The Iraq Study Group report was greeted with a proper measure of skepticism by U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, the Wisconsin Democrat who has been right from the start about the ill-thought-out invasion and occupation of Iraq.
"I'm not buying the Washington embrace of this thing. ... It's time for us to have a clear plan to disengage in Iraq. This doesn't do it," declared Feingold, who notes that the report "leaves the strong possibility of an open-ended commitment."
While too many other members of Congress - including members of the Wisconsin delegation who should know better - have tried to find something to like in the report, Feingold has been blunt in his dismissal of it.
Appearing on MSNBC's "Countdown With Keith Olbermann," Feingold, who in 2002 voted against authorizing Bush to attack Iraq, correctly characterized the report from the group headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton as "a classic Washington compromise."
Noting that the study group was made up of political insiders "who did not have the judgment to oppose this Iraq war in the first place, and did not have the judgment to realize it was not a wise move in the fight against terrorism," Feingold told the national cable television audience that the problem with the report is this: "It does not do the job of extricating us from Iraq in a way that we can deal with the issues in Southeast Asia, in Afghanistan and in Somalia, which are every bit as important as what is happening in Iraq."
Feingold built on those themes in an official statement on the ISG's work that pulled no punches.
"Unfortunately, the Iraq Study Group report does too little to change the flawed mind-set that led to the misguided war in Iraq. Maybe there are still people in Washington who need a study group to tell them that the policy in Iraq isn't working, but the American people are way ahead of this report," he said.
"While the report has regenerated a few good ideas, it doesn't adequately put Iraq in the context of a broader national security strategy. We need an Iraq policy that is guided by our top national security priority - defeating the terrorist network that attacked us on 9/11 and its allies. We can't continue to just look at Iraq in isolation. Unless we set a serious timetable for redeploying our troops from Iraq, we will be unable to effectively address these global threats. In the end, this report is a regrettable example of 'official Washington' missing the point."
Feingold's honest assessment may be jarring to some. But his blunt stance is necessary.
The Iraq Study Group's report is deeply flawed. It does not point the process in the right direction.
While it may be satisfying to note the portions of the report that confirm the now general view that the Bush administration has mishandled the war, this is not a time for self-satisfaction on the part of critics of the president or his military misadventures. This is a time for recognition of the fact that it is far too late for new strategies to manage the mess.
It's time to extricate our troops - and our national honor - from the quagmire in Iraq.
The Iraq Study Group is wrong to refuse to admit this reality. Russ Feingold is right to condemn the group for its failure.
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