Six Heroes in Washington

~ Walter Bagehot

In 2002, most of Congress eagerly bought the miracle cure from the Ali Hakim in the White House. When push came to shove, we were all entertained by congressmen and women who just couldn’t say no. If only it were a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical about a windy Midwestern state, we’d have been just fine.

A young David with five stones, standing alone against the mighty-looking, well-armored Goliath, threatening with a full complement of his Philistine brethren. That’s a hero.

Politicians are rarely seen as the Davids among us. Yet, there were six heroes in the United States House of Representatives in October 2002.

Not surprisingly, one of them is Ron Paul of Texas. The other five are Jim Leach of Iowa, John Hostettler of Indiana, Connie Morella of Maryland, Amo Houghton of New York, and John Duncan of Tennessee.

These six Republicans voted against the President’s squealing, insistent, irrational demand that he be immediately granted the right to "take unilateral military action against Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq without conditions except for Congress being informed."

These six voted to restrain the President from his puerile urges for pre-emptive attack and strategic occupation.

Today, we hear the Senate describe the outrageously false threat information the intelligence community gathered on Iraq prior to the invasion. We hear that Mr. Bush couldn’t care less. He will continue with his preemptive striking program even though its very justice relies on outrageously accurate threat information.

Today, we all know the information was lousy, misleading, uncertain, false and manipulated.

But in October 2002, a lot of people didn’t know that the intelligence was bad, and even more had no idea it could be politicized into a white propaganda campaign promoting the urgent necessity for war. Too many trusting souls in this country believed George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney had their best interests in mind.

They didn’t.

What makes these six folks heroes isn’t that they saw through the lies being told to them. It’s not that they were smarter than everyone else in the Congress. It’s not that they are Republicans.

In the face of pressure and insistent demands for their consent, their getting on board, their approval, these are the men and women who just said no. In the act of rationality, they infuriated the majority whip, the President, the Vice President, the Project for a New American Century, the American Enterprise Institute, and AIPAC too. Their words in October 2002 should inspire us all, even today, as we struggle to deal with the dark and unmitigated political and operational disaster that is the Bush-Cheney foreign policy.

Ron Paul, Texas: "For more than a thousand years there has been a doctrine and Christian definition of what a just war is all about. I think this effort and this plan to go to war comes up short of that doctrine… when we go to war through the back door, we are more likely to have the wars last longer and not have resolution of the wars, such as we had in Korea and Vietnam. We ought to consider this very seriously. … There is a need for us to assume responsibility for the declaration of war, and also to prepare the American people for the taxes that will be raised and the possibility of a military draft which may well come."

Jim Leach, Iowa: "The best chance we have to defeat terrorism and the anarchy it seeks is to widen the application of law and the institutions, including international ones that make law more plausible, acceptable and, in the end, enforceable …"

John Hostettler, Indiana: "A novel case is being made that the best defense is a good offense. But is this the power that the framers of the Constitution meant to pass down to their posterity when they sought to secure for us the blessings of liberty? Did they suggest that mothers and fathers would be required by this august body to give up sons and daughters because of the possibility of future aggression? …u2018Don’t fire unless fired upon.’ It is a notion that is at least as old as St. Augustine’s Just War thesis, and it finds agreement with the minutemen and framers of the Constitution …"

Connie Morella, Maryland: "Can I or can any parent look into the eyes of an 18-year-old boy and with a clear mind and clear conscience say that we have exhausted every other option before sending him into the perils of conflict? …The world is watching us today as we show how the world’s last remaining superpower sees fit to use its great influence. We are looked to as we set an example for the world."

Amo Houghton: "… with thousands of votes which we make over the years, I have found that conscience is probably the best thing to follow and is most honest if one is going to be true to one’s self, if not always politically popular. … Iraq is now one of the only secular countries in that region. And the Sunnis and the Shiites could create such a mess following a war that we could find ourselves against a religious fundamentalist state …, where that is not the case now.

John Duncan: Now there are some people here in Washington who seem to be clamoring for us to go to war against Iraq. I represent a very patriotic pro-military district in Tennessee. My people will strongly support our troops if we go to war. But I can assure you that as I go around my district I hear no clamor or even a weak desire to go to war against Iraq …

Of these six Representatives, only Connie Morella was not re-elected, in a close race in a recently redrawn district. Imagine! Sticking to the Constitution and an 83% percent chance of keeping your job? Sounds like the American people might be smarter than Washington thinks.

Edmund Burke wrote, “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

America and the Constitution were betrayed by the United States Congress in 2002. We know it now. But the common opinions and uncommon ability of Ron Paul, Jim Leach, John Hostettler, Connie Morella, Amo Houghton and John J. Duncan should both inspire us today and set a new standard for the 109th Congress.