Rep. Tammy Duckworth says 'war is messy,' opposes strikes
WASHINGTON — Cautioning that "war is messy," Rep. Tammy Duckworth expressed deep skepticism Monday about the prospect of the U.S. conducting limited missile strikes against Syria after its apparent deadly use of chemical weapons.
Duckworth, who lost her legs in the Iraq War and is one of six sitting House members awarded the Purple Heart, said she does not support a use-of-force resolution approved last week by a Senate committee.
The measure would permit a limited military mission against Syria providing it did not last longer than 90 days and did not involve U.S. troops on the ground in combat. The measure has not been approved by the full Senate.
Duckworth, in answer to a reporter's question, said she was "very skeptical" that military intervention would be limited.
"I've heard the discussion before that this is going to be a limited attack and it will be done in a short amount of time," she said. "War is messy. War is never that simple."
She spoke on the eve of a prime-time speech by President Barack Obama, scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday.
On Tuesday morning, Duckworth and her colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee will hear about military action against Syria from three top officials: Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They testified last week on Capitol Hill.
Duckworth, a first-term Democrat from Hoffman Estates, said in a statement last month that she will not support U.S. intervention in Syria unless it is imperative to national security.
"It's military families like mine that are the first to bleed when our nation makes this kind of commitment," she said Aug. 30.
She was on an official trip to Thailand at the time, and attended a classified briefing on Syria on Friday, said Anton Becker, her spokesman.
Duckworth lost her legs and badly injured an arm when her Black Hawk helicopter was struck by enemy fire in 2004. She is now a lieutenant colonel in the Illinois National Guard.
Rep. Bill Enyart of Belleville, another House Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, formerly led the Illinois National Guard. Getting his vote could also be an uphill climb.
Duckworth has been an ally of Obama's. He nominated her to be an assistant secretary in the Department of Veterans Affairs, a job she left to run for Congress in 2012.
House officials said about 20 percent of the U.S. representatives in office serve or have served in the armed forces. The figure is higher for Illinois House lawmakers, since five of 18, or nearly 28 percent, have worn the uniform.
The five include Reps. Bobby Rush, a Chicago Democrat, and John Shimkus, a Collinsville Republican. Rush was in the Army in 1963-68, according to the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress.
Not all who served saw combat. Shimkus, a West Point graduate, served in the Army in 1980-86 and in the Army Reserve in 1986-2008, when he retired as a lieutenant colonel. While on active duty, he served in Germany but never in a war zone, said Steve Tomaszewski, his spokesman.
Shimkus plans to vote "no" to giving the president the authorization to order missile strikes against Syria, Tomaszewski said Monday.
So far one lawmaker in Illinois' House delegation with military service is a "yes" vote. That's Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a pilot and major in the Wisconsin Air National Guard. He is from Channahon, near Joliet.
Amid questionable prospects that the House will approve military strikes against Syria, two House Democrats, Danny Davis of Chicago and Robin Kelly of Matteson, traveled Monday to the White House with other members of the Congressional Black Caucus for a Syria briefing, aides said.