South Dakota Senator Has Parental Interest in Iraq War
By Jim Abrams
WASHINGTON (AP - 21 March) - Supporting the troops in Iraq is a matter of course for
most members of Congress; for Sen. Tim Johnson, who has a son near the
front lines, it is more personal.
Johnson, D-S.D., said he periodically slips away from the Senate floor,
embroiled Friday in a lengthy debate on the budget, to catch the latest
news from Iraq. Although lawmakers receive classified briefings, he said
he is "pretty much like any other parent" who gets most of his
information from the media and unsure where the war has taken his son.
Brooks Johnson, 31, is a staff sergeant with the 101st Airborne, which
was stationed in Kuwait before the fighting began. He is involved in his
fourth campaign in five years, having served in Bosnia, Kosovo and
Other lawmakers have sons or daughters in the military or the reserves,
but Johnson said he is unaware of any colleagues with children in the
Iraqi theater. The 101st is the Army's helicopter assault division.
Johnson said he last heard from his son several days ago by e-mail, in
which Brooks wrote that he was working around the clock with little time
for sleep. Since then there's been no word from him, and "we may not be
hearing from him for a while."
Johnson said he and his wife had put up a large map of Iraq in their
kitchen to follow the course of the war.
He described his son as "a big strapping guy, ... an all-American kid,"
who was a star on his football team but also carried Flaubert and other
classical writers in his duffel bag.
The senator said he and his son discussed his vote last fall in favor of
giving President Bush the authority to use force to disarm Iraq. "He told
me that he would do his best to be a good soldier, and I needed to do the
best I can to represent America's best interests," Johnson said.
Johnson noted that he also criticized the president for not putting
together a broad coalition to carry out that use of force. "I was
disappointed by the way it worked out," he said, "but now we are at war,
and we need to show support for our troops. I hope and pray that it will
be a quick and decisive victory."