This week's Litchfield County Times has a fascinating and instructive article on CT State Senator Andrew Roraback (R-30th District). Universally known as Andy in the NW Corner of Connecticut, where he is widely respected as honest and effective, especially on environmental issues, he is one of an endangered species, moderate New England Republicans.
His rep is good enough that he was one of 24 local elected officials (half and half) from around the nation given a Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellowship, this one with a focus on helping foster further understanding of foreign governments and policy issues.
Well, this crop of Fellows were just shipped to the Middle East and it was evidently quite the wake-up call to Sen. Roraback. He learned first hand that that a lot of Iraqis have bailed out of their country in desperate fear:
"When you see a room crowded with people who have fled Iraq, you see the human cost [of the war]," he said. "We know the cost to American lives, but there are 500,000 Iraqi refugees in Jordan and they've fled their home because of the war. It put a face on the cost of this war in this country."
Pretty much everyone they met with gave Roraback an opportunity to smell the coffee:
He also heard many opinions, but none of them favored the U.S. decision to initiate that war. "There were few, if any, supporters of the war in any of the countries that we visited," he said. "Even in Israel, there is very little belief that the war had improved things or made things better."
This exposure to the real world seems to have had a genuinely salutory effect on Roraback:
"I came away from the trip believing that as bad as Saddam Hussein was, the vacuum and volatility that were created by the war have left the region in an even worse state," he added. "And that's just from talking to people and seeing people whose lives have been impacted directly by the war, by the consequences of the war. It had a profound impact on my understanding and my opinion of the whole situation. To anyone who's interested in my opinion, I'm happy to voice it, because it's an informed opinion now."
From the article, by Emily M. Olsen (which also touches on the Israel/Palestine crisis), I get the clear sense that Roraback still feels somehow that there is a constructive role that the US occupation might have to play in mitigating the criminal destruction that it unleashed, and that he has no idea how that might happen.
I was gratified to learn earlier today that the folks who have organized a series of terrific Third Friday events observing the Iraq Moratorium in Cornwall, CT are discussing inviting Senator Roraback to their Third Friday event in April to discuss with some of his constituents what he learned on his trip and what he might do to put those lessons to use.