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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Connecticut Republican Congressman in the 'Sandbox' for the Iraqi Elections

On this coming Sunday, as the Iraqis citizens make their way to the polls, there will be a couple US congressmen right there encouraging them forward. Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT) and Freshman Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) will be in the "sandbox" at the direct invitation of the ambassador.
According to the Associated Press, a larger contingency of congressmen had expressed interest in attending. However, all but Shays and Poe have backed out.

Also, according to the Associated Press, some Defense Department Officials were not overly enthusiastic about his being there. Obviously, that sentiment would be related to increased security woes taking up manpower better spent. However, Rep. Shays has a point in addressing that concern.

He also acknowledged that some Defense Department officials were not happy that he was going, but he said he pointed out that the military was escorting members of the media there and "the worst thing I could do is get all my information from the press."

I can't disagree with that. That last thing we want to do concerning one of the most important events of 2005, is trust that the press will reflect, fairly, the election in a country that contrasts their continued efforts to show the current policy in a negative light. Additionally, while it might not be admitted prominently, I think our soldiers appreciate the attention and appreciation from elected officials provided those officials have their best interest in mind. Shays and Poe aren't using this as a photo op. Both have just been re-elected. Shays has been to Iraq seven times in the past, and continues to show unwavering interest in the facts as demonstrated in his involvement in sorting out the "Oil for Food" scandal. He was the first US Congressman to visit Iraq following the initial armed conflict. And, he has traveled throughout Iraq in previous visits without the benefit of a military escort.

The US has a vested interest in the success of the Iraqi elections. It's only right that Congressional representatives attend the event to solidify that point.

Connecticut Lawmaker Headed To Iraq For Elections
January 26, 2005
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- A Connecticut lawmaker will be one of two members of Congress in Iraq Sunday to witness the historic Iraqi elections.

Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., said he plans to visit polling places and doesn't feel he's taking an unreasonable risk by being in the volatile country on election day.

"I'm grateful I have the opportunity to see it," Shays said in a phone call from Geneva Tuesday. "I realize I'm in a violent part of the world, but we have American troops there who have had to be there for a year. I'm going to be there a few days."

Shays, who is making his seventh trip to Iraq since the war began, said members of Congress have a responsibility to monitor the conditions there. He will join freshman Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, on the trip.
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