On the sixth anniversary of 9/11, Sen. Russ Feingold just told Gen. David Petraeus and ambassador Ryan Crocker that the "question we must answer is not whether we are winning or losing in Iraq but whether Iraq is helping or hurting our efforts to defeat al-Qaida." That, Feingold said, is "the lesson of 9/11."
He was just getting started. In a riveting and ultimately unsatisfying exchange, Feingold tried to get Crocker to say whether Iraq or Afghanistan is more important to the fight against al-Qaida. When it sounded like Crocker wasn't going to answer, Feingold interrupted him to note that he'd served as ambassador to both countries and therefore ought to be able to answer. Crocker said he was answering, then didn't: "Fighting al-Qaida is important," he said, "whatever front they're on."
Feingold put the question to Petraeus. What's more important in the fight against al-Qaida, Afghanistan or Iraq? Petraeus said he couldn't answer, that he's not in charge of the war in Afghanistan and "not in a position to comment" on how the United States is using its military resources.
"This is a classic example of myopia, the myopia of Iraq," Feingold charged. No, Petraeus said, it's just a military man remaining focused on the task he has been assigned.
Feingold pressed on. He asked Petraeus when Americans could expect a steady decline in U.S. deaths in Iraq. Petraeus said that he's already seeing some declines. Feingold cut him off: The American people should know, he said, that in each and every month this year, more Americans have died in Iraq than in the same month last year.