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U.S. Congressmen Hold News Conference in Baghdad

Aired October 12, 2003 - 11:00   ET


SEAN CALLEBS, CNN ANCHOR: We are now going to find out the very latest information, and get some reaction from a group of U.S. congressmen who are in Baghdad right now. Let's join their news conference that is already in progress.
REP. JIM SAXTON (R), NEW JERSEY: I am chairman of the subcommittee in the United States House of Representatives on Terrorism on Conventional Threat and Capability.

I would like to begin by expressing my condolences of this bipartisan group of members of the United States House of Representatives, to the families, friends and loved ones of those killed in today's terrorist bombing, as well as the injured and survivors.

Again, today the terrorists have demonstrated that there is no limit to what they will do. They knew innocence -- they knew innocents, once again, many Iraqis would die. And they were not deterred by the slightest measure.

I agree totally with Ambassador Paul Bremer's statement that the terrorists know that the Iraqi people and the coalition are succeeding in reconstructing -- in the reconstruction of Iraq, and that they are willing to do anything to draw attention away from the progress that has been made.

Together with my colleagues, we have traveled from the south of Iraq to the north. Since we have arrived, we have seen much progress, which is completed, and even more under way.

Upon arriving here, and at the conclusion of our discussions with Ambassador Bremer, we went to visit a school in Baghdad. The enthusiasm of the teachers and the school children was boundless. The school curriculum was under way, and we were very pleased to be able to talk to the teachers and the students and the principal of the school, and afterwards their parents.

Upon leaving the school with -- and seeing, having that positive experience, our vehicles drove away to the waves and shouts and thumbs-up of the Iraqi people. We were proud to be here as American members of the House of Representatives.

Later, we experienced economic activity. Today we visited the area in the northern part of the country, in the Mosul area, and we were very delighted to see economic activity in the way of refineries starting, asphalt plants that are running, railroads that are carrying goods, and serving goods to other countries.

And obviously, again, we don't always hear about this back in the States, but as representatives of the Congress of the United States, we would like to report back to the States and to the rest of the world that these things are in place here and are being very successfully carried out.

Last night, after talking with Ambassador Bremer, who told us that the electric power in Iraq is back to slightly above what it was before the war began, we had the experience of riding from here in Baghdad back to Kuwait City in a C-130 aircraft. My friend Jim Turner and I sat behind the pilot and the copilot of the airplane. And on the way down, we remarked to each other, look, the lights are on in Baghdad. Look, they are on in all the towns on the way back to Kuwait City. And as we crossed the border into Kuwait, we looked back, and it looked like the Kuwait -- it looked like Iraq that we knew over the history of the last decade.

Again, today we saw more progress in the northern part of the country, under the leadership of the 104 -- the 101st Division. We saw that a police force is being put in place. Border security, firemen, trained by Americans, but enthusiastically carried -- activities -- enthusiastically carried out by Iraqi citizens.

We think they are courageous heroes for what they are doing. We think, in fact, all of the people in Iraq today are courageous heroes, to face what they're facing.

And so as we return to Washington, more committed than ever to see this job through, we will tell our colleagues in the United States House of Representatives, the United States Senate, and the administration, that what President Bush said in 1991 was true. We won't always see the results of our effort perhaps in the war on terror, but we will be there until we're through.

Let me turn now to the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Mr. Jim Turner from Texas.

REP. JIM TURNER (D), TEXAS: Thank you, Jim. I too want to share our deep sympathy for those, the families of those who died today in the terrorist bombing at the Baghdad Hotel, as well as those who were injured. I certainly think we all are very proud of the work of the Iraqi facilities' protection force that interdicted those suicide bombers before they reached their intended target in front of the hotel. It shows me that the effort on the part of the Iraqi people to provide their own security is beginning to work.

And I'm proud to say that we today in Mosul had the chance to visit with many of the new Iraqi police, Iraqi civil defense forces, Iraqi fire personnel, all who are doing an excellent job reorganizing the security of this country, reorganizing the efforts to rebuild this country.

We have had the opportunity over the last two days to see significant progress. As Chairman Saxton mentioned, our visit to the schools, most rewarding. To get a chance to visit with those teachers, whose only goal in life is to help educate the young people of Iraq and to help us understand a little bit better about their hopes and their aspirations for a better future.

Iraq has some excellent teachers. We found that out very quickly.

We also had the chance today when we were traveling with General Patraius (ph), to get a chance to visit with some of the newly elected mayors of some of the communities around the Mosul area. Those elected officials are doing an outstanding job, beginning to enjoy the freedoms and the opportunity to express themselves, and to be elected representatives of the people, chosen by the free choice of the people in their communities.

I once served myself as a mayor, and it is a tough job to be a mayor. But each of these elected officials are outstanding leaders. They are dedicated to the task at hand. And I saw great progress in bringing this nation to the point where the people rule rather than the dictator.

And each of them shared with me their desire to build a better Iraq. And I shared with them the commitment of the United States to stay here as long as necessary to ensure the security that will give the Iraqi people a chance to realize their dreams and aspirations. But not to stay one day longer than is necessary.

I'm very encouraged by what I've seen here, by the attitude of the people, by the warm welcome that we received, and by the -- what I perceive to be the great ability of the Iraqi people to take this nation and to turn it around and make it one of the strongest, most influential nations in the region.

There is great hope here. And there is a great future.

CALLEBS: We were at a news conference from five U.S. congressmen who have been in the Iraqi area, touring parts of that country from the south up to the north, speaking in Baghdad, they were talking about the -- they offered condolences for those who were killed or injured during the car bomb attack today, and also praised the security forces for their work. Went on to echo the words from Ambassador Paul Bremer, the civilian leading the rebuilding effort in post-war Iraq, saying that the U.S. and coalition will not be intimidated by terrorism, and went on to point out what they considered the highlights in post-war Iraq, talking about improvements in schools, trade, and the fact that electricity is being returned to much of the state, or much of the country, rather.


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