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Carnahan tells students about visit to Iraq


April 27, 2005 - An Iraqi soldier died pulling a suicide bomber away from a crowd waiting to vote in Iraq's first election since the ousting of Saddam Hussein, U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan said during a visit with Lindbergh High School students.

But the crowd was OK.

"This soldier is a real national hero in their country. It just shows the remarkable reliance in the people and their desire to go vote," Carnahan said, later urging students to participate in the political process.

The freshman representative highlighted his recent five-day trip to Iraq while visiting with the students last week, showing pictures and answering questions regarding his foreign policy.

While he has an optimistic vision of Iraqi's new government, the Democrat warned that the thinking that sent U.S. military personnel to Iraq could force them to invade other non-democratic countries supposedly with weapons of mass destruction.

"I have some serious concerns about our foreign policy and how we got into Iraq," Carnahan said. "At best, I believe we had poor intelligence. At worst, I think we had an intelligence that was purposefully planted to try to justify us going there ...

"Hopefully, we learn from the mistakes we made," he said. "If we don't, (with) the same standards, the same process we used to go to Iraq, we have a very long list of other countries we have to invade. We have to go invade North Korea. We have to go invade Iran. The list goes on and on, so we can't use that same standard ...

"But no matter what you think about those decisions to go there, the fact of the matter is we are there, we've paid a heavy cost in human life and we've paid a heavy price financially," Carnahan said.

Still, he is optimistic the Iraqi people are benefitting, or will benefit, from the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

"I didn't think this going in, but I really believe they have a chance to create a working democracy," he said. "But they have to keep out the outside influences like Iran, like Syria, that want to derail this system."

One benefit could be funding for government services.

Carnahan toured one of Hussein's luxury palaces, witnessing firsthand the "squandered resources" under the dictator's leadership.

"This is a prime example of how resources were squandered under Saddam Hussein," he said. "The wealth in that country was primarily spoiled, using funding to build palaces all over that country while a lot of average citizens and poor people went without services ...

"I believe one day in the future that this palace may be a luxury hotel," he said. "Iraqis are very thankful but they also don't want to be occupied by a foreign army.''

He is gearing up to return to Washington, D.C., to vote on President George Bush's plan to privatize Social Security, a plan that worries him.

"That's a real important debate and what happens is certainly going to affect what your retirement is like," he said. "I know it's not something you think about today. You're in high school, but actually you all have the most at stake, so I certainly encourage you to follow that."

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