Visit to Iraq fails to change
Abercrombie’s opinion

The United States must recognize that it will be an "occupying force" in Iraq for a long time and that it will need to send thousands more troops there, said U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie.

The Hawaii Democrat was one of eight members of a House Armed Services Committee mission that spent five days in Iraq, with stops in the Baghdad and Kirkuk, as well as neighboring Kuwait. He returned from Iraq Tuesday.

"The troops are not coming home; that is to say, the numbers are going to stay up. There are 160,000 troops, and to me that is the minimum. We are occupying this country," Abercrombie said.

"There is no police force, there are no judges. All the civil structure's completely destroyed," Abercrombie said.

Abercrombie voted against a resolution approving the Iraqi war and said yesterday during his Honolulu news conference that the visit did not change his mind about the need for the war.

"The case was never made that this was a threat in the first place," Abercrombie said.

U.S. Rep. John McHugh, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's Total Force Subcommittee, said in a news release that he also was concerned that the American people would have to accept that the United States would be involved in Iraq for a long time.

"I only hope the Congress and the American people will not lose interest and support for the necessary continued operations in the region," McHugh said.

Abercrombie stressed that because an important part of the U.S. military muscle came from National Guard and reserve forces, the United States could not extend itself into a confrontation with countries bordering Iraq, such as Iran.

"I can tell you right now, we don't have the forces to deal with anything except to deal with what is immediately in front of us as a result of this attack on Iraq," Abercrombie said.

Meanwhile, the United States will have to assume the responsibility for rebuilding the country.

"They have to get clean water, health care, education; they have to be paid salaries; there has to be selection of officials to run the country. This is an occupation and all that implies," Abercrombie said.

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