WASHINGTON, D.C. -- At the National Cathedral, just days after Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush spoke to grieving sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers -- whose family members had been murdered by terrorists. "This conflict," the president said, "was begun on the timing and terms of others. It will end in a way, and at an hour, of our choosing."
According to Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., the hour of our choosing is midnight, Dec. 31, 2006. So mark your calendars, rent the hall and order the catering. The boys will be on their way home in time for the New Year's Day college bowl games. So says the junior senator from Wisconsin.
Last week, as the Iraqis were debating the first democratic constitution ever drafted in an Islamic country, Feingold, in one of his famed "Listening Sessions" in Wisconsin, said that U.S. military counter-terrorism operations in Iraq were only "feeding the insurgency," and he called on President Bush to withdraw U.S. military personnel from the fight by Dec. 31, 2006. A firm "end date," the senator claimed, would "help us to undermine the recruiting efforts and unity of the insurgents." He went on to say that, "I think not talking about endgames is playing into our enemies' hand." In short, Feingold and his friends want us out of Iraq by a "date certain."
Three days later, Feingold -- who admits he has never supported the war in Iraq -- tried to fudge what the words "end date" mean. "No, it's not a deadline," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "Just like the other things I just mentioned, it's a target." This is the kind of doublespeak for which Yasser Arafat was famous: say one thing to your home constituency -- and something else to a broader audience.
Unfortunately, Mr. Feingold is not alone in deciding that now is a good time to forecast an American withdrawal. Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam veteran and two-time Purple Heart recipient, did support the war, and even advocated sending in more troops. But now he is calling for the administration to develop -- and publish -- an exit strategy. "We should start figuring out how we get out of there," Mr. Hagel said. "But with this understanding, we cannot leave a vacuum that further destabilizes the Middle East." Sen. Hagel, who is occasionally mentioned as a GOP presidential candidate in 2008, says our soldiers are getting bogged down in Iraq the way they did in Southeast Asia a generation ago.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.