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Retired generals disappointed over Kirk's no-show at meeting
By Kerry Lester | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/20/2010 12:00 AM

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Four retired generals in town to meet with congressional candidates about military and human rights issues expressed disappointment at one name not on the list of participants.

U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, was instead at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, campaign officials said.

"We can't control peoples' schedules," said retired General David Maddox, the former commander-in-chief of the U.S. Army in Europe and a Chicago native. "We're not making any judgment on him, though it appears to me he's not at the same point we are on the issues."

Kirk's opponent, Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, was among about a dozen candidates who took part in the closed-door meetings.

Working through Human Rights First, the group of 40 retired military leaders made a name for itself during the 2008 primary as members held private meetings with candidates to discuss prisoner treatment and interrogation policies. The group claims that as a direct result of their effort, President Obama signed executive orders ending torture and secret prisons and promising to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The group argues in favor of holding terrorism suspects in prisons like Thomson Correctional Center in western Illinois, a viewpoint Kirk opposes. The group also advocates reducing the number of detainees and trying terror suspects in civilian court and expresses its opposition to the torture of prisoners.

Other suburban candidates who scheduled meetings with the group on Tuesday, Thursday or Friday included 9th District incumbent Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Republican challenger Joel Pollak and 10th District congressional candidates Robert Dold, a Republican, and Dan Seals, a Democrat.

The generals declined to comment on specific viewpoints or statements by any of the candidates.

"While the congressman could not meet due to scheduling conflicts, he respects the generals' views and appreciates their service to our country. Congressman Kirk opposes torture and agrees with Democratic leaders who opposed the transfer of al-Qaida terrorists to the United States," Kirk campaign spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said.

Giannoulias' campaign did not immediately return calls seeking comment.