"I Am Concerned"

Minnesota vets on the war in Iraq

By Paul Demko and Britt Robson

Now that the invasion of Iraq has begun, all of us have a new cache of emotions to go with our opinions. Since veterans of military service have played such a vocal role in both supporting and--to a surprising degree--opposing this war, it seemed an appropriate time to visit the vfw and American Legion Posts around the Twin Cities and talk to some of the vets there.

Many of the people we talked to declined to have their opinions published. Some others preferred to give only their first names. What follows is a sample of what we heard during this thoroughly unscientific survey, conducted from last Wednesday night, an hour after President Bush announced the onset of war, to last Saturday afternoon. For a complete transcript of all the interviews excerpted here, go to citypages.com.

Westphal American Legion Post Chaplain Stan McClure: people call you unpatriotic if you question what the administration is doing
Michael Dvorak
Westphal American Legion Post Chaplain Stan McClure: people call you unpatriotic if you question what the administration is doing

Saturday afternoon, VFW Post 295, South St. Paul. Dan Smoot, a 51-year-old Vietnam vet, is wearing a red, white, and blue VFW baseball cap and red, white, and blue jacket.

Smoot: I'm very supportive of our troops. I'm supportive of the president and what he's doing. I do have reservations. The United States has never been an aggressive country. It used to be always we were attacked first. This is the first. I am concerned. Anybody who's been at war don't like war. Sometimes it has to be done. In this case I do agree with the president that it needs to be done.

CP: The president has tried to tie Iraq to 9/11. Do you think he's made that case?

Smoot: Absolutely not. The thing is, every one of those terrorists was from Saudi Arabia. It's like, Hello, wait a minute. He may be indirectly tied. I'm sure he may be backing it. I have no doubt in that. I think the UN at this point in time is a joke. They're scared to make a decision. I think there's a lot of political and monetary interference with it.

It's fine to be against the war. I'm against the war. But now that we're there, support your president, support your government, and support your troops. All we're doing is a job that we're told to do by our commander in chief. Bottom line, when a person joins the military they take an oath. Once you take that oath you're bound by it. I don't know how else to put it.

I have no doubt that Iraq will not be the end. I have no doubt, because they are keeping it tied with terrorism. There will be other countries. We're gonna have to go in and we're gonna have to weed them out. This is a whole different world. This might wake up the other countries and they'll weed out the terrorists in their own countries, knowing that if they don't we're coming after them. You awake the sleeping lion. Japan did it in World War II. Well, it just happened again. And here we come.


Wednesday night, VFW Post 230 in Columbia Heights. Mark, a U.S. Marine for eight years during the 1990s, and Todd, who served in the Army from 1988-98, are sharing pizza and paperwork.

Todd: We need to get rid of the guy. We need to get rid of the whole regime is what we need to do. Our biggest discussion was the anti-American, politically correct rhetoric that is being flashed around here. I don't know. I feel passionately about it. He does. He is a Marine and I'm a 10-year Army vet; I spent a year in the Balkans. And we both sacrificed all that time for our country and to hear people spouting the shit coming out of their mouths, it just infuriates both of us.

We're so afraid we're going to offend someone by our opinions. "You better not voice your opinion on closing our borders and not having all these immigrants come in, because you might offend somebody." Well, that's bullshit!

Mark: If you want to talk honestly about what my opinion is, people come into this country and their visa expires, once your visa expires, goodbye. I don't care if you are in the middle class or working in a brand-new job. Goodbye.

These protesters don't have enough information.

Todd: They have been listening to one side of it. This whole weapons of mass destruction? These people don't understand how nasty this shit is. We're talking about fifty thousand people dead in thirty seconds. I mean it will kill you that goddamn quick.

CP: Will this war bring more terrorists to America?

Todd: I think so.

Mark: Highly likely. I think what you are going to see in America, especially where I've come from and especially what I know in northern Minnesota, there are individuals in these communities and cities that will stand up with law enforcement and root these people out, whether it means doing it nicely or doing it physically. But it is going to be done.

Todd: It has got to be done.

CP: But how do you distinguish terrorists from totally innocent Muslims?

Todd: You can't be proactive in this; you've got to be reactive. You can't racial-profile, you've got to react to the situation. Otherwise you are talking about the internment camps again, you know, and everybody would be pissed off about that. But look what it did for the country.

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