Congressman Wilson tours Iraq

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 29, 2007

Congressman Charlie Wilson

has just returned from a trip from Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan and he called the experience “surreal.”

Wilson, who is the U.S. Representative for Ohio’s Sixth District, toured the nations last week as part of a congressional delegation. He was the only Democrat to go on the trip.

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“I went to Iraq with many questions and came back with even more,” Wilson said. “I’m not an authority but I will tell you it is a surreal situation.”

He said it took about a day of traveling to get over there and then once there, the delegation traveled with an Army general and heavy security. They traveled in convoys with Wilson in an Army Humvee vehicle.

“The roads we traveled on had deep craters from IED (improvised explosive devices) that had been exploded previously,” he said. The Humvee he was in had a soldier operating a machine gun mounted on the roof.

He said there has been an increase in the use of IEDs and suicide bombers because “hand-to-hand combat isn’t working.”

He said the latest twist in suicide bombings is to put the trigger for the bomb in the bumper of a car and then the driver runs into another car to set it off.

“I saw the results of one of those when I was in Afghanistan,” Wilson said. A week previous to the trip, a suicide bomber had run into a Chevrolet Suburban. Four people survived it. “There was a real sense of having to be on guard at all times.”

Wilson said it was easy to see how U.S. forces could be committed to fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for the next decade.

“But we simply cannot do this for another 10 years,” he said.

He said the bright spot of the trip was talking to U.S. troops.

“I can’t emphasize enough how heroically they have performed,” Wilson said. “They have done everything we have asked them to do. We just can’t ask them to do it for another 10 years.”

The congressmen spent two days in Baghdad and Wilson described the whole situation as “frustrating and scary.”

“People ask me ‘Did you feel safe?

The truth is ‘No, I didn’t feel safe,” Wilson said. “It just seems that our military surge is not matching up with what’s going on at the political side in (Iraq.)”

He said at one outpost, he saw women dressed in the traditional black burkas that covered them from head to foot.

“I looked at them as local women, the gunner didn’t see it that way,” Wilson said. “He spun around and paid specific attention to them because he didn’t know if they had weapons or not. That is not a safe society.”

Wilson said the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan as “more of the same.”

“Their problem seems to be more along the border of the two countries which is a rural mountainous area,” he said. “The problem is that it is pretty much tribal up there.”

He said that insurgents cross the border, commit an assault and then go back to their families.

Wilson said he saw no evidence that the Iraqi government making a political surge to matching the military forces’ surge.

“The Iraqis have to step up because what America’s finest fighting forces are providing is not going to be sustainable, especially for the next 10 years,” Wilson said.

He said the Anbar providence of Iraq is being touted as one of the biggest success of the surge but the week that Wilson and the congressional delegation was there, insurgents killed a key Iraqi sheik who supported the U.S. mission.

On Sept. 13, Abdul Sattar Abu Risha was killed when a bomb exploded outside his house. Risha was a Sunni leader who had allied with the U.S. against al-Qaeda insurgents.

“He was taken out as a prime example that they can still respond with suicide bombings and IEDs at will,” Wilson said. “We don’t have the time or the resources that are needed to end the political confusion over there.”

“We are spending $330 million a day, plus 300,000 troops,” Wilson said. “We can’t sustain that for another 10 years.”