The Road to Baghdad

In early December I noted that the Senate Armed Serivces Committee had denied Minnesota Senator Mark Dayton permission to visit Iraq (“They also serve who only stand and wait”). Senator Dayton had most recently displayed his special brand of courage in evacuating his Washington office during the Senate’s pre-election recess. I speculated that if he was still in office when the troops end their mission in Iraq, he would be allowed to visit and provide some valuable guidance on how to turn out the lights and lock the doors behind them when they go.
According to a report in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Sen. Joseph Lieberman invited Dayton to join him on a trip to the Middle East after the Armed Services Committee’s denial was made public. My guess is that someone somewhere relented on the theory that so long as Senator Dayton had adult supervision he couldn’t do much damage. For security reasons their itinerary was not released, but Lieberman and Dayton appear to have left for a two-day visit to Baghdad at the end of December and to have been confined to the Green Zone during their visit.
In Baghdad, Lieberman and Dayton met with Gen. George Casey, the commander of coalition forces in Iraq; Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, who is charged with training the new Iraqi army; and several Iraqi political officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih. In an interview with the Hill (click here), Dayton commented: “We need to define more clearly: What does success constitute? Democracy is not a result but an ongoing process.” Unfortunately, no translator was available to interpret Dayton’s comments.
Lieberman and Dayton then headed off to Jordan and Israel. In Jerusalem, Lieberman and Dayton were interviewed by the Jerusalem Post: “Lieberman: US-PA ties improved.” The Post December 28 report quotes Dayton commenting on today’s Palestinian Authority election and the prospects of improved American relations with the PA: “Democracy is a precondition, but it is not the final measure. Hypothetically a democracy that chooses a path that is antithetical to the principle of coexistence with Israel is not something the US can support just because it comes out of a democratic process.” Somehow I doubt that Senator Dayton articulated that point extemporaneously, but I give him high marks for its cogency and for his ability (if my surmise is correct) to memorize it.
In a conference call from Israel on December 29, Dayton reverted to form. On the one hand, he seems to be demanding a schedule for the withdrawal of American troops (“We’ve been there for 18 months now…We’ve got to start to define the remaining amount of time necessary for our forces to be there before they can leave with a victory secured”). Probably not wise advice if an American commitment is a necessary condition of ultimate victory.
On the other hand, he found no evidence to support his recent allegations regarding the lack of armor for the troops — not that this has caused him to modify or doubt his allegations:

Dayton, who sharply criticized the Bush administration for not providing U.S. troops with enough armored vehicles, said troops he spoke with in Iraq said they are getting the equipment they need.
“But I think we got an incomplete picture of that,” he added.

See the AP wire story “Dayton says U.S. needs to accelerate transfer to Iraqis.” Senator Dayton has also devoted his most recent bi-weekly column to the trip: “My trip to the Middle East.”
Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman left for Iraq on January 6 with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and two other senators. Yesterday in Baghdad Senator Coleman visited service men and women stationed there. He also met with Prime Minister Allawi and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte. Below is a photo of Senator Coleman with the troops yesterday.
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Blog Machine City has posted a wondeful first-person account by Alex Barnes of Senator Coleman’s visit with the troops (complete with a mention of Power Line and a photograph with the senator): “The senator.” (Thanks to Barnes’s proud aunt Cindy Hoppe for the tip.) In the comments, Barnes’s mom notes that she received a call from Senator Coleman following the visit. Senator Coleman and his colleagues are also visiting tsunami-ravaged areas of Asia during this trip; the trip concludes on January 14. We hope to have further information on it in the next week.

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