Feb 08 2007

Sen. Shelby visits Stevenson

The Daily Sentinel

By Hollice Smith


U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby told Stevenson Mayor Rickey Steele on Saturday he would do what he could to help provide a road into Fort Harker to assist with tourism development.

After Shelby’s speech at a Town Hall type meeting at Stevenson Hotel, Steele said the city needs infrastructure for Fort Harker.

Shelby promised he would send an aide back to look over the situation and try to help. Shelby was invited to tour the old fort, but said his schedule would not permit the time because he was due in Guntersville for a speaking engagement at 2 p.m.

Fort Harker is basically a dirt-built fort used during the Civil War and is near the railroad, which was vital for transporting troops and supplies during the war. Other forts the city of Stevenson would like to develop are Fort Mitchell and Fort Grainger, both smaller and lesser known forts, but also along the railroad in the Stevenson City Limits.

Shelby addressed a packed meeting, which was sponsored by the City of Stevenson and the Greater Jackson County Chamber of Commerce.

Shelby was introduced by Steele. Shelby said, “I’m glad to be here. This is a beautiful county. I have been coming to Jackson County with forums like this for 21 straight years.” He also stated it was his 1364th town hall type meeting in Alabama during that time.

The senator (R-Tuscaloosa) said there would be a big debate on Iraq when Congress reconvenes later this week.

“Four years ago, we had a military victory in Iraq, but a lot of mistakes have been made and we are deeply challenged. I wish we had sent 200,000 troops into Iraq, but we didn’t and if the United States should pull out of Iraq now, Iran would fill that vacuum in a heartbeat,” Shelby stated.

“Would 20,000 more troops help? I don’t know but I think they will have the chance,” Shelby said. “I support the President, but not blindly.”

Shelby said legislation was passed by Congress for BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure). $3 billion was appropriated, but the proposal needs $6 billion.

The senator said, “It (BRAC) will get done, but it won’t be without a fight. I’m bullish on this area.”

He said he would do everything possible to make sure the BRAC program is funded “and somehow it will be.”

Shelby stated that Gen. David H. Petraeus, the new commander in Iraq, told him he believes that 20,000 additional troops President Bush is asking for will stabilize Baghdad and make a difference.

“It’s a bad neighborhood, a tough situation,” Shelby said. “And, the question is can we salvage it? I don’t know, but what I don’t question is the support of our troops. We’ve had a lot of people from Alabama to go over two and three times, and that’s asking a lot. I’m not going to vote in any way for any resolution that would be construed in any ambiguous way that I don’t support the troops.”

Shelby said Gen. Petraeus told him, “He said what we need to do is a better job of training Iraqi police and the Iraqi army to defend themselves and get the heck out.”