Republican no longer an outcast for opposing Bush’s wars

On matters like abortion, military spending and religion, Representative Walter B. Jones seems thoroughly in tune with this conservative, staunchly Republican district in eastern North Carolina, home to the Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune and thousands of military retirees.

On the issue of war, however, Mr. Jones has defied typecasting. An early critic of the American invasion of Iraq, he has been ostracized by the Republican leadership in Congress. And now he is emerging as a leading advocate for swiftly withdrawing American forces from Afghanistan, a position that has made him, of all things, a liberal hero.

“When you talk about war, political parties don’t matter,” he said in an interview…

Some foreign policy analysts now see Mr. Jones, 68; Representative Ron Paul, Republican of Texas; and a small coterie of Tea Party stalwarts as the leading edge of a conservative movement to rein in American military power — a break from the muscular foreign policy of President George W. Bush.

“They reflect a growing discontent within the Republican Party about the wars and a growing feeling that they don’t want to spend money on them anymore,” said John Isaacs, executive director of the Council for a Livable World, an advocacy group that promotes arms control. “They are military noninterventionists…”

In 2002, Mr. Jones voted for the resolution authorizing the invasion of Iraq…But Mr. Jones now says he had misgivings about the vote almost immediately. After he attended his first funeral at Camp Lejeune for a Marine killed just weeks into the invasion, those misgivings grew into pangs of doubt.

He started writing letters to the relatives of every American killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. (He has signed more than 10,370 at last count.) And he began consulting with critics of the invasion, including Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, a retired Marine.

I came to believe we were misled, we were lied to,” Mr. Jones said recently. “The people around Bush manipulated the intelligence…”

“I did not vote my conscience and I sent kids to die, and they didn’t have to go,” he said. “I thank God that he made me feel guilty about my vote on Iraq.”

Overdue. That is – the rest of his party learning to live up to traditional American conservative standards.