District 6 Congressman Mike Pence, R-Ind., briefed supporters and critics on Saturday at Anderson City Hall regarding his fourth trip to Iraq, with a congressional delegation, last Sunday.
During a daylong visit in Mosul and Baghdad, Pence met Hoosiers for first-hand accounts different than everyday media reporting, he said.
“Mosul was a serious problem for about a year in 2004 to early 2005 following the defeat of Saddam’s forces. Now Mosul is essentially secured,” Pence said. “There is very little insurgent violence.”
The congressman said Mosul, a population of 2 million Kurds, Sunnis, Shiites and the historic site of Ninevah, looked similar to Indianapolis with its infrastructure.
Pence said despite the media’s take, which often highlights bombings and killings, he saw more Iraqis stepping up than any other trip — police, military and civilian leadership.
“I believe on this trip I saw more commitment from the civilian leadership in Iraq,” Pence said about his talks with Major General Al Hamdani, a police chief; vice governor Kashmala, the second ranking official in the Province of Ninevah and new Iraqi prime minister, Jawad Al-Maliki.
“This man might well be the right man at the right time,” the congressman said about Al-Maliki, a Shiite.
“When he talked profound gratitude about American soldiers, that was the only time I felt any warmth from him,” said Pence.
“Baghdad is still, obviously, suffering under the weight of terrorist violence,” Pence explained. “Baghdad had more of a look of a war zone 2 1/2 years ago — not a lot of traffic, not a lot of people on the street.”
Pence said being in the Iraq’s capital for about eight hours this time around showed traffic jams in busy thoroughfares and school yards filled with children in uniforms at recess.
“I think we’re pretty close to turning the corner,” he said. “That was my impression,” he said later. “But, quite frankly, there are no guarantees.”
William Soetenga, 67, said he respected what the congressman had seen, but he’s not a war supporter and has concerns.
“He (Pence) reports accurately and with great support from all the media that our troops have served with great valor, commitment and sacrifice,” Soetenga said. “Does that change the perspective of journalists — 80 of whom have died covering this the last few years? Do we dismiss what they say?”
The Anderson resident said $350 billion has been spent, 2,400 American troops died, tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed, Iraqi infrastructure destroyed, 18,000 American troops wounded and around 50,000 have suffered from post-traumatic syndrome.
“Around 9-11, everybody supported us from all over the world. Now our credibility is questioned and support has gone.
“So what you told us this morning, does that help or does that justify all this?” Soetenga asked Pence.
Pence said from several of his talks with foreign leadership, nobody wants us (Americans) to leave any time soon.
“Turkey is terrified of the idea of us leaving early and Iraq breaking into pieces,” Pence said.
Pence supporter Bob Ivy, disagrees with Soetenga.
Ivy, a Navy radio operator in World War II, said he talked with a Marine and soldier who said the news Americans receive is different from actual occurrences in the Middle East.
Seventy-nine-year-old Ivy said he doesn’t like to have war, but believes it is justifiable to fight terrorism.
“You can’t fight a war without someone being killed,” Ivy said. “I think freedom is coming to the Middle East.”
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