A senior Republican has broken from his party in the final days of his House career, saying he believes that the U.S. military assault on Iraq was unjustified and that the situation has deteriorated into "a dangerous, costly mess."

"I've reached the conclusion, retrospectively, now that the inadequate intelligence and faulty conclusions are being revealed, that all things being considered, it was a mistake to launch that military action," Rep. Doug Bereuter wrote to constituents. "Left unresolved for now is whether intelligence was intentionally misconstrued to justify military action."

Bereuter, 64, is a senior member of the House International Relations Committee and vice chairman of the House intelligence committee. He is stepping down after 13 terms to become president of the Asia Foundation, effective Sept. 1.

The letter, sent to constituents who have contacted him about the war, was reported by the Lincoln Journal Star on Wednesday. "I felt I should send you a forthright update of my views and conclusions on the subject before I leave office," Bereuter wrote.

In 2002, Bereuter spoke in support of a House resolution authorizing President Bush to go to war.

Bush has continued to say the war was justified because Saddam Hussein represented a threat to the United States, his neighbors and Iraqis.

In addition to "a massive failure or misinterpretation of intelligence," Bereuter said, the administration made other errors in going to war despite warnings about the consequences.

"From the beginning of the conflict, it was doubtful that we for long would be seen as liberators, but instead increasingly as an occupying force," he said. "Now we are immersed in a dangerous, costly mess, and there is no easy and quick way to end our responsibilities in Iraq without creating bigger future problems in the region and, in general, in the Muslim world."

Bereuter said that as a result of the war, "our country's reputation around the world has never been lower, and our alliances are weakened."

Lincoln City Council member Jeff Fortenberry (R) is facing state Sen. Matt Connealy (D) to succeed Bereuter.

"It was a mistake to launch that military action,"

Rep. Doug Bereuter, 64, has written to constituents.