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Personal Reflections on Iraq

Location: Washington, DC

PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON IRAQ -- (House of Representatives - May 25, 2005)


Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Nebraska (Mr. Osborne) for organizing this important hour tonight. I concur with the remarks of the gentleman from Colorado and we enjoyed your leadership. I would duly note that it took two Coloradans to take care of one Nebraskan, but that is usually the situation we face out West.

This, too, was my second trip to Iraq. We were there last September as well. I have to say as we left Iraq, we had a feeling that although the armed services personnel and the great civilians and the State Department are always optimistic, there was a greater sense of optimism, particularly on the heels of the election that was held at the end of January.

I would also say, this is kind of unusual to have both Democrats and Republicans in a special order. I am here to listen as much to my colleagues' perspectives on our very fascinating time spent in Iraq and Jordan, and I am eager to hear all of my colleagues' impressions.

I have a couple of things to add. The gentleman from Nebraska (Mr. Osborne) covered many of the important

interactions we had in Iraq, and particularly when we were on the shores of the Dead Sea with the 150 Iraqi women who had traveled 2 and 3 days across Iraq. A number had been robbed and detained along the way, but they were there because they wanted to have a say in the future of their country.

We were also joined by the gentlewoman from Virginia (Mrs. Jo Ann Davis) and the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Granger), and they added a very important perspective to the conference itself. But you cannot come home and not feel a connection to those brave women, very brave women who were risking their lives every day.

The gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Beauprez) mentioned our trip through Ramstein Air Base on our way home, and what a facility that is, along with the world-class Landstuhl Hospital. We had an opportunity to see the jointness that we hear so much about within DOD. It was seamless. You could not tell whether the personnel in a particular setting was a Marine, sailor, airman, or soldier. For that, the DOD is to be commended because we are creating this synergy that in the end continues to put us on the cutting edge.

I think it is notable also to acknowledge the important role the Jordanians are playing in the Middle East. We were staged out of Jordan. We spent time in Amman. We received important briefings from our embassy staff. And King Abdullah and his government and the people of Jordan are a key part of the efforts in the Middle East.

On the flight over and then on the flight back, as you peer out the windows of the jet, we looked down over Israel for that short time frame that it takes to fly over Israel, and you understand the importance of the geography and the strategic and special relationship we have with Israel. They are, of course, a key player in this effort that we are all involved to stabilize and create free and democratic systems in the Middle East.

If I could just at this point conclude, I think it is important to acknowledge that there were different points of view in our delegation. You have to number me as one who had misgivings about the war in Iraq and the approach that we took. But now that we are there, my attitude is that we have to find a way clear to stabilize the situation and make good on our promises to the Iraqi people. In that undertaking, I think we are neither Democrats nor Republicans nor members of other political parties; we are Americans with a commitment to that part of the world.

The strategy to all of us is clear. It has three sections. As we have done, we have to hold the elections and support the standing up of this new government and it still has a ways to travel. That is well under way.

The second, and we heard a great deal about this from General Casey, General Petraeus and other military leaders, is to support the Iraqi security forces, the police and the military.

The third part of the strategy is to create a more stable environment in Iraq, which means providing jobs and electricity and clean water.

These three parts are all interactive. We have to stay committed and support our men and women in uniform.

I would just conclude by sharing, the men and women there are performing magnificently. Their commitment to each other, the mission, and to the United States of America and to the world at large is exemplary. I think we all came back the better for those interactions with the men and women in uniform in Iraq. For that, I am deeply grateful.

Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Nebraska for convening all of us, and I look forward to hearing what my colleagues have to say.


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