LAKEWOOD RANCH -- State Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, made a special presentation Wednesday to the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Accompanied by a slide show of personal photos, Steube told stories about his time in the military as chief of detainees in the 25th Infantry Division in Iraq.
Steube, deployed in 2006-07, had a goal: Prosecute all detainees who attacked coalition service members, and do it under the Iraqi judicial system, which is much more harsh than in the United States.
"The thought process was 'If the Iraqis themselves have confidence in their judicial system, then they would have confidence in their government,' " Steube said.
In Iraq, someone accused of a crime first goes to a trial court where an investigative judge decides guilt or innocence.
Then they go to the appellate court where three judges either affirm the person's guilt or decide the person is now not guilty.
Under Iraqi law, Steube said, any punishment handed out by the high-level court must be done in 30 days.
"That's why Saddam (Hussein) was tried and convicted and executed in 30 days," he said.
One photo showed Steube's hand in the hand of the Saddam Hussein statue in Firdos Square. The statue was later torn down by American forces.
The hand had cracked off and Steube snapped a photo of his hand in its place. He also showed a photo of a spider hole covering Hussein's hiding quarters.
Steube said veterans' issues are important to him, citing legislation he passed to help all veterans, including:
A tax exemption for deployed service members, a bill Gov. Rick Scott signed into law May 31, 2011. The law allows deployed service members a homestead tax exemption on their primary residence.
An area on state forest grounds where wounded warriors can hunt, fish and participate in other outdoor activities.
Steube said he is working on a bill to allow veterans deployed from Florida to get state residency rates at Florida colleges.
"We're going to change that this year," he said.
Steube ended the luncheon by honoring Lt. Col. Lee Kitchen of Sarasota, who served 27 years as an armor officer and has been awarded many medals and honors, including the Legion of Merit.
"We're only as good as the guys who stand behind us," Kitchen said, pointing to a small group of veterans standing on stage.
Sabrina Rocco, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024.