George Bush offered a predictable defense of his war in Iraq today, as the world marked the fifth anniversary of this quagmire.
Barack Obama, who had the wherewithal to oppose it from outside the Senate but has been a cautious critic since his arrival in the chamber in 2005, offered a more skeptical take than the president. So too did Hillary Clinton, who lacked the wherewithal to oppose it from within the Senate but who has come to recognize that she was wrong to trust Bush.
But the best response to the president and his war comes from the senator who opposed Bush in 2002 and has continued to do so with far more passion, focus and determination than either of the contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, the man who chose to focus on his Senate Foreign Relations Committee duties rather than run an uphill campaign for the Democratic nomination, remains the savviest voice of opposition to Bush’s misguided foreign policies.
Here’s what Feingold says:
“Today marks the five year anniversary of the war in Iraq. Although Saddam Hussein’s brutal authoritarian regime no longer exists, the war has been nothing less than a disaster for that country, for others in the region, and unquestionably for our own, as well.
“Four million Iraqis are displaced from their homes and Iraq’s profoundly weak central government cannot provide its citizens with sufficient basic services like food, water, and electricity or protect them from savage violence, disappearances, or kidnappings. Tensions continue to rise throughout the Middle East and, as the war triggers internal unrest in many countries, it has caused our own credibility to decrease significantly.
“The war continues to undermine our top national security priority – the fight against al Qaeda, which has strengthened itself in Pakistan and reached out to new affiliates around the world. According to the Congressional Research Service, the war costs us over $10 billion a month in direct costs. The war saps our military, which is stretched too thin to keep us safe here at home. In short, the war is making us weaker, not stronger, and that trend is not likely to change.
“America continues to be mired in a conflict that has no end in sight. As of the beginning of this week a total of 3,978 American soldiers had been killed and 29,395 wounded. While the administration touts a recent decline in violence as an indication that the surge is ‘working,’ there is little political progress that might indicate the decrease in violence will result in genuine national reconciliation. As the region remains particularly fragile and our international credibility profoundly damaged, Americans ask each other just how many more billions of dollars will be spent and how many more of our brave troops will die or be injured while we wait for national reconciliation in Iraq–which is the only way to end the violence.