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Christopher Shays

The Connecticut congressman shared insights gained from heading up congressional hearings on the war in Iraq.

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When Rep. Christopher Shays met with reporters Thursday morning over breakfast, his remarks sounded tinged with anguish.

The Connecticut Republican, a longtime supporter of the war in Iraq, is facing a tough battle for reelection against former Westport, Conn., selectman Diane Farrell. Among Mr. Shay's concerns:

• That his recently announced support for a phased withdrawal from Iraq is being viewed by some in the press as politically motivated. "You have taken away the one thing I have, and that is my credibility," Shays said.

• That there is scant progress in a war he recently called "a noble effort we have no choice but to win." At the Monitor-sponsored breakfast, Shays said, "Since January of this year there has been no progress" made by the Iraqi government.

• That the US remains vulnerable to attack while the nation's political dialogue often seems trivial. "I believe there will be a biological attack against this country. I believe there will be a radioactive attack against the country. I even believe there will be a nuclear attack. I have been to Los Alamos and I have seen a weapon made with material you could get from Home Depot. The only thing you need is enriched uranium," Shays said.

• That President Bush lacks credibility on the issue of the war. "The president has no credibility on whatever he says. People are not paying much attention. And the reason he doesn't have credibility is that we were wrong about the weapons of mass destruction and that is a fact," Shays said.

Shays gave a surprisingly personal response when he was asked why he viewed the war in Iraq as moral and essential even though he had registered for conscientious objector status during Vietnam. He first noted that the 9/11 attacks, which cost the lives of 81 of his constituents, "had a monumental impact on my life." Shays, who lists his religious affiliation as Christian Scientist, added that, "I am struggling with my own faith and that is something I don't want to talk about."

Later in the session Shays added that, "I am 40 years older than I was when I was a conscientious objector. I have changed my view about the need to confront evil."

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