People’s opinions on the war in Iraq varied like the weather on Thursday in downtown Hood River. But underlying the disparate views ran a nearly-palpable current of unease as people went about their business on the first full day of the war.
Kathy Carlson and Sharon Mounsey sat beneath the flags at Overlook Memorial Park with a banner that read, “Peace.”
“I’m feeling angry and sad,” said Carlson, who held a flag mounted upside-down on a pole. “I’m feeling grief for what’s going on and for the children who are going to die.” She said her flag was meant to show that “we’re a country in distress.”
Mounsey, the mother of five children and a grandmother, added that she was “disgusted that we’ve had to resort to violence.”
“We should be talking to people, working out diplomatic solutions,” she said. Carlson estimated that “about 75 percent” of people driving by the women were showing support by honking and giving them the peace sign. But some passersby were angry.
“Your flag is disgraceful,” a man said as he passed. Another man shouted from his car, “Benedict Arnold!” as he sped around the intersection at 2nd and State streets.
At Cathy’s Barber Shop, owner Cathy Blades was cutting the hair of Hood River’s new fire chief Greg Hoeger.
“I just hope it gets over as quick as possible,” Hoeger said. “Get our people home.” Blades said she echoed Hoeger’s sentiment.
Kathy Sneider, owner of Ikote in Mall 202, said she had “a very odd feeling.” She said she didn’t support the war, but hoped “they killed Saddam in the strike” so it could end sooner.
Sneider said the war has affected business at her store.
“There’s been a definite dive in sales,” she said. “It’s been really dead the last couple of weeks.”
Brittany Cardon, who was washing windows at 2nd Wind Sports on Oak Street, was supportive of ousting the Iraqi dictator but uneasy about the war.
“I think that we should probably go after Saddam Hussein,” she said, but added that she wasn’t sure the “magnitude” of the U.S.-led attack was warranted.
“I think Bush is a little power hungry,” she said.
“My generation hasn’t gone through something like this yet,” said Cardon, 20. “I feel bad for the people of Iraq. It’s upsetting. I’m pretty nervous.”
Cody Kunigel, also 20, was supportive of the war.
“I back the president of the United States,” he said. “I believe it needs to be done. It’s long overdue.” Kunigel was upset at the war protesters near Overlook Park.
“They should really realize what they’re doing to our troops,” he said. “This is in our best interest. It’s ludicrous to let (Saddam Hussein) just slide his way into the future.”
Scott Rumsey, a kindergarten teacher at Bright Beginnings school, expressed doubt that invading Iraq was going to make him safer.
“I can’t say I’m for or against the war,” Rumsey said, adding that he didn’t think the media had given him “all the information” necessary to have a well-informed opinion.
“It may be necessary, I don’t know,” he said. “But I think we made a big mistake.” Rumsey said he no longer “wakes up in the morning” feeling carefree.
“I live in fear now,” he said. “I think Bush moved forward way too quick. When the United Nations doesn’t back you up, that’s a problem.”
Two men sitting at the bar in the American Legion Thursday afternoon had differing views of the war.
“I’m surprised (Saddam Hussein) didn’t cut and run sooner,” said veteran John Van Ross.
Clayton Curtis said he thinks Bush administration officials “haven’t been truthful with us.”
“Deep down in my own heart, I think Bush is trying to justify what his father didn’t do,” Curtis said. Although not a veteran, Curtis said his stepson is in the military and is about to be shipped out to the Middle East, and his niece graduated from West Point.
“I just hope they get it over with fast,” he said.
Brewery workers at Full Sail Brewing Company sat in the pub after their shift with newspapers declaring war in 90-point type spread across their table. They, too, had differing views of the war.
“I think we should avoid war,” said Leo Iggres. “War is no good. I think we should have waited longer.”
Greg Lizama disagreed with his co-worker. “Something had to be done,” he said.
Brewery worker Richard Strafford had a stronger opinion.
“They passed the resolution back in November,” he said. “We should have gone in then instead of waiting until Saddam Hussein divided the U.N.” Strafford said he thinks the war will “make us safer from people like Saddam.”
At Holstein’s Coffee Company, a subdued mood seemed to hover over the afternoon coffee crowd. Sharon Hammond, who was nursing her 2½-month-old daughter, said she was “not that well-informed” but was “farther against the war” than for it.
“I don’t want to see the needless death of innocent civilians,” she said. Hammond, from Portland, was in Hood River with her sister, Devra Karlebach, who was visiting from New York City.
“I think war is always a serious undertaking,” Karlebach said. “But I’m happy to see we are fighting for what we believe.” Karlebach, who owns a computer consulting company in Manhattan, was 14 blocks from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
“Having lived in New York through 9/11, I think we are in the right,” she said. “The last two years have been really hard. While I don’t want to see people die, I think in some ways the U.S. needs to be the police of the world.”
Karlebach said she thinks the war in Iraq will make Americans less safe initially, but more safe in the long run.
“I think we should get North Korea after (Iraq), and Iran after that,” she said.