Iraq war continues to be issue for House race

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(Host) The war in Iraq continues to be a key issue in this year’s U.S. House race.

Republican Martha Rainville says she won’t second guess President Bush’s decision to go to war but she thinks the decision could have been delayed or possibly avoided if the Administration had better intelligence leading up to the invasion.

Democrat Peter Welch says there’s no doubt in his mind that the decision to go to war was a mistake from the very start.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Throughout this campaign, Republican U.S. House candidate Martha Rainville has refused to state if she would have voted for or against the Iraqi war resolution in the fall of 2002.

Rainville says it’s unproductive to look backward to try to determine if the decision to go to war was a mistake.

Rainville says she believes there’s an important lesson for the United States to learn from the events that led up to the war.

She thinks the decision to invade Iraq could have been “delayed or avoided” if the United States had had better intelligence about the capabilities of Saddam Hussein:

(Rainville) “With 20/20 hindsight knowing what we know now, knowing that it doesn’t look likely that Iraq posed an immediate threat with weapons of mass destruction, we could have spent more time on diplomacy, more time on trying to push for a increased inspections. It is unproductive though I think to go back to try and tell people how you think you would have voted had you been there, which is why I don’t go backwards.”

(Kinzel) Democratic candidate Peter Welch says the issue isn’t bad intelligence – it’s bad leadership on the part of the Bush Administration. Welch says he strongly opposed the congressional war resolution in 2002 and he’s baffled why Rainville will squarely address other issues in this campaign but not this one:

(Welch) “Martha Rainville has given her position on all kinds of other questions. But she won’t tell us how she would have voted on the war. So it’s really impossible for Vermonters to assess judgement which she refuses to answer a very basic question about leadership.”

(Kinzel) Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis says Rainville’s comments on Iraq are quite measured compared to the positions that some other Republican candidates are taking around the country:

(Davis) “For example, Chris Shays, a Republican incumbent from Connecticut, has called for Donald Rumsfeld to leave office as Defense Secretary. Even senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas, a loyal Republican, after a trip to Iraq came back and said a very fundamental rethink of strategies is needed, while Rainville says that maybe intelligence was bad and the wrong decision was made back in 2002 or 2003 she’s not yet said anything about needing a fundamental rethink of the American strategy in Iraq.”

(Kinzel) Davis thinks the war in Iraq will turn out to be the pivotal issue this year in Vermont and in many other congressional races across the country.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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