Russ Feingold was the only Senator to vote against the Patriot Act. He was the first Senator to introduce legislation into the US Senate demanding a timetable for ending the war in Iraq and he is a leading proponent of national health care. Feingold was in Nashville on Saturday, July 9th to address the statewide conference of Democracy for Tennessee, an organization dedicated to running progressive Democrats candidates in Tennessee.
Chris Lugo, Tennessee Indymedia: Could you address the resolutions introduced in the House and Senate to bring the Troops home?
Senator Russ Feingold:
I am pleased to see that one of the most conservative members of the House and one of the biggest leaders of the pro-Iraq war movement introduced a bill that put a timetable on the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. What I did in the Senate, and I was the first one to do this is to introduce a resolution that would cause the President within thirty days to give us his mission statement of what we are doing there, what the timetable is for accomplishing the steps that have to be accomplished and a timetable for withdrawing the troops. So there are different approaches but it is a sign when you see a bipartisan group like we did in the House come together and when I do a resolution like mine some Republicans came up to me and said, "you know I am not sure about your language but maybe we can work together." There is a very fundamental anxiety about this Iraq intervention that the President is trying to repress and deny but it is real and it is growing and it is growing in places like South Carolina not just places like Massachussets.
How did your colleagues respond to that?
Some concern. Many of my colleagues are afraid of being associated with the idea of withdrawing the troops because whenever it is mentioned the President says we can't just cut and run but of course that is a false choice. There aren't just two choices, to stay forever or cut and run -what we need is a rational approach that tells not only the American people but the Iraqi people that we have a plan to leave someday, that we are not just trying to occupy it, this is the way to take the wind out of the sails of the insurgents and the terrorists. In fact, one of the retired generals told me off the record, I said "wouldn't we be better off if we had some vision of when we are going to leave" and he said "nothing would be better to take the wind out of the sails of the terrorists." I think the President doesn't understand the dynamic there. This has become a recruiting ground for terrorists all over the world. We don't know who perpetrated the London bombings but we may find out that these are people who were trained in Iraq because Porter Goss, the head of the CIA, says that that is what is happening. The people are being trained in urban warfare and are being exported around the world so I think that we have been playing into the hands of the terrorist by getting into a situation that we were not prepared for.
Can you comment on Rumsfeld's statement that we will be in Iraq for twelve more years?
Well, that is more honest than some of the things I have heard. I certainly oppse being there that long but I think that when you get yourself caught in an insurgency that has the ability to recruit people from all over the world because they want to do target practice on our kids then you are asking yourself for a very long duration. I mean ask the French what happened in Algeria, ask the Soviets what happened to them in Afghanistan, this is the kind of thing we have gotten ourselves into and it is not the best way to counter Al Queda and I really wish we could get back to the approach we were taking after 9/11 but before we got into Iraq, that is what I am urging the President and the Congress to do.
So what would your exit strategy be?
Well, I think the President should identify the steps that have to be taken, I mean he has roughly referred to things such as how many police need to be trained, how many military need to be trained, when the constitution should be done, but what we need to do is sort of set forth those pieces of it, do everything we can to get other countries to assist in training people and also to provide troops to replace our troops so that there could be more of an international force and basically say "look we are going to be here about this long" and "we believe this can be done within this time frame" and it has to be somewhat flexible, you don't want to be too rigid about it. You know, this idea of a timetable worked with the transfer of sovereignty, it worked with the elections. We said we are going to do it on this date, people weren't sure it was going to happen, what happened was positive. So it is sort of illogical, in fact the President said in his recent speech, which was frankly one of the worst foreign policy speeches I have ever heard, he said "we can't put more troops in because people will think that we will stay there forever." That is exactly why we need some kind of vision for when we are going to leave, otherwise people are going to think we are going to stay there forever and so the very logic that the President uses requires us to realize it is going to help the Iraqi democracy if the central issue in Iraqi politics doesn't become how do we get Americans out of here because you can be sure that is going to be the central issue if we don't have any vision of when we are going to leave.
Have you spoken with Senator Frist about the health care crisis in Tennessee?
I have not, but I look forward to it now that I have been here and heard a lot of the different things going on. It is a very important, very difficult story, the history of Tenncare and one of the things I have done here is heard some of the concerns that have occured, some of the positive visions that Tenncare had in the first place but there are lessons to be learned for any efforts that we have on national health care from this experience.
Sharon Cobb: Where do we go from here with the Patriot Act and how do we reform it?
Well, we have reached across the isle on the Patriot Act and I didn't have to do it. The pressure on a lot of conservative Republicans back in their home states became very intense after people realized the points I had made when I voted against the Patriot act. People realized that their library records are vulnerable. I was the only Senator who voted against the Patriot act, there were about sixty House members who voted against it. People realized their houses could be searched without any warning, and that their houses were being searched even if they had nothing to do with terrorism, in fact even if they had done nothing wrong. So our goal here is not to repeal the Patriot Act but to fix those provisions so that it focuses on terrorists, not on law abiding citizens. There is a bipartisan bill called the 'Safe Act' which a bill would fix many of the provisions that caused me to be the sole vote against the Patriot act.
Chris Lugo is an editor with the Tennessee Independent Media Center
Sharon Cobb is an independent journalist based in Nashville and editor of sharoncobb.blogspot.com
The above, sent in by Brent, is from Chris Lugo's "Interview with Senator Russ Feingold on Iraq, the Patriot Act and Tenncare" from Tennessee Independent Media Center.
Erika e-mails to note Joseph McCombs "No News, Good News: Talking with media agitator Robert McChesney about propaganda, PBS, and punditry" (The Village Voice):
McCombs: I read a New York Times article from March regarding government-produced "news segments," with their own video footage, that have been termed "good news reporting."
McChesney: In a more sane society, it would be the sort of thing that would get a government thrown out of office if we took our Constitution seriously. When the Bush administration engaged in the explicit propaganda activities that violate not only the spirit, but the letter of the law, the so-called conservatives, who are supposedly in favor of small government, were absolutely stone cold quiet.
Does that silence suggest that they were complicit with it, or that they were embarrassed by it?
It just suggests that they are unprincipled because they weren't outraged by it.
Is there a role that the government can play insofar as just providing the raw video that they have?
The government shouldn't be doing this stuff. Period. I don't understand what the point of that is.
Just trying to get at where the opposing viewpoint comes from --
The opposing viewpoint, in terms of those who are in favor of the government doing propaganda?
Having a role in the news reporting process.
The government has a huge role in the news gathering process. That's not the question. The issue is whether the government should be aggressively doing PR and trying to shape the news by creating bogus stories. And that is indefensible. There is no "other side" of that one.
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