Friday, January 13, 2006

Tennessee Lawmakers See Progress in Iraq

"Two Tennessee members of Congress, one Democrat and one Republican, have returned from Iraq and agree that there are encouraging signs of progress there. U.S. Reps. Harold Ford Jr., a Memphis Democrat, and Marsha Blackburn, a Brentwood Republican, returned from separate trips in the past two weeks and noted the good news they found there.

Ford told a few Tennessee reporters Thursday that he visited both Iraq and Afghanistan and was impressed by leaders in both countries working for more opportunities and freedom for their people."

"Ford provided several detailed suggestions that he said he would share with other members of Congress and perhaps one or more Bush Administration officials:

Send a variety of constitutional experts from universities and elsewhere to Iraq to help advise officials on how the U.S. constitution aided the evolution of government bodies for many years after its adoption. Those experts could include professors from the University of Tennessee and University of Memphis, he said.

Agricultural experts from UT and elsewhere could help Afghan leaders prod farmers to produce profitable legal crops, rather than poppy plants used in producing opium. Also, help set up an international fund to build more roads in Afghanistan to move their legal crops to market.

Bring selected Iraqi military leaders to the United States for more specialized training. Focus on more quality - instead of quantity - training for all Iraqi forces. Make sure Afghanistan has adequate troops to "crush" a small but perhaps growing insurgency.

Urge President Bush to ask former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton to take on another big, important challenge - lead efforts on proposals to "reconstitute ... and strengthen" the United Nations to deal with the current world order. Should the United Nations
"disintegrate" over various shortcomings, the United States would have to take on a greater responsibility, Ford said.

Ford said Iraqi leaders may have only six to nine months or so to build a broad, unified government and more stability "because I think the American people won't have the same kind of interest level ... in continuing to make these huge investments if there's not progress" by then."

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel