Rep. Dean Heller shows independent thinking on Iraq |

Rep. Dean Heller shows independent thinking on Iraq

Probably not even U.S. Rep. Dean Heller believes that his weekend trip to Iraq gave him a clear view of the situation in that country and what the U.S. should do next. Visits by important officials are heavily choreographed for safety and publicity purposes and do not come near the danger that American troops see every day.

But Heller did get to talk to commanders and to soldiers and came away with more than standard answers.

The party line would have been that all is well in Iraq, that we should continue doing exactly what we are doing and that great progress is being made. And sure, there was some of that in Heller’s comments, but there were also some surprising remarks that you wouldn’t expect to hear if his goal were to build a case for staying longer in Iraq.

For example, he reported one soldier told him that some Iraqi people think it’s time for the U.S. military to leave their country. And Heller said he now better understands the complexities of the Iraqi population, something decision makers have not understood until recently and which has been the source of much of our military frustration there. There are no good guys and bad guys, but dozens of tribes with a history of conflict with each other.

All of this will be important come September, when Heller will have an important decision to make about whether the U.S. should begin withdrawing, change strategy or continue as usual in Iraq.

Military leaders have been saying already that September is not sufficient, and he will likely be pressured to extend the deadline. On the other hand, he’ll also face intense pressure to pay attention to the will of the American people, who have overwhelmingly lost faith in the war effort.

Nobody knows what Heller will do, but in making what will probably be his most important decision to date as a congressman, at least it appears he’s interested in and capable of thinking for himself on the issue.