WASHINGTON - Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter settled back into her work on Capitol Hill this week after an official four-day fact-finding trip to Iraq. She was asked to join the delegation because of her position on the Armed Services Committee, which provides oversight over the U.S. military. The delegation spent time on the ground in Baghdad, southern Iraq, and Jordan.
The Congressional delegation was led by Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, ranking female member of the House Armed Services Committee. Also participating were Representatives Nancy Boyda (D-KS), Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), and Hilda Solis (D-CA).
Because of heightened security concerns in Baghdad, military officials advised delegation members not to announce the trip until they returned to the United States. When landing in Iraq, the plane carrying the delegation employed an evasive maneuver known as a "corkscrew," a tight downward spiral meant to avoid anti-aircraft fire. There has been a rash of ground-to-air missile attacks on American helicopters in recent months.
Shea-Porter and her colleagues met with several of the top-ranking U.S.military commanders in Iraq, including General David Petraeus, Commander of the Multi-National Force--Iraq and Major General Joseph Fil, Commanding General of the Multi-National Division--Baghdad.
In addition, the delegation met with Dr.Marouf Al-Bakhit, Prime Minister of Jordan, David Hale, US Ambassador to Jordan, U.S. embassy officials in Baghdad, Iraqi female political leaders, and key members of Iraqi Women's Non-Governmental Organizations.
"I spoke to some of the top people in Iraq,"said Shea-Porter. "And virtually no one is talking about a militaryvictory," said Shea-Porter. "They are hoping for a political solution, but it seems extremely unlikely. Iraq is in the middle of a civil war."
The highlight of the trip, according to Shea-Porter, was the chance to meet American soldiers serving in Iraq. The delegation met with a team in charge of sweeping roads for Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), which have been a major cause of serious injuries and fatalities. "Many have lost their lives," said Shea-Porter. "But our soldiers are still out there doing their work. These men and women are unbelievably brave and absolutely dedicated to each other."
Congresswoman Shea-Porter met with several soldiers from New Hampshire and Maine. They discussed their work in Iraq and reminisced about home. A soldier mentioned Newick's Restaurant in Dover; the Congresswoman,who happened to have a Newick's baseball cap in her bag, gave it to him.
"I told them that I recognize the sacrifice that they and their families make for our country. I am concerned about their welfare. I want to make sure that they get the equipment they need. I want to help them get home safely."
As a member of the Armed ServicesCommittee, Shea-Porter expects to take part in Congressional delegations to Afghanistanand other countries.