April 2nd, 2007 08:16 EST
U.S. congressional delegation visits Baghdad
BAGHDAD — A U.S. congressional delegation visited Baghdad Sunday. The Delegation, led by Sen. John McCain of Arizona, consisted of Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, making his sixth trip to Iraq, Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana and Rep. Rick Enzi, also from Arizona.
The delegation landed at Baghdad International Airport and traveled to various locations in Baghdad by military convoy.
The congress members visited the Shorga marketplace and interacted with local merchants while walking the streets with Gen. David H. Petraeus, commanding general, Multi-National Force–Iraq.
“It’s a resilient people here in Iraq,” said Graham. “We went to the market and we were warmly welcomed. I bought five rugs for five bucks and people were engaging. Just a few weeks ago, dozens of people were killed in the same place. There are plenty of people here in Iraq that want the same thing for their families that (the American people) want for (theirs’) and are dying for their freedom.”
“When we were there at the market place, we had an opportunity to go to the very spot where back in February over 240 lives where lost to a major car bomb and on that very spot we saw the entrepreneurism; we saw the small business spirit; we saw people rebuilding,” Renzi said.
The delegation also visited a joint security station in al Karradah where they met with U.S. and Iraqi troops.
“We met the Iraqi police commander who was very optimistic that this new strategy is paying dividends,” Graham said. “Is it hopeless? No. If we’re patient as a nation and stand by the Iraqi people, who are fighting and dying for their freedom, we will win this war. If we talk about leaving and losing, the car bombers win.”
The members of the delegation spoke of their belief that the American people were not receiving the full story on Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“I believe that we have a new strategy that is making progress and it’s not to say that things are well everywhere in Iraq; far from it,” McCain said. “We have a long way to go.”
“We read everyday about suicide bombings, kidnappings, rocket attacks and other terrible attacks,” McCain said. “What we don’t read about everyday and what is news since the surge began is a lot of the good news.”
The good news the senator spoke of included the drop in murders in Baghdad, the establishment of joint security stations throughout the city, the deal among al-Anbar province sheiks to fight back against al-Qaeda, the deployment of additional Iraqi brigades to Baghdad from across Iraq and the increase in locals providing tips to U.S. and Iraqi forces.
“These and other indicators are reasons for very cautious optimism about the effects of the new strategy,” McCain said. “I believe just as we read about all the negative events in Iraq, the American people must be aware of the positive development under this new plan.”
By Spc. Stephen P. Kretsinger Sr.
Combined Press Information Center