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Last night, as the President told the American people that he wants to send more troops to Iraq, his Iraq policy hit rock bottom.   The American people are demanding an end to the war, and it has to end for the sake of our national security.  But the President just wants to dig us into a deeper hole, by sending more of our brave men and women into Baghdad and Anbar Province.  

This war has got to stop, and Congress has the power stop it: the power of the purse.  And I’m not just talking about blocking the troop surge here.  Using the power of the purse just to stop the troop surge may be better than doing nothing, but if we don’t go beyond that, we will be accepting the status quo.  We have to do more.

When I questioned Secretary Rice today at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, she refused to accept that our single-minded focus on Iraq is having any impact on our ability to handle other challenges around the world.  But her denials don’t change the fact that we're losing ground in Afghanistan, we're failing in our efforts with Iran and North Korea, our military is strained, and Al Qaeda is being strengthened – all while this administration has been obsessed with Iraq.

Some have suggested that Congress may have the power to end funding for the war, sure, but they won’t dare to use it because the White House has convinced so many people that to support the troops you have to keep funding the war effort, and keep those Americans in harm’s way.  That’s the worst form of political manipulation and a shameful effort to suppress debate on ending the war and bringing our troops home.

U.S. troops in Iraq are incredibly hard working and dedicated.  But we do not support those troops by keeping them in a war that has been based on a fraud from the very beginning.  That charge is just a scare tactic to keep the war going, no matter what the cost.  It’s time for Congress to do now what the President refuses to do – bring those troops out of Iraq.

If you have time, take a look at my op-ed, which ran this morning in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  The President may be ignoring the will of the American people, but Congress isn’t helpless here.  We have the power to stop this war.  We can bring the troops home, and do it without putting them in more danger.  I am going to be working on this over the next few weeks, and taking a hard look at how to do this right.  The President has made his position clear: He won’t stop pouring American soldiers into Iraq, and into harm’s away, until somebody stops him.  Congress should use its main power, the power to cut funding, to end this disastrous war.  I plan to be on Countdown with Keith Olbermann tonight and I will be looking at your comments so tell me what you think.

*Update

Thanks everyone for the incredible support and suggestions.  Let me take a moment to answer some of your questions and concerns.  I agree with those of you who say that a non-binding resolution is not enough.  I may vote for a measure like that but I will not stop there and I hope my colleagues don’t either.  I will be working to end funding for the war and bring our troops safely home.  

A number of folks have urged me to back proposals to stop funding for sending more troops to Iraq.   As I touched on in my blog, I certainly don’t oppose using the power of the purse to stop the President from sending more troops.   But if Congress stops the additional troops, but goes no further, we have, in effect, endorsed the disastrous status quo.  We have to go beyond just stopping the so-called surge.

Citizen53, you ask some good questions.  I believe our number one priority has to be the safety and security of Americans.  By ending our involvement in Iraq, we can refocus on threats in Afghanistan, Somalia, and elsewhere.  I still believe we can help Iraq politically and I have proposed leaving a limited number of forces there to conduct counterterrorist operations and protect our personnel and infrastructure.  

Carlos Oaxaca, I hope to work with as many of my colleagues as possible, from both sides of the aisle, to figure out how best to use the power of Congress to correct the President's damaging policies in Iraq.  

Miss Blue, regarding your question on Afghanistan, you’re exactly right.  While we’ve been distracted in Iraq, we’ve allowed the Taliban to regain a foothold in Afghanistan.  General James T. Conway, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, was quoted in a Baltimore Sun article a few days ago as saying that our military mission in Afghanistan has become an "economy of force" operation, meaning that it has become a second priority.  In fact, a number of reports have suggested that an Army battallion in a critical area of eastern Afghanistan will be redeployed for Iraq soon.  Our involvement in Iraq is straining our ability and is diverting attention away from Afghanistan and other trouble spots around the world.  

Thanks again everybody!

Originally posted to Russ Feingold on Thu Jan 11, 2007 at 01:11 PM PST.

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