Congressman Nick Rahall was in the minority when he did not support the invasion of Iraq in 2003. A majority of his colleagues in the Senate and House cast their support for the war, after the George W. Bush administration warned of mushroom clouds, anthrax attacks and secret uranium deals. U.S. and allied forces later found that no such stockpiles existed.
The Iraq war cost the U.S. 4,487 service members killed, 32,223 wounded, and more than $1.7 trillion dollars. The long-term financial cost could approach $6 trillion, due to benefits owed to war veterans and interest payments.
Rahall opposed the 2003 invasion and opposes sending troops back to Iraq, now that the country is embroiled in a civil war.
“First and foremost, I’ve not heard the first person advocate boots on the ground – I certainly do not advocate boots on the ground,” he said. “Remember that I voted against the Iraq war to begin with. I do not believe the reasons that got us into the Iraq war. I hate to say it, but I think I’ve been verified since then. So, I’m not for any boots on the ground.
“Should our intelligence, which is very weak at this point, in my opinion, confirm that there is a threat to U.S. national security, whether it’s ISIS or al-qaeda or any other militant groups that are in Iraq now – that were not there before, but are there now – should they be a direct threat to the national security interests of the United States, then we ought to be prepared with the proper strike, airstrikes, or take the options necessary to protect our national security.”
Rahall was interviewed during a visit to the Edray Business Center on Monday afternoon. The Congressman was present for a briefing on a proposal by the Pocahontas County Board of Education to occupy the vacant industrial building.
During his visit, Rahall also commented on a crisis that resulted from revelations of gross mismanagement at an Arizona Veterans Administration (VA) hospital. As a result of the crisis, retired Army General Eric Shinseki resigned as the Secretary for Veterans Affairs.
“Let me say that I commend General Shinseki for his service to our country,” Rahall said, “God bless him in all that he has done. At the time, though, I did ask that he step aside, so that there could be a new re-invigoration, so that some of the problems that have plagued the VA in the past would be wiped off and we could start anew in trying to correct the problems that exist there.
“Let me say, first and foremost, God bless our VA centers in West Virginia. They were not part of the problem. From my discussions with the directors – the two in my district in Huntington and Beckley –
superb information they have provided me. I’ve talked to numerous veterans that get service at those hospitals – no complaints. So I think, in West Virginia, we’ve done good and I commend our VA. And I commend our VA personnel nationwide. The vast majority of them want to do the right thing for our veterans.
“ I hope now, with Mr. McDonald in there from Procter and Gamble – that’s all I know about him – but I would hope that he can instill a new culture there, a renewed commitment among the employees to do what’s right for our veterans and ensure that problems that have existed in other hospitals around the nation do not continue.”
On Monday, President Barack Obama appointed former Procter and Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Obama has called on Congress to grant more authority to the VA Secretary to fire senior officials if necessary.
Rahall, elected to Congress 19 times, is running for re-election against Republican challenger Evan Jenkins. Conservative groups, funded by the billionaire businessmen Koch brothers, have converged on West Virginia to oppose Rahall’s re-election.
“We’re going to run an aggressive campaign, as I always do, not take a single vote for granted, get out and work hard,” said Rahall. “With my record of service to the people, it’s up to the people to decide. I hope it does not get flooded out by out-of-state millions of dollars that are being spent by billionaires in West Virginia. I hope my message does not get flooded out by that onslaught.”