February 27, 2008

What's behind Senate's decision to debate Feingold-Reid?

The Senate's decision Wednesday, by a 70-24 vote, to debate the two Feingold-Reid bills that would redeploy U.S. troops out of Iraq and cut off combat funding within 120 days to focus the military and intelligence services on defeating Al Qaeda around the world is like an iceberg, with more of the story under water than visible to the naked eye.

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-WI, says, for example, that Senate Republicans finally agreed to have this debate "because they're under the false impression that Democrats may be embarrassed to debate the war in Iraq." (Actually, not so far-fetched, if you've watched the Clinton-Obama sniping over who said no to Iraq funding first, and who was wrong when. On the other hand, McCain is so far to the other side with his support of the war, that both parties should be uncomfortable.)

The Associated Press quoted Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, saying the debate "would give us a chance to talk about the extraordinary progress that's been made in Iraq over the last six months."

Feingold quoted a story on Politico.com: "One senator has called the Iraq debate 'a waste of time.' Another called the debate a 'diversion.' Yet another said that Feingold-Reid was 'too restrictive.' And all of these are quotes from Democratic members."

Regardless the political game-playing, there will now be up to 30 hours of debate on the bill.

During the debate Wednesday, Feingold defended his proposals:

"Sen. Inhofe said my bill demanding a strategy to defeat al Qaeda wasn’t needed because we already have a plan to defeat al Qaeda. He failed to explain why, if we already have a strategy to defeat al Qaeda, al Qaeda has regenerated and reconstituted itself and is planning more attacks on our homeland. Adm. Mullen has been quite clear that, under our current strategy, Afghanistan is a second priority where we only 'do what we can.' "
"Sens. Inhofe and Lieberman have claimed that we do have political reconciliation in Iraq… if Iraqis have agreed to political reconciliation, as Senator Inhofe suggests, well then, doesn’t that mean we’ve achieved the objectives of the surge and we can start bringing home the troops? When does the other side think we can bring our troops home – 5 years? 20? 100? What kind of ‘success’ is that?"
"Some members of this body seem to believe that the war in Iraq is between U.S. troops on the one side and al Qaeda on the other…The recent patterns of violence in Iraq actually confirm what the Intelligence Community has said all along: that the war in Iraq is sectarian and intra-sectarian, and far from the over-simplified “us versus them” that proponents of an endless military engagement in Iraq continue to describe."
"Iraq is not the central front on the war on terrorism. To the extent there is such a front in this global conflict, it is clearly Pakistan and Afghanistan. Early this month, the DNI testified before Congress that the central leadership based in the border area of Pakistan is al Qaeda’s most dangerous component."

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