In my 31 years of military service, I was charged not only with defending this country but also its freedoms. If my time in the Navy taught me anything, it was that we serve in this all-volunteer military to defend Americans' freedom to think as they please, and to say what they think, even if they disagree with their leaders. A democracy is based on freedom of expression, and those who join the military do so to fight, if necessary, the wars which defend that freedom-hoping that our use will be to a wise end.

Whether President Bush or Secretary Rumsfeld likes it or not, these freedoms include the right of Americans to dissent with its government and to demand change. The military serves our country; those ultimately responsible for our military, our citizens, not only have the right-they have the duty-to speak up about what is occurring in Iraq and its impact upon America's security. That is what being a citizen in a democracy is all about.

This is particularly true when our citizens see so many failures in how this Administration has conducted the war. For someone like Secretary Rumsfeld to compare critics of the Bush Administration's Iraq policy to those appeasing Nazis before WWII is reprehensible. That is why I am running on a belief formed from 31 years in the service of our country: That whenever America has looked itself in the national mirror at a time of great challenge, it has said 'we are better than this,' and we have acted in the best interests of our citizens. I call on Curt Weldon to join me in challenging those who insult our values in this manner.