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US Lawmakers Tour Baghdad - 2003-09-28


A group of U.S. lawmakers toured badly damaged facilities in Baghdad Sunday. The trip gave them a first-hand look at the country's battered infrastructure ahead of a vote expected in Congress next month on President George Bush's request for $87 billion, mostly for security and reconstruction aid for Iraq.

The delegation from the House of Representatives visited a rundown Baghdad hospital and a power plant struggling to meet the electricity demands of a city with five million residents.

At a news conference, the lawmakers said they are appealing to the American public to help Iraq get back on its feet, after 23 years of dictatorship.

Congressman Jim Walsh, of the House Appropriations Committee, said most of the damage they saw was caused by Saddam Hussein's neglect, not the U.S.-led invasion. "Ninety-nine percent of the damage that we've seen was inflicted by the leader of this country, not by our military, the coalition's military," he said.

Another congressman, Rick Larson of Washington state, said he will stress to his constituents the high stakes at risk if the United States does not give Iraq the financial aid. "What I'm going to tell the taxpayers who live in my district is that we cannot cut and run," he said. "We need to maintain the commitment in Iraq and to make the peace as successful as the military victory."

Congressman Walsh said he expects a vote on President Bush's request by the middle of October.

Most analysts predict the president will get most of what he wants from the Republican-controlled Congress. However, some lawmakers have criticized the request at a time of growing U.S. government budget deficits and infrastructure needs in the United States that have not gotten adequate funding.