Peace activists who met with Rep. Jim Gibbons on Thursday said the Nevada Republican listened to their pleas to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq but "seemed unmoved."
Gibbons, the only member of Congress to have served in the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars, responded that he, too, wants to bring the troops home as soon as possible but won't be swayed by public opinion.
"I do not go out and make my decisions based on my thumb stuck up in the air testing the political winds," Gibbons told The Associated Press after the 15-minute meeting.
"I do what I think is best for this country, best for this nation, best for the people of Nevada," he said.
The four members of the Reno Anti-War Coalition who met with Gibbons included Jeanmarie Simpson, the Reno mother of a 23-year-old serviceman.
"As the parent of someone in the service I asked him to please help bring them home because we need them here," Simpson said after the meeting at Gibbons office in the federal building in Reno.
"There are not enough people here to fight this wildfire burning (on the edge of Reno) or to be police officers or Boys and Girls club volunteers. We need them to do things here. We don't need 5,000 of them to come home blown to bits," she said.
"He thanked me for my son's service. ... (but) he seemed unmoved."
Steven Gifford, a member of the coalition, said the Sierra Interfaith Action for Peace has sponsored candlelight vigils outside the federal courthouse every Monday since U.S. warplanes bombed Afghanistan in the fall of 2001.
This was the first face-to-face meeting with any member of Nevada's congressional delegation to express opposition to the war in Iraq, he said.
"We're going to be a little burr under his saddle, which is appropriate for a man who wears such gorgeous cowboy boots," said coalition member Paula McDonough.
"We told him we are all motivated by our deep love for our country and love for our Constitution, which gave the power to wage war to Congress, not the president," she said.
Brendan Trainor said he wanted Gibbons to know that President Bush should be concerned about growing opposition to the war in Iraq.
"I'm a libertarian-conservative," said Trainor, a Libertarian candidate seeking Gibbons' seat who said he attended as a constituent, not a political opponent.
Bush "needs to watch his flanks because fiscal conservatives are upset with his spending practices and the old-right wing candidates, like (Pat) Buchanan, are opposed to his foreign policies," he said.
Gibbons said he was open to hearing the concerns.
"We accept everybody in the office. They don't have to be Republican or Democrat, pro- or anti-war. We represent everybody," he said.
But Gibbons disagreed with the call for troop withdrawal.
"First of all, there's no war. We are in a peacekeeping effort today. So there is a big difference between what they are saying - in my view - and what the reality is," he said.
Gibbons, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, flew missions for the U.S. Air Force in Vietnam and for the Nevada Air Guard in the Persian Gulf War.
"Anybody who has ever been in war thinks war is the last resort, not the first," Gibbons said.
"I want to get our troops home as soon as we can. But we want to make sure they are able to provide the security needed to ensure democracy in Iraq is stable," he said.
Gibbons said it is impossible to predict when U.S. troops may come home.
"We were only supposed to be in Bosnia in 1995 for five or six months. We are still in Bosnia. We're still in Korea 50 years after the Korean war," he said.
"As soon as Iraqi security allows ... I will be the first one there welcoming our troops home."