As the Senate considers another emergency supplemental appropriations bill to fund the occupation of Iraq, U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, has proposed an an amendment that would require the redeployment of U.S. forces from the country by the end of this year.

“Our country desperately needs a new vision for strengthening our national security, and it starts by redeploying U.S. forces from Iraq,” Feingold explained. “Our military has performed valiantly in Iraq, but the indefinite presence of large numbers of U.S. forces there tends to weaken our ability to fight the global terrorist networks that threaten us today.”

Feingold, who in June, 2005, became the first senator to call for an exit strategy, won the support of 40 Senators in November, 2005, for an amendment that proposed a flexible timetable for the withdrawal. His current amendment, while pressing for a deadline for a general withdrawal, maintains a measure of flexibility with regard to limited initiatives that might continue beyond December 31. In other words, it is a moderate proposal that will be opposed only by those who n– whether they admit it or not — have embraced the concept of open-ended occupation.

“Our current path is unsustainable,” says Feingold. “While this amendment recognizes the need for certain U.S. forces to be engaged in counter-terrorism activities, the training of Iraqi security services, and the protection of essential U.S. infrastructure, it also recognizes that the President’s current strategy in Iraq is undermining our nation’s national security.”

The Feingold amendment tests all senators. It asks Senate Democrats to stop playing games and make a clear commitment to opposing the Bush administration’s policy of permanent warmaking. It asks Senate Republicans — especially those, such as Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee and Nebraska’s Chuck Hagel, who have been critical of the war — to make an honest break with the White House.

The American people now recognize that the war was a mistake. They understand that an exit strategy is needed. If the Senate fails to back Feingold’s proposal, it will not be the Wisconsin Democrats who stands outside the political mainstream, but, rather, those senators in both parties who cannot bring themselves to chart a course indepedent of that misguided one dictated by George Bush, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld.