Sen. Dianne Feinstein told The San Francisco Chronicle editorial board Monday that U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld should resign and that the United States should set a timetable for withdrawing its troops from Iraq. Polls, she said, show that Iraqis want Americans to leave. Perhaps President Bush could replace Rumsfeld with John Zogby or some other pollster, as Washington's alleged leadership argues that public opinion should dictate what America does in Iraq.
When Americans supported sending forces to Iraq, Feinstein voted in favor of the resolution authorizing force in Iraq. Now polls show that Americans have soured on the war certainly Californians oppose it and Feinstein, who is running for re-election, was happy to point out that she regretted that vote.
Now, she wants a timetable. As the senator put it, "I think it may even be productive positively to say, look we're going to aim to have all our people out by the end of '07." Feinstein added that all the polls show that Iraqis want U.S. troops to leave.
I am in favor of withdrawing according to any timetable approved by democratically elected Iraqi lawmakers. But unlike Feinstein, I think it makes more sense to let Iraqi leaders ask for U.S. troops to leave when they feel secure enough to do so rather than rely on polls. And right now, Iraqi leaders want U.S. boots on the ground.
It's important to read beyond the headlines on Iraq polls, especially the poll released in September by the Program on International Policy Attitudes as antiwar types point to it as proof that Iraqis want U.S. troops out.
The Washington Post reported that the PIPA poll found that "71 percent of Iraqis questioned want the Iraqi government to ask foreign forces to depart within a year." Well, actually, make that two years. The PIPA poll found that 35 percent of Iraqis answered that they want their government to ask U.S.-led forces to withdraw within six months, 35 percent want their government to ask for a gradual withdrawal over two years and 29 percent want U.S. troops to be reduced "as the security situation improves in Iraq." You could say that 64 percent of Iraqis want U.S.-led forces to stay for two years or more.
Other interesting tidbits from the PIPA poll: 64 percent of Iraqis think their country is headed in the right direction. Compare that to a recent poll that found that 44 percent of Californians say the state is headed in the right direction and 46 percent say it is headed in the wrong direction.
The PIPA poll asked, "Thinking about any hardships you might have suffered since the U.S.-Britain invasion, do you personally think ousting Saddam Hussein was worth it or not?" The answer for 77 percent: Yes, it was worth it.
News on the Iraq war is bound to be bad when the media fail to report news that does not reinforce the media view of this war as unwinnable. It took less than two weeks after the war in Iraq began for The Chronicle to run the first opinion piece that called the war a "quagmire."
I shudder to think what would happen in Afghanistan if the defeat crowd wins an early retreat from Iraq. Feinstein echoed the argument made by Rep. Jack Murtha, D-Pa., that the U.S. presence in Iraq has lasted longer than U.S. participation in World Wars I and II. As Feinstein put it, "After a war that's gone on as long just about as World War II, the people and the Congress are entitled to a timetable."
Well, U.S. troops have been in Afghanistan longer than Iraq. Still, Feinstein said that she supports keeping troops in Afghanistan because: "The Afghanis want the NATO forces there. Iraqis want us out. We have become an occupying force."
How long do you think that support will last if jihadis around the world decide to camp out in Afghanistan? How long will it take before polls show American support for U.S. troops in Afghanistan falling? How long will it be then before Feinstein wants an Afghanistan timetable?