Daily Herald: 9th Congressional candidates couldn't be farther apart on Iraq


The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been one of the most polarizing issues among Republicans and Democrats.

Daily Herald: 9th Congressional candidates couldn't be farther apart on Iraq
September 19th, 2010
by Madhu Krishnamurthy

Not surprisingly, the 9th Congressional District candidates, incumbent Democrat Jan Schakowsky and Republican challenger Joel Pollak, are on opposing ends of the debate when it comes to the Bush and Obama administrations' handling of the wars.

Curiously, though, the candidates largely disagreed with their own parties' policies on the wars.

In an interview with the Daily Herald editorial board Friday, Schakowsky, who is running for her seventh term in the U.S. House of Representatives, said she didn't agree with the Obama administration's war spending.

The Evanston Democrat has been a strong opponent of the Iraq war and is one of the founders of the Out of Iraq Caucus.

"I am also skeptical about the amount of spending that we're doing in Afghanistan and whether or not this large military footprint is the way to go," Schakowsky said.

On the other hand, Pollak, a Skokie attorney, supports President Barack Obama's decision to reinforce troops in Afghanistan with a surge of 30,000 soldiers.

"I say that knowing the difficulty of the conflict there," Pollak said. "I have friends who are on the ground, classmates who are there right now on the front lines. I think that the president set an appropriate goal of disrupting and destroying al-Qaida and other terror networks in Afghanistan. I think that his troop expansion was modest. And I think it was also well judged and well thought out."

Yet Pollak is not all praise for Obama. He doesn't agree with the president's decision to announce a timeline for troops withdrawal and believes Obama should be clearer about his strategic objective in Afghanistan.

Pollak, a former Democrat turned Republican who has been endorsed by the tea party, initially was against the Iraq war. But, he said, he later became a supporter because he believed it was right to overthrow dictator Saddam Hussein's tyrannical regime.

Though Pollak criticized President George W. Bush's handling of the aftermath once Saddam was deposed and executed, he credits Obama for finishing the job Bush started and pulling combat troops out of Iraq.

"No matter the rights or wrongs of when or whether we should have gone in there, I think that pulling out immediately and precipitously as some wanted to do would have been a mistake," Pollak said. "I think Iraq has a chance at a stable democracy today - because of the brave sacrifices of our troops. And I think that we ought to be able to do the same in Afghanistan.

Schakowsky said she situation in Iraq is murky.

"I think it is very uncertain what the outcome in Iraq is going to be," she said. "There is no government yet. Minorities in Iraq, a lot of Assyrians in our district, Christian Iraqis, have been killed, displaced, their churches destroyed. Of course I am hopeful and I think we should do all we can to help this constitutional government develop. But so far I think the jury is out."