Mass. Senate hopefuls broach Iraq War anniversaryBy STEVE LeBLANC , Associated Press
Mar. 19, 2013 6:33 PM ET
BOSTON (AP) — The tenth anniversary of start of the Iraq War is forcing candidates in Massachusetts' special U.S. Senate election to grapple with a conflict that saw public support drop the longer it was fought.
Opinions on the decision to go to war in March 2003 divide the candidates even as they express broad agreement on the need to care for returning veterans. Two of the candidates took public votes on the war.
Democratic candidates Stephen Lynch and Edward Markey each voted for the White House's 2002 Iraq War resolution. The two congressmen were among a divided Massachusetts delegation that saw former U.S. Sen. John Kerry support the resolution while the late Sen. Edward Kennedy opposed it.
A year later, Markey voted against an $87 billion war funding package, which Lynch supported.
"Ten years ago, the Bush administration perpetrated a fraud on Congress and the American people and launched an invasion into Iraq even though the administration knew that there were no nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction," Markey said in a statement Tuesday. "As a result, we fought a conflict that cost thousands of lives, billions of dollars, and untold damage."
Lynch held a news conference Tuesday to call for more timely services for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lynch chose not to directly address the wisdom of going to war but instead focused on the challenges facing veterans. Lynch is co-sponsoring a bill he said would require Congress to fund the Department of Veterans Affairs' discretionary budget a year ahead of schedule. He said that would help guarantee all VA services have predictable funding.
All services that benefit veterans should be exempt from across-the-board spending cuts, he said.
"They have suffered too much already to have to face such challenges at home," Lynch said. "I never served in the military, so in Congress, I feel a special obligation to serve those who did."
Republican candidate Daniel Winslow praised those who served in the war, crediting them with taking down a notorious Iraqi leader.
"They ended the reign of Saddam Hussein who was a destabilizing presence in the Middle East," Winslow said in a statement. "There is no doubt that the world is a better and safer place with the end of this dangerous dictator who was an exporter of terrorism."
Republican candidate Michael Sullivan's campaign released a statement saying he also supported the goal of building "a free Iraq that would respect the human rights of its people and create a more peaceful and secure Middle East." The statement said Sullivan, whose daughter serves in the Army National Guard, is committed to making sure service members receive proper training, equipment and support.
Republican candidate Gabriel Gomez, a former Navy SEAL, said the country owes a debt of gratitude to those who served in Iraq.
"What we should be doing today is honoring the sacrifice of the 62 who gave their lives from Massachusetts in this conflict," he said in a statement. "It is now our responsibility to ensure that our returning veterans have the job opportunities, training and treatment they deserve."
Of the five, Gomez served in the military for eight years, while Markey served in the Army Reserve from 1968 to 1973. The other candidates didn't serve in the military.
Markey said that while the war could have been avoided, "we owe it to our service members and their families to do everything we can to support them as they transition to civilian life."
Americans' view of the Iraq War fell dramatically as it was waged.
A 2011 poll by the Pew Research Center found nearly 48 percent of Americans said the U.S. made the right decision to use military force in Iraq, while 46 percent disagreed.
When the war began, 72 percent of Americans said it was the right decision, while 20 percent said it was the wrong move.