WASHINGTON – After touring the prisons of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, Rep. Jeb Bradley (search) is convinced that the United States did the right thing in Iraq, and despite recent violence and kidnappings, he said he hopes Americans don't lose confidence in the rationale behind the war.
"There is a sacrifice involved for Americans, there is no question about that, but when we are successful in Iraq, and I believe that we will be, and the country is handed over to an Iraqi representative form of government, and it is successful, then it will lead to stability in that region of the world," Bradley, the New Hampshire Republican freshman, told Foxnews.com.
Bradley was part of a congressional delegation that visited the country in October.
"Having been in Iraq, I stepped into the torture chambers and the execution chambers and it was described to me how 80,000 people perished — it really brought home to me the really barbaric nature of Saddam Hussein’s regime and brought home to me why we were doing what we were doing," he said.
Representing a Republican-leaning but largely independent district in eastern New Hampshire, Bradley has not escaped critical questions about the war on terror during his various town hall meetings back home. Among the queries, concern has been expressed about the weapons of mass destruction (search) that have yet to be found in Iraq and the failures of both the Bush and Clinton administrations to anticipate and prepare for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"There are appropriate questions and it’s appropriate for us to figure out what happened in terms of our intelligence information," he said. "I stress that President Clinton had the exact same kind of intelligence that President Bush had and President Clinton absolutely believed that Saddam Hussein (search) and weapons of mass destruction posed not only a threat to the United States but to regional countries."
He has told his New Hampshire audiences that he believes ample evidence has yet to be discovered of weapons-related programs and the threats they posed to the world. As for the pre-Sept. 11 intelligence, he said he believes an "unvarnished" probe is needed into why members of the intelligence community were not communicating with one another and why the necessary resources were not in place to facilitate a clearer assessment of what was to come.
"We shouldn’t be playing 'gotcha' political games with the defense of our nation," he said. "But we do need to take a rational, unbiased view of the situation so we do have better intelligence in the future."
Bradley, who previously served in the state Legislature for 12 years, hopes to use his place on both the Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committees to ensure the military has what it needs overseas, and that soldiers coming home get the care they need. Already, he has helped pass bills that would give soldiers free transportation for much-needed R&R leave as well as ensure that veterans receive both retirement and disability payments (search) concurrently.
After winning a tough primary battle in 2002 for his seat, Bradley’s colleagues say he has worked hard and is needed back in Washington next year.
"I have seen firsthand Jeb’s commitment to both protecting the brave men and women who are serving the country, and also ensuring that after their service they receive the benefits they were promised," said Rep. Rob Simmons (search), R-Conn., who sits on the Armed Services Committee with Bradley.
"His dedication and knowledge in so many areas makes him a valued member of the House of Representatives," added fellow Republican New Hampshire Rep. Charles Bass.
But active Democrats in the 1st Congressional District aren’t so smitten with their representative, and claim that a growing number of voters there aren’t either. Pamela Walsh, spokeswoman for the New Hampshire Democratic Party (search), said Bradley won his seat against Democrat Martha Fuller Clark in 2002 on a moderate platform, but in Washington has voted more like a Texas conservative.
"He took positions completely opposite in the campaign," she said, noting that he angered a lot of pro-choice voters when he voted for the partial-birth abortion ban (search) last year.
He also voted against a bill that would have allowed for the re-importation of cheaper drugs from other countries, including Canada, a hot issue for New Hampshire seniors, many of whom live on the Canadian border.
"I think there’s a lot of disappointment with him," Walsh said.
But so far, Democrats have yet to back a candidate in this race. The filing deadline is in June. Robert Bruce, a Navy veteran and ex-police officer from Candia, said he knows he’s not the Democratic establishment’s pick, but he’s jumped into the race and is prepared to mount a challenge.
"The people I’m talking to just want change," he told Foxnews.com. "Jeb Bradley is a great guy, but I get the sense he is a freshman congressman who doesn’t want to make waves."
Bruce said a lot of people are starting to question the war, especially now that men and women from the state have been away for more than a year on duty, with no idea in sight as to when they may return.
"Maybe what we need is for someone to go down there and make some waves," he added.
Jayne Millerick, chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Committee, said in the last two years, Bradley has done his district proud. He has not always voted in lockstep with the party line when it wasn’t in the best interest, she said. Bradley voted for the Medicare Reform Act (search), which included provisions for future Canadian drug importation, and voted against drilling for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (search), a key measure in President Bush’s energy plan.
"I think he’s kept his promises," she said. "He’s stayed true to what he said he would do during the campaign. If what [Democrats] say is true, then there would be people coming out of the woodwork to run against him."