Emerson attends West Point graduation

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson was not present at the recent House vote on the Iraq appropriations bill.

Emerson missed the vote in order to attend stepson Sam Gladney's graduation from the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.

Gladney, who received his commission as a second lieutenant Saturday morning, is part of the first West Point graduating class that enrolled after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Gladney received the Osborn Memorial Award for Excellence in political science. The award was presented in a special ceremony Friday that Emerson said she just couldn't miss.

Vice President Dick Cheney addressed the graduating cadets.

"He kept a really positive tone," Emerson said. "He talked about how the cadets were America's team, helping to prevent another disaster like 9-11."

Emerson recently voiced her concern over the direction of the war in Iraq to President Bush in a meeting with several other moderate Republicans.

"It's because of Sam," Emerson said. "It's with great trepidation that you see your loved ones go over to Iraq."

Emerson said she heard reports of more U.S. fatalities in Iraq while driving with Sam to a graduation event.

"It scares me to death, hearing these reports," Emerson said.

Emerson said Sam had not expressed any concern or regret.

"He's as proud as can be," Emerson said. "He's very excited to serve his country."

Jeff Connor, Emerson's spokesman, said Emerson's office has received many calls from constituents uneasy about the direction of the Iraq war.

"Most are not anti-war," Connor said. "They have a fundamental concern for the troops. They want the war to transfer so that we're not leaning on the American military completely."

Connor said it was time for Iraqi leadership to step up to the plate and take over the prominent responsibility for the conflict. Connor also said Emerson wants to see more diplomatic efforts and support from other nations for the fledgling Iraqi government.

"At the end of the day, it's their country," Connor said.

Emerson stressed the need for more nonmilitary actions to bring the Iraq war to an end. She said she was encouraged by the planned meeting of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with Iranian leaders.

"We need to keep the dialogue going," Emerson said. "I certainly want to see more diplomatic actions."

Although Emerson said she disagrees with a timeline for troop withdrawal, she said it must be clear that U.S. support will not be indefinite.

"This is not open-ended," Emerson said. "We will not be in Iraq in the same capacity in 10 or 20 years."

"We need to rely on the Army professionals," Emerson said. "I am just as anxious as everyone to see General [David] Petraeus' report in September. The Army doesn't need to be afraid to tell us something we don't want to hear."

Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, will update Congress on the situation in Iraq this fall.

pwylie@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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