The Antiwar Liberal Jan Schakowsky

By Jonathan Weisman and Elizabeth Williamson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, August 5, 2007

Congress's August break will find Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) in Iraq equipped with flak jacket, helmet and tough questions, but unburdened by doubt.

"I think we're now being prepped for kind of a rosy report" in September on the war's progress, the longtime war critic said. "I'm going to work as hard as I can to get some varying views [and] answers, not just the talking points for the military as directed by the Bush administration."

If, as Gen. David H. Petraeus has said, more time could allow the troop increase to succeed, Schakowsky wants him to show her why he thinks so. She wants to ask Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker and other political officials how much progress, if any, the Iraqis have made toward reconciliation and self-government. Among many worrisome signs, she said, is the loss during the war of Iraqis with the means and professional expertise to help the country rebuild.

"One of the problems . . . I want to inquire more about that, is that the people who have left include a lot of people with more means, with more expertise to hold a country together.

"Depending on, again, where we're able to go, I can learn more about the tensions between the Sunnis and Shiites and Kurds. My district has a lot of Christian Iraqis. They are a targeted minority population in Iraq, and people in my district are very concerned about them."

It's a big agenda for a week-long trip that includes a stint in Afghanistan. For security reasons, Schakowsky cannot say when she will be there, a fact that she feels underscores how badly the situation has deteriorated. "You remember at the beginning of the war, we came to liberate the people of Iraq," she said. "Life was going to be better for the people of Iraq, and I'd like to hear from some people: Is your life better?"

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