congressional hearing with strong election-year overtones, five
battle-tested commanders told the House Armed Services Committee
that U.S. troops, particularly young leaders, are performing
admirable work in Iraq under tough conditions, but with support from
the vast majority of the Iraqi people.
Taking place Sept. 8, just as Congress returned from a six-week
summer break that featured the party nominating conventions and
increasingly bitter debate over President Bush’s Iraq policy,
testimony from the Army and Marine officers was intended by
Republican lawmakers to bolster support for Bush’s policy.
Democrats, on the other hand, used the hearing to try to show the
policy was putting troops in increasing jeopardy.
The commanders, meanwhile, tried to stay out of the line of fire.
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., tried to get them to complain that
the American news media, both print and broadcast, focuses only on
negative aspects of the mission and that Iraqi opposition to the
presence of U.S. troops is overblown.
Army Col. Michael Linnington, a member of the Joint Staff and a
former brigade commander with the 101st Airborne Division during
deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, said only that the focus on
fatalities and the insurgents causing them is understandable.
“Loss of any soldier is significant. ... It will dominate the
news and it should,” Linnington said.
“It is the shipwrecks that make the news,” added Marine Lt. Col.
Bryan McCoy, who commanded 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, in Iraq,
where he served two tours.
“I have not seen any good-news stories about what our soldiers,
Marines and sailors are doing,” said Marine Capt. Morgan Savage, a
former company commander with 3/4.
Savage, now an academics officer at Officer Candidates School at
Quantico, Va., also did two deployments in Iraq. He said good things
are happening on a daily basis involving U.S. troops and Iraqis that
are not widely known.
Army Capt. Patrick Costello, who headed a 101st Airborne Division
air defense unit before being reassigned to handle emergency
services because that was a more pressing mission, said he stopped
watching the news since returning to the United States because he
finds it distorted.
Costello said that by his estimate, about 90 percent of the Iraqi
people are happy the United States remains in Iraq but the news
concentrates on insurgents and seems to show 90 percent oppose
continued U.S. presence.
Rep. Joel Hefley, R-Colo., who chaired the hearing, said the idea
of calling in commanders to testify was to focus on “the selfless
work of the American military in Iraq.”
“Some may think this is merely another attempt to justify war in
Iraq,” Hefley said. “I happen to personally believe that the
American people are safer with Saddam Hussein out of power and in
While others might disagree, Hefley said, he hoped there was
bipartisan agreement that the “vast majority” of U.S. troops “are
answering their country’s call to service with bravery, dedication,
integrity and honor.”
He made that point because congressional hearings have been, and
continue to, focus on alleged abuses of Iraqi prisoners by U.S.