By Martin Matishak - 06/12/14 05:05 PM EDT
A pair of House lawmakers who saw combat in Iraq and Afghanistan sparred Thursday over whether President Obama should order airstrikes to halt the progress of an extremist group that is taking over Iraq.
The deteriorating security situation in Iraq is “heartbreaking,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said on CNN’s "The Lead."
“Are airstrikes going to be the panacea? I don’t know,” he said. But the U.S. has an “obligation to act.”
Sectarian violence has swept across the country as an al-Qaeda affiliated group has taken control of at least two cities and threatens to march on Baghdad.
Kinzinger called the administration’s withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops from the country a “big mistake”
But Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), who served in Iraq, said the administration should take a “clear-eyed look” at what impact airstrikes could make on the ground before making a decision.
“Who are the bad guys?” she asked, noting that the militant group behind the wave of attacks is Sunni and the sitting government is Shiite.
Kinzinger dismissed those concerns.
“We can sit back and say, ‘Gee, who are the bad guys?’ or we can take the opportunity” to secure the country, he said.
Gabbard replied that the U.S. risked becoming “mired in another civil war” between Sunni and Shiite factions that could cost more American lives and money.