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Democrat Lawmakers Defend Iraq Visit

Three congressmen who raised eyebrows during a recent trip to Iraq repeated their assertions that the war drums in Washington are beating too loudly.

On Wednesday, Reps. David Bonior, D-Mich., and Jim McDermott, D-Wash.-- who were joined by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., on the trip -- held a press conference to further their argument that the United States should allow more time for international diplomacy rather than rushing off to war.

They said the Bush administration should give weapons inspections a chance to work before taking any military action.

Bonior suggested that the sanctions placed on Iraq by the United Nations at the end of the Gulf War to make sure Iraq complied with cease-fire agreements had led to the starvation and malnutrition of Iraqi children, and the death of 50,000 annually who suffer from a lack of access to basic needs.

Bonior also said that U.S. and British airplanes have been bombing illegitimate targets as part of their effort to man the no-fly zone, put up by the United Nations as a means to keep Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from attacking his own people.

The remarks were blasted by Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., who said, "both sound somewhat like spokespersons for the Iraqi government."

McDermott said he was stunned by "the extent to which the Iraqi people are ready to fight house-to-house" against any U.S. military action.

However, McDermott backpedaled on comments he made while visiting Iraq on a humanitarian mission last week in which he said that he thought "the president would mislead the American people" in order to justify action on Iraq.

That comment -- made from the Iraqi capital of Baghdad to a Sunday television program -- drew denunciations from across both political aisles.

McDermott said Monday that he may have "overstated my case."

"I perhaps overstated my case but the question still remains: When has the president proved to us that we should commit our troops to war? I mean after the 7th of December 1941, there wasn't any question. There was a clear reason. What is the clear reason here?" McDermott asked.

That statement is considered fair by many members of Congress, who agree that the president may not yet have made the case for going to war on Iraq, but they add that that is a very different situation than the president knowingly, willingly misleading the people about the question of war with Iraq.

On Monday, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., distanced himself from McDermott's remarks.

"I don't know all that was said, and I'm not here to parse over every word that was said. I do not agree with his view of the facts, some of the facts, and I obviously probably don't agree with his conclusion about what to do about the facts, but that'll be the case with a lot of members of this caucus and the other caucus."

Republicans argue that preventing another Pearl Harbor, like that referenced by McDermott, is exactly what should not be allowed to happen.

McDermott also reversed course from another statement he made while in Baghdad in which he said that the United States should take Iraq's willingness to comply with Security Resolutions at face value.

On Wednesday, he said that he would never trust Saddam Hussein.

"We have to have the weapons inspectors back in there to prove they are disarming," McDermott said.

But McDermott and Bonior both rebuffed criticism of their comments saying that accusations that they're un-American are untrue. Both served during Vietnam.

That, however, didn't sit well with Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, who also is a veteran.

"We are disappointed in some of our colleagues. As you know, I'm a Vietnam Veteran and POW for nearly seven years and when some of our people like the three that went to Iraq go over there and make the remarks they made, it is simply unconscionable, unpatriotic and, as far as I'm concerned, un-American," Johnson said.

Fox News' Major Garrett contributed to this report.