WASHINGTON - Under mounting pressure from antiwar advertising campaigns in the Twin Cities, Sen. Norm Coleman will travel to Iraq to look into why political progress has not been made.
Coleman, a Minnesota Republican up for reelection next year, has been the target of six-figure ad campaigns from anti-war and pro-war groups alike. Both factions see him as wavering on the issue but Coleman -- who said he has never seen the ads -- said the war should not be a politicized issue.
"My position is based on information that I get from people on the ground and things I hear," Coleman said in a phone interview Wednesday morning.
The first-term senator's fourth trip to Iraq comes only weeks before U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus come to Washington to testify before lawmakers about progress in the region. Coleman said his trip's purpose is to understand how to accelerate political reconciliation without undermining military success. He said he plans to meet with Crocker in Baghdad and will travel to other parts of the country.
Coleman's office is not releasing details of his trip, including where he is going, when he is leaving and with whom he is traveling.
"I'm one of those folks who likes to show up," Coleman said. "Being on the ground in Rushford or being in Iraq -- you want to be there when it happens. I think that's important."
After nearly a month of commercials that by turns criticized Coleman for his support of the war, thanked him for that support or urged continued support, Coleman rejected any notion that he is on the fence about the war. He said that he is not concerned about who he "stands with" on the war.
"I will do what I think is right," Coleman said. "I am one who believes the war against Islamic extremism is the one of our generation. These are life or death issues involving men or women in harm's way. I will make those choices and decisions and let the politics fall where they fall. I've got to get to sleep at night. I can't worry about commercials."
Coleman also said that he expects to have to make significant decisions on policy in the near future, with Congress poised to take several votes on the war when it returns from recess next week.
Jake Sherman 202-408-2723