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Our Ongoing Military and Diplomatic Mission in Iraq

Location: Washington, DC

OUR ONGOING MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC MISSION IN IRAQ -- (House of Representatives - April 09, 2008)


Mr. CARTER. I thank my friend for yielding, and I thank my friend for holding this special order this night where we try to lay the truth out about what is going on with our soldiers.

I have had the opportunity to go to Iraq on four different occasions and visit with soldiers. I am a blessed Congressman in that I have the very privilege and honor of representing Fort Hood, Texas. Fort Hood, Texas, is the only two division post in America, and both of those divisions are now famous for operations that have taken place in Iraq.

The 4th Infantry Division, one of the divisions at Fort Hood, captured Saddam Hussein. The 1st Calvary Division put on a free election in Baghdad. Both were major accomplishments in this war, major accomplishments in the future of Iraq, and the blood, sweat and tears that went into those projects have been brought back to central Texas on numerous occasions. So it is clearly an honor for me to be able to stand up and talk about what is going on in Iraq and why we, in my opinion, my humble opinion, and I think the opinion of those who really think about the issues, it is my opinion that we must stay the course.

What I want to be able to promise, I want to look every soldier that I see, and I see soldiers every week because I go back home every week and I go visit these soldiers, and I see them and I tell them what I want for them is I want them to come home, just like every American wants those soldiers to come home. But when the 4th Infantry Division, III Corps and the 1st Calvary Division and all those the other fine soldiers march out of Iraq, I want to see them marching out under ``The Star Spangled Banner'' and the red, white and blue, and not the white flag, and that is what they want too.

Every soldier I have spoken to, bar none, has told me they are doing a good job, they are winning, they will win, they want to stay the course. They want to finish the job they started. They say they owe it to their fallen comrades. They owe it to the effort they have put forward on behalf of humanity in Iraq.

I get real upset and tired when I hear people ragging on and insulting and writing stories about the ``evil American soldier.'' The evil American soldier that they describe doesn't exist. American soldiers are some of the closest things to sainthood that I have seen, because they are willing to stand up and fight for people, in many cases that don't even like them.

But what is really wonderful and what has changed in Iraq and what needs to be recognized by everyone is the last time I was over there in July, previous to that I was over there in May of 2006. First let me tell you, May of 2006 the weather was a lot better than the last day of July in 2007, and it was, as we say in Texas, it was hotter than a $3 pistol over there. But, seriously, when I went over this time, the difference was the interaction between ordinary Iraqi civilians and United States marines and United States soldiers. And they all talked about it at length, and I saw it demonstrated.

Prior to that time, I had never seen an Iraqi policeman anywhere. When we were in Ramadi, there was a pickup truck full of policemen on every corner and they were patrolling the streets, and people, ordinary people, were doing ordinary business in an area that had at one time been the bloodiest battlefield in Iraq, where they had pounded each other for days across this five-lane road. Now, ordinary Iraqi citizens of all ages, dressed all different ways, men and women and children, were walking, going about ordinary business there, addressing United States soldiers and United States marines, talking to them, discussing things with them, discussing things with their local politicians. It was an amazing turnaround. Amazing.

I talked to a young soldier, he couldn't have been more than about 19, a tow-headed kid, and I said, ``Tell me how it has changed?'' He said, ``Well, sir, you know, they plant these explosive devices in these streets and they plant them in the curbs and they plant them in garbage cans.'' He said, ``Boy, we used to crawl down these streets, watching everything, looking everywhere, just really concerned that the next step might blow up on us. Now we approach the streets and a member of the Friends of Iraq,'' I believe it is called, they have a belt across their chest, ``steps out and says, `Excuse me, but don't go down this street. There is an explosive device planted in the middle of street. The arms of the other explosives are in that blue building over there. And one block over, the green front building, that is where the guys who planted it are.' '' He said, ``Sir, that makes life a whole lot easier for a marine patrolling the streets here.'' You know what? That is a good story, because that is Iraqis talking to soldiers.

We visited with sheiks, and they told us that they had come to the realization when al Qaeda began to kidnap their families and try to make them take certain positions by kidnapping their families, they realized, like a revelation, who the bad guys were.

Americans had never kidnapped their families. Americans had never intimidated them in that fashion. They had never seen anything from American soldiers but trying to help, picking up the garbage, trying to make the sewer work, trying to make the electrical plant work. And then they realized these people were kidnapping their children and in many instances killing their children to try to pressure the sheiks to get their tribes to do certain things. So the sheiks said, that is it. That is it. We have had enough of this. And they went to their tribes and they told them, we are going to join the Americans.

These were Sunnis. So the first thing, of course, that we had to be concerned about was we hear so much about the difference between Sunnis and Shias, the sectarian violence. Was this going to create a rift in Iraq? We heard this story.

We have got General Funk who is a very good friend of mine who lives in my district. His son is in command in another location in Iraq. I also went to visit him while I was over there. He is a colonel. He told me that the week before, I think it was 11 or 12 Shiite sheiks came to his place where he was settled in and wanted to meet him and said, ``We have decided to join in helping the Americans get rid of al Qaeda.'' So that is the whole story.

Those of us who can remember back to the Vietnam War, we were told we were going to win the hearts and the minds of the people and that is how you won this type of war. We haven't heard that term in this war, but I remember that term. And the difference is, we never quite won the hearts and minds of the people because of mistakes that were made.

General Petraeus' plan was to capture the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people on our side, and I believe he is succeeding, and I believe, given the tools, he will continue to succeed. I can tell you one thing, he has got the best fighting force that ever walked on this Earth and the best bunch of human beings that are trying to help him do it, and we should support them in every form or fashion. That is what I think this war is all about. That is how we will walk out under the red, white and blue, and not a white flag.

So I thank my friend for yielding to me.


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