- The Washington Times - Monday, March 24, 2003

RICHMOND A flag-waving, cheering crowd of about 7,000 gathered to show support for the U.S. military's effort to liberate Iraq and remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power.
Supporters dressed in red, white and blue listened to patriotic music and speeches while holding signs that read: "God bless our president," "Support our troops" and "Iraq is French for Hollywood" a response to the lack of support from France and screen actors.
"I hope the troops hear about the support that the majority of Americans are giving them," said Kim Marsh, 53, who arrived in a Humvee with a large American flag waving from its side. "We want them all to return."
Organizers said the rally was held to support U.S. service members, not to support the war.
Syndicated radio talk show host Glenn Beck, who spoke to the crowd, said, "People want to make sure we don't make the same mistakes we did in the '60s of demonizing our troops."
Mr. Beck has attended rallies in six other cities and said the combined attendance was about 120,000 people. The final rally is scheduled for Tampa, Fla.
"To be anti-war is not anti-American," he said. "There's nothing more American than honestly questioning our government. But once the action has started, it's time to get behind them."
Still, he thinks part of the anti-war movement is "anti-American, anti-capitalist" and includes people who are "just against George W. Bush."
World War II veteran James Howell, 83, held a sign stating, "We trust Bush, Rumsfeld, Franks, Powell and our troops."
"It's hard to describe, but I thank God I'm able to stand here," Mr. Howell said atop a hill overlooking the crowd with his daughter and granddaughter beside him.
Mr. Howell, whose middle name is Liberty, served in a chemical-warfare unit that specialized in decontamination in North Africa. He said his great-great-grandfather fought in the Civil War and that older ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War.
Mr. Howell's daughter, Linda Hamlin, 57, is married to a Vietnam veteran, Kevin Hamlin, 55.
"I'm proud to be an American," Mrs. Hamlin said. "It's time for us to unite, whatever our differences were before."
The Hamlin's daughter, Marlowe, 21, said she is in favor of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Mr. Hamlin said he also favored the war, despite having seen combat up close.
"This war needed to be done several years ago," he said. "I wish I was over there myself."
Many at the rally said they believed that the cause for war in Iraq is just.
"I don't like the idea of being the world police, but Saddam's a tyrant and a danger to the world," said Wallace Panton, 49, who served in the Air Force 509th Bomb Wing during the Vietnam War. "He needs to be taken out. It's not arrogance. Right is right and wrong is wrong."
Mr. Panton also said he feared that Saddam would supply weapons of mass destruction to terrorists.
D.R. Carter, 55, a Korean War veteran and retired police sergeant, wore a T-shirt commemorating September 11. Motioning to his shirt, he said, "The American people have forgotten this. Are you willing to witness another 9/11?"
Mr. Carter said he has tried to learn as much as possible so he could decide whether to support a war.
"I read articles on the Internet and watch Fox News, then I turn to CNN and the local news to get the liberal point of view," he said.
Many at the rally said they are disappointed and offended by the actions and sentiments of the anti-war movement but support the right to free speech.
"I think I have a good understanding of what it means to be free and what it takes," said Andrew Davis, a 17-year-old high school student. "I don't think the protesters understand what freedom costs sometimes."
Many anti-war demonstrators have been college and high school students, and Andrew said he has debated with some anti-war students at school.
"They seem really obstinate about any view that I have," he said. "I'm sure they probably see me as the same way."
In the District, about 250 war supporters gathered yesterday on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
"The purpose of this war is peace. You can't have peace as long as people like Saddam Hussein prosper," said Tom Fitten, 34, president of Judicial Watch, who spoke along with Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who called the behavior of some anti-war protesters "un-American."
Other speakers included Iraqi immigrant Shalal Al Jubri, who said his tribe of 152 was massacred by the Iraqi government, and former 20-year Republican Rep. Robert K. Dornan, 60, of California, who said Saddam's followers cut off the legs of 444 Iraqi soldiers who had responded to an American appeal to lay down their weapons.
Arlo Wagner contributed to this report.

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