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Wood thinks Iraq now on the right track

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- When Max Wood departed Baghdad in the summer of 2006, the then U.S. Department of Justice attache was not in the best frame of mind.

"I left Iraq depressed and frustrated," Wood told the Albany Rotary Club Thursday at Doublegate Country Club. "I felt we didn't know what we were doing and the Iraqis were not grasping democracy and its associated benefits."

Months later the situation on the ground changed, giving Wood hope that the fledging democracy might actually have a chance of making a go of it.

"Four things happened that turned the tide in Iraq," recalled Wood, who's running for state attorney general. "No. 1 was the U.S. election of 2006 when Democrats took over Congress. It was the first time the Iraqis really grasped the two-party concept.

"No. 2 was the execution of Saddam Hussein. He was in power for 28 years and had an impact on every aspect of Iraqi culture. After Saddam was dead the tribal leaders began working with us.

"No. 3 was the change at the four-star military level. Replacing General (George) Casey with (David Petraeus) changed everything. We got our troops into the cities and began to build relationships with the people.

"And No. 4, The Surge worked."

As a U.S. Department of Justice attache, Wood -- the author of "Iraq: Seeing the Real War" -- got to sit in on one day of Hussein's trial in Baghdad.

"I remember they brought the defendants into a made- for-TV courtroom, one-by-one," Wood said. "They brought Saddam in last and he came in waving a book around, I assume it was the Quran.

"Over the next four hours I saw the most bizarre trial of my life," he continued. "Saddam yelled at witnesses, and they'd yell back. Saddam would yell at the judge and he'd yell back. Saddam would praise the judge, and the judge would praise Saddam."

On his way out of the courtroom, Wood and his party were held back as Hussein was escorted from the facility.

"I was struck how tall he was," he said. "He was 6-foot-4 and most Iraqi men are around 5-foot-7. And I think he was the meanest looking man that I had ever seen in person." (Editor's note: Several Internet sites list Hussein's height at 6-foot-2.)

After talking about his experiences in Iraq, Wood opened the floor to questions -- and quickly turned political. Wood was asked if he would have filed suit against the federal government over President Obama's health care plan -- a suit current Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker declined to pursue.

"I would have definitely filed suit," Woods answered. "I think 'Obama Care' is unconstitutional law. This administration seems to think that the 10th Amendment does not exist."

The 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Woods anticipates states rights issues will come up more often in the future.

"I think the excesses of the Obama administration will result in more lawsuits involving constitutional scholarship," Woods said.