As Iraq turns, local leaders differ on blame, plan of action


by Joe Arnold

Posted on June 16, 2014 at 9:12 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 17 at 12:06 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- As an Islamic militant group overtakes a wide swath of Northern Iraq, local members of Congress are expressing frustration and casting blame, yet none are calling for the United States to deploy troops into Iraq.

"I'm not sure there are any good answers," U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Kentucky 3rd Congressional District) told WHAS11.  "Maybe (former Vice-President) Dick Cheney ought to give us some answers because he's the one who thought this was going to be such a cakewalk."

Nearly eight years after an anti-war message helped Yarmuth win his congressional seat, he says President Barack Obama is doing the right thing by ruling out ground troops in Iraq this time.

"There's no appetite for that," Yarmuth said.  "If the President were to suggest that, I think he would be soundly rebuked as he was when he was considering sending troops into Syria.  I think Congress will speak with one unified voice on this."

Though Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) is not calling for ground troops, his statement did not rule them out, blaming the Obama administration for Iraq's instability and urging some action "before all the gains made by U.S. and allied troops is lost, and before ISIL expands its sanctuary--from which it can eventually threaten the United States."

In her statement, Democratic U.S. Senate challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes said she is opposed to reintroducing troops in Iraq, but added the U-S should provide "useful intelligence."

Grimes, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), U.S. Sen. Dan Coats (R-Indiana) and U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly each stressed that the burden for Iraq's defense and action on the insurgency must be borne by Iraq, itself.

"Any success now and in the future depends critically on the willingness of the Iraqi government to step up and take action to defend its sovereignty and protect its people," Donnelly said in a statement.

"I think it's terrible what's happening," Paul said during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Thursday, "but the Iraqis need to step up and defend their country, and I just don't know if I'm ready to send 4,000 soldiers in."

"It is a tragic situation that it is happening," U.S. Sen. Dan Coats (R-Indiana) told WHAS11.  "It didn't need to happen.  Had we left a residual force of any size whatsoever with the kind of air power and assets that we have, these extremist elements never would have had this opportunity."

U.S. Rep. Todd Young (R-Indiana 9th Congressional District) said a lack of presidential leadership has emboldened international terrorists and suggested that the United States lacks resolve.

"Early on the Obama Administration ignored the advice of top military advisers by withdrawing all American military personnel from Iraq according to a strict timeline," Young said in a statement.  "Now the country is in turmoil."

"Members of Congress and other former officials who try to second guess the president at this point when they don't have any better ideas are not serving the country very well," Yarmuth said.  "This is some time we ought to be working together to come up with a solution and not try to gain political points."

And what of those who have served and those who have died serving in Iraq? If Iraq falls to an Islamic insurgency, what does that say about their sacrifice?

"I think a lot of us felt that way from Day One," Yarmuth said,  "The sacrifice was not worth it.  That doesn't in any way demean the efforts and the sacrifices that those soldiers have made.  They were doing what they were told to do.  It was our leadership that was flawed and our analysis that was flawed."

70 Kentuckians are listed as killed in action in Iraq, including 17 guardsman and reservists.

Asked if their sacrifices were in vain, Kentucky Governor Steve Behear, focused on the Kentucky National Guard's continued commitment.

"Well, certainly, our service over there and all of our Kentuckians and all Americans, It wasn't in vain," Beshear said.  "They were over there protecting us and protecting our freedoms.  That's a constantly changing situation over there in the Middle east and I think we all know that. And we all know there's no easy answers.