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Congressmen Support U.N. Participation in Iraq

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2003 – Rebuilding Iraq is an international responsibility that demands international cooperation, two congressmen reported today after recently returning from there.

Virginia Rep. Tom Davis and Michigan Rep. Peter Hoekstra told reporters here that establishing a multinational force in Iraq under the auspices of the United Nations and continuing to provide adequate funding to the rebuilding effort in Iraq are critical for Operation Iraqi Freedom to succeed.

"The strategy of moving this from being a U.S.-led operation to putting the face of the coalition and putting an Iraqi face on this is exactly the right way to go, and a strategy that we think is making progress," said Hoekstra, who spent three days in Baghdad, Kirkuk, Tikrit, Mosul and other Iraqi cities in mid-August.

Davis said that although the United States has always welcomed U.N. involvement in Iraq, the Aug. 19 bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad spurred many members of the United Nations to put aside their differences over Iraq. "There is now a willingness to come in and try to work together," he said.

"Now is the time to focus our resources and to get the job done," agreed Hoekstra. "Now is not the time to question whether we should be there or not. It is the time to get the right resources there, to put an international face on this coalition, to involve the United Nations and to focus on restoring the basic civil society."

Davis said the infusion of U.N. forces into Iraq also would "add legitimacy" to Operation Iraqi Freedom, eliminating any false impressions that the United States is an occupying force. "I think for the U.S. to be viewed as an occupying force doesn't help us in doing the job we need to do, and I don't think it helps us throughout the Arab world," Davis said. "So, I think the U.N. coming in there does a lot of good things for us, and I'm just happy to see it."

But both congressmen insisted that the unified military force should remain under U.S., not U.N., control. Davis said that "almost to a person," the Iraqi leaders he met with welcomed U.N. participation, but expressed an interest in having the United States remain in charge. "There was, I think, some anxiety on their part that we would lose control," he said.

Davis said the "vast, vast majority" of the Iraqi people support the progress being made. "I think that we met with enough Iraqi leaders and went through enough towns to see that we're on the right track," he said.

Those who oppose the effort, Davis said, are underground -- remnants of the Baath Party, thousands of prisoners Saddam Hussein freed before his regime fell and radicals from throughout the Middle East who are streaming into Iraq to inflict terror. For the short term, Davis said, these elements pose a very real danger to troops in Iraq. "It's still very, very tough, and I think the next few months are going to continue to be tough," he said.

But the long term, Davis said, holds great promise for Iraq, particularly as the country moves toward democracy with a written constitution and democratic elections. The nightmare that the Iraqi people lived through under Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, he said, will finally be over.

"The world looked the other way for over 30 years while people were routinely shot, murdered, tortured (and) gassed," Davis said. "It's not the kind of world that we want to live in."

He added that it shouldn't just be the United States changing the situation. "It's not our sole responsibility," the congressman said. "I think the values we share are values that our colleagues in the U.N. share. And so I think that we'd like to see multinational involvement in all phases of this."

While welcoming U.N. support, both in terms of manpower and resources, Davis said the United States must remain vigilant and on course. This, he said, includes ensuring that Operation Iraqi Freedom receives the funding and other resources needed for it to succeed.

"We are committed to what we're doing, and we have to be," he said. "For the U.S. to not follow through on this, to somehow pull out or try to do this on the cheap and fail would have lasting repercussions that would haunt this planet for a generation."

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMichigan Rep. Peter Hoekstra and Virginia Rep. Thomas M. Davis III briefed reporters during a media availability at the Pentagon Sept. 4 on their recent trip to Iraq. DoD photo by Helene C. Stikkel  
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