Q: What is your assessment of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and what is the appropriate role for Congress in determining their future course?
n CHILDERS: We must ensure that our forces on the ground in Iraq have the proper equipment and support to resolve what can be resolved. Most North Mississippians want a resolution to this conflict and they want it soon. We need to engage the various countries in the region. They have a vested interest in the stability of the region and should be asked to help with bringing a peaceful resolution. There is merit in the idea of partitioning the country along ethnic and religious lines. Through diplomacy, backed by American strength and resolve, there is an honorable way out of Iraq.
n COLEMAN:We must not abandon the accomplishments that we have made in Iraq. However, the Iraqi people need to take control of their country as soon as possible. We should not pull all our troops out all at once; there should be gradual decline in forces. America needs to send a message that we will not and cannot continue to make sacrifices with no clear sign of progress. The war in Afghanistan is the forgotten war. We should and will in the next Congress have to focus more attention on Afghanistan and neighboring countries like Pakistan.
n DAVIS: I was privileged to spend several days in November with our troops at their staging area in the south pacific, and when I asked them what they needed their overwhelming response was “Give us the tools and the support we need to win.” I’m with them. Our troops deserve the best and I believe that we must continue to provide them the best. I believe that Iraq and Afghanistan are the frontlines of the war on terror and we must win this war, and we are winning this war. Congress must support our troops and their mission. Congress must show this nation’s resolve in this war and Congress must not fail our troops.
n HOLLAND: Our service people need our support. They also need the material support that will allow them to do their jobs. I don’t know how many times I have read of soldiers who lacked material and equipment they needed. I have also read of waste and fraud. While some people have been getting rich because of “no bid” contracts as suppliers, our troops have been suffering. I am concerned that these wars have now lasted longer than World War II. We need a thorough evaluation of the status of Iraq and Afghanistan from unbiased military experts and then proceed accordingly.
n HURT: We should win and conclude the war in Afghanistan and get out of Iraq.
n MCCULLOUGH: Congress certainly has a role in determining the future course of the military and diplomatic efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Congress must advise the president and the military and foreign policy establishment of the will of the American people during strategic planning and information gathering. Congress should not, however, interfere in the actual execution of the agreed upon plan. I believe our troops should have the necessary support and resources to be successful.
n NEELY: Everyone knows the Iraqi government is a joke. The moment that U.S. troops leave Iraq – whether it is six months from now or 20 years from now – the “nation” is going to explode in civil war. Congress controls the purse strings and we should not continue to fund this wasteful, useless, purposeless war indefinitely.
n RUSSELL: We should support the military experts’ current strategy of strengthening local coalitions to stabilize the civil government and security forces. There should be no timetable for withdrawal, which would only benefit the enemy.
Q:What is your assessment of the overall “war on terrorism” and how would you rate its effectiveness?
n CHILDERS: Fortunately, there has not been a major terrorist attack in America since 9/11, but it is clear that we are not doing everything that needs to be done to keep this country safe. It is time to put aside partisan bickering and implement all of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations. As a matter of national security, we have to get control of our borders. Congress and the president have dropped the ball on border control for far too long. First responders are our first line of defense. They need the federal resources and support to do the job.
n COLEMAN: The Iraqi people need to take control of their country as soon as possible. That doesn’t mean we should pull all our troops out all at once. There should be gradual decline in forces to make sure the sacrifices that have been made are not in vain. America needs to send a solid message that we will not and cannot continue to make the sacrifices that we are making with no clear sign of progress. Benchmarks must be set and achieved. Without realistic benchmarks there is no way to measure the success of our campaign in Iraq.
n DAVIS: We are winning the war on terror and must continue to do so. I believe that we have been very effective at hunting down those who would harm us and bringing them to justice. The surge is working. Areas of Iraq that were once strongholds for Al Qaeda are now under Iraqi control. While our armed forces and intelligence community have done a great job, this battle is far from over and we must win.
n HOLLAND: I am concerned that the war on terror has been used to ramp up fear in the American people when it was unnecessary. That isn’t some figment of my imagination. That is from former administration employees such as Tom Ridge, former head of Homeland Security. I think it is unconscionable to play on American fears. Obviously, we have had no more terrorist attacks on American soil. We need to continue to support those men and women not only on the front lines, but in intelligence arenas that can help us in these matters.
n HURT: I don’t have enough intelligence to make an informed assessment.
n MCCULLOUGH: The events of the past few years in Iraq have shifted some of our national focus from the other fronts in the war on terrorism, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea. As the situation in Iraq continues to improve as a result of the military and diplomatic surge, I believe the United States should increase its focus on other areas.
n NEELY: Have they found Osama bin Laden yet?!
n RUSSELL: We need to finish what we have started and be very careful in the future to avoid nation-building. The end results are not always positive and it can be very costly in both lives and money. We need to free our intelligence agencies to protect us from the covert enemies that seek to harm American citizens.
Q:National Guard and Reserve units have played a major role in the recent conflicts. Is there a need for any reassessment in how those troops are deployed?
n CHILDERS: The National Guard and Reserve units of this country have done a heroic job of answering the call during this war in Iraq – too often without the equipment, health care or down time they deserve. The fact is, the National Guard and Reserves were not designed for the long, repeated deployments that they have been asked to perform over the last seven years, yet they have performed their missions with honor and skill. It is imperative that we keep the promises we made to all of our veterans by giving the Veterans Administration the resources it needs.
n COLEMAN: That has already occurred. Most all of the National Guard Units have gone through a restructure mode. Some of the mission-oriented tasks stayed the same; for other units there was a reclassification and the unit had to be reclassified along with its mission.
n DAVIS: The generals and trained military personal must make these decisions about how our forces are deployed. I respect the men and women leading our forces and we must put a huge amount of trust in them to do their jobs. We should welcome any solution that keeps our troops out of harm’s way and I am open to any ideas that accomplish that while protecting our country.
n HOLLAND: I believe the National Guard should be under state control. There has been an erosion of that policy under this Administration. Traditionally, the National Guard has been there for state emergencies. I believe we have to make sure that the traditional policy is reinforced.
n HURT: Yes, in order to have manpower for both state emergencies.
n MCCULLOUGH: I have great respect for the men and women who serve in our National Guard. I believe the primary responsibility of our National Guard troops is to protect and serve our nation. My prayer is that the people in Iraq and Afghanistan can soon govern themselves peacefully and we can bring our troops home.
n NEELY: Again, American resources should be used for the benefit of American citizens at home and not to protect corrupt, incompetent and decadent foreign regimes.
n RUSSELL: We need to increase their numbers and capability so that their deployment times can be shortened. The National Guard and Reserve are very important in the lives of many Mississippians and I believe they will continue to be important to America’s overall defense in the future. I will do everything possible to see that they receive the support that they need to do the tasks at which the so nobly serve. I am proud to say I have family that serves in this way. To me, they are all American heroes.