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Local residents have mixed reactions to Bush and war

November 09, 2003|by TARA REILLY and CANDICE BOSELY

tarar@herald-mail.com

martinsburg@herald-mailcom

Gordon Day said hearing of the frequent killing of American soldiers in Iraq gives him flashbacks of his time as a U.S. Marine in Vietnam.

"It's something that's heavy on my mind," said Day, 61, of Hagerstown. "Do we just keep getting picked off one at a time?"

Day said that while he supports President Bush on the war in Iraq, Americans deserve to know how the president plans to deter the killing of soldiers and how the United States plans to move forward with establishing a democracy in the Middle Eastern country.

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"Give me some answers, because when Election Day comes, people are going to stand in that booth and say, 'Do we change the quarterback?' Day said. "What's your strategy, other than the fact that we want to win?"

Other residents of the Tri-State area who were asked Saturday about the president's handling of the post-Saddam era in Iraq gave mixed reactions.

Richard Benjamin, 55, also a Vietnam veteran, said he is angry over what is happening in Iraq.

"It sucks; excuse me for saying it," said Benjamin, a patient at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg, W.Va. "We have our guys over there every day, five, four, six dying every day."

Benjamin also worries about Bush's military strategy.

"President Bush, he has to understand he's not going to be able to stop all this terrorism," he said. "The way to defeat an army is divide and conquer. Our military is being divided."

Vietnam veteran Muhammed Walker, 60, agreed. A machine gun operator in 1966, Walker has post-traumatic stress disorder. He worries that soldiers returning now will not receive the treatment they need.

"We have friends coming home who can't get help," he said. "Why would young men want to continue to go? This is not World War II. This is not Hitler. Every day, young men die. I don't want to see it any more."

Walker also expressed concern over the $87.5 billion package approved for military and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The country would be better off if the money were spent domestically, he said.

Charles Bartlett, 61, of Hagerstown, said he didn't think it was right that the federal government was allocating billions to the situation in the Middle East.

"I don't like it," Bartlett said. "I don't like the money that we're giving them."

Abby Harrison, 38, of Martinsburg, discussed her conflicting feelings about the situation in Iraq.

"On the more positive side, I understand the reasons why he did it and that's for freedom here and around the world," Harrison said. "On the negative side, we have a lot of men being killed."

Harrison said she will not vote for Bush next year.

Rob Stottlemeyer of Hagerstown said Bush doesn't know what it would take to finish the job in Iraq.

"We have a strong military. We got rid of Saddam, but then what?" said Stottlemeyer, 37. "Look what's happening over there. It's not a good thing."

Mike Dennison, 40, of Kearneysville, W.Va., said he supports Bush.

"He's our president. I have to back him," Dennison said. "I'm not going to talk bad about my leader. There's a lot of stuff I don't understand, a lot of stuff people don't understand."

Jim Perry, 43, of Hagerstown, said he supported Bush on the war with Iraq but the killing of soldiers has gone on too long and must stop. He said he doesn't know the answer to decreasing the number of military personnel being killed.

Stephanie Gilbert, 21, of Hagerstown, said she didn't think the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq would stop anytime soon.

"It's not going to stop until we pull out," she said.

Karl Weissenbach of Cascade said the United States should complete its mission in Iraq.

"I think it's a real complicated situation," he said. "Once you're in, you can't just stop and retreat. You have to have an end game."

Weissenbach, 49, said pulling out of Iraq wouldn't send a positive message for those who don't like the country.

"If you withdraw, what kind of signal are you sending to America's enemies?" he said. "We're going to have to complete the job."

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