Waiting, hoping as history unfolds

Reactions by Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park residents to the war with Iraq varied Thursday afternoon, as people watched the relentless bombardment over the Baghdad sky on television.

Saddam Hussein should have been destroyed during the first Persian Gulf War, said Ralph Shirey, 54, an Army Vietnam War veteran.

“They missed their chance,” Shirey said at a shopping plaza on U.S. 1. He felt like that in Vietnam, soldiers’ hands were tied in finishing the job.

And, there are other ways to deal with Hussein now, Shirey said; war is not necessary.

Some didn’t share Shirey’s view on how to best handle removing Hussein from the battle-hardened Iraqi capital.

The war is justified, and the dictator needs to be removed, Marc Henderson, 21, said in Woodbridge on Thursday.

“He’s a threat to all countries in the world,” Henderson said. “I think it’s the right decision. It’s time to go in and disarm him.”

If the situation comes to a head, and more soldiers are needed through a draft, Henderson said he would go without hesitation.

“I’m scared because of the aftermath,” Cheryl Payne, 48, said in a Dale City gift shop. “There’s going to be retaliation.”

The war is not justified, and the U.S. is acting as a “great, big bully,” Payne said.

“I don’t like the president, and I don’t think he is right,” Payne said. She feels that Bush is starting what his father, President George Herbert Walker Bush, never finished. That is one of the current president’s biggest sticking points, she said.

As veterans in the Manassas area voiced support Thursday for American troops in the Persian Gulf, at least one worried what would happen once the guns of war are silenced.

“Are we going to be there 10 years from now?” asked Norb Beville, 62, a Manassas lawyer who fought with the Army in Vietnam.

Mentioning that American troops never left Kuwait after the first Gulf War, and that forces remain in Kosovo, Beville wondered what kind of price Americans will have to pay once Iraq is occupied.

“My concern is the long-term commitment that will be needed in this,” he said.

At Manassas’ American Legion Post 10, John Singletory, 37, wished that he and other troops in the original Gulf War had been allowed to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.

“Twelve years ago, we placed a set of rules on Iraq,” he said. “And for 12 years, it’s been shifting around and not following those rules.”

Singletory, who fought with the Army, didn’t think the experience of those overseas would be much different from what was seen in the original war. He criticized antiwar protesters, as well as the French and Russians, for not believing in the war’s cause, which he believes is just.

“We are taking out an evil, evil man who has hurt and gassed his own people,” he said.

Gerald Jonas, 74, who serves as the quartermaster for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1811 in Manassas Park, questioned whether it was smart for the United States to start a war. And yet he too believed President Bush was justified in leading the country into war.

“I think he’s doing the right thing,” he said.

Jonas, who served in the Air Force for 20 years, remembered how he wasn’t issued a winter uniform at the start of the Korean War in 1950 because his commanders believed the war would be over before the snow started falling. Instead the war lasted for three long years.

Returning to the present war America is encountering, Jonas said he did not believe the troops would face such difficulties.

“With all the technology they have today, I don’t think it’s going to take long myself,” he said.

For Ulysses X. White, 72, a Manassas councilman who fought with the Army in Korea and Vietnam, the war against Iraq is something that should have been done a long time ago.

“If I was a young man, I’d go out there myself,” he said.

The war is the price the country must pay for the prosperity it has reaped through freedom, White said.

“If we aren’t willing to stand up and protect what we have, other people will take it away from us,” he said.

Staff writers Chris Newmarker and Keith Walker contributed to this story. Staff writer Daniel Drew can be reached at (703) 878-8065.

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