DOLANS UNSCRIPTED 10:00 AM Eastern Standard Time March 19, 2004 Friday
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SHOW: DOLANS UNSCRIPTED 10:00 AM Eastern Standard Time
March 19, 2004 Friday
HEADLINE: Operation Iraqi Freedom: One-Year Anniversary, CNNfn
GUESTS: Rep. Marsha Blackburn
BYLINE: Ken Dolan, Daria Dolan
KEN DOLAN, CNNfn ANCHOR, DOLANS UNSCRIPTED: A year ago today, "Operation Iraqi Freedom" began.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
KEN DOLAN: Wow. We have done some job.
Speaking of doing some job, we have somebody here who has seen the job we are doing and the job yet to be done. She is Representative Marsha Blackburn-from Tennessee-Republican Congresswoman talking to us from Washington. Representative Blackburn, how are you?
REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN, ® TENNESSEE: I'm doing great. How are you?
KEN DOLAN: You didn't look that good when you were in Iraq. You didn't look all perfect.
BLACKBURN: Well, I tell you what, we loved being there. And working with the men and women on the ground there. It is so exciting. Because they have done a fantastic job. There's a lot of work to be done.
KEN DOLAN: Sure.
BLACKBURN: But they have really done a great job.
DARIA DOLAN: Representative, your delegation, as I understand it, was in Iraq in October.
BLACKBURN: That's correct.
DARIA DOLAN: It was a delegation of women only?
BLACKBURN: That's correct. It was a bipartisan group. And we went over the end of October. We were there right about the time that Ramadan started. And had the opportunity to visit with the troops. Visit with the 101st airborne, which is there at Ft. Campbell, and in my district.
And talked with the men and women there that are working. Visit with a lot of Iraqis. And talk with them about their hopes and their dreams. And how they see the war on terror playing out.
DARIA DOLAN: Now, when you say you talked with the Iraqis. I'm guessing that these were very carefully orchestrated. Maybe more orchestrated than you or any of the delegation would have cared for.
BLACKBURN: I would beg to differ with that just a little bit. There was some orchestrating where we went. We went to the police ministry. We visited with the first group of women who were graduating from the police academy. We went to the hospital. And when we were there we visited with parents and children. A lot of children that been affected by gases and chemical debris, et cetera.
We also had the opportunity to go to the women's center in Mosul. And there people from the neighborhood just flocked to that women's center to see us and to meet us. You know, whether you're talking with older women who have lived through all of this past 30 years. And watched the torture and brutality. Or you're holding these precious, precious children in your arms, that just run up and jump in your arms. And you see the hope, the desire for a future there. It was really encouraging to get their feedback.
KEN DOLAN: Representative, well, that said-and I appreciate that. And I love your vision of hope. And I love the gleam in your eyes when you say that. But a recent survey said, a recent study of Iraqis said, I think it was around 41 percent, said they're sorry the Americans ever came. And they can't wait for us to get out. Did you encounter-clearly this is not like going to a Yankee baseball game. This was a war zone. It was dangerous for you to be there. Did you encounter any of that hostility that we-well that we see all the time?
BLACKBURN: Well, you know, I think that you have to realize that we as Americas don't agree on everything. And, of course, there is a CNN poll that came out this week that says most of the Iraqis are glad that we are there.
And yesterday we met with the group of Iraqis who are here in the states. They're working toward democracy in Iraq. And we were meeting with them. We've been meeting with-the week before, met with some of the Iraqi women who have come here, as they are looking to us to help them. As they move forward with the constitution for Iraq. As they move forward in participating in that. The first time they've ever had an opportunity to do that.
And of course we've got Iraqis who are ready to take control and that's good. You know, we want them to be-we want to stand with them and support them as they move toward democracy and take control of their government.
KEN DOLAN: Representative Blackburn, as I cited-and it's no secret concerning the bombing, things happened, and probably yet to happen-your delegation, or the people responsible for the delegation-I assumed you all decided it wasn't safe enough to sleep in Iraq. And that you drove to Kuwait-by the way I'm not being disrespectful. I'm not saying that's a stupid-I spent time in Kuwait and it's a heck of a lot safer than Iraq.
But was that just a safety consideration, let's not be foolish about this? Clearly, if the people and the women you're talking about, they have to sleep there wouldn't it make sense maybe your delegation slept there also?
BLACKBURN: I think what they do is decide how is the best way to move the codels (ph) and the delegations through. And we did stay in Kuwait. And then we flew in on C-130s each day and then moved to black hawks and then to convoys. And moved around the country.
We were at the Al Rashid (ph), we did have a dinner there at the Al Rashid (ph) with many of the women that are there. You know, the war on terrorism is going to be a long, long war.
The battle in Iraq is a very important point and a very important piece of that war. And I think it is very-it's critical that we keep our eye on the big picture. That we look at the long term. That we look toward the leadership that is being applied to win this war on terror.
KEN DOLAN: Are we going to be able to hand over on June 30, Representative? Are we going to be able to hand over realistically power to the Iraqi Governing Council? As President Bush would like to. Whether we do it or not.
BLACKBURN: I think we are in the process of making that transition. There again, you know, the Iraqi people are going to need our support. They're going to need to know that we are with them. That we're continuing to support them as they work toward democracy.
They got a lot of help. The coalition is doing a good job. They're continuing to work. You know, there's-we're going to see that we made progress. Then we're going to feel like we take a couple of steps back. So we have to be realistic about that.
DARIA DOLAN: Representative Blackburn, you and your delegation were at the al Rashid (ph) roughly 60 hours before the car bomb that took out a large chunk of that hotel. Now, on Wednesday evening, we saw a car bomb that took out part of a neighborhood in a very middle class neighborhood.
And what we heard were reports that many of their Iraqis, in looking for someone to blame, naturally turned to the United States. And blamed the soldiers who were there. What is it going to take to have them start looking to the true culprits behind these car bombs? Or will they ever?
BLACKBURN: I think that as we go through this process. As more of the Iraqis are trying-right now, we have many of the Iraqis who are trained as their police force. They're beginning to take charge of that. We have many Iraqis who are moving forward and their civil defense force. They are trained there. The Iraqi army is being trained and they are taking control.
And as more Iraqis are trained and take these positions of leadership within their country. And begin to work with the other men and women in the country. I think that we will begin to see them, realize that, sure, there are some of the terrorists that are coming in from other countries. They are the ones who are here, creating this disruption.
And we have so many Iraqi nationals. Individuals that had left Iraq, people that are trained. Whether they're physicians, or they had worked in different areas in the country. They're going back in and they are working with the Iraqis there on the ground, helping them to set their government in place. Working with the constitutional writing committee, with the different ministries. Working with the governing council.
DARIA DOLAN: However, we as Americans tend to be rather optimistic. Probably we are one of the most optimistic races on the planet, Representative Blackburn. A middle east scholar with whom one of our producers had a discussion yesterday had just come back from an academic conference in Baghdad. And said the insurgents in the country are far deeper than we have any idea. And that this is a problem and that they are running out of time.
BLACKBURN: You know, there are-there are insurgents there and we know that. We're aware of that. We discussed that this week with the Iraqis that were here and are working on binging democracy-furthering democracy in Iraq. And that is something we have to be aware of.
The war on terror is going to be a long war. The more diligently we work, the more closely we work with the Iraqi people. Then the better job we're going to be able to do in helping give them-create a government. Helping them enjoy freedom, because that is what they want.
They have waited all this time to have a shot at freedom. They have waited to have a constitution where they can be in control of their government. And it is to our benefit. It is to all freedom-loving people's benefit, for us to have an ally in the Middle East. To have a free Iraq. To have people there who are in charge of their government and are working to have a productive society.
KEN DOLAN: Representative Blackburn, we appreciate it so much. We're glad you got back safely.
BLACKBURN: Thank you.
KEN DOLAN: We appreciate your perspective. And we'll talk with you again for sure.
BLACKBURN: Thank you very much.
KEN DOLAN: Thank you so much. Representative Marsh Blackburn, Republican from the great state of Tennessee.