Father of soldier killed in Iraq barred from asking presidential candidates about war

John Witmer, of West Allis, Wis., has more than earned the right to ask a question of any one of the three men who will appear on stage tonight for the Republican presidential debate. His daughter died for his right to be able to ask it.

But that’s not the way it works in the carefully staged presidential debate business, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports this afternoon.

Witmer’s got a good question to ask; that’s not the problem. CNN asked him to submit three of them.

■ If you become Commander-in-Chief how will you approach the decision to go to war and will you spend the blood of our soldiers only as a last resort?

■ With three daughters in the Army National Guard, I saw, firsthand, their struggle for respect and recognition. In the last few years, restrictions have been lifted on our female soldiers, allowing them to serve in combat positions. As Commander-In-Chief what position will you take on the role of women in the Military?

■ Today’s military is an all volunteer force that relies heavily on reservist(s). I’ve heard sound bites from some of the candidates talking about “wiping out ISIS” and other terrorist organizations. Do you believe our troop strength is sufficient to do this and if necessary, would you reinstate the draft to accomplish your goals?

Too hot to handle? No. This fact is, however: Witmer won’t commit to voting for a Republican, according to the Journal Sentinel. Only those who promise to vote Republican can.

“The more I thought about this, the more I felt like every candidate should have to answer these questions,” John Witmer said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “Really the greatest power the president has is to commit our armed forces in war. The president doesn’t make laws, he leads and commands our armed forces and to not address that up front is to leave a big part of the puzzle undone.

“I want every president to understand the human cost of war. I don’t think it’s something as a nation we confront enough. When I hear Sarah Palin say ‘I want to go kick ISIS’ ass without any thought to the human cost, I cringe,” he said.

Zann referred questions to CNN’s public relations department. Lauren M. Pratapas, director of CNN Communications, confirmed that only people committed to voting in the Republican primary can ask questions at the Republican Town Hall Meeting.

Next week will be the 12th anniversary of Michelle Witmer’s death in Iraq. She was with the Wisconsin National Guard 32nd Military Police Co. She was a gunner in a Humvee.

Her two sisters also served in the Guard at the same time.

The family was profiled in this NPR story on the effects of war in 2005.

Related: Every day is Memorial Day for this family (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)