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June 27, 2014

Congressman, veteran weigh in on deepening crisis in Iraq

— Top Iraqi officials are preparing to meet next week in hopes of forming a new government to quell a strengthening Sunni insurgency.

News of a new government came on the same day a bombing killed 12 people in a Baghdad Shiite neighborhood. South of the capital, Iraqi police found eight bullet-riddled bodies.

And as Iraq's other immediate neighbors — Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — bolster their defenses, the new fighting threatens to unravel a byzantine balance of Mideast alliances and enmities that the United States long has sought to manage. The U.S. is deploying 300 special forces to train and advise the Iraqi army and is conducting surveillance flights. Iran is also flying surveillance drones over Iraq in aid of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government.

U.S. officials are concerned the destabilization of Iraq could have a domino effect over the Mideast. Citizens fear continued threats against U.S. interests could lead to a prolonged engagement for troops after a highly publicized decision by the Obama administration to draw down forces, citing stability in the region.

Republican Congressman Mo Brooks this week chided the Obama administration for refusing to take the advice of military advisers and members of Congress. He said, however, he couldn’t provide a solid answer on how to move forward in keeping the peace in Iraq.

“Asking me about Iraq is like asking Gen. Robert E. Lee what he should do after his army was decimated at Pickett’s Charge,” Brooks said, referencing the famous Civil War battle that saw at least 50 percent of Confederate forces decimated at Gettysburg. “The time to ask would have been three years ago before the president pulled out our troops that helped preserve the peace in Iraq and helped to keep Iraq functioning. Robert E. Lee’s response was to retreat because his army suffered such great casualties.”

Brooks said the U.S. should have left a peacekeeping force in place, as we had done previously in Japan and Europe following World War II, South Korea after the Korean War and as we had done more recently in Bosnia and Serbia.

“That was the glue that kept the rest of the country together,” he said.

When asked if he feared a similar destabilization in Afghanistan, Brooks was no less pointed.

“If the president treats Afghanistan like he treated Iraq, then we should all expect the same kind of outcome that has occurred in Iraq,” he said. “There’s frustration (from Congress) with the White House and the expectation that it will happen.”

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