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Because Russ Asked You To…


Yesterday, I put out a plea to contact your elected representatives and tell them how you feel about escalation.  I'm asking you to take it a step further.  If my plea isn't enough, then consider this — do it because Sen. Russ Feingold is asking you to make the call, send the fax, set up a meeting — whatever it takes to get your elected officials to hear what you have to say on the mess that is Iraq.

And do it today.

Yesterday evening, I was on a conference call with several other bloggers and Sen. Feingold, and he made a passionate statement against the mess in Iraq — and for all of us standing up and telling our elected representatives that we have had enough.  Enough.  Sen. Feingold's office was nice enough to send a partial transcript of the Senator's remarks, and I wanted to share that with you:

Thanks everybody for participating. You know I went out again this weekend, in the very cold Wisconsin weather, just as I did in the previous two weekends, and I went to some of the most rural, Republican towns in the state and held town meetings. And you know this attitude about what should be done in Iraq is a consensus…everywhere but in Washington. People do not want us to just slow walk this, they don’t want us to just worry about the escalation, they want us to get out of Iraq.

So I am determined to support whatever will help us end this mistake quickly and in an orderly and safe manor. I’m also determined to oppose things that I think will slow that down or that will lock in the status quo. And that’s exactly why I think the Warner proposal is unacceptable. In terms of the test I just gave you, I supported Biden and Dodd in committee. The Biden thing didn’t do nearly what I wanted. To me as a first step it was harmless and maybe a little bit helpful. But it just simply said, look we should not do this escalation. Fine, we can agree on that. The problem with this Warner thing is that it is loaded with language that blocks in my view, or at least makes much more difficult, the only logical next steps.

One provision basically says this cannot be taken to mean we cannot start withdrawing the troops at this point or anytime in the near future. Another provision talks about a robust, in effect surge approach, in Al Anbar province, which is a formula for disaster. We are losing most of our people in Al Anbar province. People forget that this is really two different wars. This whole thing about a civil war and sectarian violence is an issue in Baghdad. Al Anbar is an attempt to try to subdue an insurgency with a huge supply of ground troops. It’s not going to work. And yet the Warner (resolution) explicitly endorses that kind of an escalation at this time.

And then there’s also a provision that attempts to throw roadblocks at any attempt by Congress to use the power of the purse, which is an entirely constitutional and appropriate step for us to consider at this point. So those who want to support Warner, it’s understandable because they want to make some points vis-à-vis Bush. There’s the temptation of defeating Bush on something he has put out there. I understand that. But it’s incredibly short sighted, it’s going for some kind of political point instead of getting at the heart of this matter. Who was thinking about whether or not to escalate in Iraq on November 7th? That wasn’t the issue. The issue that determined that election was whether we should be in Iraq at all. The answer was no.

So we should not sign onto something that in my view, looks almost like a reauthorization of what’s going on right now. It is incredibly weak, even dangerous, and I think reminds me more of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution than it does of a resolution that really gets us out of the situation.

I am really troubled by the attempt of not only Republicans but leading Democrats to essentially finesse the situation we’re in right now. This is not a time to finesse the situation, this not a time to slow-walk. This almost reminds me a little bit of the way Democrats behaved in October of 2002 which was trying to play it safe, trying to use words such as, “well, we’re going to vote for this resolution but what it really means is that the president should go to the U.N.” That stuff doesn’t fly. And this kind of an attempt to go a little bit of the way just to show you’re on the other side of the President doesn’t fly either.

What we need now is a strong position to get out of this situation. That’s what I have proposed in a bill and we have also offered an amendment to this item that is in theory before the Senate now, which would basically strike the provisions that I just talked about, that were harmful. It’s already been cosponsored by two of the most distinguished and senior members of the Senate – Senator Leahy and Senator Dodd. So the three of us have introduced this amendment that says, look, you can’t have language in this Warner thing that says you can’t start withdrawing troops. It says you can’t have language that talks about a surge in Al Anbar province, and you can’t have language that says we can’t consider reducing the funding. So this is an important moment to see if we’re really going to try to end this war and frankly I’m disappointed that democrats are playing it too safe on this.

Strong stuff. And he meant every word of it.

Howie has a write-up of the call, as does Brad and Sirota and Ian.  And so does Bob Geiger.  And Crooks and Liars has video up of Feingold's appearance on Olbermann's show last night that is well worth the watching.   

I have come to the conclusion that we get the government we expect and that we tolerate, and frankly, a whole lot of whiny doomsayers have been running around saying "there's nothing we can do, nothing's ever going to change, blah, blah, blah" for as long as I can remember.  Well, crowd of Eeyores, here's what I say:  you whined that the Democrats would never be able to take back Congress in November, and yet they did.  Why? Because a whole host of people got off their butts all across this great nations of ours and did the work necessary to make that happen, every day, for weeks and weeks on end.

Here's a thought:  how about we do that again?  This time, let's make our project getting the hell out of the Republican mess in Iraq.  Because I refuse to sit idly by while young men and women die for George Bush's ego since he and the Republican party are unable to admit that they made a huge mistake.  Call your members of Congress — the Capitol switchboard number is (202) 224-3121.  And do it today.  If every person who reads this blog makes a call — and gets people they know who agree with them to make a call, and so on…I want you to imagine the message that could send. 

Sen. Feingold said last night on the call that they had the votes on McCain-Feingold long before it was ever passed, because Senators wanted to vote for it, but just didn't feel the public push to do so.  That it was only after members of the public made it clear with repeated calls and letters and faxes and in person discussions that they finally saw movement with the legislation.  And he asked that we tell all of you that — and that he hopes that all of you will, in turn, call your representatives and tell them in no uncertain terms exactly how you feel about this issue.

Stand up and be counted.  Because Russ is asking you to do so…and because it is the right thing to do.

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com