St. Louis Public Radio News
10:52 am
Fri March 21, 2003

St. Louisans Weigh in on War

St. Louis, MO – The start of the war has St. Louisans mixed in their reactions.

More than 100 people gathered at the Cathedral Basilica in downtown St. Louis Thursday night for a candlelight vigil and mass to pray for peace in Iraq.

After leading the crowd in prayers on the cathedral steps, St. Louis Archbishop Justin Rigali told worshippers that their own personal conversion is a key ingredient for world peace. Rigali took special note of the plight of Iraqi civilians, saying "we pray for the innocent, for the long suffering people of Iraq; for those suffering from homelessness and helplessness and for those manipulated to defend a defenseless cause."

Rigali called the conflict in Iraq "a defeat for humanity, both in its causes and its reality."

More than a thousand people formed a human chain around the Eagleton Courthouse to protest military action, as well.

But there is plenty of support for the war, especially among St. Louis's Iraqi population. Mohammed Hamza was in northern Iraq during the last Gulf War. He moved to St. Louis in 1996, and says he's happy Iraq will soon be free of Saddam. Hamza also hopes the U-S army will start bombarding and overwhelming Baghdad soon, even though he has family and friends in the country.

"If you attack him very slowly he's getting strong, strong strong," Hamza said. "But if you attack him one time, they see the power of the United States in the first time."

About 400 people from the Kurdish part of northern Iraq now live in St. Louis.

Other St. Louisans say military action is the only way to deal with Saddam Hussein.

In downtown St. Louis, Paul Schrader says President Bush's actions are just.

"It seems like there was a certain inevitability about it," Schrader said. "The posturing of Iraq all along has been pretty consistent, as has ours. And it seems like we've had to do what we believe is the right thing; and I appreciate the president doing that."

Others maintain the war is unnecessary and puts American and Iraqi lives at risk.

Eric Turner of South St. Louis opposes the war and is worried about his brother who's fighting in the Mideast.

"I'm young and I'm trying to live my life and never thought I'd be going through a war. It's taking it's wear on us now. We're just now realizing how serious it is."