Case: ‘bravado’ changed in Iraq

When U.S. Rep. Ed Case, D-Neighbor Islands-rural O’ahu, first went to Iraq to visit U.S. troops, in 2003, he said the troops’ thoughts were on getting in, getting the job done, and getting out.

At that time, the U.S. casualty count was 500, and most of the men and women he talked to were on their first tours of duty in Iraq.

For many of them, that was also their first taste ever of combat.

When he went again last year, talking to the front-line troops, some of whom were on their second and third tours of duty in Iraq, he feels he got a “much more realistic assessment of what’s going on,” he said.

They were still thinking they could get the job done, but there was “not as much troop bravado,” and a sense the men and women knew they were “in for a tough fight,” facing “sustained resistance,” said Case.

“You felt like you were in a war,” said Case, who deliberately left behind the generals and public-affairs officers to speak candidly with the lower-ranking troops who were in the thick of the confrontation.

Last year, the U.S. casualty count topped 2,000.

The roughly 100 Kaua’i men and women of the Hawaii Army National Guard, wrapping up 18 months of active duty including about 12 months in Iraq, are getting ready to come back to Hawai’i, if they haven’t left Iraq for Kuwait already or made it back to Hawai’i and Kaua’i already.

Case, 53, who has announced he’ll run for re-election this year, talked about the inevitable day, maybe soon, when U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawai’i, and U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, D-Hawai’i, will step down.

Both the U.S. senators from Hawai’i are 82., and U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-urban O’ahu, is 67.

“The (Hawai’i) delegation lives and breathes on seniority,” the power Inouye in particular, and Akaka as well, bring to their positions as a result of their many years of service, Case said. But there will come a day when both Inouye and Akaka retire, and people will have to take their places, Case continued.

“I’m very conscious of my position in the scheme of things,” Case said while meeting with editors and reporters at The Garden Island last week.

Case has indicated he will run for a Hawai’i Senate seat when one opens up.

“Nobody can replace Inouye,” said Case, who is confident he can serve Hawai’i well in the U.S. Senate, “and make my own mark. I have my own style.”

Case said he envisions serving the people of Hawai’i in the U.S. Congress for at least 25 years.

“I want to stay in Congress. I’m just getting wound up.”

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