Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) just returned from a visit to Iraq, a trip that she called a “PR tour” chaperoned by U.S. Embassy officials. In a conference call hosted by Americans Against Escalation In Iraq this afternoon, Schakowsky said plainly, “I believe overall the surge is a failure. Why’s that? Because the purpose was to reduce violence to create a safer environment, to create the space for political reconciliation. And Iraq is as far from that as it’s ever been. … It’s clear to me we cannot win someone else’s religious civil war.”
In addition to the lack of political progress, Schakowsky said that “the security situation in Baghdad is really bad.” As evidence of this, she noted, “You can’t go anywhere without being heavily guarded. To go a few miles from Baghdad to a training camp, we had to get into a Blackhawk helicopter. We had to put on our body armor and our helmets in order to get there.”
A member of the House Intelligence Committee, Schakowsky was one of six House members to visit Iraq. Her contingent spoke with Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. She said Petraeus told her “the U.S. would be in Iraq for 9-10 years if we want to win,” a comment he has made repeatedly. Listen to her remarks:
She warned that there is ongoing PR blitz from the White House and its conservative allies to build public support for a long-term occupation of Iraq:
It concerns me that they’re building up enthusiastically in much the same way that we led up to the vote and then the war in October 2002 and then March of 2003. It does worry me that some the media is buying in. [...]
What I feel is going on right now is that there’s a major PR effort going on to convince the Congress and the media and the public that just enough progress has been made to justify staying. A little more, and then maybe a little more, and a little more — perhaps to where Petraeus has said 9 or 10 years have elapsed. Calling for patience is not at this point going to work with the American people, and I’m hoping…are just too smart to be fooled again.
During one of the days she was in Iraq, Schakowsky said four soldiers were killed in the Diyala province, a British soldier was killed in Baghdad, 33 Iraqis were killed in Tal Afar in a residential neighborhood by a truck bomb, six street cleaners were killed by an IED in Baghdad, two people were killed on a minibus, and 17 bodies found killed by death squads.
“It’s so clear to me that our focus is on the wrong battlefield,” Schakowsky said. “And my experience in the region has convinced me more than ever that we must set a deadline to withdraw our troops from the religious and tribal civil war that’s going on in Iraq.”