War support is weakening in military towns

War support is weakening in military towns

By Joe Baker, Senior Editor

President Bush is trying hard to whip up support for invading Iraq. After getting his way with both houses of Congress, Bush declared: “America speaks with one voice.”

ABC News decided to find out if that is so. They went out and talked to the people of America, the man on the street. In city after city, the network reporters found strong voices of opposition, and many were found in military towns.

San Diego, Calif. is home port to the Navy’s Pacific Fleet, which employs more than 100,000 people. Miles Harvey is a retiree living there.

“I am not convinced President Bush has made the case,” he said. “We have to be convinced there is a credible threat from Iraq, and that’s what I haven’t seen,” Harvey said.

A Vietnam veteran, Algene Miller, told ABC he was worried about potential casualties. “You can’t have a war without them,” he said. “I know. I’ve been there.”

There is also opposition in Charleston, S.C., the location of Charleston Air Force Base and The Citadel, a military college. Many there recall the quagmire that Vietnam became for U.S. forces.

“If the president could show a clear and present danger, I would support action against Iraq, but I don’t support it without any evidence,” said Robert Rhame, another Vietnam vet. “To me, our economy is far more important than removing Saddam Hussein from power,” he said.

In Denver, a homemaker, Christa Rogers, said unilateral action against Iraq would be an error. “I think we have to go with other people, other countries. I don’t think we can take this on, on our own,” Rogers said.

Cathy Roper, her friend, was in agreement. “It all seems too fast,” she said. “We need to do something, but it seems like it’s really being shoved onto everybody. It seems too fast,” Roper said.

Many Americans, ABC found, are questioning Bush’s motives as well. A number said they thought the issue was an attempt to divert attention from the sorry state of the economy.

Some thought it is about revenge. “Bush is trying to settle a score that began with his father,” said Debra Cassens, a San Diego businesswoman. She was referring to an abortive Iraqi attempt to assassinate George Bush Senior after the Persian Gulf War.

John Schneider is another San Diego resident. “I think the president wants to take action to enhance his own position. The war powers resolution was timed to benefit those running for election this November,” Schneider said.

Others have raised the question of why Bush is using diplomacy to deal with North Korea, another “Axis of Evil,” and downplays diplomacy for Iraq. The North Koreans violated a treaty with the U.S.; they have nuclear arms now. No invasion of North Korea is on the table. Yet the Bush administration argues Iraq may have nuclear capability two years from now and says we must invade.

Organized protests are building. In Los Angeles, 3,000 people appeared outside the federal building, chanting “no war.” In Portland, Oregon, nearly 6,000 people crowded the streets to march against the war and 10,000 gathered in New York’s Central Park for the same purpose.

The chief protest comes Oct. 26 when war opponents from across the country converge on Washington, D.C. to protest the invasion plans.

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