December 20, 2014

Democrats highlight Ernst statement on Iraq situation

Iowa Democrats and Bruce Braley’s campaign are drawing attention to comments Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst made during an ABC interview late last week.

“What we see going on in Iraq right now, if this current administration had followed guidance from military leaders many years ago, we would not be in this situation,” Ernst said.

Jeff Zeleny, ABC’s Senior Washington correspondent, asked: “Do you support the limited airstrikes that were started this morning?”

Ernst replied: “I can say is what I would have supported is leaving additional troops in Iraq longer and perhaps we wouldn’t have this situation today.”

Ernst is a battalion commander in the Iowa National Guard who served in Iraq in 2003 with a unit that ran convoys from Kuwait into southern Iraq. Darin Adams of Marshalltown was stationed in Iraq for two and a half years and he was recruited by the Iowa Democratic Party to offer a rebuttal to Ernst’s statements on Iraq.

“I guess my first thought when I read it was just shock at the disconnect that Ms. Ernst has with the American public,” Adams said during a conference call with reporters. “The American public wanted to pull out of Iraq, you know, unless we want to create permanent bases in Iraq which is not what the people want and not what the Iraqis want.”

Adams served a year in Baqubah and a year in Mosul, two cities which are now threatened by the Islamic militants who’ve seized control of large swaths of Iraq. Critics of the Obama Administration argue if some U.S. troops had been left in Iraq they could have sounded an early warning about the so-called ISIS militants. Adams said America’s military community knew a decade ago that what’s happening now could happen.

“I mean, how big of a force would we have to put in Iraq to not have the situation go the way that it is? How many troops is enough?” Adams asked. “How many dead American soldiers is enough? When do we say, ‘Hey, we’ve given you all the resources you need to be successful, but this is an Iraqi problem that needs Iraqi solutions.'”

A spokeswoman for the Ernst campaign says Ernst believes President Obama should have worked harder to negotiate an agreement with the Iraqi government that would have kept some U.S. troops in the country. In March, Ernst criticized Obama’s approach to the Ukraine crisis.

There’s been an anti-war vein in Iowa politics over the years. In 1991, Chuck Grassley was one of just two Republican senators who voted against the Gulf War resolution. In 2002, though, Grassley voted for military action in Iraq. Former Iowa Congressman Jim Leach, a Republican, voted for the first Gulf War, but in 2002 Leach voted against sending U.S. troops back to Iraq, arguing it could weaken the fight against terrorism. Leach lost his bid for reelection in 2006. He endorsed Barack Obama’s bid for the White House in 2008.