Congressman Mike Capuano Returns From Visit to Iraq
October 14, 2005
Congressman Michael E. Capuano (D-Mass.) with Army soldiers and Marines stationed at Camp Al Asad, located in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. All pictured are from Massachusetts. See more photos in our Photo Gallery.
Rep. Michael Capuano recently traveled to Iraq to assess conditions leading up to the October 15th vote on an Iraqi constitution. During his time in the region, Congressman Capuano met with American and Iraqi soldiers, was briefed by State Department and United Nations representatives and talked with Iraqi officials about the future of the region.
"I voted against the resolution granting President Bush unilateral authority to take military action against Iraq. Regardless, I believed that once military action began, the United States had an obligation to secure and stabilize Iraq - we broke it, we should fix it. Like many Americans, I have grown increasingly concerned as more lives are lost and true progress in Iraq seems elusive. I felt it was important to have a firsthand look at conditions and troop morale and to talk with Americans and Iraqis responsible for military and political reconstruction," said Congressman Mike Capuano.
While in Iraq, Congressman Capuano met with Iraq's Minister of the Interior, Baqer Jaber and Iraqi Major General Aydin Khalid Qadir. He met with Iraqi Minister of Defense, H.E. Sadoun Al-Dulime. They talked about the level of readiness of Iraqi forces, including estimates of how many are necessary to secure the country.
Congressman Capuano was also briefed by Sheikh Hammoudi, Chairman of Iraq's Constitutional Drafting Committee about the status of the proposed Iraqi constitution, subject to an October 15th vote. On December 15th, another election will be held to choose leaders for the next government. These leaders will take office in January.
Congressman Capuano met with a number of American military personnel, from General George Casey to several local marines and soldiers from Massachusetts. He also toured an Iraqi police training facility in Jordan, where 3000 Iraqi police train every eight weeks.
"Three years ago, I voted against going into Iraq. Although I did not support the President's actions, I believed the United States had an obligation to the Iraqi people once we went in. I have watched with growing concern as conditions in Iraq seemed, at best, uncertain and increasingly violent. President Bush won't offer a timetable for when the United States will disengage from the region. He simply says we will leave when the Iraqi people are ready to stand on their own. When will we know they are ready to do this? December 15th is an important benchmark. This is the day that the Iraqi people will go the polls to elect leaders.
We will learn a lot from this exercise, such as how many voted and from what parts of the country they came from. Most importantly, is Iraq ready to embrace and defend democracy? The answer to this last question should become clear within a few weeks after the election. By mid February, we will know whether the Iraqi people have embraced democracy. We will know whether the Iraqi Army and the police have made sufficient progress toward self-reliance. If they have not, I think it will be clear that the President's approach has failed. Either way, the President should start sending our troops home by mid February, at the latest," stated Congressman Capuano.