Hagel: Congress demands facts on Iraq
BY DON WALTON / Lincoln Journal Star
Friday, Aug 17, 2007 - 06:35:06 pm CDT
Congress will demand a full and frank report on conditions in Iraq next month unfiltered by any White House assessment, Sen. Chuck Hagel said Friday.
Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker will be expected to present their own on-the-ground assessments to congressional committees in mid-September, Hagel said.
“We’re going to demand we get whatever information we require,” the Republican senator said during a Lincoln interview.
“We fully expect the leaders of our government will comply with their responsibility. We must have all the facts and details required to make intelligent decisions.”
Concerns were raised in Washington earlier this week when the Los Angeles Times reported the White House, not Petraeus and Crocker, would prepare the Iraq assessment for Congress to consider.
Hagel said he believes Secretary of Defense Robert Gates “will be very clear, honest and direct” in presenting his own views to Congress.
“This is serious business,” Hagel said.
“We are in a lot of trouble in Iraq and we need to make decisions based on the best information and intelligence we have, not just for the short term, but for the long term.”
Hagel took issue with House Republican Leader John Boehner’s own assessment that the Bush administration’s strategy has been “very successful” in Iraq.
“Everyone is entitled to his opinion,” Hagel said, “but the facts do not bear that out.”
Boehner, an Ohio congressman, expressed his views during an interview in Lincoln earlier this week.
“On the same day Boehner was boldly proclaiming we were winning in Iraq, Basra was under siege by roving gangs and militias,” Hagel said.
“Shiite militias are in charge in the southern third of Iraq,” he said.
On the same day, Hagel said, as many as 500 people were killed in the north.
“All Sunni cabinet members of Nouri al-Maliki’s government are gone,” he said. “There is no functioning government in Iraq.”
Five U.S. soldiers were killed that day, Hagel said, and the Green Zone was hit by 25 mortar attacks.
“I’m not sure on what basis Boehner says the surge (of additional U.S. troops) is working,” Hagel said.