With war now nearly as likely as next month’s utility bills, servicemembers and civilians in Europe are standing behind their president, who Monday night gave Saddam Hussein and his cronies two days to pack their bags and get out of town.
The alternative, President Bush said, is war “at a time of our choosing.”
“It was going to come down to it sooner or later,” said Master Sgt. David Garfield, a member of the 31st Mission Support Squadron at Aviano Air Base, Italy. “You get in a situation where you keep waiting and waiting. There has to be a deadline sometime.”
Nick Jackson, an accountant with the DODDS Isles District at RAF Feltwell, England, agreed, saying the president had given Saddam every opportunity to stand down.
“The line was drawn in the sand a long time ago,” he said. “The time for talking is over with now.”
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Dan Carr said Saddam has had enough time to shape up.
“Some people say they ought to extend the deadline,” said the soldier with AFN-Aviano. “(Saddam) has had 12 years now. I don’t see any reason why he would change his mind. Now we’ve got to do what we’ve been trained to do.”
Second Lt. Alisha Ramsey of the 440th Signal Battalion in Darmstadt, Germany, said, “President Bush and his advisers ultimately know what’s best for the country. He knows what’s best to protect the country, so we’ll do what it takes because he’s our commander-in-chief.”
“I’m cool with it,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class John Domil from Naval Station Rota, Spain. “In the military, you just follow orders, but you got to cut the head off the whole thing... . I don’t think anything bad could come of it. I mean, Saddam has meant nothing but death to people and I think it’s just the right thing to do.”
There is no doubt in the mind of Sgt. 1st Class Clay Adams of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Overseas Europe in Darmstadt.
“I support what my government says,” he said. “I think it’s right and that’s all there is to it. I don’t think Bush is wrong.”
Others are not so certain.
“I wonder whether we’re doing the right thing,” said Michael Valerius, a human resources employee at the school district office in England. “I’m really fearful of the consequences. And I wonder if the consequences have been thought through.”
Faye Batey, coordinator for the JASON Project for the Isles District, said she thought the negotiations through the United Nations would have been more fruitful, and wonders if that tactic should have been abandoned so soon.
“It sounds like we’re going it alone now and I’m not sure if that’s the right thing,” she said.
Sharon Savage, a human resources assistant at Darmstadt, said, “I have mixed emotions about it because my husband is over there. The Bible speaks of war and rumors of war. Even with that, though, we have to pray for peace among all nations.”
For the troops in the desert and around the region who have been waiting and waiting, they now have a sign that their waiting is almost over.
“Soldiers now have a clear deadline,” said Spc. David Clark of the 440th Signal Battalion in Darmstadt. “They don’t have to sit around wondering when something is going to happen.”
When the president gives the word to attack — if he does — he will have the support of those he is asking to do his bidding.
“President Bush is the boss,” said Senior Airman Keith Thorndyke of the 31st Comptroller Squadron at Aviano. “What he says goes. Whatever needs to be done, we’re there for him.”
— Contributing to this report: Kent Harris in Aviano, Italy; Jessica Iñigo in Darmstadt, Germany; Ron Jensen in England; and Scott Schonauer in Rota, Spain.