Sen. Dem candidate says al-Qaida's influence 'grossly exaggerated'

  • Senate Democratic candidate Robert Marshall

    Senate Democratic candidate Robert Marshall

Published: 12/11/2009 12:34 PM | Updated: 12/11/2009 7:49 PM

Senate Democratic hopeful Robert Marshall says al-Qaida is a "small ragtag band of pirates" whose influence is "grossly exaggerated" by America's war in Afghanistan.

Yet that didn't stop Marshall - who ran four times as a Republican in the 1990s - from voting for President George W. Bush in 2004.

Marshall, of Burr Ridge, is running on a platform opposing the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq, but he said he didn't feel strongly enough on the issues at the time to oppose Bush.

"I just slowly became more anti-war over the last few years," Marshall told the Daily Herald editorial board Friday.

Marshall said he didn't oppose the war in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but he has come to view the threat from al-Qaida as manageable by international "police action" instead of full military force.

When asked about al-Qaida's ability to pull off the Sept. 11 attacks, Marshall said, "It was a spectacular stunt, but maybe next time we will be more prepared. This woke us up. We were sleeping."

Marshall said he hasn't yet contacted anti-war groups to seek their support for his Senate bid. The primary is Feb. 2.

Marshall, a 66-year-old radiologist, is running in a five-way Democratic primary. The other contenders are state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias of Chicago, Chicago Urban League CEO Cheryle Jackson of Chicago, Jacob Meister of Chicago and former Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman.

Marshall ran for Senate in 1996 as a Republican. Asked to explain the shift, Marshall said he is more of a "libertarian" who can identify with either party. He supports the Republican push for tax cuts, but he is for abortion rights.

Marshall also ran as a Republican for governor, state Senate and U.S. House in the 1990s. He served as a Burr Ridge trustee from 1989 to 1993.

Marshall said he plans to operate a mostly self-funded campaign and that he intends to run TV commercials as early as next week highlighting his opposition to the Afghanistan war and support for the Democrats' health care reform efforts.

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