CONGRESSMAN HALL VISITS IRAQ
WASHINGTON, D.C. ...Congressman Ralph Hall (R-TX/4th) traveled to Iraq last weekend as part of a Congressional Delegation (CODEL) that sought to assess military, political and economic developments in Iraq. The group met with General David Petraeus, the Multi-National Forces - Iraq Commander, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and other key U.S. and Iraqi military and civilian leaders.
Hall traveled to Jordan last Thursday evening and the next day took a military flight from Jordan into Iraq with fellow Reps. Brian Baird (D-WA) and Chris Shays (R-CT) along with select State Department, Army and Congressional staff. The CODEL was arranged by Rep. Baird through the Committee on Science and Technology on which Hall serves as Ranking Member.
"I didn't travel to Iraq to give advice - I think our Generals and Commanders are capable of that," Hall said. "I wanted to let them know that there are many of us in Congress who will support our Commanders and troops as long as there is one single soldier in Iraq. I wanted to tell them in person that I support them - and I have done so."
"We saw several groups of Texans, some in the 4th district, others from all over the State," Hall said. "Almost to the person, they stated they believed in the cause that brought them there and they wanted to finish the job. They believed that the surge was showing results." Hall stated that he also was impressed by the feelings of the Iraqi people as well as the American soldiers regarding the effect of the surge.
"General Petraeus, Ambassdor Crocker and other leaders gave us briefings that provided substantial written charts, maps and reports that the tactics initiated were working, with the goal to spawn a reduction of troops by October of 2008, if not before," Hall said.
The CODEL met with Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, Commanding General of the Multi-National Corps - Iraq; Shaykh Muhammad Al-Haideri, chairman of the Committee on Human Rights; Minister of Electricity Karim Wahid; Minister of the Interior Jawad Al-Bulani; Minister of Defense Abdul Qadir; and Colonel Aman Ibrahim Mansur, commander, 4th Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Division of the Iraqi Army, among others.
"It was good to find capable Iraqi leaders appreciative of President Bush, the U.S. Congress and the American people," Hall said, "but we made it clear to these leaders that the President is getting unbelievable pressure from Congress and the American people."
Hall also enjoyed meeting Paul Brinkley from Wylie, TX, who serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Business Transformation, and Colonel John T. Thompson of Tyler, TX, who is one of the top military leaders in Iraq. "Colonel Thompson initiated the conversation by thanking me for appointing him to West Point in 1982," Hall said. "I wound up telling him how proud I was of him and that I would contact his family in Tyler."
"After personal visits with our American troops, talks with Iraqi troops, briefings with our generals and Iraqi generals, and visits to crowded neighborhood markets, I was impressed that all seemed confident of victory - but only if they have and keep the support of the American troops and of the American people," Hall surmised.
"If we can continue with the progress made in the past six months, we have a chance to leave a bright spot of freedom in a part of the world that has not experienced such," Hall said. "When we finally do withdraw, the Iraqi nation would be able to defend itself and secure its freedom just like many nations of the world."
"It was inspiring to see our soldiers committed to succeeding in Iraq and continuing the progress being made there," Hall said. "To see them wearing heavy combat gear in 120 degree weather, day-in and day-out, and placing themselves in harm's way every day - we owe them a huge debt of gratitude for their service and for their sacrifice."
"I appreciated the opportunity to see first-hand our operations in Iraq and to see the great work our troops are doing there," Hall said. "I appreciated more, however, the opportunity to express my gratitude to each one of them and to seek information from them about the families that await their return."
On the day Hall's group departed Iraq, there were more attacks that resulted in many deaths and injuries. "We are awaiting the assessments of these attacks by General Petraeus, the Iraqi leadership, and the press," Hall said.
"Our troops will continue to have my strong support to receive the tools they need to protect themselves and to help bring security to Iraq - and we Americans need to show our strong support at home for their effort."