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Mark Shields is a nationally known columnist and commentator.

Walter Jones: An honest man
Republican Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina.


Walter Jones
United States

WASHINGTON (Creators Syndicate) -- All right, Saddam Hussein actually did not have any chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

Iraq turned out to have absolutely no connection at all with the attacks of September 11. Saddam represented no realistic threat militarily to his neighbors, let alone to the United States.

So the case President George W. Bush made for leading the United States into war against Iraq was basically counterfeit.

But wait, defenders of Bush rebut, British, French, German and Israeli intelligence -- along with most of the Clinton administration -- had also believed that Saddam Hussein was armed to the teeth.

Of course, it was not the British, French, German or Israeli intelligence services, or the Clinton administration, that convinced the United States to launch a war of choice. That was the work of President George W. Bush.

But in Washington, where diffusion of responsibility is a valued political art, holders of high office regularly stoop to duck any accountability.

The conservative, six-term Republican congressman from the Third District of North Carolina never mastered that Washington bobbing and weaving. His House Armed Services Committee colleague, Hawaii Democrat Neil Abercrombie, explains the North Carolinian this way: "Walter Jones is an honest man, which makes him a dangerous person."

Walter Jones -- whose district is home to 60,000 military retirees, the Marines' Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point Air Station and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base -- is painfully direct in explaining why he, along with Reps. Abercrombie, Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and Ron Paul, R-Texas, introduced a resolution last week to start withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq no later than October 1, 2006.

A strong supporter of the war, Jones was so angry at France's opposition that he was responsible for changing the menus in Capitol Hill cafeterias to list "freedom fries," instead of french fries.

"I based my decision (to back the war) on certain information that has proved not to be true," he explains more in disappointment than anger.

Jones has obviously had an epiphany. It began at the funeral of Marine Sgt. Michael E. Bitz of Ventura, California, whose wife, Janina, and his four children, including twin infants who were born after he shipped out for Iraq, resided in Jones's district.

Jones stayed in touch with the Bitz family: "My heart was hurting," he says. That hurtled to Walter Jones' writing a personal letter of comfort and condolence to the families of 1,400 Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and posting pictures of the American fallen on the walls outside his congressional office.

But as this president adamantly opposes any scheduled withdrawal from Iraq, isn't Jones concerned about risking the anger of the White House? "I have seen the president only one time in five years."

Is he not concerned that criticism from many Bush loyalists in his district could spell trouble in 2008? "I'm going to do what I believe God wants me to do. If doing what's right means I don't return to Congress, then I'll willingly accept the consequences."

Jones warmly praises the accomplishments and the sacrifices of the U.S. military: "They have done everything we asked of them. Saddam is gone; we're training their troops to defend their country; we are giving the Iraqis every reasonable chance for a democracy."

But what worries him is that those same American troops have gone from being "liberators" to occupiers. "We are now an army of occupation and (our troops) will be the object of the wrath of the insurgency," he says.

Last week, Lt. Col. Frederick P. Wellman, who helps oversee the training of Iraqi troops, told the Philadelphia Inquirer's Tom Lasseter that the insurgency was most definitely not running out of recruits: "We can't kill them all. When I kill one, I create three."

Walter Jones, whom the staffers on Capitol Hill voted the kindest House member of all 435, quotes the advice given to him by his father and namesake, who served 26 years in the House as a Democrat: Vote your conscience, then vote your constituents, and after that vote your party. Walter Jones has heeded well that counsel.

Click here for more from Creators Syndicate.

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