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The high cost of dignitary visits, part 5

September 11, 2007 | 2008 campaign,Death,Dignitary visits,Iraq,Military

War is Peace — Freedom is Slavery — Ignorance is Strength

This war is about peace. — President George W. Bush

Sanctioned visits to Iraq by elected officials started in May 2003, and they have been back-to-back ever since. A National Guard general tried to see his troops in late 2003, but a Defense Department policy restricted his travel “for safety reasons” because a limited number of soldiers were available for security details. The general could not visit his troops, but more than 20 delegations visited Iraq in just eight months in 2003. (He finally got to visit his troops by the end of the year.)

Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., started the parade of delegations to Iraq by requesting a visit in early 2003. The Pentagon and the State Department refused. He took off for Iraq anyway in April by joining a convoy of relief workers into Iraq.

This will not be my last time going to Iraq. — Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn.

He was correct. He has been to Iraq 18 times … so far.

Less than a month later, a delegation left for Baghdad on May 23, 2003. Until then, Baghdad had been off limits because it was unsafe, even with armed military escorts. Elected officials insisted on going, however, saying they could not exercise “congressional oversight” from Washington. Three more delegations visited from June to August.

Even though 23 people died in a car bombing of the Baghdad United Nations headquarters on Aug. 19, 2003, an 11-member delegation visited the city on Aug. 25.

By the end of 2003, about a third of the U.S. Congress had visited Iraq.

The Pentagon promoted congressional visits, and House GOP leaders asked every Republican member to visit Iraq as soon as possible. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld believed visits would increase congressional support.

Surprise, surprise. They did.

I was hopeful that progress was being made, but based on the media coverage I had seen, I wasn’t certain. After three days of touring the country, I am now certain that we are making progress. — Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., after his Sept. 13-15, 2003, visit to Iraq (York Daily Record, Sept. 24, 2003).

War is peace.

U.S. House members were part of a delegation in Iraq, Oct. 6-10, 2003. Amory Houghton Jr., R-N.Y., said he was not concerned about his safety.

There’s a waiting list. A lot of people want to go. I think they’ll protect us pretty well. The one thing they don’t want to do is to have a bunch of congressmen slaughtered over there.— Rep. Amory Houghton, R-N.Y. (Star-Gazette)

(Delegation: Reps. Michael N. Castle, R-Del.; Jim Davis, D-Fla.; Wayne Gilchrest, R-Md.; Amory Houghton Jr., R-N.Y.; Ron Kind, D-Wis.; Gregory W. Meeks, D-N.Y.; Fred Upton, R-Mich.; Greg Walden, R-Ore.)

War is peace.

Right on their heels was an all-female delegation during the week of Oct. 20, 2003. Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, wondered if there was a more positive story in Iraq than often portrayed in media accounts that emphasize continuing violence and Iraqi and U.S. fatalities.

The positive stuff isn’t coming through. — Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio (The Columbus Dispatch, Oct. 10, 2003)

They wouldn’t be staying overnight in Iraq, though, for security reasons. (Delegation: Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Jennifer Dunn, R-Wash., Katherine Harris, R-Fla., Darlene Hooley, D-Ore., Sue Kelly, R-N.Y., Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.)

War is peace.

Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla., visited Nov. 6, 2003, even after a military transport helicopter went down, killing at least 16 troops (FLORIDA TODAY, Nov. 3, 2003). Rep. Bob Beauprez, R-Colo., expected to leave for Iraq in mid-November 2003 even though a trip by another congressional delegation had to be cut short after a bomb blast ripped through United Nations headquarters (Rocky Mountain News, Nov. 15, 2003).

A suicide bomb killed about 50 people and injured scores of others near Baghdad on Feb. 10, 2004, but Gov. Kathleen Blanco, D-La., “presented a positive picture of the occupied country” during her delegation’s visit Feb. 10-11, 2004. Even though extensive security measures highlighted danger at every turn, Blanco said she never felt at risk: “We were well-protected.” Guard units in front and behind their vehicles escorted the delegation, and Apache helicopters flew overhead.

War is peace.

In April 2004, Rumsfeld, who extended the tours of some 20,000 troops, expressed surprise that the death toll was higher than he expected. April was the deadliest month of the war so far with 147 U.S. troops and hundreds of Iraqis killed.

Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah returned with renewed confidence in the importance of the war and that troop morale was high after his visit June 3-6, 2004.

Things were going fine in Iraq. — Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah (The Associated Press, June 7, 2004)

Unconcerned for his safety, Bennett reported a sense of optimism from Iraq. He blamed the slowed Iraq reconstruction on Americans who protested the way building and infrastructure contracts were awarded. (Delegation: Sens. Robert F. Bennett, R-Utah; Bill Frist, R-Tenn; John Ensign, R-Nev.)

War is peace.

Rep. Jo Ann Davis, R-Va., and three others visited Baghdad and Fallujah, June 11-13, 2004. They wore body armor at all times, but Davis said,

… it wasn’t like there was a bomb going off every minute. — Rep. Jo Ann Davis, R-Va., June 2004

War is peace.

Two U.S. troops died on July 14, 2004, when a suicide bomb killed 11 and wounded 40 near the British embassy, insurgents beheaded a hostage and assassinated the governor of Mosul and the director general of Iraq’s Industry Ministry, capping off an explosion of violence in July, as almost 36 U.S. troops died in the first two weeks.

At least seven more delegations visited in August and September, during which time a mortar hit the roof of the U.S. embassy, and two mortar shells exploded about 500 yards from a delegation waiting to board a helicopter, and one U.S. soldier died in Baghdad that day.

Continued violence kept a September delegation from seeing much of Iraq up close, as they spent most of their time in helicopters and Humvees with tight security and flak jackets. Another delegation visited while officials sought freedom for several hostages. Two car bombs wounded American and Iraqi troops west of Baghdad on Sept. 26. Egyptian and British leaders urged the release of abducted workers and a civil engineer kidnapped with two Americans, later beheaded. Insurgents had kidnapped more than 140 foreigners and killed at least 26 of them. A rocket slammed into a busy Baghdad neighborhood, killing at least one and wounding eight. Hours later, another loud blast shook the U.S. embassy, where the delegation was.

A car bomb exploded in front of the Green Zone in October 2004, and another delegation arrived days later. Several more delegations visited from then until the end of the year. In January 2005, insurgents bombed the U.S. embassy, killing two Americans, while a delegation was in Baghdad for the elections. Yet another delegation visited in mid-January 2005.

As 55 people died in Iraq, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., said none of the senators dared drive through Baghdad’s streets, even in armored cars during her Feb. 19, 2005, visit. Even so,

Much of Iraq was functioning quite well. — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., Feb. 19, 2005

War is peace.

A delegation visited Baghdad on April 1, 2007. A U.S. soldier and American contractor died, and a rocket wounded five people. Officials acknowledged an increase in violence after 500 Iraqis and six U.S. troops died, while Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., visited Baghdad and insisted security was improving. Four soldiers died when an explosive detonated near their vehicle in Baghdad on April 1. (Delegation: Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Reps. Mike Pence, R-Ind.; Rick Renzi, R-Ariz.)

War is peace.

Under the table Winston’s feet made convulsive movements. … He was back at the Ministry of Love, with everything forgiven, his soul white as snow. He was in the public dock, confessing everything, implicating everybody. He was walking down the white-tiled corridor, with the feeling of walking in sunlight, and an armed guard at his back. The long-hoped-for bullet was entering his brain. … But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself.

This just in — The surge is working.

Posted by Becky @ 10:57 am  

5 Responses to “The high cost of dignitary visits, part 5”

  1. Lance Says:

    The only surge that is working in Iraq is the 2 hour power surge that the Iraqi people can look forward to if they are lucky enough to have power at all.

    I fear the politicians on both sides of the isle have stopped listening to their hearts and their constituents and are now just going through the motions of following this administrations talking points. There really is no end in site for our brave military men and women. I fear they are the ones who are really paying for this surge with their lives. War is peace indeed.

  2. PunditMom Says:

    Yup. They’ll be done in Iraq because of the “success” of the surge any time now.

  3. Devra Says:

    Have we tried sending more surge protectors over there instead of troops? I think Emily Latella could have had a field day with that. Don’t you?

  4. Kathy Says:

    I pray this blog entry is plastered all over the offices of Congressional leaders. Everyone in America needs to know and protest this travesty! What is wrong with them? Can’t they see? Can’t they hear? Don’t they feel? Is it all about profiteering on the war???????? 18 visits and still wanting more – a shame!

  5. Sarcasm Abounds Says:

    I thought of you today on my way in to work as it was announced our Senator Ken Salazar would be heading back to Iraq for his 3rd visit. I like him, but I feel compelled to send his office this blog link.

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