War aims need rethinking, 8th District candidate Sowers says at campus meeting

Thursday, July 8, 2010
Tommy Sowers

Congress needs to lead a re-evaluation of war aims in Iraq and Afghanistan that would set realistic, achievable long-term goals, Democratic Congressional candidate Tommy Sowers said Wednesday.

During a town hall meeting on the Southeast Missouri State University campus, Sowers said Congress has failed in its constitutional duty to control the military and keep the executive branch in check. Under questioning, Sowers declined to say whether he would vote to continue funding the wars if the full-scale re-examination of the war effort does not take place.

Sowers is a former Army major who spent time in Kosovo and Iraq leading a combat team. He taught at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., before returning home to Rolla, Mo., to teach at the Missouri University of Science and Technology and challenge U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, a Cape Girardeau Republican.

Sowers is unopposed in the Democratic primary Aug. 3. Emerson faces Bob Parker, a Texas County farmer who has embraced the tea party movement in his bid to unseat her in the Republican primary.

The biggest failure, Sowers told Wayne Bowen, a Republican who also said he was an Iraq veteran, is that Congress has conceded too much authority to the executive branch to start, expand and continue wars.

"I would have been an advocate for a declaration of war," Sowers told Bowen. "We have got to get our nation behind these things."

During the public question-and-answer session, Bowen asked Sowers if he supported the current war efforts and how he would deal with Iran. Sowers gave a more general response about his approach to using the military.

"When we send troops into harm's way, we need a strong objective that can be accomplished," Sowers said, adding later "that is what we still don't have in Afghanistan."

For example, Sowers said, the current U.S. objective is to build up Afghan security forces. But Afghanistan is too poor and too tribal to support a large military and police force, he said. "Who is going to pay for those 400,000 to 600,000 trained and armed Afghanis?"

Bowen said he was disappointed in the answer because it did not address the underlying questions and did not mention Iran. He pressed Sowers to say how he would vote on war appropriations, but Sowers stuck to his discussion of the role of Congress in making war.

But Adelaide Parsons told Sowers she agreed with his views. "I am impressed with what you had to say," she said.

Before questioning began, Sowers focused on the anti-Washington and economic messages he hopes will hurt Emerson the most. He cited early Federalist ideas -- "they didn't want career politicians, they didn't want professional politicians, they wanted citizens who could become legislators" -- and decried the standard of living for residents of the 28-county 8th Congressional District.

Sowers said the 8th District, during Emerson's 14-year tenure, has gone from being the 12th-poorest district in the U.S. to the eighth-poorest. He said 300 factories have closed in that period, and the district is last in the nation in median income for women.

The district needs economic development, he said, adding: "With the leadership we have now, I don't think that is going to change."

Sowers told the group, mostly Democrats, that he can handle personal attacks. "When I see a low blow coming, I am trained to block it, punch in the face and put them on the ground."

Congressional pay is the best example of Washington being out of touch, Sowers said when asked about the Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky's opposition to extending unemployment benefits. Sowers noted that members of Congress are now paid more than $170,000 per year. He pledged that if he was elected, he would push for a 15 percent cut in lawmakers' pay.

If that fails, he said, "I will cut my own salary 15 percent and I will give it back to the treasury."

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent Address:

Cape Girardeau, MO

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