Congressman Steve King, a Republican from western Iowa, is headed overseas this Thanksgiving. “We have soldiers overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan and we have them in the hospital in Germany and they’re not with their families on this Thanksgiving,” King says. “I can’t think of a better way to invest my time than to be over there thanking them for their service to our country. I’ll be able to come back and spend Christmas with my family. Most of them will not.”
Because of security concerns, King is not able to release a minute-by-minute schedule, but he can talk in general about his trip. King will start in Germany and spend Thanksgiving with wounded troops being treated at a U.S. military hospital. Then he’ll go to Iraq, where he will be making “several stops,” including a tour of oil fields in the northern region of the country. Finally, he’ll travel to Kabul, Afghanistan and King has asked to be taken to one of the “most remote” operating bases for U.S. troops in that country, too. “I always ask (the military): take me to the center of the hub, but also take me to the most extreme regions that you can so I can get a feel for each extreme,” King says.
This will be King’s first trip to Afghanistan and his fourth trip to Iraq. “Each time I got a measure of the morale of our troops which was always better than I happened to pick up from watching the news,” he says. King says he can’t “get the feel” of what’s going on in Iraq from the classified briefings he gets, as a member of congress, from the Secretary of Defense.
According to King, his sit-down meetings in the mess halls with troops in Iraq give him a much better picture. He’s scheduled to meet with Iowa Guard soldiers who’re on duty there. “I can communicate with Iowans on the ground there more quickly than anyone else. There’s an instant trust that is established because we’re Iowans and they can tell me what they know and what they see and I’ll be able to ask probing questions all the way up the ranks,” King says. King also hopes to meet with the judges who tried Saddam Hussein. “I met with the judges before the trial began and I’d like to be able to thank them for their courage to stand in the face of these constant death threats and deliver the rule of law in Iraq,” King says.
The U.S. is at a “pivotal point” in making decisions about the future of Iraq, according to King, and that’s why King wanted to see for himself what the “battlefield of Iraq” is like today. “As these decisions are made by the White House, some of us members of Congress need to have a sense of what’s going on over there and be able to weigh in on this. I know that there have been some elections that have been determined on different candidates’ positions on how we should deal with the war in Iraq yet there’s no consensus that we should pull out. So what’s the best solution?” King says. “I’ll be able to probe the minds of our best generals over there and come back with a better sense and hopefully I can support a policy that will get us to a final victory in Iraq and take us down the path so that we can have a final victory some day in this global war on terror.”
Former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker is heading a bipartisan committee trying to come up with the best course to pursue in Iraq. Baker was chief of state for former President Ronald Reagan and served as Secretary of State for the first President Bush.