N Marvin Parks drives the long way from his home to the Capitol so that he can collect reimbursement from taxpayers that he’d be ineligible for if he took the short way. He was helping himself in this manner even before he was a candidate for Congress, but now the resourceful state representative from Conway has found another use for those long, leisurely and profitable outings. They allow time for devising criticism of U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder of Little Rock, whom Parks is challenging in the general election. It is a theme of Republican candidates this year that people who’ve never been in the military, like Parks, are more patriotic and more knowledgeable about national defense than are combat veterans like Snyder. Parks follows the party line by faulting Snyder’s votes against authorizing President Bush to go to war in Iraq, and against creation of the Department of Homeland Security: "Does Snyder still stand by his vote to keep Saddam Hussein, a ruthless dictator, in power by failing to vote to use force?" And so on. Snyder’s only failing was farsightedness. He saw before others that the U.S.A. should keep its focus on al-Qaida, the terrorist group responsible for the 9/11 attacks. There was no evidence connecting Iraq with 9/11, and there still isn’t. But because Bush wanted war for his own reasons, America invaded and now occupies a country that had done us no harm. This preventive war has entailed a great loss of respect for America, but more important is that thousands of lives have been lost — children, women and men, Iraqis and Americans. Would all these agree, if they could talk, that the American invasion was a good thing, as the Parkses claim? Would they say they’re happier dead under American rule than alive under Hussein? The killing goes on, and no one knows how America will get out, or what will happen when it does, or how much it will cost. Cynics like to say it makes no difference who’s elected president. The Iraq war is an example of why it makes a great difference. We would not be in Iraq now if a less war-happy administration had been in office. As for the Department of Homeland Security, the very name of the agency frightens some of us, although it probably won’t scare off any terrorists. These things have a way of being used against native dissenters more than foreign saboteurs. They’re easier to catch. Snyder said he voted against the new agency because it was created with insufficient deliberation and because it expanded bureaucracy more than it improved security. Good thinking. We need more Vic Snyders in Congress. We already have plenty of congressmen who will diddle with their expense allowances.