- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 2, 2002

A strong majority of congressional lawmakers who have served in the armed forces during wartime support a U.S. invasion of Iraq, according to a survey by The Washington Times.
Of the 37 veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf war serving in the House and Senate, 25, or more than 67 percent, said they support President Bush in a U.S. military attack on Baghdad. Some of those backing military action do so with varying conditions of U.N. cooperation, arguing that any attack should follow only failed U.N. weapons inspections.
Four lawmakers oppose an attack on Iraq, and seven were undecided. The office of Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, Illinois Republican, declined to comment.
"As a former fighter pilot in Vietnam, one of the many lessons we learned during that era was that you cannot run a war out of Congress and win," said Rep. Sam Johnson, Texas Republican, a decorated war hero who fought in Korea and Vietnam.
Mr. Johnson, who said he may be Mr. Bush's "strongest supporter on Capitol Hill," was shot down over Vietnam during his second tour and was a prisoner of war for nearly seven years 42 months of it in solitary confinement.
"President Bush and our military men and women need every resource necessary to win the war, and I'm going to do everything in my power to ensure that the resources are there when they need them," said Mr. Johnson, whose service merited two Silver Stars, two Legions of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star with Valor and two Purple Hearts.
Although a small number of veterans serving in Congress oppose U.S. military action against Iraq, they expressed strong emotions on the issue.
"It is obscene to talk about introducing troops without evidence this country is in clear and present danger," said Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, who served with the all-black 503rd Field Artillery Battalion of the 2nd Infantry Division during the Korean War.
Mr. Rangel, a recipient of the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, said the military is largely made up of black, Hispanic and poor white rural people who join because of economic reasons.
"What they all have in common is they are poor. It is sad people are so cavalier in the taking of causalities because it is so disastrous. If we go to war, we ought to look at reinstating the draft, we would find more sober thinking if we did," Mr. Rangel said.
Mr. Rangel was wounded when Red Chinese forces entered the war in November 1950 with massive ground assaults. Nearly half the men serving in the battalion were killed as they fought their way out of encirclement by Chinese soldiers near Kunu-ri.
Despite concerns U.S. troops could end up fighting in an unpopular war in Iraq, Rep. Rob Simmons, Connecticut Republican, said he fully supports the president.
"As commander in chief, he has to be respected and has to be deferred to on issues like this. There is no way we can afford to have 535 commanders in chief, even though members of Congress may want to do that," said Mr. Simmons, who earned two Bronze Stars in the Vietnam War and served in East Asia as a CIA officer.
Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and a likely presidential candidate in 2004, said Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein should be held responsible. Mr. Kerry said he supports an invasion if weapons inspections are blocked.
"I am willing to use force, but we should exhaust all possibilities first," he said.
Mr. Kerry was a swift-boat officer who served on a gunboat in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. He has been awarded a Bronze Star with Combat V, three Purple Hearts and a Silver Star for his service in combat.
Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and a prisoner of war in Vietnam, is leading the charge on Capitol Hill to build support for the Bush administration in its effort to oust Saddam.
Opposition to an Iraqi invasion includes Democratic Reps. John. P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, Silvestre Reyes of Texas and Mike Thompson of California. Mr. Thompson was in Iraq last weekend along with Democratic Reps. Jim McDermott of Washington and David E. Bonior of Michigan.
Mr. Thompson, who was wounded in the Vietnam War and received the Purple Heart, said the trip was necessary because "the classified briefings Congress has been presented to date have fallen short of bridging the current chasm between a rush to war and evidence of an immediate threat."
In comments that offended many on Capitol Hill, Mr. McDermott suggested on Sunday that Mr. Bush would lie to gain support for military action against Iraq.
But Mr. Thompson has tempered his remarks and criticized Saddam as being to blame for the suffering of the Iraqi people.
Sen. Max Cleland, Georgia Democrat, who lost both legs and his right arm in Vietnam from a grenade explosion, supports Mr. Bush but is critical of divisive statements from both parties.
"We should all be making every effort to bring this country together against our common enemies, not tearing each other apart with partisan political rhetoric on either side of the aisle," said Mr. Cleland, who was awarded the Bronze Star and Silver Star for his service.
"The men and women who may be sent into harm's way are neither Democrats nor Republicans. They are Americans. We should follow their example," Mr. Cleland said.
In a rare floor speech last week, Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, Hawaii Democrat, a World War II veteran and one of a handful of lawmakers undecided about a war in Iraq, said he is concerned with how history would portray an invasion.
"Did we brutalize people or did we carry ourselves as civilized people? To attack a nation that has not attacked us will go down in history as something that we should not be proud of," Mr. Inouye said.
Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat, is undecided but leaning against a first strike against Iraq.
"The administration has not presented persuasive evidence that Saddam will soon be able to threaten America with weapons of mass destruction, or that he is likely to use them against us," said Mr. Conyers, who served in the Army during the Korean War.
The veterans differed on how their war experience in the military affected their decision-making as lawmakers.
"I don't feel any extra burden. Those of us who had the opportunity to serve bring a different perspective to these decisions," said Sen. Thomas R. Carper, Delaware Democrat and Vietnam War veteran. Mr. Carper supports taking action against Iraq to stop Saddam from developing nuclear weapons and says force may be needed.
"I think it's healthy there are members who served our country in the military as we debate this issue and make tough decisions," Mr. Carper said.
Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, California Republican, disagrees. Mr. Cunningham was a highly decorated pilot during the Vietnam War. He was nominated for a Medal of Honor and received the Purple Heart, Navy Cross, two Silver Stars and numerous other awards.
"It has been a tremendous burden because I know what I am asking and what the president will ask of the men and women who go over there," Mr. Cunningham said.

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