Walter Jones Cried While the Rest of Them Lied

The late Congressman spent the rest of his life committed to doing penance for his Iraq War vote.

Elected officials have always had their reasons for wanting to end America’s recent unpopular wars, from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan. Some cite broad concerns over blood and treasure, others focus on the geo-political and domestic consequences of prolonging quagmire and endless foreign intervention. Many are outright pacifists, they don’t believe in war to begin with.

Conservative Republican Congressman Walter Jones was the only lawmaker I can recall who turned on war out of profound guilt. Life-changing guilt, borne out of watching coffin after coffin return to his North Carolina district draped in the stars and stripes and met with the white, blood-drained faces of mothers and wives, fathers and children. For anyone, such a scene—repeated as much as it would in a district that hosts one of the largest Marine Corps bases in the country at the height of war—would be devastating. But for Jones, a man of deep Catholic faith who had come to believe that the Bush administration lied to Congress to get its approval for the Iraq invasion in 2003, it was intensely personal. He wept openly and talked about it. There was no whiff of political contrivance or calculation. In fact, his pain was so visceral it was at times hard to look at directly.

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Read Scott Horton's new book Fool's Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan