Most Brainerd area residents support the U.S. invasion of Iraq, according to a random sampling of people gathered around town Thursday afternoon.
Among those polled, only one said he unequivocally does not support the war effort. The remainder said they support the war, though with some reservations.
"I'm not for war but I support our troops," said Erica Henke of Brainerd.
"It was going to happen eventually," Debbie Murray said of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. "It might as well happen now before (Iraq's) weapons get bigger and better."
Erin Belanger, a student at Central Lakes College, and Stephanie Woodman, a single mother with three children, were having a cup of coffee together at Coco Moon. Both said they have friends in the military who are poised for active duty. Woodman said her future brother-in-law is in Kuwait City today.
"It's a scary time," she said. "A lot of our troops might not be coming home. But we need to go over there and take care of this once and for all. Thirty-five countries support us."
Belanger said she originally was anti-war but has changed her mind.
"The more I learned about what's going on over there and about what they have, the more supportive I've become," said Belanger, who's studying for her associate in arts degree. "I guess I have some trouble with the United Nations not supporting us, and a lot of people in this country don't support it, either."
But support is not lacking among U.S. veterans. All who were watching television coverage of the war Thursday afternoon at the American Legion said they support the U.S. military invasion.
"It's unfortunate they didn't finish this in 1991," said Jim Elg, who made two tours of duty in Vietnam. "They should have taken it downtown then. Now it will cost more lives and more expense."
Erik Dunn, Brainerd, said he supports the U.S. invasion of Iraq but wonders what kind of government will be established there once Saddam Hussein's regime has been toppled. "I don't know if this will solve the problem," he said.
His friend, Jim Deyo, was in the Army for 38 years and served in Korea. "(Saddam Hussein) absolutely has to be removed," he said. "He's even against his own people."
A few stools down the bar sat Arnie Katchi, a former elementary school teacher and World War II veteran who presently is head of the color guard at the VFW.
"I doubt you'll find one vet anywhere who's against this," Katchie said. "(Iraq's) weapons are a threat that's only going to linger. Unless it gets taken care of now it'll always be there."
John Ramig, a Korean War veteran, and Mark Wheeler, who did not serve in the military, both agreed that Hussein is a threat to American life. "Get him out of there right now," Ramig said.
Erik Dunn, a Brainerd musician, said he supports the war but wonders what will become of Iraq even if the United States succeeds in liberating the nation of Hussein's rule.
"I don't know if this will solve the problem," Dunn said of the U.S. invasion. "We don't know what all they have. The weapons inspectors didn't get the job done. But we know they have weapons they're not supposed to have. And if we're worried about chemical attacks now, say we didn't go to war. What's to keep one of his people from coming over here, going to the Brainerd water tower and dropping in one little vial that could contaminate the entire water supply? If we go in and take him out of power we'll not only remove him but a half-million others who are staunch backers."
Renita Arndt, a portrait photographer, said she believes the U.S. should have invaded much sooner and with greater secrecy.
"I laugh when I see the news and they're telling us what they're going to do," she said. "They have TVs too. They know our plans. We should have moved in before anybody knew what we were going to do."
Bill Coffman, who was in Brainerd shopping for auto parts, said he doesn't believe the Iraqi regime needed to be removed by military force.
"I don't think Saddam would have lasted much longer anyway," he said. "He had very little support outside his immediate circle, and I don't think he's the threat (President) Bush makes him out to be. Remember, we thought if Vietnam was taken over by Communists it would be a threat to America. Well, Vietnam was taken over by Communists and so what? How did that threaten us in any way? I may be proven wrong, but I think history would have shown that Hussein is a paper tiger."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.