WASHINGTON (April 16, 2003 7:20 p.m. EDT) - Bucking protests from the U.S. military and the State Department, Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., crossed over the Kuwait border into Iraq Wednesday and complained that humanitarian aid isn't getting to the Iraqi people fast enough.
Shays, the first member of Congress to get into the war-torn country, traveled across the border with a convoy of aid workers from the Connecticut-based charity Save the Children. But other U.S. lawmakers meeting with military leaders in Kuwait were told they could not go, said Shays in a phone call from Kuwait.
Aid organizations are frustrated, he said, because they are being curtailed by the military because of security concerns, and their access to the needy residents of Iraq has been limited to just one community, Umm Qasr.
"When I get back I am going to have hearings on how we are engaging the (aid organizations)," said Shays, who is vice chairman of the House Government Reform Committee. "Danger is part of their job, they know how to deal with it, and they are ready and willing to do it. I think they need to be engaged a bit more."
Shays traveled to Kuwait with a congressional delegation and later attended briefings with war commander Gen. Tommy Franks and other defense officials. He said he was disappointed the U.S. military and the State Department did not want him to go into the battle-scarred country.
"I had to use the Save the Children's network to get in. And (the State Department) led me to believe I was doing something that they didn't want me to do," he said. "I saw a lot of poverty, I saw a lot of bad living conditions ... I just wish other members of Congress had seen what I got to see."
Thursday, April 17, 2003
by Atrios at 16:48