March 20, 2003

Americans React to Strike Against Iraq

BYLINE: BOBBY ROSS JR.; Associated Press Writer

SECTION: DOMESTIC NEWS

LENGTH: 526 words

DATELINE: NASHVILLE, Tenn.

As President Bush told the nation that the United States had launched a strike on Iraq, the Brentwood Hills Church of Christ in Nashville opened its doors to the community to watch on two big screens – and to pray.

About 15 people were on hand during a 30-minute service after Bush’s speech Wednesday night to pray for the troops and the nation’s leaders.

“I really hate that we had to do this,” said church member Tom Hinton, 68, a former Marine. “It worries me. This chemical warfare is something different. … I’m not as gung-ho as I was 50 years ago. But we’ve got to get rid of this dictator, there’s no question about it.”

In New York – the city where the Sept. 11, 2001, attack started the U.S. war on terror – people greeted the start of military action against Saddam Hussein with both support and sadness.

“I’m all for it. You had to live here to understand it. We lost everything you can imagine,” said Vince Diamonde, 55, who was walking near the World Trade Center site with his wife and son.

Not everyone agreed.

“It’s a sad day in the history of the world. Our president is in violation of international principles,” said the Rev. Lucius Walker Jr., pastor of Salvation Baptist Church in Brooklyn and executive director of New York-based Pastors for Peace.

In New Orleans, a basketball game between the New Orleans Hornets and the New York Knicks was stopped for a short period to allow the crowd to watch the president’s address on big-screen TVs. Many fans stood and applauded before play resumed.

In San Diego, Suzanne Hoefler said she could only think of her husband, Navy Petty Officer John Hoefler, who left in January for the Arabian Gulf.

“I thought I was prepared for this, but I’m really not,” she said.

For veterans of the first Gulf War, the news brought back vivid memories. Jeff McGill of Louisville, Ky., remembers the Arabian night set aglow by the synchronized launching of missiles from U.S. warships. And David Worley, also of Louisville, recalls the hungry and haggard Iraqi soldiers, shellshocked by weeks of bombing, surrendering in droves.

“It doesn’t surprise me that we’ve had to go back in,” said McGill, who was a seaman aboard the battleship USS Wisconsin in 1991. “I wish we could have taken care of it the first time and we wouldn’t have to do all this again.”

As Bush’s speech came over the television Thursday night in Portland, Ore., a few patrons at Rialto, a downtown bar, billiards hall and betting parlor, jeered at the screen.

“How many people are going to die? What does this have to do with the Twin Towers in New York? It’s a huge distraction that is going to cost thousands of lives,” said patron Hank Lazenby.

But patrons at a bar in Little Rock, Ark., erupted into applause after Bush announced that the United States and its “coalition of the willing” had launched aerial attacks on Iraq early Thursday.

“I think Saddam has had plenty of time to disarm,” said Jeff Davidson, who interrupted a game of pool at the West End Sports Bar. “I pray for everyone as far as our military is concerned. We’re fighting for the freedom of everyone to stay away from nuts like that.”

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