Rep. Patrick Murphy on Iraq and the Troops

April 20, 2007
Last night, after the House sent the Iraq Accountability Act to conference committee for negotiations with the Senate for a final bill, Rep. Patrick Murphy (PA-08), the only Iraq veteran in Congress, took to the House floor to speak about his own experiences in Iraq and those he served with:

Rep. Patrick Murphy:

"At 6:12 AM this morning I got an email from Iraq, it was from a former cadet that I got to know, who lost his brother on 9/11. And he said to me, he said, 'sir, this is the first time I've ever written ya, but I want you to know there are legions, legions of junior officers, company commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan and all over this country that are watching you, that are watching this 110th Congress and that are saying thank God somebody is standing up and speaking truth to power.'"

Representative Murphy's speech is particularly relevant this morning, with several reports demonstrating the hardships of our troops left to mediate an Iraqi civil war:

In Baghdad, U.S. troops build wall to curb violence

Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times - April 20, 2007

But residents aren't happy with the barrier cutting of a Sunni district from surrounding Shiite areas.

A U.S. military brigade is constructing a 3-mile-long concrete wall to cut off one of the capital's most restive Sunni Arab districts from the Shiite Muslim neighborhoods that surround it, raising concern about the further Balkanization of Iraq's most populous and violent city.

U.S. commanders in northern Baghdad said the 12-foot-high barrier would make it more difficult for suicide bombers to strike and for death squads and militia fighters from sectarian factions to attack one another and then slip back to their home turf. Construction began April 10 and is expected to be completed by the end of the month.

Although Baghdad is replete with blast walls, checkpoints and other temporary barriers, including a massive wall around the Green Zone, the barrier being constructed in Adhamiya would be the first to be based in essence on sectarian considerations.

Training Iraqi troops no longer driving force in U.S. policy

Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers - Apr. 19, 2007

Military planners have abandoned the idea that standing up Iraqi troops will enable American soldiers to start coming home soon and now believe that U.S. troops will have to defeat the insurgents and secure control of troubled provinces.

Training Iraqi troops, which had been the cornerstone of the Bush administration's Iraq policy since 2005, has dropped in priority, officials in Baghdad and Washington said.

No change has been announced, and a Pentagon spokesman, Col. Gary Keck, said training Iraqis remains important. "We are just adding another leg to our mission," Keck said, referring to the greater U.S. role in establishing security that new troops arriving in Iraq will undertake.

But evidence has been building for months that training Iraqi troops is no longer the focus of U.S. policy. Pentagon officials said they know of no new training resources that have been included in U.S. plans to dispatch 28,000 additional troops to Iraq. The officials spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they aren't authorized to discuss the policy shift publicly. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made no public mention of training Iraqi troops on Thursday during a visit to Iraq.

In a reflection of the need for more U.S. troops, the Pentagon decided earlier this month to increase the length of U.S. Army tours in Iraq from 12 to 15 months. The extension came amid speculation that the U.S. commander there, Army Gen. David Petraeus, will ask that the troop increase be maintained well into 2008.

Pentagon Issues Gag Order To Prevent U.S. Military Trainers From Testifying

CongressDailyAM - April 20, 2007

Pentagon lawyers abruptly blocked mid-level active-duty military officers from speaking Thursday during a closed-door House Armed Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee briefing about their personal experiences working with Iraqi security forces.

The Pentagon's last-minute refusal to allow the officers' presentations surprised panel members and congressional aides, who are

in the middle of an investigation into the effort to train and organize Iraqi forces.

Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Martin Meehan, D-Mass., called the Pentagon's move "outrageous" and left open the possibility of issuing subpoenas. "We have the power and the authority to subpoena whoever we want," Meehan said.

The episode was "one of these out-of-the-blue, what-is-going-on kinds of things," said Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee ranking member Todd Akin, R-Mo.