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No clear support for war

Pike Countians split on attacking Iraq

Though hundreds of thousands of people turned out in Washington D.C. and other major American cities this weekend to protest the possibility of war in Iraq, the likelihood of an invasion continues to loom. Still, most of the news coverage of the anti-war protests noted that the activists in the streets were not the traditional mix of anti-government left-wingers and sign-waving liberals. Among the crowd were some of the most respected figures in American politics.

Several members of Congress have signed a letter to President Bush asking that he allow UN weapons inspectors plenty of time to complete their inspections. Although they discovered several empty warheads in Iraq last week, weapons inspectors say the fact that the warheads were empty proves that Saddam has no substantive capability to make weapons of mass destruction and a so-called "smoking gun" has yet to be found.

Some Pike County residents also have serious concerns about the possibility of a preemptive war by the United States against Iraq.

"I'm against it," said Mary Hines of Troy. "I have a daughter and she and her husband are both over there going to Iraq. They have a six-year old son that I'll have to take care of, but I still wouldn't like it, even if it wasn't my child over there. I'd be against it whether it was my child or any other child."

Hines said Bush had not proven the need to preemptively attack Iraq.

"He's going to get a lot of people killed. For what reason?" she asked. "I don't understand the meaning of it."

Hines said the war, although not officially declared, was already causing her pain.

"My daughter has been gone for three weeks and I've only been able to hear from her one time," she said. "I'm not able to rest good at night knowing that she's going to be in harm's way."

Other Alabama citizens have concerns about the international consequences of an American first strike.

"We're just going to go over there and start upsetting other countries," said Alfred Young, who lives in Montgomery but works in Troy.

Young, said war is probably inevitable and attacking Iraq will increase terrorism and anti-American sentiment around the world.

"It puts people in the United States in more danger," he said.

Young's uncle is in the military and has been placed on alert. According to Young, his family is worried about the possibility of him being sent overseas to settle a personal score.

"I think Bush is just trying to finish a job his dad couldn't do. It's personal and not in the interests of the county," he said.

Marie Fraley of Troy had strong words for the media's promotion of war and said she "totally disagreed" with the push for conflict in Iraq.

"We're definitely going to war whether we want to or not," she said. "But I hate that all these young people are getting sucked into the military. It's like offering candy to little kids when they offer to pay for people's college tuition and then send them off to die and kill."

Fraley said the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, gave Bush a blank check to send American troops around the world.

"I think that if it weren't for Sept. 11, the UN wouldn't allow Bush to get away with what he's getting away with," she said. "Everybody said he was dumb before Sept. 11, and what's changed?"

According to Fraley, the effects of the war will be felt by all citizens, not just those who have loved ones die on desert battlefields.

"Not only are thousands of people going to die, but gas prices are going to go up even more and the economy is already down," she said.

Gen Ha Lee, a downtown merchant, takes a larger view, arguing that a war would be consistent with a pattern of American selfishness.

"About 30 years ago, the United States used to send missionaries to poor countries. Now we're being too selfish," she said. "Iraq and these other countries are poor and the United States only wants to be friends with rich countries."

According to Lee, Iraq's crippling poverty should make it a target for compassion, not bombs.

Still, some citizens are supportive of the war effort. Albert Conway of Coffee County was in Troy to do some shopping on Martin Luther King Day and wanted a personal hand in the violence.

"The Bible speaks of war and when my time comes, I'm not afraid to die," he said. "I'd rather be over there fighting than over here watching. Give me a machine gun and I'd do some good."

Though Bush has not produced evidence of links between Saddam Hussein and the Sept. 11 attacks, Conway is convinced the Iraqi dictator was behind the airline crashes into the Pentagon and World Trade Centers.

"He's behind terrorism and the world would be safer without him. He was behind that first war too, Desert Storm," he said.

Joshua Folmar and Jason Norsworthy of Luverne were in Troy doing some holiday shopping and both support the possibility of a preemptive attack. Folmar said a prolonged occupation of Iraq would be in the interests of the United States.

"I think we should go in and take over their oil fields," he said. "We've got things pretty much under control in Afghanistan and al-Qaida's about gone. We might set up a puppet government, but the Iraqi people would eventually start to think for themselves."

Norsworthy agreed, placing his trust in Bush to do the right thing for the American people.

"If the president feels that war is necessary, we should do it, because that's his job to make those decisions," he said. "I feel he's made his case and Iraq could be a threat."

However, Norsworthy did stress the importance of being on guard for domestic consequences of American foreign policy, acknowledging that anti-Arabic prejudice was extremely high right now.

Stephen Stetson can be reached at stephen.stetson@troymessenger.com.