Published March 20, 2003
Within minutes after the U.S. launched the first strike on Iraq, Americans from all corners of the country expressed mixed feelings about the war.
In Nashville, Tenn., former Marine Tom Hinton said he is torn about the military action but believes Saddam Hussein has to go.
"I really hate that we had to do this," said Hinton, a member of the Brentwood Hills Church of Christ -- which held a service after Bush’s speech Wednesday. "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."
The church invited members of the community to watch the president’s announcement on two big screens inside and to pray for the troops and nation’s leaders during a half-hour-long service.
In New York -- 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, who was walking near the World Trade Center site with his wife and son.
"It's about time," added Irving Levine, who has lived in Battery Park City for 21 years and spent a year displaced from his home near ground zero because of the Sept. 11 attacks. "We've been ready for it for a while. I think our soldiers are prepared, we'll go in quickly and give the Iraqi people maybe some of the freedom that we have."
Not all New Yorkers 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.
"We're creating enemies tonight, we're not creating friends," Walker said. "We're not creating freedom, we're creating world hostility against us as a nation -- at the very time we ought to be building alliances. This attack did not need to happen."
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, shell-shocked 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?" said patron Hank Lazenby. "It's a huge distraction that is going to cost thousands of lives."
But those 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."
Patrons at the Rivers bar and restaurant in Chicago also watched Bush’s announcement of the attack. Chicagoan Jean Jodar, who was among a handful of people watching, said she agreed with the president’s decision.
"I feel confident that he has things under control and that he is focused," she said.
Patrons at Jim's steakhouse in Bloomington applauded and cheered after Bush finished his address, and a piano player launched into patriotic songs.
But the mood was quite different outside a downtown Chicago federal government plaza, where about 25 anti-war demonstrators waved cardboard signs and chanted "No blood for oil."
"I can't believe that it has come to this. This is a totally illegal and unjust war," said Mary Finn, one of the demonstrators.
John Alex, an Atlanta banker, said he stands behind the American-led war because he believes the Iraqi dictator is dangerous.
"I think we are doing the right thing because Saddam is a threat, not only to us but to other countries as well," Alex said. "I think he has weapons of mass destruction. I think our country would be better off without him there."
Others believe it is the U.S. that’s stirring up trouble.
"We're living in a dismal moment in history," said Chris Mazzia, an attorney from Santa Rosa, Calif., who has a stepson in the Air Force. "We are attacking the heart of the Arab world. There's no crisis except for the one that we are making. We will feel the consequences of this for generations."
For some, the war and its consequences are hitting particularly close to home.
"This hurts me knowing what they just woke up to. It has become personal," said Al-Marayati, who grew up in Baghdad and now lives in Toledo, Ohio. "This war was not necessary. This is Bush's war."
But Pamela Klifar of Overland Park, Kan., said that even though she isn’t a Bush fan, she has decided to stand behind the troops.
"I'm not a big Bush supporter. I think he's a little too quick to jump into things," Klifar said. "Since he has, I'm not going to protest. I'll support the people. I just hope it doesn't last too long."
John Adamonis of Cumberland, R.I., believes that partisanship should be cast aside during the war.
"I don't care what party you're affiliated with," he said. "We all live in the USA. So we need to support our president. I'm behind the president, 100 percent. If you don't like it, leave."
Meagan MacLeod of New Bedford, Mass., worries about the lack of unified support for military action against Iraq.
"I hope they made the right decision in what we are doing because in doing this, we're losing a lot of ties with other countries," she said. "I don't want a World War III."
Some don’t believe an attack on Iraq is going to do any good.
"It's going to kill innocent civilians and it's not going to do anything to help the people of the United States feel safer in any way," said Aileen Nowlan, a University of Pennsylvania student in Philadelphia.
Others just want the war over so domestic problems can once again be the focus.
"Let's get it over with," said Judy Diamonde of New York, "and let's get back to the economy."
Fox News’ Catherine Donaldson-Evans and The Associated Press contributed to this report.