The Republican senator Tom Cotton was confronted on Friday by a the father of an airman who died in , who told him: “Now that you have a child, you will understand” opposition to further American engagement in the Middle East.
Cotton, a first-term senator from Arkansas, military veteran and , is a prominent foreign policy hawk. In March, he was one of the driving forces behind to Iran’s senior leadership that was signed by 47 Republican senators. The letter was seen by many as an attempt to derail the Obama administration’s pursuit of a peaceful resolution to the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions.
On Friday, Cotton sat next to activist Fred Boenig, whose son died , at held at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Their robust exchange of views covered Barack Obama’s foreign policy – which Cotton called “dangerous” – and the question of when US wars in the Middle East could be considered over, given that troops remain in Afghanistan and US-led airstrikes against militants in Iraq and Syria continue daily, with US advisers helping Iraqi forces against Isis.
Boenig told Cotton: “It’s very clear what your views are, sir. My views are keeping our kids safe, which include my children. Now that you have a child, you will understand.
“When you speak of sending our kids again, let’s make it worth it, not just to send them to politically help some Haliburton or somebody else.”
Cotton, 38, was formerly an infantry officer. According to , he “served in Iraq with the 101st Airborne and in Afghanistan with a Provincial Reconstruction Team”.
The biography continues: “Between his two combat tours, Tom served with The Old Guard at Arlington National Cemetery. Tom’s military decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, and Ranger Tab.”
At Johns Hopkins, Cotton said the “threat environment that we face here at home and throughout the west is more grave today than at anytime during our lifetimes”, and added: “I wish that weren’t that case.
“But for the time being it is. We have to remain vigilant and we have to continue to take the fight to the terrorist.”
Boenig, who is , was wearing four lapel pins during his conversation with Cotton, to signify, he said, the service of four of his children in the US armed forces.
Boenig and Cotton parted on polite terms, but in an interview Boenig said: “He handled it the way I expected him to handle it. He’s a hawk.
“I’m a tree-hugging, peace-loving, gay wedding, you know, whatever. I was a conservative my whole life, but it all changed.”