Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) got the ride of his life Monday, when
the pilots of a C-130 cargo plane that he was in conducted a combat
landing at an airport in Baghdad, Iraq.
The maneuver is a steeper- than-normal descent to reduce the
chance of being hit by mortars fired from the ground, as Schiff
learned from the Tennessee National Guard pilots navigating the
“You feel the [gravitational force] and it really glues you to
your seat,” Schiff said Monday from Kuwait.
Schiff and nine congressional colleagues are in the region this
week to evaluate troop morale and troop strength, as well as civilian
and military efforts to rebuild and secure the country after the Bush
administration declared major combat over May 1. The delegation
visited Baghdad on Monday, speaking with representatives for U.S.
civilian administrator L. Paul Bremer.
Major hostilities did seem over, Schiff said, but he added that
was not the whole story.
“The president said major combat is over,” Schiff said. “But to
the degree that gave people an impression that the major risks and
dangers were over, that was very far from the mark.”
Last week, a suicide bomber crashed a cement truck with a bed full
of explosives into the United Nations’ Baghdad compound, killing 23
people. Schiff and the delegation got an aerial tour of the damage in
a Blackhawk helicopter, he said.
The visit also coincided with recent calls from elected officials
for more troop strength in the area to bolster American forces.
The death toll within the U.S. military stands at 275, with 140 of
those having died after major hostilities ended. Since the war
started, Britain has lost 48 soldiers.
“I would say that morale is holding solid,” Schiff said. “It is an
incredibly tough assignment. But they are determined to stay the
course, notwithstanding the difficulty.”
California Air National Guardsman Maj. Raffi Najarian recently
returned from the region and echoed Schiff’s observations.
“They’re tired,” he said of the troops. “They want to go home but
realize there is work to be done.”
Najarian and Schiff pointed out that some troops have been in the
region for two years, particularly those with specialized skills.