- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 2, 2002

Three congressmen who visited Iraq to try to persuade leaders there to allow U.N. inspectors back into the country have been derided by Republican lawmakers, but their constituents are being less judgmental.
The three Democrats Rep. David E. Bonior of Michigan, Rep. Mike Thompson of California, and Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington arrived in Baghdad on Friday, and during the weekend urged an end to sanctions and questioned the honesty of President Bush. They arrived back in the United States yesterday.
"Diplomacy is the way to go with any action," said Erik Fulkerson, 32, who owns the Sundance Coffee Roasting in Beulah, Mich., a town of 400. "I don't think we should send thousands of troops in until we know for sure what's going on there. And the best way to find out is to have these congressmen over there. You can't leave any stone unturned."
"This is a good start to establish an open line of communication," said Shalimar Gonzales, 21, a body shop sales associate from Seattle. "They're not traitors, as some may have called them. They're trying to prevent a potentially dangerous situation from escalating."
Cindy Gasper, 36, owner of Hammel Beach and Hardware Gift Shop in AuGres, Mich., said she supports the congressmen's efforts.
"We need them over there," she said. "It's a good thing what they're trying to do for us."
Republican lawmakers say the congressmen have no business being in Iraq. Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, said they "should come home" after Mr. McDermott questioned U.S. efforts to link Iraq to the al Qaeda network and suggested that Mr. Bush would lie to Americans.
The congressmen called for ending U.N. sanctions that have been in place since 1991, and they supported allowing weapons inspectors to enter Iraq with no preconditions.
On whether the United States should go to war with Iraq, Mr. MdDermott said, "I think the president would mislead the American people."
That comment wasn't well-received by a fellow Texan. "They should support our president," said Vicki Cizmar, 45, a clerk at the Cake Lady Bakery in Friendswood, Texas. "If they want to talk about it, they should do it over here, not over there, and then make it known to the world what they're feeling. They should talk to the president in Washington."
Democrats on Capitol Hill distanced themselves yesterday from the three lawmakers, although they did not call the visit inappropriate.
Kori Bernards, spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, said that although Mr. Gephardt disagrees with Mr. McDermott's statements, every member has the right to be guided by his conscience.
Miss Bernards said Republican criticism of Mr. McDermott and Mr. Bonoir is simply "an effort to politicize the debate" and Mr. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, finds that "inappropriate."
Jenny Backus, communications director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said that the lawmakers' comments in Iraq "do not reflect the views of DCCC Chair Lowey and the majority of Democrats in the House." Rep. Nita M. Lowey is from New York.
Miss Backus added, "Mrs. Lowey has said all along that if the White House continues to seek consultation, she expects a bipartisan resolution to pass the House overwhelmingly."
Amy Fagan contributed to this report.

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