John Kline is a retired Marine Colonel, our friend, and my Congressman. I know of no finer man in public service. John fought in Vietnam and commanded a helicopter unit in Somalia. (One of the most striking photographs I’ve ever seen hung on the wall in John’s Minneapolis office; shot out the window of his helipcopter and blown up three feet high, it shows the Indian Ocean and the waterfront of Mogadishu.) He was one of a small group who planned long-term procurement strategy for the Marine Corps, and was selected to accompany Presidents Carter and Reagan, carrying the briefcase that contained the codes to launch a nuclear attack. Which gives you a pretty good idea of how trusted Col. Kline was by his fellow officers.
So when John talks, I listen. He’s just back from Iraq, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:
Rep. John Kline, returning from a trip to Iraq, said U.S. troops told him they are getting the necessary armored vehicles and equipment to do their jobs.
“I made a point of asking every soldier and Marine I could,” said Kline, a Minnesota Republican and Marine Corps veteran. The soldiers he spoke with said they had personal body armor, and that they always had an armored vehicle when they left the perimeter, Kline said.
Still, Kline said, insurgents are adapting by using anti-vehicle explosives and suicide bombings.
“We’re fighting an enemy that is thinking and changing their tactics,” he said. “They’re now using bigger bombs.”
Kline, who last visited Iraq in October 2003, said the security situation was more dangerous this time, as insurgents try to thwart the Jan. 30 elections.
“The security situation is pretty tough,” he said. “Every leader told us that there is an absolutely brutal campaign of intimidation. The insurgents are really bent on stopping, delegitimizing the elections.”
But Kline said that U.S. military officials and Iraqi government officials agreed that the elections must go forward as planned. “I didn’t speak to one single person who even remotely thought it was a good idea to postpone the elections,” he said.
Kline, who served in the Vietnam War, said he didn’t agree with the suggestion made by some that Iraq was becoming like Vietnam. “I’ve never liked that comparison,” he said.
“When we were attacked on September 11th, we were at war. Arguably in Vietnam, we chose as part of a strategy of containment to go to Vietnam. But even when we did that, we never envisioned we would be attacked in our own country. Now we do. We have been attacked.”