Emerson - TV images don't show true Iraq

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Things in Iraq aren't as bad as what's shown on the nightly news, U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson said Wednesday just after returning from a trip abroad.

Her travels, which began Friday with nine colleagues, also took her to Jordan and Syria, but she said her main purpose was to get an update on American troops serving in Iraq. She visited a military police unit out of Kennett, Mo., toured a reopened girls' school in Kirkuk and walked through a Baghdad power plant under reconstruction.

"I was so impressed by the colonel who is the military governor of the Kirkuk province," the Cape Girardeau Republican said in a telephone news conference. "What they are doing with the power, getting facilities up and running, getting small businesses up and running, all of the schools are open ... is what we want to do in the rest of the country."

A member of the House Appropriations Committee, she supported a $87.5 billion White House package for Iraq and Afghanistan, which President Bush signed last week.

Emerson said visiting Iraq convinced her that the country may not need more troops, just ones with various specialties: military police, intelligence or special operations. "The climate is changing on a daily basis," she said.

She met with L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq, on Sunday, but said he gave no indication he'd be called to Washington this week for an emergency meeting with the president on a lack of progress turning Iraq's government over to Iraqis.

Emerson said a major problem with that is trying to get the various tribes to work together, but American soldiers have stepped into leadership roles to encourage communication.

"I do think, in all fairness, that we're not getting the full story," she said. "I came back having a better understanding."

She said her personal safety traveling in a war-torn country wasn't an issue. "The only thing I was nervous about is that I don't like to fly."

hhall@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 121

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