Congressmen Report on Coalition Progress in Iraq
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2003 Two congressional delegations that visited Iraq said some very positive steps have been taken there, and that they left with the impression service members in the country are committed to their jobs and determined to see them through.
Representatives of the bipartisan group spoke to reporters at the Pentagon following a breakfast meeting today with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers.
New Jersey Rep. Jim Saxton said the U.S. troops in Iraq are pragmatic. "Now, if we asked someone, 'Would you like to go home?' their general attitude was, 'Of course we'd like to go home, but we've got a job to do before we go there,'" he said.
The delegation visited troops in Baghdad and Mosul. He said wherever members of the group went, they found "an enthusiastic group of armed services personnel who are there and committed to carry out their job."
He said U.S. personnel in other countries supporting Operational Iraqi Freedom maybe weren't busy enough, and the delegation found folks complaining about the local post exchange not having enough goods.
"There is that element that is there, but by and large, everybody that we talked to, from Qatar and Bahrain to Kuwait and Iraq, were on the positive side, doing their job -- people (who) are proud of what they're doing," Saxton said. "And frankly, they made us proud as well."
Texas Rep. Jim Turner said that terrorism is still a serious problem in Iraq, but even allowing for that, the coalition and the Iraqis are making undeniable progress.
"When you visit with the Iraqi people, they're educated by and large; they have dreams and aspirations," Turner said. "Just like other families, they want a better life for their kids."
He said he came away from visits to schools that coalition soldiers refurbished with a clear impression about the country. "The Iraqi people have the full capability to establish stability and establish a solid functioning government," Turner said.
"There are factions, obviously, in the country that have been out of power -- people who want to have their say in the formation of new government," Turner continued. "But I think that process will move forward. And I think what you'll see is the vast majority of the people are going to want the effort to reestablish a government -- a stable government -- to be successful."
Turner also said he was impressed with the members of the reserve component he met in Iraq. "We all know that many of our Guardsmen have had long deployments, and there's been some uncertainty about the length of deployments," he said. "But when you talk to the Guardsmen and reserve members who are there on the ground what you find is a very upbeat, very positive attitude."
He said these reserve component soldiers understand the mission and are committed to it.
Michigan Rep. Fred Upton stressed the importance of getting Iraqis to take responsibility for their nation. DoD figures put the number of Iraqis involved in security forces at 70,000. Upton said that number will double in the next few months. "And when those steps are taken, we can, in fact, see the sovereignty of Iraq returned to the people (who) are there, and we can begin to withdraw our troops and get them back home," he said.