2003-10-24 / Community

Meeks Reflects on His Trip to Iraq

By Brendan Brosh
Meeks Reflects on His Trip to Iraq By Brendan Brosh

Touring Iraq was an eye-opening experience for Congressman Gregory Meeks. On a recent five-day visit to the war-ravaged country, Meeks met with American soldiers, toured local schools and visited power-producing facilities.

Deeply and profoundly impressed with the servicemen and women he met on his tour, Meeks was grateful for his conversations with them each day.

"Given the environment they’re in, they are doing a great job," said Meeks. "My lasting impression was of their discipline and determination."

During his trip, three American servicemen were shipped home in coffins. Congressman Meeks found this to be an extremely "sobering" reminder of the dangers associated with American military involvement in Iraq.

Describing the soldiers as mostly nineteen and twenty year olds, Meeks assured them America was behind them. "Most wondered how they were viewed at home. I told them they’d be showered as heroes when they returned."

While in Iraq, Meeks also arranged to meet a young woman from Rockaway. "I took her phone number down and spoke to her sister on Beach 69 Street," said the Congressman.

Portions of the trip were restricted due to safety concerns. Although his interaction with Iraqi citizens was minimal, Meeks wanted more of them. "I would have loved to have stepped off the tour and talked to average Iraqis about their concerns, but our trip was very structured."

While he fully supports the contributions of American service-people in Iraq, Congressman Meeks did not vote in favor of war. "Given the budgetary problems, we need to be fiscally responsible at home." Meeks also voted against the $87 billion package to Iraq because the "president didn’t say how we’re going to pay for this."

As a member of the Congressional International Relations Committee, Meeks has also visited Israel. Horrified by what he saw in a Jerusalem hospital full of terrorist victims, Meeks empathizes with a country where security is the people’s first concern. "What I saw was a situation where Israeli citizens who have been hoping for peace, now live in fear. I [also] saw a vacuum in the Palestinian leadership."

Congressman Meeks is currently on a two-day trip to Venezuela and is set to visit India early next year.

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