In Iraq, House lawmaker raises humanitarian aid failings

Despite protests from both the U.S. military and State Department, Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., crossed over the Kuwait border into Iraq Wednesday and said he would seek hearings by the House Government Reform Committee over complaints that humanitarian aid is not getting to the Iraqi people fast enough.

Shays became the first member of Congress to get into Iraq when he crossed the border with a convoy of aid workers from the Connecticut-based charity Save the Children. "When I get back I am going to have hearings on how we are engaging the [aid organizations]," Shays said. "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 spent most of the day in Umm Qasr, a small seaport community on the Persian Gulf that remains the only Iraqi town open to humanitarian groups. Military and government leaders were working on several fronts Wednesday to get aid to the Iraq population. A U.S. military plane was flying thousands of meal packets into northern Iraq, the Jordanian government sent 11 trucks of medical supplies, and the World Food Program donated 50 truckloads of flour.

Shays traveled to Kuwait with a congressional delegation and later attended briefings with commanding 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."

Shays' 10-day Middle East tour will take him to Jordan, Israel and the West Bank, where he plans to meet with Palestinian business leaders, clergy and civil rights advocates.

Meanwhile, the State Department has asked other House members of the delegation, Reps. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and Darrell Issa, R-Calif., to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Charleston Daily Mail reported. "They want us to try to gauge his temperature," Rahall said.

They are slated to meet with Palestinian and Israeli leaders and will travel to Syria this weekend. Rahall, who met with the Syrian leader a year and a half ago, said Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage suggested the meeting. Rahall, who is of Lebanese descent, will also meet with new Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen Thursday.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.