A congressman's surprise discovery: Iraq isn't going so well

On a trip to Baghdad, a Republican representative finds that things aren't exactly as the Bush administration has described them.

Published July 19, 2006 4:00PM (EDT)

Just last month, Rep. Gil Gutknecht, a Republican from Minnesota, was admonishing his colleagues to "give victory a chance" in Iraq. "Members," he said, "this is not the time to go wobbly."

Well, maybe that wasn't. But apparently this is.

Gutknecht is just back from a weekend in Baghdad, and he says that conditions there are "worse than I expected." His solution? The same one he opposed so vigorously just a month ago: Start bringing home some troops.

According to a report in the Mankato, Minn., Free Press -- no, we don't usually read it, but Raw Story does -- Gutknecht learned during his visit to Iraq that Baghdad is a "serious problem" and "worse today than it was three years ago." Another of Gutknecht's breaking-news discoveries: "We learned it's not safe to go anywhere outside of the Green Zone any part of the day."

It shouldn't take a trip to Baghdad to learn these things; anyone reading any reputable newspaper over the past year would have already known everything that Gutknecht just found out. So why didn't he? Gutknecht says he has been at the receiving end of faulty "spin" from the Bush administration, including claims that the violence in Iraq was being caused by just a few hundred insurgents. "All of the information we receive sometimes from the Pentagon and the State Department isnt always true," he says.

Well, good morning and welcome to the show.

Gutknecht says that if conditions don't improve quickly in Iraq, "Americans are going to start to losing faith in this thing." If there's any justice in the world, the Americans who live in Gutknecht's district have already lost faith in him. It's great that he has the courage to admit what his own eyes have seen, even if it comes after years of Republican demagogy and in the midst of a reelection race. But it seems to us that members of Congress owe their constituents a duty of reasonable inquiry all the time, and that's a duty that Gutknecht has pretty clearly failed to perform until now.

"Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!" was funny when Gomer Pyle said it. It's not so amusing when 2,554 U.S. troops have died and 130,000 are still serving in a war that never should have started in the first place.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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