Hawai`i Gov. Linda Lingle has joined five other state governors in a bipartisan mission to Iraq. Lingle arrived in Baghdad last night Hawai`i time, although the trip was announced to local media at 2 a.m. this morning. The governors’ trip was at the behest of U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, state officials said, and was organized in part to show their support and appreciation for American troops.
Lingle was able to meet with Hawai`i troops stationed in Iraq, describing morale as “very high.”
“Our soldiers are well trained and committed to the efforts here,” she reported in a morning interview with KSSK.
In Baghdad, Lingle and the rest of the delegation met with presidential envoy Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, toured parts of the city, visited the Pentagon’s Sept. 11 memorial, and met with the Iraq Governing Council.
“We discussed the challenges the country faces going forward on the political, social and economic fronts,” Lingle said in an interview with KSSK. “This is an opportunity to rebuild the country, and they are very committed to not going back to the kind of regime that previously existed.”
Lingle’s staff said the trip marks the first visit by statewide elected officials to Iraq since the start of the Iraq war. Officials also noted that Lingle’s presence as one of two women governors on the trip was a “crucial demonstration” in support of the governing council’s efforts to address women’s rights and to involve women in government.
The other governors on the trip were New York Governor George Pataki, Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco.