Corzine in Iraq

Speaking from Iraq on a scheduled but unannounced visit days after a New Jersey soldier died from wounds sufferedfrom amortar round, Gov. Jon Corzine said coordinated attacks in the battle-scarred country are down dramatically withNew Jersey troopsperforming their jobs admirably.

Headamantly saidthe trip was not a smokescreen to cover an economic crisis at home.

“There is no reason on earth one wouldn’t think it is the responsibility of the governor in the largest deployment of citizen soldiers, that when the Department of Defense organizes a visit I’ve been requesting for three to four months, that I wouldn’t (go to Iraq),” Corzine told reporters in an afternoon conference call.

Hoping to show his gratitude for the works and sacrifices of those soldiers “who protect the rest of us,” the governortoured Camp Bucca in Umm Qasr, a detention facility for about 15,000 people, which is 25 percent staffed bypersonnel from New Jersey.

“I feel safe but we do wear flak jackets when we’re outside of the Green Zone,” Corzine said in response to a question. “We have seen about 600-700 troops They tell me what they’re doing.”

He deflectedseveral questions about New Jersey’s financial situation, pointing out the fact thatthere is a national economic recessionin which some states are suffering double digitunemployment.

Regarding the progress of a six-year war in Iraq that then-Sen. Corzine opposed at the outset, the governor said, “The administration is actually on the tack that President-elect Obama has argued long before he was elected. Get on a glide path that would get American troops out of combat.”

In the meantime, he said, “Our people are gung ho and very professional.”

Corzine in Iraq