Wolf, Shays Return From Overnight Trip to Iraq

Posted December 10, 2003 at 9:34am

While most of the media attention went to President Bush and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) for their recent trips to Iraq, a pair of GOP House Members made news of their own by visiting the Persian Gulf nation earlier this month and spending the night there.

“Congressman Wolf was the first member to spend the night when he made his first trip to Iraq in May,” spokesman Dan Scandling said of his boss, Rep. Frank Wolf (Va.), who went to Iraq with Rep. Christopher Shays (Conn.). “Congressman Shays was the first ever to visit Iraq during his trip last spring to Basra. They are the only two Members to have spent the night in Iraq.”

During an extended stay of three days and two nights, Wolf and Shays ate with Iraqi citizens, visited school construction sites and attended a wedding feast. The pair said their unescorted visit as civilians allowed them to interact with Iraqis on a more personal level.

“I’ve gone to Iraq with and without the umbrella of the military,” Shays said in a joint press conference Tuesday. “It’s important to hear the Iraqi point of view.”

Wolf, also stressed the importance of incorporating a stronger Iraqi voice in governing decisions.

“The face and voice of the provisional authority needs to be Iraqi,” he said of coalition government formed to re-establish the country.

Returning from the Middle East on Dec. 6, the two Members put together a set of recommendations inspired by their observations in Iraq. Although they asserted progress is slow but steady, Wolf and Shays said they would strongly urge the Bush administration to employ independent auditors to evaluate the security situation and ongoing development.

They also backed a previous recommendation made by the Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim World to appoint a special adviser to the president. The new position, they said, would increase communication with other countries and perhaps encourage more global support.

“We know that we’re moving forward,” Wolf said. “I think there should be more humility on all our parts.”