As an anti-war activist in the early 2000s, Arizona Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema led a group that distributed flyers depicting an American soldier as a skeleton inflicting "U.S. terror" in Iraq and the Middle East.
The flyers could become an issue for Sinema, the Democratic nominee challenging Republican Martha McSally in one of the most competitive US Senate races this year. CNN rates the race as a toss-up.
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Currently one of only 18 members of the Blue Dog Coalition in Congress, a caucus of centrist and conservative Democrats that once boasted 54 members, Sinema's time organizing anti-war rallies highlights how her views have shifted since the early 2000s, when she ran for state and local office as an independent affiliated with the Green Party and was viewed as one of the most progressive activists in Arizona.
"Kyrsten comes from a military family and is very proud of her record supporting Arizona's servicemembers, veterans, and their families," Sinema campaign spokeswoman Helen Hare said in an emailed comment to CNN's KFile. "Attacks on Kyrsten's respect for those who serve have already been called out as false, and Kyrsten is going to stay focused on the issues that matter most to Arizonans -- like making sure Congresswoman McSally and her allies can't roll back protections for patients with pre-existing conditions."
Hare added that Sinema did not approve or design the flyers at the time. The campaign further noted that two of her brothers have served in the military and that one remains on active duty in the Navy.
McSally has previously attacked Sinema's anti-war past and accused Sinema of "denigrating" the service of the US armed forces in her protests of the Iraq War. Sinema's campaign has denied those charges and said that while Sinema opposed US intervention in Iraq, she always supported servicemembers.
The flyers, which are available through the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, promoted a February 2003 rally organized by Local to Global Justice, an anti-war group Sinema co-founded. Sinema was referred to as a leading organizer and sponsor of the anti-Iraq War rally in contemporaneous news reports and websites for the organizations involved. She is also repeatedly listed as the point of contact for the event.
One flyer for the February 2003 event read: "You can help us push back U.S. terror in Iraq and the Middle East." Above the text there was a cartoon depicting a group of protestors striving to halt the progress of three skeletons, one dressed as a soldier, another dressed in a top hat holding a dollar bill and another dressed in a suit. The flyer listed the website for Sinema's group and an email of a local anarchist group that also participated.
Another flyer urged direct action "against Bush and his fascist, imperialist war." A cartoon on the flyer said, "Government is slavery," and "Its laws are cobwebs for the rich and chains of steel for the poor." The flier contained the email for a local anarchist group that was a rally co-sponsor.
A third flyer said, "Speak out against the war" and "Stop the OILigarchy." It depicted a large group of trumpets standing in the path of an oncoming American tank with a bodiless pair of eyes in a helmet poking out of the top. The flyer listed Sinema's personal email at the time.
Sinema also spoke at the rally, according to Arizona State University's student newspaper, which quoted her as the organizer of the rally in which they estimated 2,500 people attended.
"Let peace rule," Sinema said, according to the paper.
Sinema was also listed at the point of contact for a pre-rally event to make protest signs. The website for the event highlights signs from past events, including, "Born to Kill, Born to Drill," "My President Is A Psychopath," "No Oilgarchy," "We Burn Stuff (Written on an American Flag)" and "Who Elected this F***er?"
Reflecting on the rally a year later, in an interview with local media KTAR, Sinema said the war was about American access to oil.
"So this is not about the United States doing the right and moral thing by a toppling an evil dictator," she said. "This is more about the United States having access to the oil and the power and control and world stature that it's seeking. It's not about the individuals in Iraq."
Sinema's past political positions are a contrast from the more moderate profile she has developed since her 2012 election to Congress.
As a congresswoman, she has voted against approving the Iran deal and, this past April, backed President Donald Trump's decision to strike Syria. In 2015, she voted with Republicans to stop admitting Syrian and Iraqi refugees until the vetting process was strengthened.