Silvestre Reyes

As a young helicopter-crew chief in Vietnam, Silvestre Reyes learned the costs of war firsthand. Holed up in a camp that came under attack one night in March 1968, Reyes was knocked unconscious by a mortar. He survived, but permanently lost hearing in his left ear. Combat is "something you never forget," says Reyes, who was named last month to be the new chairman of the House intelligence committee. Now 62, the soft-spoken son of Mexican-American cotton farmers will be a prominent voice in the Iraq debate. Reyes opposed the war from the outset. He authored a prescient memo in 2003 accusing Bush administration officials of manipulating intelligence about Saddam Hussein. But in his first interview after his selection as intelligence chairman, Reyes told NEWSWEEK that he isn't in favor of a quick pullout. Instead he favors increasing troops by 30,000 to disarm the militias and prevent Iraq from becoming a staging ground for terror-ism. The comment raised eyebrows, but Reyes--a member of the House Armed Services Committee whose Texas district includes Fort Bliss--says it shouldn't have. "In my mind, there isn't anything dovish about me," he says. Reyes also recently stumbled when, in another interview, he appeared confused about whether it was Sunni or Shiite Muslims who made up the ranks of Al Qaeda. Democratic aides say his comments reflected a lack of polish, not expertise. There certainly isn't any confusion about what Reyes cares about most: outside his office, an easel prominently displays the pictures of the 23 service members from his district who lost their lives serving in Iraq.