Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he has just returned from Iraq where he traveled with five other Members of the US Congress to examine progress in Iraq.
The Congressional Delegation (CODEL) which was led by Congressman Christopher Shays, Chairman of the Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, also included Congressman Michael McNulty (D-NY), Congressman Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI) and Congressman Mike Capuano (D-MA).
Prior to the CODEL which departed Washington DC on Friday October 7 and returned on Monday October 10, 2005, the Members were briefed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the US State Department regarding the status of Iraq Security Forces. The briefing was classified and the trip was not made public until the Members arrived safely back in Washington, DC.
While in Iraq, the CODEL met with four-star General George Casey, the Commanding General of all US Forces in Iraq. “In our meeting with General Casey, we raised concerns about what could become a civil war between the Sunnis, the Kurds and the Shiites,” Faleomaveaga said. “The rivalry between these factions are centuries old.”
“Saddam Hussein was a Sunni but the Sunni’s are in the minority and only compromise about 20% of the population. The Kurds make up about 10% of the population. The Shiites make up most of the population, or about 60%, and yet are considered to be the oppressed minority. The total population in Iraq is approximately 25 million and Iraq is about the size of the state of California.”
“This Saturday, October 15, 2005, will be an important test for the people of Iraq when they go to the polls to vote on whether or not to approve the Constitution. Given the rivalries that exist, I believe it will be years before Iraq is stabilized.”
“This said, the most important issue that we discussed during our trip to Iraq was security,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “The US is heavily engaged in training Iraqi military and police force. While progress is being made, more still needs to be done.”
“While in Iraq, we flew from Baghdad to Mosul, the second most populous city. In Mosul, I met with Staff Sergeant Riley Seau, a graduate of Samoana High School, and the son of LTC Supply Seau. SSG Seau is the Platoon Sergeant of the Striker Brigade out of Alaska. He serves under the command of Major General Rodriguez who is the Commanding General for US Forces in Mosul.”
“I was so proud when Major General Rodriguez pulled me aside and said that he had never had better soldiers than Samoans. He praised our Samoan soldiers for their courage, reliability and fearlessness.”
“We also traveled by helicopter to the Marine Air base outside of Baghdad where I met SPC Tiana Levi from Hawaii and Sergeant Saili Oto. SGT Oto is from Gataivai village and a graduate of Samoana High School.”
“While I requested to also meet with our Reservists from American Samoa, the military denied this request due to the danger involved in arranging security for six Members of the US Congress to travel to the remote area where our Reservists are serving. I am grateful, however, that the military was able to arrange for me to meet our Samoan soldiers in Mosul and outside of Baghdad and I am hopeful that on my next trip to Iraq the military will grant permission for me to travel to where our Reservists are serving.”
“I am also hopeful that my next trip will be in the very near future. Once again, I express my deepest appreciation to our military men and women who are fighting day in and day out to protect our freedoms. I especially thank our soldiers from American Samoa who are contributing significantly to the defense needs of our country.”
“As I pointed out in last week’s release in which I met with the President’s top national security advisor, the Iraq war death rate per 1 million population is almost as high for American Samoa as for the 10 highest states combined. In other words, our soldiers are making outsized sacrifices and I salute them for their service. I also stand with them and join with you in praying for their safe return,” the Congressman concluded.