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October 23, 2002
New Jersey State Senator James Cafiero upped the political rhetoric to a whole new level when, on October 17, he introduced a resolution urging Attorney General John Ashcroft to indict two Congresspeople who went to Iraq on charges of treason.
The traitors, according to Cafiero, are Representative Jim McDermott, Democrat of Washington, and Representative David Bonior, Democrat of Michigan.
Cafiero, the Republican whip in the Jersey state house, stated in his resolution: "The public comments critical of the policies and President of the United States made by United States Representatives Jim McDermott and David Bonior during a recent trip to Baghdad constitute an act of treason against the United States. . . .
[Their comments] gave aid and comfort to an enemy of the United States."
McDermott and Bonior were in Iraq at the end of September and in early October. They were seeking a peaceful resolution to the conflict and were pleading for the United States to agree to let the U.N. inspectors return to work right away.
On ABC's "This Week" program of September 29, McDermott said that Bush was "trying to provoke a war." He also said that the Untied States should "take the Iraqis at their face value," and--most controversially--"I think the President would mislead the American people."
McDermott and Bonior immediately came under fire. George Will called them Saddam's "American collaborators" and "useful idiots." Senator John McCain slammed them, and Representative Sam Johnson, Republican of Texas, said, "You cannot cavort around with the enemy and be a good American."
Upon returning to the United States, McDermott tried to do some damage control. "I perhaps overstated my case," he said.
But Cafiero was not content to leave the controversy alone. "These two Congressmen should have known better than to use their position as elected officials to fan the flames of an already volatile situation by questioning the wisdom of U.S. foreign policy while standing on Iraqi soil."
Spokespersons for both Representatives declined to comment on Cafiero's legislation.
But early on in the controversy, McDermott did tell Paula Zahn of CNN, "Dissent is an American right, and without it, it's not a democracy."