Hirono ‘getting a sense’ of Iraq
"We should be able to bring our troops home," the Hawaii congresswoman says
U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono said her position favoring a phased withdrawal of troops from Iraq has not changed following her first visit to the country this weekend.
In a telephone call from Baghdad yesterday morning, Hirono said she visited and ate dinner with troops from Hawaii and received briefings from military officials.
"There is nothing like actually coming to a place and getting a sense by talking to the soldiers and commanders in the field," said Hirono, who will be in Iraq for several more days. "We've been told that the violence has decreased. The Iraqi security forces are ramping up their numbers and training, so they should be able to protect the population and fight the insurgents on their own. That says to me that we should be able to bring our troops home."
Hirono also offered her sympathies to the families of the three Kaneohe-based Marines who were killed recently in Iraq after a suicide bomber linked to al-Qaida detonated a bomb in Karmah, near Fallujah in Anbar province.
"I found out about the deaths this morning as I was heading out to Fallujah," Hirono said. "My deepest condolences go out to the family of Lt. Col. Max Galeai and the families of the other two killed, Capt. (Philip) Dykeman and Cpl. (Marcus) Preudhomme."
Hirono opposed the war in Iraq when running for her congressional seat, which covers rural Oahu and the neighbor islands. She has criticized President Bush over Iraq and echoed her Democratic colleagues when calling for the withdrawal of troops.
She said yesterday she had wanted to visit Iraq sooner but only now had the opportunity to do so.
"The mission should change from a military mission to one that I hope is a multinational involvement in helping Iraqis rebuild their country," Hirono said. "We're not there yet, but I'd like to bring our troops home at a faster pace."
Hirono said she ate dinner with two Hawaii soldiers, including one whose parents live in Wahiawa. She led a congressional delegation that included Reps. Brian Bilbray, R-Calif., Travis Childers, D-Miss., Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., and Thelma Drake, R-Va.
It is common for congressional members of opposing parties to travel to Iraq to see the situation for themselves and meet with embassy officials, coalition forces and Iraqi leaders.
"We flew over the city in a helicopter, and I could see how spread out Baghdad is," Hirono said. "I think I expected to see the look of a war-torn area, and it's not like that. I think that's why one needs to come to Iraq to actually see it for oneself."