CLOSE

U.S. Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan announced on Monday, July 31, 2017, that he will not seek re-election to the House seat he has held for close to 30 years.
Wochit

WASHINGTON — Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. thought he was probably ending his political career when he pressed the “no” button and voted against going to war with Iraq.

Sixteen years later, the Knoxville Republican will leave Congress on his own terms.

Duncan, one of only seven Republicans to vote against the Iraq War and the only one of those seven still in office, announced last week that he will not seek re-election next year.

The soft-spoken, mild-mannered Tennessean’s decision to defy his own party, and the wishes of many of his constituents, and oppose what he considered an unnecessary conflict was the defining moment of his nearly 30-year career in politics. Outside of his home state, it’s the thing he will be most remembered for when he leaves office.

To this day, Duncan is convinced he made the right call, even though he suffered years of fallout over his vote.

“What I’ve noticed over the years is so many people who haven’t served in the military, they seem to have this real strong desire to prove how tough they are and prove their patriotism,” Duncan said. “I just thought back then, and I think now, that we shouldn’t be so eager to go to war.

“So many people in Washington want to be Winston Churchills, and they seem to want to turn any world leader they possibly can into a new Hitler,” he said. “Most of the time that’s not really true.”

Duncan’s skepticism about the war was rooted to some degree in the first Persian Gulf War a decade earlier. He had supported that war because he and other members of Congress had been told that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was a dangerous threat to the United States. But not long after the war started, he started to believe the threat had been exaggerated when Hussein’s elite…