"Dedicated to exposing the lies and impeachable offenses of George W. Bush"

Democrats assemble an army of veterans to beat Bush
The Times
Tim Reid
January 24, 2006

ANDREW HORNE, clear-eyed, clean-cut and ramrod straight, never wanted to be a politician. But then something happened to the Marine Reserves lieutenant colonel who once supported the invasion of Iraq. He was sent to fight there.

It was an experience that turned him vehemently against President Bush and a war he now believes can never be won definitively.

"Iraq is a symptom of what's wrong with this Administration," Mr Horne told The Times over coffee near his Kentucky law office.

"It's hubristic. It's wedded to political cronyism. It hides the truth. It ignores advice. I want to go to Washington to be part of a solution."

Mr Horne, 44, is not alone. He is one of a dozen Iraq war veterans running for congressional seats in the November mid-term elections. What makes this new band of political brothers extraordinary is that all but one are running as Democrats, and against a war that only months ago they were fighting in.

"It's unprecedented. It's amazing the Democrats have found this many," said Larry Sabato, a politics professor at the University of Virginia.

Thirty military veterans from the wars in Vietnam, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq are seeking seats in the US House of Representatives as antiwar Democrats in a country where more than half the public now consider the war a mistake.

The only Iraq veteran running as a prowar Republican is Van Taylor, a decorated Marine captain challenging a Democrat incumbent in Texas. Republicans also have 35 candidates for House seats who fought in other wars.

The Democrat veterans have been aggressively recruited by a party desperate to burnish its national security credentials, and keen to exploit the two issues that its strategists believe most threaten the Republican grip on Capitol Hill: Iraq and congressional corruption.

They hope there will be nothing more appealing to voters and harder to attack than a candidate who has actually fought in Iraq and sees politics as another way to serve the country, not a means to free meals and foreign junkets courtesy of lobbyists such as Jack Abramoff.

Although many of the Democrat veterans will struggle to win, Mr Horne is one of several for whom the party has high hopes.

He is challenging Anne Northup, a five-term Kentucky Republican who backs the war.

The White House betrayed its concern at Mr Horne's candidacy when Mr Bush chose Louisville, the heart of Ms Northup's Kentucky seat, for a speech on Iraq. Ms Northup shared the stage with him.

The other candidate who has won national attention, and has become the public face of antiwar Iraq veterans, is Tammy Duckworth, a former helicopter pilot who is contesting the Illinois seat left vacant by the retirement of the Republican veteran Henry Hyde.

Her story is compelling. Soon after Mr Bush's re-election in November 2004, Major Duckworth was shot down north of Baghdad after her Blackhawk helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. She lost both legs, and the use of one arm.

"I think it's time to come up with an aggressive plan for how we're going to bring our troops home," Ms Duckworth declared recently.

Republicans argue that a khaki candidate is no guarantee of political success. John Kerry carpet-bombed the US electorate with references to his Vietnam War heroics but lost to Mr Bush.

They point out that Democrat positions on Iraq range from demands for immediate withdrawal to firm support for Mr Bush's policy.

"Being a veteran is a great thing to have on your resumé, but if you're wrong on the issues that is not going to compensate," said Ed Patru, a Republican spokesman. "These veterans need to have answers on Iraq and we're not seeing that. The Democrats' message on Iraq is muddled."


2,237 US troops killed

15,472 US soldiers wounded in action

$60billion estimated cost of war claimed by President's budget office before war

$173billion approximate cost of Iraq war so far

$2trillion possible cost of Iraq war including lifetime care for wounded soldiers