Congress, and its Utah delegation, showed rare solemnity, emotion and depth as members debated in recent days whether to go to war.
As House Speaker Tom Foley said, it was clear that they were voting on war - not just abstract diplomacy - because the United Nations' deadline for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait loomed so close.So Congress' sometimes narrow partisanship, shallow speeches designed for short TV sound bites and caustic attacks disappeared. Congress was full of statesmen. Ideas engaged ideas. Members knew and explored all sides carefully and deeply.
After all, each member knew the effects of wars past on their families and friends. It hit personally. They were not eager for a new war - unless no viable alternative existed or unless threatening war was the last chance to avoid it.
An example of how personal the vote was came when a protester tried to shout down Sens. Jake Garn and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, as they gave press interviews in a Capitol hallway.
When the protester said pacifying Saddam Hussein is better than war, Garn lost his temper. He yelled that pacifists like him "cost millions of lives in World War II by not standing up to Hitler" when he could have been stopped easily in the 1930s.
Garn was a pilot for the Navy and retired from the Air National Guard as a general. He knows well the costs of war and the costs of not going to war. With that, he said the vote was his toughest in 16 years in the Senate.
When the same heckler criticized the senators for sending people to die, Hatch lost his temper, too.
"Someone like that doesn't think and doesn't realize that this is a tough vote. . . . I lost a brother in the Second World War. . . . I lost a brother-in-law in the Vietnam War. I had one brother-in-law completely shot up in Korea. You don't think I weigh these things?" Hatch said.
"I don't want to send anybody to war. I want to prevent war. But the only way to do it is to stand up and stop this guy (Saddam)."
Newly elected Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah, found the first issue he faced in Congress was war - which instead of a baptism by fire was a baptism by inferno.
He did not serve in Vietnam himself - he had a draft deferral for a bad knee - but remembered many of his high school friends who were killed there. He struggled on how to vote, listening to every briefing possible and talking to experts on both sides - including President Bush himself.
He finally voted with the president, saying not to do so would embolden Saddam and would not necessarily prevent action by Bush anyway. "It was really the most difficult vote I can imagine. You have to search your soul. . . . It would almost be easier to quit and go home," Orton said.
When asked if he was glad to be in Congress anyway, he said somberly, "Not today."
Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, after recalling how he served in the Navy from 1952-54, also said it was the toughest vote he had ever faced and "a lot of prayer and suffering" went into it. He voted for use of force, saying the show of strength was the last chance to convince Saddam to back down.
Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, was the only member of the Utah delegation who voted against the use of force.
He was first elected to Congress in 1972 on a pledge to help stop the Vietnam War. He remembered that on the day in 1973 that Congress cut funds for that war, "I promised myself then that I would never vote for a war where America's vital interests were not at risk or where there was an honorable alternative."
Owens said an honorable alternative existed in giving sanctions more time to work. "If my vote to keep consistency with my judgment and my conscience by disagreeing with the commander in chief costs me the opportunity to sit in this body, so be it. I am at peace with that issue."
Despite losing on the vote, Owens called for the nation to close ranks around President Bush and to pray for him.
As Leo P. Ribuffo, a historian at George Washington University who has studied war debates, said, this one was "the highest quality of debate on war and peace since 1776." Like 1776, the issues were clear, the future uncertain and the consequences personal.