Vets Running For Congress Focus On Iraq
The war in Iraq may have faded as an election issue compared to the economy, reports CBS News correspondent Russ Mitchell, but for about two dozen candidates for Congress, Iraq remains front and center. That’s because they’re Iraq war veterans battling to take Capitol Hill. And in them, an echo of the presidential race, can be heard.
In New York’s Hudson River Valley, former school teacher Kieran Lalor is running to transform himself from citizen solider to citizen legislator. "Sometimes people ask me, ‘What was your position on the war back in 2003?’" Lalor says. "I say, ‘about 100 meters from Euphrates River.’"
As a Marine Lance Corporal, Lalor was deployed in combat at the start of the Iraq war, and now he opposes any fixed timetable to withdraw American troops. "The last thing I want is for us to leave Iraq prematurely, turn it over to an Iraqi government that’s not ready to hold onto it," Lalor says.
In the Chicago suburbs, Democrat Jill Morgenthaler sees the Iraq debate differently. A retired Army Colonel, she’s the highest-ranking Iraq veteran running for Congress.
"458 to 500 million dollars a day being spent in this," Morganthaler told the crowd at one of her campaign events. "One of the exciting things we are going to do is bring this war to an end."
Morgenthaler served 30 years of active and reserve duty, including 10 months in Iraq in 2004.
"I went, you know, because I was ordered to, and I was going to do my honorable duty, but I did not feel that’s where we should have been," Morganthaler says. "We should have been in Afghanistan, where we knew al Qaeda was."
Morgenthaler is the only woman among 22 Iraq war veterans fighting for seats in the House of Representatives. Ten are democrats. A dozen – republicans.
Pennsylvania’s Patrick Murphy is currently the only Iraq veteran in the House.
"I need more battle buddies from across this country to fight for veterans benefits," Murphy says.
A former Army captain elected just two years ago as a Democrat, Murphy sponsored legislation last year to bring the troops home, and he’d like to see one brigade a month – about 3,000 soldiers – start to leave. It’s a view shaped by his year in the war zone.
"I used to lead convoys up and down ambush alley – six lane highway – scouting for roadside bombs and rooftop snipers," Murphy says. "Fast forward now five years later, it’s still the Americans doing the heavy lifting."
Murphy’s Republican challenger – Marine turned business executive Tom Manion – did not serve in Iraq, but his son, Travis, did.
"He was shot and killed by enemy sniper fire a little more than a year-and-a-half-ago," Manion told supporters at one of his campaign events.
Manion doesn’t want troops to exit Iraq, not yet.
"Travis wanted us to understand he was doing what he believed in," Manion says. "We never want to have the enemy know that we have a fixed timeline so they can start planning around what we’re doing."
Right now, only one-quarter of the House of Representatives are military veterans, down substantially from the peak of three-quarters in 1959, after the World War II generation had run for office.