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Hamilton talks of Iraq at DPU

Friday, October 27, 2006

Greencastle Police Chief Tom Sutherlin (right) hands out red bracelets for Red Ribbon Week to seventh graders Cy Spencer (from left), Brockman Guinee, Joe Kaiser and Katie Hedge at Greencastle Middle School. Sutherlin is also a representative for the Putnam County P.I.E Coalition who is sponsoring this year's drug-free week. Photo by Amanda Roach
Lee Hamilton was quick to point out Thursday that the newly-formed Iraq Study Group is not intended as a solution to the war.

Speaking at Meharry Hall in the East College building on the campus of DePauw University, Hamilton took part in the opening of DePauw Discourse 2006 Thursday, with moderator and former ABC News correspondent John McWethy.

Hamilton said he has been to Baghdad once and felt compelled to start up the Iraq Study Group, which he co-chairs with James Baker, former Secretary of State under the George H.W. Bush administration.

"We've had excellent support from the White House," Hamilton said Thursday. "But they're a little wary of what we might say or what we might produce."

Hamilton could not talk little about the groups findings or when it planned to release its study, but did say the group's mandate is "Where do we go from here?"

He also said a draft assessment of the situation could be ready by next week and a final draft assessment could be released following the Nov. 7 election.

Hamilton said while in Baghdad, he had to wear a heavy armor vest and helmet.

"I really found it difficult just to get through the day," he said, pointing out his admiration of soldiers currently on the battlefield.

While in Baghdad, Hamilton said he interviewed general, diplomats and various others for the study.

McWethy asked Hamilton why there was a set delay for the study and could it had been released quicker.

"We considered that but the answer is we couldn't do it," Hamilton said. "We want to get this right. We pursued at a fairly deliberate pace. There's no easy solution here."

On Thursday, Hamilton said he believed a diplomatic solution was key to solving the issue, something he said several of the people he has interviewed agreed with.

"I can feel the pressure building up for some action here," he said. "This has split the American people very badly. I think the White House and the President are coming to the realization that things are not going well."

Hamilton, who was also a member of the 9/11 commission, admitted he was concerned whether suggestions made in the study would be implemented. On Thursday, Hamilton said some -- but not all -- suggestions from the 9/11 commission -- have been implemented, and most of the recommendations that have been established dealt with intelligence, although he said intelligence is still a "work in progress."

"We have a lot of things to balance here," he said. "But we're doing better."

Hamilton said the group's mission was to take a broad view of Iraq. However, he admitted frustration when dealing with other countries.

"The international community has been passive," he said. "But we understand that we have to change that."

He said it was important for America to wield its power slightly and that the country must "integrate all tools of power."

"There are limits to our power," he said. "We simply can't make the world bend at our will."

The study group is a bipartisan independent panel of 10 people and was formed last spring. Also on the panel is 1957 DePauw graduate Vernon Jordan.

Hamilton graduated from DePauw in 1952 and served 34 years as a United States congressman from Indiana. He retired from political office in 1999.

McWethy graduated from DePauw in 1969 and served as the chief national security correspondent for ABC News from 1984 until retiring in 2003. He was at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001 and traveled to Tora Bora in Afghanistan during the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

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