After personally observing ground conditions in Iraq over the weekend, U.S. Rep. David Davis continued Tuesday to back the Bush administration's position to reject congressional intervention and allow military commander Gen. David Petraeus to reassess progress in September.
"One general said that ‘We are at the point with the (troop) surge, we can start to draw down troops out of the north,'" Davis, R-Tenn., said during a phone interview. "We need to let the generals and the men and women in uniform do their jobs. The Iraqi government also needs to step up to the plate and do what they need to do to make their own communities safe."
This was the first trip to Iraq for Davis, who was part of a six-member congressional delegation traveling across the country in military Humvees and Black Hawk helicopters. Davis said he spent time in Baghdad's heavily fortified "Green Zone" and in Ramadi, often described as one of Iraq's top danger spots.
"We have men and women in uniform who volunteered to be in the military, and I felt it was incumbent upon me to volunteer to go meet with them firsthand and find out what was going on on the ground. ... It's one thing to read about what's going on or watch national TV or hear reports, so I really wanted to see it firsthand. The thing that probably struck me the most was the caliber of the men and women in uniform. We have an exceptional group of men and women, and an officer corps that is just second to none."
Davis said he spent part of Saturday in Balad - a town once overrun by al-Qaida operatives.
"People got tired of them, and today we can walk down the streets and see kids intermingle with troops," Davis said. "I got to meet with the mayor of the town. People are getting back to having doctor's offices open, pharmacies open and starting to rebuild. ... When we went in, those people in Iraq really didn't know who to trust. They had been under a totalitarian regime for decades. Once they had that freedom, they didn't know who to turn to for safety - was it us? Was it al-Qaida? They knew they couldn't do it on their own with all the fighting going on. It's just now starting to get to the point that they understand we're there to help them."
When asked what America's policy should be in Iraq, Davis said he asked both generals and troops: How does the Iraq War affect an average American family?
Davis said one general told him in a conversation that most Iraq War veterans were 5 years old when America fought the Gulf War.
"He said ‘There's a 5-year-old laying in some bed in America, and that if we don't finish this job now, he will be over here fighting again in the future,'" Davis said of the conversation. "There's going to be a vacuum. We're either going to be there helping Iraqis get back on their feet, or we're not going to be there and Iran and al-Qaida will have the opportunity to come in. Iraq has the second-biggest oil reserve in the world. Can you imagine Iran and al-Qaida having an oil well that can produce 20 million dollars a day against us? The threat is too great for us not to win. ... One of the generals told me that one of al-Qaida's goals is to have world domination starting in the Middle East. The people of the Middle East understand that."
Davis said House Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, continue to push measures calling for no permanent military bases in Iraq and to limit what America can do about Iraqi oil.
"I don't think we ought to tie our hands down," Davis said. "What are we going to drive our cars on? People are already frustrated with three-dollars-a-gallon gas. What are they going to do when it goes to six dollars a gallon because of bad Washington policy?"
Davis said the delegation also encouraged Iraqi leaders to "step it up" in securing the country's future.
"They now are starting to send money out of Baghdad to every province but can't get their (oil) pipeline running every day," he said of what Iraqis are getting done.
On the way back to the United States, Davis said he stopped at an Air Force base in Germany, where he got to meet with a Marine who had been shot in Iraq.
"I asked him if he was looking forward to going home," Davis said. "He said, ‘Congressman, I would prefer to be going back to Iraq. I have a job to do.' A young captain from Knoxville told me, ‘Please tell the national media to quit telling me what's good for me. I volunteered. Nobody forced me to be here. I'm here because I want to be.'"
For more about Davis go to www.daviddavis.house.gov.