First in a series
Neither incumbent GOP U.S. Rep. David Davis nor his main Republican primary challenger, Phil Roe, favors a quick military exit from Iraq.
“Nobody on this earth can tell you exactly when we should exit that country,” Roe, Johnson City’s mayor, said of when the United States should pull out of Iraq.
Davis, a freshman House member who represents Northeast Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District, was part of a delegation visiting Iraq last year.
“The thing that I heard — from one stripe on their sleeve to four stars on their lapel — was ‘We want to come home, but we want to come home in success not in failure,’” Davis said of his talks with troops on the ground in Iraq.
Before the so-called troop “surge” happened in Iraq last year, Davis signed on to a bill that would have directed President Bush to report to Congress every 30 days on military progress in Iraq. Committee hearings were held on the legislation, but that’s as far as it went, according to the Library of Congress.
Earlier this year, Davis was one of 110 co-sponsors signing on to a House resolution “supporting the idea that coalition victory in Iraq is possible.”
The resolution “supports the idea that the war in Iraq is not lost.” It also recognizes American troops have made progress with the troop surge, and that the president’s decision to do the surge was the “correct course of action.” The resolution was referred to the House Armed Services Committee.
Davis, who views the Iraq War as part of the War on Terror, insisted the surge has worked.
“What we have to do is have the Iraqis take more and more responsibility,” Davis said. “We need to have the Iraqi military trained to take care of their own security. If they step up — and they are stepping up — then we start to bring our troops home in success not in failure.”
Roe, a retired physician and U.S. Army veteran, wasn’t sure if the United States should have a long-term military presence in Iraq.
“Everything that I’ve heard is that things are improving in Iraq,” Roe said. “What is making this difficult for the American people is number one the casualties that we have which are going down. ... The second thing is the cost. We’re spending an enormous amount of money on the war. I don’t believe that any president we elect is going to turn around and exit that country immediately. You cannot do that. The chaos we had there is now beginning to get under control. ... We’ve got troops in numerous countries around the world right now, and we’re not talking about pulling them out.”
Davis pointed out that soldiers serving in Iraq were not drafted but volunteered to do a job.
“They say ‘Let us do our job but support us,’” Davis said of how the troops feel. “They say ‘Make sure we have the equipment and supplies we need, and when we come home, make sure we are taken care of as veterans.’”
Roe also agrees the United States needs to hold Iraqi leaders more accountable.
“I think what we’ll do in Iraq is the same thing we’ve done in a lot of countries is stabilize the country and build their own forces,” Roe said.
“The Iraqis have got to step up and take more ownership in their own country. ... I think we have to listen to the professional soldiers on the ground and evaluate the situation the best you can,” he said.