United States Congressman Costello visits Southern Illinois

By Gus Bode

While the doors to work close, Costello made his way home

Government office doors may have remained closed because of Hurricane Isabel Friday, but Congressman Jerry Costello took the opportunity to travel to the area he represents, Southern Illinois.

Costello presented grant money to the West Frankfort and Coello communities. While in Carbondale, Costello confirmed his view that the U.S. should not be alone in Iraq.

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“We should have given weapons inspectors far more time,” Costello said. “And instead we stiff-armed the world community and others and said, ‘your either with us or against us.'”

Costello stands by the same words he said at John A. Logan Community College last spring. In order to do things correctly, he said, the U.S. needs to gather international support. He said that without international support and a well-thought exit plan, the U.S. would get to a point where it would be stuck.

Costello said he also feared that as the U.S. entered the war without international support, it would be taxpayers who would pay the bill. He said taxpayers are footing $4 billion a month for the war.

President Bush recently asked Congress for $87 billion to pay for the reconstruction of Iraq and the War on Terrorism. Costello said he would likely vote for the bill but that he does not support giving the president a blank check. He said there should be funding for the troops but does not think Congress should give the president money for intelligence and other things that are included in the estimated $87 billion.

The bill contains funding for new C-40 aircraft that will slowly replace the C-9 aircrafts. The C-9 aircraft transports patients in the military and has transported more people this year than any other year, due to the war. The C-9 aircraft will be phased out in the next year, keeping 1,000 positions filled at Scott Airbase near Lebanon, Ill. By retaining the aircraft for a year, the C-40 personnel can be trained in the process. The president wanted to zero out the C-9 aircraft, but on recommendation of Costello, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., the aircraft will not be zeroed out and instead will be retired slowly.

While Costello may vote to give the president the requested $87 billion, he sees many things wrong when it comes to the War on Iraq. Despite not gathering international support, the Bush administration originally said the war would last 30 to 60 days, and now it is estimated at five years.

“If you go it alone, you pay it alone, and if you go it alone, American soldiers die alone,” Costello said. “Two are killed a day, and 10 are wounded a day, and I don’t know where this stops.”

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Costello suggested that the next step for the U.S. is sitting down with the U.N. and NATO to problem-solve and bring in the international community. He said Iraq is not just an issue that involves the U.S.

“Bring in international community or bring troops home,” he said.

Jackie Keane can be reached at [email protected]

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