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Syria Remarks Were a Joke, Legislator Says

Associated Press
Saturday, March 5, 2005; Page A07

DALLAS, March 4 -- A congressman who raised eyebrows with recent remarks about personally wanting to drop a nuclear bomb on Syria says he was joking.

The Feb. 19 remarks by Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Tex.), at a church pancake breakfast were first reported this week in Roll Call. The Capitol Hill newspaper reported it had heard a recording of the talk made by someone in attendance.

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Tex.) talked of flying an F-15 and dropping a nuclear bomb on Syria. (Eric Gay -- AP)

According to Roll Call, Johnson said he was talking with President Bush and Rep. Kay Granger (R-Tex.) at the White House about weapons of mass destruction that troops failed to find in Iraq.

According to Roll Call, Johnson said he told the president: "Syria is the problem. Syria is where those weapons of mass destruction are, in my view. You know, I can fly an F-15, put two nukes on 'em and I'll make one pass. We won't have to worry about Syria anymore."

Johnson, 74, is a former Air Force combat pilot who served in Korea and Vietnam, where he was shot down and spent about seven years as a prisoner of war.

Johnson did not respond to a request for comment on Friday. But he told the Dallas Morning News that he was surprised anyone took his comments seriously and has never advocated a nuclear strike on Syria.

"I was kind of joking -- you know, we were talking between veterans," he said. He added that Bush knew he was joking.

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