Ensign Only Member of Congress in Iraq When Saddam Found

Senator John Ensign
By  | 

Sen. John Ensign thinks he couldn't have picked a better time to take a fact-finding trip to Iraq.

As the only member of Congress in the country at the time Saddam Hussein's capture was announced, the Nevada Republican got a first-hand look at the reaction to the news in Baghdad.

"I share in the celebration and jubilation that I witnessed in the streets of Iraq today as the Iraqi people rejoiced in the capture of a man who brought torture, terror and murder to them for generations," Ensign said.

Ensign, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, later flew from Baghdad to Saddam's hometown of Tikrit to be briefed by top military officials about the capture, spokesman Jack Finn said.

He then flew to an undisclosed country to wind down a trip that began early last week. He's set to hold a news conference Tuesday morning in Las Vegas upon his return.

Citing security concerns, Ensign's staff had not publicized the trip until after it began and declined to provide details.

Ensign was en route by air and unavailable for comment Sunday. But in a statement, he warned the situation is still dangerous in Iraq.

"Although this is a historic day of celebration, we must remember that the danger facing our men and women is not over, and we must continue to pray for their safety," Ensign said.

The first-term senator also visited Nevada soldiers in Iraq, Finn said.

Sen. Harry Reid, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said he hopes Saddam's capture alters the violent resistance to the U.S. presence in Iraq.

"As the president said earlier today, Saddam's capture does not mean the end of violence in Iraq or an end to the threat to American troops," Reid said. "But today is a major step forward ... I hope it will send a strong signal to the remaining terrorists and insurgents operating in Iraq that their days are short in number."

Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., the only member of Congress to serve in both the Vietnam and Gulf wars, said he hopes the capture would speed the end of the U.S. occupation.

"Our military commitment in Iraq is not yet over, but with the capture of Saddam Hussein it is my hope that the continued insurgence and terrorism occurring in Iraq will decrease and a stable economy, sovereign government and free society will be able to fully establish - allowing our servicemen and women to come home," Gibbons said.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., joined her colleagues in praising soldiers and intelligence personnel responsible for the capture.

"Today's events should also energize support among the Iraqi people and propel efforts in that nation to establish a peaceful government and to end the continued violence against the U.S.-led coalition forces," she said.