute; it can have conditions or (be) based on a timeframe when we believe Iraqi troops and police will be properly trained, electricity will be properly restored, oil production (restored). But I think we're making a big mistake by not laying out a vision of when we might leave. That is not only upsetting to American families and makes it difficult to recruit our military here in the United States, but I also think it makes it easier for those who hate us and are against us in Iraq to say, "Hey look, this is an American occupation; they don't have any intention of leaving." It would be very easy for a political candidate to make that his or her theme -- I'll get the Americans out of here -- and I'm worried the elections could be dominated by such a person.
One of the British military leaders admitted to me there -- off the record -- that it would take the winds out of the sails of the insurgents if we had a vision out there for a time we'd get out. And, again, it should be done carefully, it should be done with conditions, it should be done with flexibility. But what I like to say is we set up a timetable to transfer sovereignty, we did it a day early and that worked well. We set up a timetable for elections at the end of January, and we did that. Those things were positive steps. Why wouldn't a vision of when we'd get out of there, along with a proper benchmark for progress, why wouldn't that help? I think it would help, and it would certainly be welcomed by many American people, especially moms and dads of the troops.
I strongly agree with Senator Feingold here, and I think he makes a good case for his position. I think presenting withdrawal timetable that includes conditions and flexibility is the most reasonable option given the current situation in Iraq. Demanding that all the troops are withdrawn NOW without regard to what the current situation is in Iraq is impractical, while not putting forward any timeline for withdrawal is not fair towards the troops, their families, or the Iraqi people.
Unfortunately, as the Senator admits in the interview, ultimately it is the administration that gets to make the policy in this area. Hopefully, they'll take Senator Feingold's advice. But I'm not holding my breath.
Finally, Senator Feingold questions the President's appointments of John Bolton as UN Ambassador and Paul Wolfowitz as World Bank President.
Bump: And what is your reaction to Paul Wolfowitz's nomination for World Bank president?.
Feingold: I think it seems like a bizarre choice for the World Bank, just as I am kind of shocked at picking John Bolton (as ambassador to) the United Nations. Why are we picking the people who are perceived as the most hostile and the most aggressive toward other nations to top positions when it's a time, as the Secretary of State (Condoleezza Rice) indicated, that we need to reach out and use diplomacy? These people are odd fits, and there are many other good Americans that do their jobs. I realize that Bolton and Wolfowitz have a lot of ability and talent, but I think both their talents would be better used in situations that involve less diplomacy because they're not very diplomatic. In fact, I've been very surprised at their lack of diplomacy
Oh yeah: there are also some questions about the Alabama trip, but I'm trying not to write any more about that until it actually happens. So, you'll have to read those for yourself!