Fresh from a weekend trip to Iraq, U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall said he saw a strong sense of optimism that the country will survive as a democracy, and he witnessed an unprecedented effort to move equipment from Iraq to Afghanistan as a troop surge is readied.
This was Marshall’s 16th or 17th trip to Iraq, he said, giving him a series of snapshots of the situation there. He traveled briefly with Army Chief of Staff George Casey and met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, as well as some of the country’s department ministers and American soldiers.
“There was a real sense of optimism this time around that I had not seen in prior trips,” said Marshall, D-Georgia. “You can’t guarantee this, but it does seem that the momentum (for democracy) is now to the point that it’s just not going to be reversed by al-Qaida ... or Saddam (Hussein) loyalists.”
Marshall said he was particularly heartened by ongoing plans to repair Iraq’s oil infrastructure, which he said will “dramatically upgrade their oil production capacity.” That should create enough wealth to keep unfriendly factions from warring with each other for some time, providing cover while the democratic ideal of a peaceful transition of power takes hold, he said.
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Marshall also spent time in Kuwait and said he witnessed some of the mammoth preparations there to shift American forces into Afghanistan as part of President Obama’s plan to move another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. The Georgia National Guard’s 48th Brigade, which is based in Macon, is already in Afghanistan.
“Coordinating hundreds of moving parts over long distances and making sure everything gets there at the right time, to the right folks ... there has not been a military in the history of the world capable of doing what we’re doing right now,” Marshall said.
This surge is part of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s strategy in Afghanistan, and Marshall said that strategy “makes sense, it’s worth trying, no guarantee of success.”
Marshall left Washington, D.C., for his trip Thursday and returned to the United States on Monday evening. He caught up with Casey, who is making an around-the-world trip that included stops in Korea and Afghanistan, as well as Iraq, according to the Army. On his way home, Marshall visited the Landsthul Regional Medical Center in Germany, where the human cost of war was evident.
“I spent some time in a hospital room with a National Guard soldier from Texas, an MP whose parents and pregnant wife were at the bedside with him,” Marshall said. “He was sedated. ... He had lost his right leg below the knee.”
Marshall said the soldier was in an armored Humvee damaged by an explosion. He was badly burned, but his parents were hoping he had escaped serious brain injury. The soldier wants to be a police officer and “was apparently a very bright musician,” Marshall said.
“Nobody wants this (war) to last a minute longer than is absolutely necessary,” Marshall said. “But patience is called for here. This is a real threat. It’s not going away.”
Marshall was back in Macon on Tuesday evening. In this season of goodwill toward men, The Telegraph asked him what Americans can do to advance that cause as U.S. soldiers remain in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We’ve got Georgia 48th in Afghanistan with families back in Georgia,” Marshall said. “A good thing, a very helpful thing is to be supportive of the families that are deployed.
“And, then, it’s a matter of being prepared to be patient,” he said.
To contact writer Travis Fain, call 744-4213.