Listen Minnesota delegation split on Iraq
Listen Sen. Norm Coleman questions Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker
Sep 12, 2007
Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., said the testimony of Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker shed new light on the situation in Iraq.
Coleman said Petraeus brought Congress "clear and definitive evidence that, militarily, the surge in Iraq is indeed working" to improve security in Iraq.
And Coleman said even though he's disappointed with political progress in Iraq, now is no time to abandon the security gains.
"Ambassador Crocker and Gen. Petraeus both said that if we simply step back at this point in time, that the consequences would be very, very grave in terms of our own security in terms of involving al-Qaeda," Coleman said. "As Ambassador Crocker said, in fact we are making progress. Simply because a benchmark is not being met, that doesn't mean that we're not moving forward on the political side."
Coleman cited revenue-sharing agreements and the removal of Saddam-era Baathists from the Iraqi government as proof of progress.
“Most of us thought if you put in 30,0000 troops you'd get a little bump in security, and you'd see no progress on the political front in Iraq, and that's exactly what happened.”U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, DFL-Minn.
Coleman said Petraeus' plan to withdraw about 5,000 troops by the end of this year will help to put pressure on Iraq officials to work harder.
Democratic Rep. Tim Walz represents voters in southern Minnesota's 1st District. Walz said the lack of political progress is proof the surge is not working.
As for the notion that withdrawing several thousand troops in the near term will send a signal the U.S. commitment in Iraq is not open-ended, Walz said the troop drawdown comes as no surprise.
"All of us knew that was planned anyway," Walz said. "We all knew that the troop surge could not maintain the rotation pattern that we had set up. It was as simple as that, so I don't think it's going to send them any message whatsoever."
"Most of us thought if you put in 30,0000 troops you'd get a little bump in security, and you'd see no progress on the political front in Iraq, and that's exactly what happened," Walz added.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., agreed there were no surprises in the testimony. While drawing down 30,000 troops by the middle of next summer may sound dramatic, Klobuchar noted it gets troops levels back to where they were prior to the surge. Klobuchar said more troops need to come home.
"The difference between what some of the members who want to stay indefinitely in this war and me is, I believe that we need to set some deadlines so it's very clear to this Iraqi government that we're not staying indefinitely," Klobuchar said.
Like nearly everyone else in Congress, Republican Rep. John Kline said he's frustrated the Iraqi government is not moving more quickly to forge political solutions. Still, Kline, who represents the 2nd District, said the surge must continue to give Iraqis more time to build a democracy.
"We're asking them to get things done which are truly hard to do. As Ambassador Crocker said yesterday, these are politically tough and they're technically tough," said Kline. "How do you divide oil revenues? How do you figure out how to grant amnesty or not amnesty to former Baathist party members? These are big issues ... like our states' rights and our civil rights debates, that took decades at the very least for us to resolve."
Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann of the 6th District issued a statement expressing a similar sentiment. Bachmann said the surge is improving security and that "a secure environment paves the way for political progress."
The most senior member of Minnesota's congressional delegation, DFL 8th District Rep. Jim Oberstar, released a statement saying the situation in Iraq brings back memories of the protracted U.S. departure from Vietnam.