The chairmen of the Iraq Study Group, Republican James Baker and Democrat Lee Hamilton, discuss their assessment of the situation on the ground, its impact on the surrounding region and consequences for U.S. interests.
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Since March, a bipartisan group of former government officials and experts has been conducting a wide-ranging assessment of the American mission in Iraq. Called the Iraq Study Group, it was formed at Congress's behest, with the approval of the Bush administration.
Its co-chairmen are James Baker, former secretary of state for the first President Bush, and treasury secretary for President Reagan. He's just written a memoir, "Work Hard, Study, and Keep Out of Politics!"
And former Democratic congressman and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Lee Hamilton, more recently he was co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission.
The Iraq Study Group has announced it will release its recommendations to the president, Congress, and the public after the November congressional elections.
And welcome, gentlemen, to you both.
Secretary Baker, most Americans, I venture to say, don't know anything about your group. What can they hope for out of it?
JAMES BAKER, Former Secretary of State: Well, what we would like to do is to see if we can come forward with a consensus report. It won't be worth much if Republicans go one way and Democrats go another, so my distinguished co-chairman and I are working very hard to see if we can produce a consensus report that might make some suggestions as to initiatives or advice that Congress and the president could utilize in continuing the mission in Iraq.
And, Congressman Hamilton, as part of your investigation, you all went to Baghdad early last month. What was that like? I mean, what was the situation worse than you imagined?
LEE HAMILTON, Co-Chairman, 9-11 Commission: Baghdad is a very grim place to visit. You step off an air-conditioned airplane into 120, 125-degree heat. You have to put on armor, 35 pounds of it. You put on a heavy helmet. And for people the age of Secretary Baker and myself, it's a burden just to carry that around with you.
And what it does is it lets you know how remarkable the performance is of, not just the American military, but the American civilians there, as well. We interviewed about 40 Iraqi officials, talked to everybody that we asked to see, spent four days there, and learned a great deal about that country and its politics.
Since you were there…
Excuse me. And talked, as well, to the American military and civilian leadership there.