Coffee-shop talk warms up over coming war with Iraq

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

and Sam Blackwell ~ Southeast Missourian

There's a place called Frontier Kitchen in Fruitland where opinions, on almost any topic, run as freely as the hot coffee.

"We hash and we rehash, but we don't solve anything," said Dallas Niswonger, a member of the daily morning coffee group at Frontier.

When it comes to the war, waitress Pat Fritsche says the opinions run about 50-50 on whether the United States should go to war now or not.

"We have a distinct group of Republicans and a distinct group of Democrats," she said. "The Democrats, of course, are completely against Bush. It's split down the middle, but I think as far as the war, it's not as big of a deal as the concern about the women and children of this country and wanting to make sure nothing else happens over here."

A few retired gentlemen sitting at a long table near the restaurant's window Tuesday morning all concurred that removing Saddam Hussein from power now is the right thing to do.

"Yeah, he's got to be taken out," said Gene Petzoldt. "And I don't think it will last long; I don't think it will last more than a few days. I hope not anyway."

Fritsche agreed.

"I think we're going to get him this time," she said as she refilled a coffee cup. "He's hurting his own country."

Herb Leimer said he's tired of politicians talking about action.

"I just hope they get it over with and stop talking about it," he said. "I'm tired of them talking about it and not doing anything."

At a table on the other side of the room, Rick Duvall voiced a drastically different opinion.

"I think they're going to get a bunch of kids killed for nothing," he said. "It's just like Vietnam, a politician's war. I know they've got to get rid of Saddam, but they're going to get a bunch of people killed. I think they ought to worry more about North Korea."

Hardee's on William

Amid an all-male group of about 20 coffee drinkers at Hardee's on William Street in Cape Girardeau, Sam Peterman had no reservations about the U.S. intention to remove Saddam from leadership.

"The quicker the better," he said. "Let's get him the hell out of there."

He predicted a "mass exodus" of Iraqis who agree with the U.S. position.

Peterman does have one regret about what is about to happen. "The sad part about it is, we found out the United Nations is worthless when it comes to crunch time."

It is a sad situation the world has been in many times before, he said. "If you go back in ancient history, most wars were started because of religious attitudes."

Munching a breakfast biscuit two seats away, Jim Moore had a very different perspective. "There's no diplomacy," he said. "This has to do with personalities. What do you call it, cowboy personalities?"

He worries about what will happen after the war is over, about whether North Korea will take advantage of the American concentration on Iraq and whether China may decide Taiwan is ripe for taking.

"I don't think any country ought to be in a big hurry to go to war no matter what," he said.

A Vietnam War veteran, Moore retired from the Air Force in 1974. Disaster preparedness was his military job, reacting to chemical, biological and radiological dangers similar to those American troops may face in Iraq. The problems could be very difficult to solve and long-range, he said, pointing out that some areas of France are still contaminated from the blister gas used in World War I.

At the salon

Lori Wenskay, owner of Reflections Styling Studio in downtown Cape Girardeau, and customer Marsha Holloway were talking about the war Tuesday morning. They agree on America's plan of action.

"I feel like Saddam needs to be taken out," Wenskay said. "He's a threat to the world."

Holloway, co-owner of Stone Mountain Carpet Outlet in Cape Girardeau, added, "Americans need to get behind the president and our boys or they should leave -- move somewhere else."

Both worry about possible terrorist retaliation once the war starts.

"As soon as we start bombing, America had better be alert," Holloway said.

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