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1:30 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

Congressman And Iraq Vet Opposes U.S. Air Strikes

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 2:56 pm

Representative Doug Collins, Republican of Georgia, served in Iraq before he took office. He’s troubled by the events currently taking place, but he says he does not want to see U.S. airstrikes.

Collins, who took office in 2012 after serving five months in Iraq in 2008, joined Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti to discuss the current situation in Iraq.

“This is an administration that made a very conscious decision to withdraw, to remove the troops — frankly, in my opinion, without the foresight to see this country was not stable to handle what we are seeing now,” he said. “To convince the country that airstrikes are needed, it would be a very difficult sell.”

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Transcript

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI, HOST:

Let's turn now to Republican Congressman Doug Collins of Georgia. He's in his first term and in 2008. He served a combat tour in Iraq in the Air Force. Congressman Collins, welcome to the program.

DOUG COLLINS: Thanks for having me today.

CHAKRABARTI: So first of all, let's pick up where the ambassador left off. Ddo you think there ought to be a push to convince the American people that airstrikes are called for in Iraq?

COLLINS: Well, I don't think so at this time. I think this is an administration that made a very conscious decision to withdraw, to remove the troops. Frankly, in my opinion, without a foresight to see this country was not to stable enough to handle what we are seeing now. So I think to convince the country that airstrikes are needed would be a very difficult sell.

CHAKRABARTI: You think it would be a difficult sell. But do you think the administration should call for airstrikes? I mean, is that what you would like to see being done in Iraq right now?

COLLINS: No. I mean, frankly, not at this point. We have committed - you have an internal country with which we left to solve the problems for themselves. And right now the Iraqis' own army and security forces are just basically disbanding and not fighting. I do not believe an airstrike is simply a one-strike approach and everything is solved. So I just - I see it as a slippery slope of pulling us back into a struggle now that they're now going to have to find out for themselves.

CHAKRABARTI: OK, interesting. What would you like the U.S. to do, if anything, right now because it does seem as if Iraq is absolutely teetering on the brink?

COLLINS: I believe they are. And it's very disheartening for someone who has served and especially seeing - coming from the north, I was at Balad Air Base, which Tikrit and Mosul and all were very, you know, represented and regional. Seeing those places fall are very disturbing because of the price that we paid to get them to the point to where they could have a country in which they could operate alone.

I think anything that we can do to siphon off funds or equipment from the insurgents, whether that be, you know, sanctions, embargoes - I'm just very - at this point very skeptical of the possibility of use of our military force. And frankly though, I don't see any urgency from this administration to do anything, quite candidly.

CHAKRABARTI: So correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like you don't think that the U.S. should be doing anything right now, aside from what you said, the financial tools that the U.S. might have - embargoes, et cetera. But I also read - you're quoted as having said that when Fallujah fell again, we knew that the Obama foreign-policy had consequences. I mean, would you call for the Obama administration to change its policy and maybe even open the door to putting boots back on the ground in Iraq?

COLLINS: No. I think what we just have done is the administration now has to take ownership for what they did. And sometimes that ownership means that we're going to be set aside and not be able to - possibly do - in a position to help, whereas we could've been if the - I believe - the foreign-policy had been actually stated more clearly and accurately.

CHAKRABARTI: Now, you're not the only one who has been criticizing the Obama administration for not maintaining a troop presence in Iraq after the 2011 withdrawal. But in the conversation with Ambassador Jeffrey that listeners just heard, he said that the president wanted to maintain a presence, but that the United States couldn't reach an agreement with the Iraqis who would only agree to a U.S. military presence if American troops didn't have immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts.

And he didn't want U.S. troops to have to be serving in Iraq and possibly without immunity. So - and the status of forces agreement by the way - that process was begun and signed under President Bush. So I guess I'm just trying to understand from you - you're saying that this is President Obama's choice. But at the time he made the decision - you don't think he made the right decision?

COLLINS: Well, I think what we have is - there was a lot of negotiations going on on the status of forces agreement. If you remember the climate around that time, the Iraqis did not want to negotiate on the status of forces agreement. However, there was also some concern, most of it from outsiders both in the Bush administration and then finally with the Obama administration carrying out, that maybe there was not enough done to ensure that we could have been in a position to help or leave troops there under a SOFA agreement, which actually would have protected them.

And I agree with you that a lot of this started - the ending part of this started under the last - under the final years of the Bush administration and then President Obama took over. The issue that we have here now is that the decision was made that we are not going to pursue it any further. We are going to pull troops out. And now, this situation is one in which it is falling apart very rapidly in a very dangerous part of the world.

But unfortunately, we've got - there are many countries right now and under the same - on the African continent and others - that are doing the same thing. The question is - where do we use our resources and how do we use our resources? And I don't think at times, especially what we're saying in Iraq, that can you have a situation in which simple airstrikes are going to solve their problems. This is an internal (unintelligible) of a civil war. And so it's a very question on - where we should put our resources in fear that they may fall into the wrong hands?

CHAKRABARTI: Well, that's Representative Doug Collins, Republican of Georgia. He took office a year and half ago and in 2008, he also served in the Iraq War. Representative Collins, thank you very much for your time today.

COLLINS: It was my pleasure to be with you. Thank you.

CHAKRABARTI: All right, so two very different views there on the possibility of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. President Obama says he's weighing his options. What path would you like to see the United States follow? Let us know at hereandnow.org. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.