U.S. Senate candidates Jon Kyl and Jim Pederson increasingly have turned their attention to Iraq during the final weeks before the Nov. 7 election.
Both faulted the current course the United States is on in the war, but their ideas on how to improve matters couldn’t be more different.
Kyl, a twoterm incumbent Republican, believes the U.S. may have to increase the number of military personnel on the ground in Iraq.
Pederson, the Democratic challenger, believes the United States should look for ways to withdraw completely from the 3 1 /2-year-old conflict.
Kyl, chairman of the Senate subcommittee on terrorism, technology and homeland security, believes the war in Iraq and the war on terrorists are deeply interwoven.
Terrorists from within Iraq and other countries within the Middle East have chosen to engage U.S. forces in Iraq. The United States must respond appropriately, he said.
“We cannot win the war on terror or the war against the terrorists if we leave the central battle in that war right now. And whatever it takes — whether it be more troops or whatever kind of commitment it is — we’ve got to make that kind of commitment,” he said.
Originally, the Bush administration’s concept was to replace U.S. troops in Iraq with newly trained Iraqi military and police forces. It has become difficult to adhere to that idea as street violence has increased in the months since the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein, Kyl said.
The U.S. may need to increase the number of troops there, he said.
Among the options are bringing in new troops from elsewhere in the world, keeping troops who are already stationed in Iraq longer than originally scheduled or some combination of the two.
The Bush administration hasn’t publicly broached the idea of stepping up the U.S. military presence in the increasingly unpopular war. Kyl, who is seeking a third term, has proven to be a forbearer of President Bush’s policies on such issues.
The war on terrorists is winnable, but it will be a hardfought victory, Kyl said.
“It’s not easily resolved by a military victory. And as a result, you’re dealing with a younger generation of radical Islamists who are committed to laying down their life for a cause. To win that kind of a conflict, you’ve got to be in it for the long haul,” Kyl said.
Pederson, in contrast, criticizes the administration’s handling of the war at every opportunity. He even mentioned it Friday during an appearance that focused on women’s issues.
“We’re fumbling around. There’s no end game. There’s no plan,” said Pederson, the former chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party.
The country needs to reassess the military’s presence in Iraq, he said, because the U.S. is no longer fighting a war. Instead, U.S. military personnel are serving as a police force in the middle of a religious, civil and cultural war on the streets in Baghdad.
“That kind of activity, that kind of offensive is not protecting the safety and security of the U.S. Get our troops off the streets of Baghdad. Get them in forward-operating bases within the country and have them respond only when a presumptive threat to the safety and security of the U.S.,” he said.
The concept of positioning U.S. personnel in secure sites near enemy combatants would allow U.S. forces to strike quickly when good information is located, according to retired Marine Lt. Gen. Robert Johnston of Tucson, who served in the Persian Gulf War.
Bush and those around him should acknowledge that Iraqis have to solve their own problems, Pederson said. The U.S. can’t force civil order upon a region of the world that has resisted civil order for centuries. The United States should combat terrorists by attacking terrorist networks and choking off terrorists’ funding by stopping the flow of heroin and lessening the U.S. dependence on foreign oil, Pederson said.
In another election matter, Kyl still holds the financial edge in the most expensive political race in state history, according to federal campaign finance reports released Friday.
Kyl raised nearly $1.2 million from Aug. 24 through Sept. 30, to bring his total collections to more than $12.4 million for the election cycle. He had $5 million cash on hand at the end of the period.
In comparison, Pederson raised more than $2.9 million during the reporting period to bring his total to $11.1 million.
Pederson, a wealthy shopping-center developer, still is running a largely self-financed campaign. He personally contributed $2.5 million during the reporting period to bring his personal total contributions to nearly $8.3 million. His campaign had nearly $1.2 million cash on hand Sept. 30.
U.S. Senate debates
Sunday: 4 p.m., KPHO-TV (Channel 5), Phoenix
Wednesday: Time to be announced, KUAT-TV, Tucson
Friday: Time to announced, TV station to be announced, Flagstaff
Senate candidates on national security
Both Republican incumbent Jon Kyl and Democratic challenger Jim Pederson have made war and national security major parts of their campaigns for Arizona's contested U.S. Senate seat.
The United States needs to remain - and perhaps increase - its military presence in Iraq, because terrorists have chosen to make Iraq their front in aggression toward the United States.
War on terrorists
U.S. residents should be prepared for a long and difficult course similar to the Cold War. The United States has to break the will of "radical Islamists." Increase the size and strength of the U.S. military.
Work through the United Nations and multi-nation talks involving key Asian countries to bring pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear program. Explore the idea of interdicting all exports from North Korea. Military action is final option.
Push the Bush administration for a plan that establishes measurable goals for stabilizing Iraq and concrete conditions to bring U.S. troops home. There should be no permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq.
War on terrorists
Refocus national security efforts on hunting down Osama bin Laden, destroying al Qaeda. Ensure the United States has best-equipped and best-trained military in the world.
Restore ties with former allies and work with the international community let North Korea know that the world will not tolerate it developing nuclear capability. All options, including military action, should be on the table.