Security

Feingold: ‘This Is No Time To Back Off’

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) responded today to congressional war critics who dropped the Iraq timeline because they feared that “White House attacks” would be “politically threatening“: “Tell that to the families who lose their loved ones in the next few months while we’re dillying and dallying.”

Speaking on MSNBC, Feingold took aim at the “toothless supplemental” currently working its way through Congress. Calling the bill “weak” and “a step backward,” Feingold said, “This is no time to back off. We have ratcheted-up the pressure successfully in the last few months.”

He warned lawmakers seeking to delay action on Bush’s Iraq strategy until September that the White House will use the opportunity to prolong the war even further:

You know what’s going to happen in September? They’ll bring General Petraeus back and he’ll say, Just give me until the end of year. I think things are turning around. And then we’ll be out of session, come back in late January, February, and the fact is a thousand more troops will lose their lives in a situation that doesn’t make any sense and it is hurting our military, hurting our country. This should not wait till September.

Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/05/feingoldnosept.320.240.flv]

Feingold’s skepticism is well-placed. Gen. Petraeus recently said he will not have “anything definitive” to say about the war in his September review, leaving open the possibility that the administration will ask for more time. Meanwhile, the White House is making plans to increase the occupation’s presence in Iraq to over 200,000 troops by the end of the year.

UPDATE: Feingold will join Sens. Chris Dodd (D-CT), John Kerry (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in voting against the new Iraq supplemental.

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Transcript:

FEINGOLD: This is George Bush’s war. I’m taking aim at those in Congress who have caved in to the idea that somehow George Bush should be able to continue the war indefinitely without any plan to end it. So I believe there were many other options, including coming back once again with a proposal for a timeline or, even better, a timeline enforced by using the power of the purse to end this war.

This is no time to back off. We have ratcheted-up the pressure successfully in the last few months, under the great leadership of Senator Harry Reid, our majority leader. This is a step backward and we need to get back on track to end this war because the American people want that and it’s the best thing for our national security.

ROBACH: It’s interesting you said, This is a step backward, because we heard from Senator Harry Reid yesterday saying that this bill is still a big first step and more than the president ever expected he’d have to agree to. Well, obviously, he’s acknowledging that the language is weak.

I mean, is that a fair assessment?

FEINGOLD: You know, I don’t think it does much.

I think it’s weak. I think it’s sad that when Senator Reid and I joined together last week on a vote, we actually got 29 votes, but we needed all the Democrats and some Republicans to come together to vote for a timeline to end the war by the end of next March and to cut off the funding after the troops have been safely redeployed.

So the problem is is that this does not move us in that direction in a serious way. We will have more Americans killed, more Americans maimed, more Americans kidnapped in a situation that doesn’t make sense. And this bill is not up to that issue. It is not up to that tragedy that needs to end.

ROBACH: And yet we’re hearing from Democrats that, you know, Hold on, in the fall we can revisit this. There will be another debate. They believe that events on the ground will continue to deteriorate and that they’re going to be able to get some Republican support to actually get something to the president that fits more what you were hoping for in the first place.

Do you think that’s a real possibility?

FEINGOLD: Tell that to the families who lose their loved ones in the next few months while we’re dillying and dallying on this thing.

You know what’s going to happen in September? They’ll bring General Petraeus back and he’ll say, Just give me until the end of year. I think things are turning around. And then we’ll be out of session, come back in late January, February, and the fact is a thousand more troops will lose their lives in a situation that doesn’t make any sense and it is hurting our military, hurting our country. This should not wait til September.