Residents say Saddam Hussein brought it on himself
Operation Desert Storm veteran Phil Caterina watched the news of air attacks on Iraq on television Thursday at his home in Douglas County.
Formerly a first sergeant with a tank unit of the U.S. Army’s First Armored Division which went up against Iraq’s elite Republican Guard in the 1990-91 Gulf War, Caterina is the current post commander of the Minden-Gardnerville Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8583.
Caterina said he feels the renewed air strikes are necessary.
“In the long run it will save more lives by taking out his (Iraqi premier Saddam Hussein’s) weapons of mass destruction so he can’t use them on people,” Caterina said.
“People say we should have destroyed Baghdad and eliminated Saddam Hussein eight years ago, but they don’t understand what our mission was. Our mission, plain and simple, was to throw him out of Kuwait, which we did handily. We out-gunned his troops at far greater ranges. After battering from the Air Force and battering from ground forces, they were a whipped army,” Caterina said.
“After his forces were totally waxed, Saddam told everyone that he would comply (with United Nations directives). He didn’t do it, so it’s time to go in before he can endanger his neighbors and the rest of the world again. The president gave him enough opportunities to conform.”
Attack inevitable. Other Douglas County residents were of like minds regarding President Bill Clinton’s order of a “strong, sustained series of air strikes” against Iraq, which began on Wednesday and continued through Friday. The attacks came in response to the Iraqi leader’s continued defiance of U.N. weapons inspectors.
North County resident and chairwoman of the Douglas County Republican Central Committee, Bev Willard, said at first she questioned the timing of the air strikes – thinking perhaps they were orchestrated by a besieged president to divert public attention from impeachment hearings currently being held in the House of Representatives.
“But, after listening to military people, I think Saddam Hussein, himself, determined the timing,”Willard said. “We have to let him know we’re not playing games here. And as the leader of the country, President Clinton has to do what he’s required to do. But of course, the other issue shouldn’t go away.”
Karen Winters, a Gardnerville attorney and former secretary-treasurer of the Douglas County Democratic Central Committee, said she believed the attack on Iraq was inevitable.
“I figured Hussein would never comply with any of the terms,” Winters said. “He’s a fanatic – the worst that can happen, in his own mind, is that he’ll be a martyr if he’s killed.”
Ready to go. Other western Nevada residents have more immediate, personal concerns about rekindling warfare with Iraq. The Nevada National Guard, which lists many Douglas- and Carson-area residents among its ranks, was activated and deployed during the Gulf War.
Maj. Cindy Kirkland, public affairs officer for both the state’s Air and Army National Guard units, said the U.S. service men and women in the Persian Gulf have the Guard’s full support.
“We haven’t received any tasking yet, but we’re ready to go,” Kirkland said. “The potential is there, if things escalate. The Air Guard has the air lift wing and intelligence squad capabilities. The Army side provides MPs who do police security details for prisoner-of-war camps. We can make adjustments one way or another.”
Kirkland said she could offer no opinion on the decision from Washington, D.C., to launch the attacks on Iraq.
“We’re not privy to their information, but they don’t make these decisions without appropriate reasons,” Kirkland said. “(War) is not always the public’s favorite way to respond to some issues, but sometimes it’s the only option.”
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