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Special Defense Department Briefing

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Federal News Service

HEADLINE: SPECIAL DEFENSE DEPARTMENT BRIEFING
 
TOPIC: RECENT CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION TO IRAQ
 
PARTICIPANTS: SENATOR LINCOLN CHAFEE (R-RI); SENATOR LARRY CRAIG (R-ID); SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY); SENATOR CRAIG THOMAS (R-WY)
 
MODERATOR: POWELL MOORE, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS
 
LOCATION: THE BRIEFING ROOM OF THE PENTAGON, ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA

BODY:
SEN. CRAIG: Well, I will only echo what Mitch McConnell has said. The lights are on in Baghdad. The schools are open. The bazaars are bustling with people doing commerce. There are now traffic jams in the city and across that region. That doesn't speak to a beleaguered situation, it speaks to a people who are now free and wanting to thrive doing the very kinds of things that we take as normal in this country.

And as we saw all of that happening, we were still very sensitive to and aware of the security issue. That situation in Iraq will only strengthen with the increased stability and the increased security. Iraqis are now out policing. They were the police at the hotel the other day. They were the police at the Turkish embassy. We met with those Iraqis who are now in the police force. They're called "the blue shirts" over there. And they're all over and they're very visible, and that's very important because Iraqis in the end clearly want their own people administering the civil justice that is important in that country. I came away from it feeling very positive about a very difficult situation.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

SEN. CRAIG: I'll react in a similar fashion. Idaho is not a very large state -- 1.2 million people. I met with 35 Idahoans that are over there, and the only concern I heard was an issue of rotation.

Now, we did get into a discussion on who was hoarding the Starbuck(s) coffee. And one of the guys in Kandahar had a supply of Starbuck(s) and he was not sharing it with any of us. (Light laughter.)

The new Brown & Root food service in Mosul, that's now just up and running -- remember, a lot of these facilities and, therefore, creature comforts, if you will, are just coming online. But the significance about that is that good hamburgers and fries are being served there now, and they're Idaho potatoes. (Laughter.)

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Q All these good things that you say are happening over there, do you think this justifies this kind of use of American military force, to remake another country? And do you think this would be a viable use of American military force in the future?

SEN. THOMAS: Well, I think certainly the war that we went over there to engage ourselves in is not over. And they're making a transition at the moment. And the element that's most likely to help with the transition happens to be the military. And we're putting our civilian people in there, with Bremer and others, very quickly. As soon as they're prepared and as soon as we've been able to continue to help the Iraqis -- they now have 40,000 police, they now have their hospitals and their schools, they're doing their military. As soon as it's possible, then our military ought to come home, but until they're able to shift that responsibility to somebody else, they're important to be there.

SEN. CRAIG: I guess my reaction to what we saw and what you've just commented is I'm not sure that we develop a standard policy for all situations. I think we attempt to effectively examine the Iraqi situation, as I think we did, and we apply the resources we have that fit that situation.

Clearly, the Iraqis are nervous about other Muslim nations coming in. You can see the transitional government's reaction to the Turks. And we're going to have to work our way through that. And we think other countries will be coming in now to help us and to help the Iraqis get themselves stabilized.

But clearly, when you have those kinds of resources on the ground -- we've seen some remarkable examples of recovery over there that have been administered by our military. And again, I think you examine all situations in the circumstance of the moment and the time, in relation to the politics of the area, the region, the bordering states -- all of that has to be put together in one. One size does not fit all.

MR. MOORE: Ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry, but this is all the time we can allow for these gentlemen today because they are very busy. Thank you for coming.

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