Oklahoma Representative Tom Cole Takes CODEL to Iraq
Washington, D.C. – After an important vote to provide $87 billion to support U.S. troops and rebuild Iraq, Congressman Tom Cole along with eight other Members of Congress boarded an Air Force C-32, the military version of the Boeing 757-200, and traveled to Kuwait City, Kuwait and then to Baghdad and Mosul, Iraq. Not only was the bi-partisan group able to get a first-hand view the progress being made in Operation Iraqi Freedom, but Congressman Cole also had the opportunity to meet with military members from Oklahoma's Fourth Congressional District.
It was a full 62 hours.
The CODEL consisted of thirty-six hours of flying time, seven formal meeting with Government and Military officials, a visit to a Baghdad elementary school, a delivery of 1,200 pounds of medical supplies to St. Raphael Hospital, a delivery of 2,000 donated phone cards, four donated air conditioners and visits with constituent military members and Baghdad residents.
"More than ever, after returning from this trip to Iraq, I am convinced that we are doing the right thing in Iraq. The suffering of the Iraqi people under Saddam's reign was immeasurable," Congressman Cole said. "Not only did he terrorize his own people, but he was a threat to his neighbors and other peaceful neighbors. I believe we will see even more evidence of his Weapons of Mass Destruction programs in the months to come."
"While traveling through Baghdad and Mosul one thing that become starkly clear was that Iraq is not a rich country. Last week, during debate in both the House and the Senate, we discussed whether the money sent to Iraq should be in the form of a loan or a grant. It is even more evident to me now that it would be crippling to Iraq to burden them with additional loans while they are trying to rebuild their country after generations of neglect," Congressman Cole said.
While in Iraq, Congressman Cole had the opportunity to spend meal times with troops from Oklahoma. He met with quite a few soldiers from Oklahoma's Fourth Congressional District, including soldiers from Ardmore, Lawton and Tuttle. Besides talking about the OU Sooners victory over Texas in football, the troops also talked about the conditions in Iraq and their overall moral.
"U.S. and coalition troops are doing an excellent job. They are in good spirits and the conditions in Iraq are getting better. Oklahomans expressed their steadfast commitment to the mission of liberating the people of Iraq," Congressman Cole said. "Although I believe there is a sufficient amount of troops on the ground in Iraq, the problem we will have to face is that our military is not large enough to rotate troops in a timely manner. Troops are being required to spend too much time away from their family, especially the National Guard and reservists.
"After viewing first-hand the tremendous progress being made, I know that we can be successful in Iraq, but we must be patient. Although this could be a long process, we can not afford the risk involved in leaving the country unstable and susceptible to future terror and corruption," Congressman Cole said.
The delegation met for detailed discussions with Ambassador Paul Bremmer, Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA); Ambassador Richmond, United Kingdom Special Representative to Iraq; Lt General Ric Sanchez, the senior U.S. military official in Iraq (Commanding General V Corps and Coalition Joint Task Force 7); Dr. David Kay, head of the Iraq Survey Group; Major General David Petraeus, Commanding General, 101st Airborne Division; Major General Martin Dempsey, Commanding General, 1st Armored Division; Colonel Russell Gold, Commander 3rd Brigade Combat Team; Governor Ghanim al Basso, Ninevah Province (Mosul); and Vice Governor Khasro Goran. The delegation also met with dozens of servicemen and women from their respective states.