LaHood praises efforts of military

December 15, 2003

By DORI MEINERT
of Copley News Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. - While praising the capture of Saddam Hussein, some Illinois members of Congress on Sunday predicted the action would help stabilize Iraq as others took a more cautious view as to what lies ahead in that region.

"I think it's a great day for the team that's been working in Iraq and a big, big opportunity for a turning point in our efforts to stabilize the country," said U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria.

"We still have other Saddam loyalists to get and other party loyalists. But I really do think the attacks against the American soldiers will subside because people know that he is in custody and is going to be tried."

Sen Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said only time will tell if Saddam's capture breaks the back of the opposition forces.

"We don't know the personal role that was played by Saddam Hussein in the resistance," he said. "It could be that others directed this resistance while he has tried to elude capture.

"I don't know if the capture of Saddam Hussein will dampen the energies of the terrorists or give them new strength to strike out in other areas to show that one man isn't the backbone of this effort."

But it is too soon to tell what impact the capture of Saddam will have on next year's presidential election, LaHood said.

"In this country, people will give the president and his team and the military the credit they deserve. Time will tell when it comes around to election time what happens with Iraq and also what happens with the economy. These elections are not one dimensional.

"The lion's share of credit goes to the intelligence community and the military. No politician can take credit for this," said LaHood, who is a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Lane Evans, D-Rock Island, and other Democrats urged President Bush to use Saddam's capture to encourage more countries to join the United States in working to stabilize the region.

"We still face major challenges in Iraq," he said. "The attacks on our forces and on civilians demonstrate continued risks. I am hopeful that this capture will help in the process of stabilizing Iraq and the region. I also hope we can reinforce and re-establish our ties with our allies and other countries who are also crucial to that process."

Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill., said "today's victory vindicates the president's strategy of patience and resolve

"Though the violence has clearly not ended, this victory is a major advance toward reassuring the Iraqi people that Saddam can never again return to terrorize them. The capture will facilitate the establishment of a new, peaceful government that is based on the principles of liberty and democracy rather than fear and retribution," Fitzgerald said.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Yorkville, described it as "a great day for the Iraqi people. It is a great day for the American people. And it is a great day in the war on terror."

Copley News Service reporter Mary Massingale contributed information to this story.