A Republican congressman from Michigan said parts of Iraq are no more dangerous than Detroit, drawing the ire of the mayor’s office and the state Democratic Party.
During an interview Monday with WILS-AM, Rep. Tim Walberg said the returning troops he has talked with “indicate to me that 80 to 85 percent, in a conservative fashion, of the country is reasonably under control, at least as well as Detroit or Chicago or any of our other big cities. That’s an encouraging sign.”
Remarked program host Jack Ebling: “I’ve never heard Iraq compared to Detroit before.”
Walberg responded: “Well, in fact, in many places it’s as safe and cared for as Detroit or Harvey, Ill., or some other places that have trouble with armed violence that takes place on occasion.”
Detroit and Chicago had higher rates of murder and some other crimes than the United States as a whole in 2005, according to FBI statistics. Harvey is an economically depressed Chicago suburb with about 30,000 residents.
“It’s absurd to compare Detroit and Iraq in any way,” said James Canning, spokesman for Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, on Wednesday. “Unfortunately, for years people have beat up on the city of Detroit. Detroit is the word for negative. We are working very hard to transform that image of our city.”
A spokeswoman for Harvey Mayor Eric Kellogg said he had no immediate response.
Walberg was born and grew up in Chicago. He is in his first term in the U.S. House.
“These soldiers have expressed optimism to the congressman about the safety and security of the majority of Iraq,” said Walberg spokesman Matt Lahr. “There are still major challenges in Iraq, especially in the Anbar province and Sadr City.”
State Democratic Party chairman Mark Brewer demanded Wednesday that Walberg apologize to his constituents and Detroit residents.
“To compare our largest city to Iraq, a country currently in the middle of a bloody civil war where thousands of our troops and tens of thousands of civilians have been killed, many by beheading and torture, is unconscionable,” Brewer said in a statement.