Veterans Group Seeks To Counter Anti-War Message With Ad

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a
popular target of anti-war groups, is being saluted by a veterans
group for supporting military efforts in Iraq.
Vets for Freedom, started by veterans who served in Iraq and
Afghanistan, will roll out a television ad Sunday to counter
criticism of McConnell in his home state by anti-war activists,
Pete Hegseth, the group's executive director, said Saturday.
The sharply worded ad running in Kentucky will thank McConnell
for "not tying the hands of our commanders" and "letting us take
the fight to al-Qaida." The ad says the Republican senator has
been under pressure "from people who are willing to accept
"We know we will prevail, unless Congress surrenders first,"
it says.
The ad, slated to run in multiple markets for a limited time, is
the latest salvo in a strategy by supporters and opponents of the
war to try to influence McConnell by taking to the airwaves.
The veterans group is running similar commercials for several
other members of Congress who have supported President Bush's
military strategy in Iraq.
McConnell, the leading Senate defender of Bush's war policy, is
running for re-election next year. No Democrat has formally
announced a challenge of McConnell, but Attorney General Greg
Stumbo has formed an exploratory committee, enabling him to begin
raising money.
Andrew Horne, an Iraq war veteran and critic of Bush's war
policy, characterized the ad as "more spin" in defense of Bush
and his political allies.
Horne, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year, said
McConnell is "blindly supporting George Bush. And there is a
difference between that and supporting the troops."
Hegseth, who spent nearly a year in Iraq with the Fort Campbell,
Ky.,-based 101st Airborne Division, said he saw strategic mistakes
in Iraq. But Bush's troop surge has improved security, he said,
which is needed to foster political cooperation among Iraqi
Hegseth said the veterans group has spent more on advertising in
other states, but hopes to expand its initial limited ad buy in
Kentucky. The inclusion of Kentucky also is a recognition of
McConnell's status as the top Senate Republican, he said.
Hegseth said the group's multistate ad campaign also is meant to
preserve support for the military mission in Iraq by Congress,
which will get a report in September on how Bush's troop surge is
As for McConnell, he said, "We're pretty confident that he will
look at the progress happening on the ground and decide that it
should be continued."
In the past, McConnell has ridiculed a proposed troop withdrawal
timetable as an "arbitrary surrender date." But he also has
voiced frustration with the Iraqi government and has said the
United States' patience is not unlimited.
In recent months, McConnell has drawn the ire of anti-war
groups, such as Americans Against Escalation in Iraq. It ran an ad
last month featuring the number of American casualties. It asked
McConnell: "Is this your idea of progress in Iraq?"
Earlier, the group Americans United for Change ran an ad that
juxtaposed clips of McConnell offering optimistic assessments about
the war with scenes of chaos in Iraq.
Justin Brasell, a McConnell campaign strategist, said the ad by
Vets for Freedom "will show that there's another view."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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