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America Wakes Up to War

Americans woke up Thursday to news that the war in Iraq was well underway — and had plenty to say about it.

Many cheered. Some sobbed. Others prayed. Most were furious with Saddam Hussein, the apparent target of Wednesday night's attack.

"We have lived in a dark future ever since Saddam has come to power," said Ahmed Al-Mahana, a resident of Everett, Wash., who deserted the Iraqi Army in 1991 before immigrating to the United States. "Our morning is very near. We are waiting for this minute."

Other Americans believed their president was wrong in attacking Iraq.

"We'll win this, it's no contest ... but the final outcome is not going to be a good one for us in the international community," said the Rev. Chet Guinn, a retired Methodist minister in Des Moines, Iowa.

But that view may be in the decided minority. Public opinion polls have shown the American public generally supports military action against Saddam by an almost 2-1 margin, a slight increase in recent weeks.

"I hope it ends quickly," said Scott Casey, an Oklahoma City mortgage broker. "I hope there aren't many lives lost and I hope that everyone understands that George W. Bush has done a good job by proving Saddam Hussein has been lying."

Others weren’t so supportive. Honolulu resident Tim Rupright said the Bush administration has been "totally arrogant" in dealing with Iraq, and called the military action "a mistake."

"Certainly there are merits to the attack, but I think the way the Bush administration is going about it is terribly wrong."

In Nashville, Tenn., former Marine Tom Hinton said he is torn about the military action but believes Saddam 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.

Some didn’t have such conflicting feelings.

"It's about time," said Gary Emtman of Spokane, Wash. "I want Saddam Hussein dead."

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.

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."

As Bush's speech came over the television Wednesday 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."

Others think 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 effects are hitting particularly close to home.

"This hurts me knowing what they just woke up to. It has become personal," said Abid Al-Marayati, who grew up in Baghdad and now lives in Toledo, Ohio. "This war was not necessary. This is Bush's war."

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."

Many 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."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.