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‘War powers’ request garners local support

By Staff | Feb 12, 2015

President Barack Obama on Wednesday asked Congress for authorization to use force against Islamic State militants such as ISIS, including the ability to deploy limited ground troops.

And while the authorization has already begun to create some bipartisan bickering, here in Southwest Florida, it is one of the rare times many people agree with the president whether they support him generally or not.

U.S. senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio have communicated their support of Obama’s request in concept, drawing the line, though, on large standing armies while leaving open the use of special forces.

Nelson, D-FL, senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a prepared statement, “Any group barbaric enough to behead and burn innocent people and bring about the death of a humanitarian worker deserves to be crushed.”

Rubio, R-FL, was also succinct Wednesday when he took the Senate floor.

“There is a simple authorization Obama should ask for. One sentence: We authorize the president to defeat ISIL. Period,” Rubio said, adding, “I wish we had taken this group on earlier.”

The office of U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson, R-19, said the congressman is not ready to make a decision yet since the language of the request only reached his desk yesterday.

“As is always the case, Curt wants to hear the debate on both sides about it before making his decision,” said David James, Clawson’s spokesman. “The timetable is when the facts have been heard. How long that takes – there’s an urgency to get this to a final vote – is up to (U.S. Rep. John) Boehner and (U.S. Rep. Kevin) McCarthy.”

There was no vote scheduled and hearings got under way Thursday, James said.

Locally, among veterans groups, the feeling is that it’s time to finish what we started.

Ralph Santillo, founder of the invest in America’s Veterans Foundation, said as much as he doesn’t want to put troops in harm’s way, they need to go back.

“This is part of a continuing problem we need to get rid of once and for all. We’ll be dead and buried before we fix the Middle East,” Santillo said. “We should never have tried to democratize those countries.”

Santillo said he spoke with two Iraqi War veterans who said they would like to go back to help train Iraq troops, as well as a double Purple Heart recipient on disability who said he would go back if he had that chance.

“There’s a feeling from those who have been there that they would not hesitate to go back. They don’t want their friends who were killed to have died in vain,” Santillo said. “That’s got to mean something.”

Local vets at the American Legion Post 90 were a little more mixed on Obama’s request.

“If you listen to the generals I’m all for it. I don’t think Obama has a plan or knows what he’s doing,” said Rick Brehaut, a Vietnam era veteran. “Most of the generals who retired didn’t want to leave until the job was done. You see what’s going on there.”

“I’m all for it. We need to be more aggressive,” said Ken Pool, another Vietnam-era veteran, who agreed they should not have left the first time.