No U.S. senator has made more trips out to Iraq than Joe Lieberman. He’s a fixture out there. The regular junket has been a part of his campaign to be “Mr. Iraq” in the Senate. About a year ago, when I was working in Baghdad, I listened to a young captain vent about all the time and energy the Army was forced to expend on the regular visits of CODELs – Congressional delegations. “I guess our democratic process requires it. But I really wish these dopes would open their eyes and actually learn something, rather than use Iraq as a backdrop for speeches that fit in to some preconceived political strategy.” I later asked: who were you taking around? And the answer: Joe Lieberman.
Today, it appears, some troops actually worked up the courage to confront Lieberman over his shameless hucksterism. On his current trip, Lieberman gave this official pronouncement, as reported in the Chicago Tribune:
”Overall, I would say what I see here today is progress, significant progress from the last time I was here in December. And if you can see progress in war that means you’re headed in the right direction.”
Stepping out of the bubble and into reality, of course, what shape does that “progress” take? Far heavier levels of violence across the board in Iraq, and particularly in Baghdad, the focus of the current operations. A broad perception that the situation is less safe for civilians than before. Record numbers of casualties among U.S. soldiers. Now that’s some progress.
But word of Lieberman’s exercise in the theater of the absurd got out to the soldiers he was visiting, and they were not amused. McClatchy reports on what happened next:
The night before, 30 other soldiers crowded around him with questions for the senator. He wrote them all down. At the top of his note card was the question he got from nearly every one of his fellow soldiers: When are we going to get out of here?”
The rest was a laundry list. When would they have upgraded Humvees that could withstand the armor-penetrating weapons that U.S. officials claim are from Iran? When could they have body armor that was better in hot weather? . . .
It isn’t clear whether Williams mentioned the last line on his note card, the one that had a star next to it. “We don’t feel like we’re making any progress,” it said.