Local reactions to war mixed
Steamboat Springs — Janet Locke doesn’t know where her son is, but she has a feeling.
Then again, knowing her son’s location might not ease her nerves.
Like many local families, the Lockes had a particular interest in President George W. Bush’s Monday address to the nation, as its message had a profound impact on Routt County servicemen and servicewomen stationed around the world.
Janet and Chuck Locke’s son, Joe, is an Air Force captain serving as an air liaison officer to the Army’s Special Forces.
Security reasons prevent the Lockes from knowing precisely where their son is located, but they are fairly certain he is stationed in the Middle East.
“We’re nervous, of course,” Janet Locke said. “We don’t know just where he’s at, but I’m sure he’s anxious to get the job done.”
While many Americans continue to question the president’s justification for military action, Janet Locke said she has no option but to trust Bush’s leadership.
“I’d like to have more info, but it seems that we have to trust what we’re told,” she said. “I hate to see war come, but hopefully it will all turn out OK.”
Nade Wiese, an Air Force veteran of the late 1950s and early 1960s, faces a predicament similar to the Locke’s.
Wiese’s son, Christian, a 1985 Steamboat Springs High School graduate, serves as an Air Force explosives expert. Wiese doesn’t know exactly where his son is stationed.
“He’s there — that’s all I know,” Wiese said. “Naturally, I’m concerned about him, but that’s his job and he’ll do his job just like any other true American.”
Steamboat resident and Navy veteran Ron Pollard supports the president’s 48-hour ultimatum that Saddam Hussein and his sons leave Iraq or face military conflict.
“I think without a doubt that the president has handled this perfectly, with the exception that he waited a little too long,” said Pollard, who flew 59 missions over Vietnam as a jet pilot stationed on an aircraft carrier.
Pollard dismissed a concern shared by many Americans that a U.S.-led attack on Iraq will increase terrorism.
“I think that’s extremely naÃive,” he said. “The terrorists who are attacking us, they’ve vowed to attack us no matter what we do.”
Local rancher and Army veteran Jim Stanko supports ridding the world of Hussein, but he said he’s concerned about what will happen with post-war Iraq and this country’s soon-to-be-growing veteran population.
“I’m basically in support of what Bush is doing and in support of the idea that Saddam Hussein has to go,” Stanko said. “Where my concerns are coming from is the fact that (Bush) has put so much emphasis on wiping out Saddam Hussein, but I don’t think Bush really centered on how we’re going to pay for this and what the effect will be once we get rid of him.”
“We’re going to have 250,000 new veterans soon,” Stanko said. “Bush has spent money trying to get the support of minor countries, yet veterans benefits have been cut. I stand a better chance of winning the lottery than getting medical benefits from the (Veterans Administration).”
Other area residents remain steadfastly opposed to military action against Saddam Hussein and his regime.
Nancy Schweiger has been a peace, civil rights and women’s rights activist for more than three decades. Recently, she organized two local peace marches.
“(The war) is about oil,” Schweiger said. “We have 225,000 troops over there fighting for oil, and (the administration) doesn’t give a damn. It’s about oil and world homogeny.”
Schweiger said she would like to see the local city and county governments pass resolutions supporting the Bill of Rights. She said the Bush administration is shredding the Constitution and Americans’ right to personal privacy.
“(Author George Orwell’s) ‘1984’ is here, but it hasn’t been completely unveiled,” she said.
Steamboat’s Tom Wells, 21, also disapproves of the impending war.
“It’s just retarded if you ask me,” Wells said. “Fifty-year-old men tell us to go to war, and the young people die for it.”
Along with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Australian Prime Minister John Howard has been one of President Bush’s staunchest supporters. Tuesday, Howard agreed to commit troops to the pending military conflict, despite strong opposition from Australia’s citizens.
Norm Hams, of Sydney, Australia, is vacationing in Steamboat this week. Like many of his countrymen, Hams doesn’t support military action at the present time.
“I don’t feel they should go ahead without United Nations (support),” Hams said. “I think there’s other diplomatic solutions that should be used.”
Ken Brenner, head of the Routt County Democrat Party, made the following statement on behalf of the party:
“We support the goal of removing Saddam Hussein; it’s the process that we have a problem with,” Brenner said. “President Bush has demonstrated a unilateral arrogance that has alienated many of our longstanding allies and we’re worried about what that’s going to do to our economy that’s already struggling.”
Harmon Buckland, head of the Routt County Republican Party, expressed solidarity with President Bush.
“I totally support the president’s ultimatum,” Buckland said. “I think we’ve carried this on long enough. There’s a time we need to end the trials and errors.”
War will surely be a topic to be addressed by area religious leaders. The Rev. Larry Oman of United Methodist Church said his congregation addressed war and Christianity last week, as it probably will in the future.
Sharing a common faith doesn’t always mean sharing political views, Oman said.
“Clearly, we do have people of varying perspectives,” he said. “There are some who believe that Saddam Hussein does have and will use chemical or biological or nuclear weapons. There are others who say it’s not been proven that he has these weapons.”
“We have some among us who are pacifists,” Oman said. “Probably most of us would find ourselves in the Christian just-war tradition.”
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