Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Soul searching can save your soul

Walter Jones, one of the most conservative representatives from one of the most militarized districts in the country, has done a complete about-face on Iraq, from grandstanding on "freedom fries" to standing with Dennis Kucinich on holding Bush accountable. He says that Congress "must be told the truth" about the war.

Jan Frel at AlterNet tells how this change came about:

A congressional staffer who works closely with Walter Jones' office right now told me that Jones changed his mind about Iraq after some "difficult soul searching," and that the "growing gap" between the truth about Iraq that plays out in his district and the Republican party line he's supposed to toe in committee hearings has taken a "terrible toll on him." When I asked Jones' press secretary what led to the shift, she told me it was a combination of "the top-secret briefings, researching the issues, and talking to families."

In every single direction, Iraq is staring at Walter Jones in the face, and it's turned him into an emotional wreck. Jones hangs photographs of the fallen soldiers from his district at the entrance to his congressional offices, and their eyes meet his every time he enters the offices. More than 100 Marines from Camp Lejeune have lost their lives; Jones has written letters to the 1,300 family members who survive them. Mix in the closed-door sessions he attends with generals and intelligence experts telling him every single thing is going wrong, the despair of wives and children on the bases who have seen tours of duty extended, and the disquiet, misery and injuries of the returned combat veterans. Jones still talks about the funeral he attended two years ago of Sgt. Michael Bitz, who never saw the birth of his twin sons.

It wasn't politics, in other words. It was compassion and integrity. I hope some other Republicans regain their sanity and souls in the face of his example.

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