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Support for the Iraq War: The Home Front

March 23, 2003 at 12:00 AM EDT


BETTY ANN BOWSER: Antiwar demonstrators held up signs, as hundreds of residents walked past melting snow banks into a suburban Denver meeting hall, where the atmosphere was anything but chilly.

PROTESTORS: We shall overcome we shall overcome…

BETTY ANN BOWSER: Two Colorado congressmen sponsored the town hall meeting. Democrat Mark Udall, who is opposed to the war, represents liberal Democratic Boulder and a spread of other suburban areas that are more conservative. Republican Bob Beauprez, who supports the war, represents a brand-new district that is among the most diverse and politically mixed in the state. The two men took questions from the overflow crowd of more than 300 in what became an emotional, heated discussion dominated almost entirely by anti-war sentiment.

WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: What I’m feeling this morning is, what has happened to democracy? What I’d like to say to both of you is, yes, we’re all Americans, but before we’re Americans, we’re human beings.

REP. MARK UDALL: The Congress voted in the fall to provide the president with what I thought were too broad-based a set of opportunities and options. But we voted. I’ve continued to speak out. Just– and Congressman Beauprez, I think, remembers– just about two weeks ago, I went to the floor of the House. He was in the chair. He was serving as the speaker pro tem of the House. And I urged the administration to slow down. I asked, “why the rush to war? Why not try for another period of time to disarm Saddam Hussein through peaceful means?” And I will continue to make that case.

REP. BOB BEAPUREZ: There is no good war, and there is no bad peace. I think we all know that. Occasionally history would tell us, though, that in order to secure peace, sometimes force does become necessary. I understand that some people would disagree with that. We don’t know where his weapons are, and we believe… and we… and we… and we believe…

PERSION IN GROUP: You work for us!

REP. BOB BEAUPREZ: Listen, at some point, when you say “or else,” you have to be willing to enforce “or else.”

BETTY ANN BOWSER: Arvada’s mayor Ken Fellman had to repeatedly call for quiet to allow the small number of war supporters to speak.

MAN IN AUDIENCE: I do support Bush, and 65 percent of the American public apparently does, too, according to the polls. ( Applause ) Doesn’t this action in the long run prove that the United States will stand up for freedom and gain some respect in the world community?

REP. MARK UDALL: I think the jury is still out when it comes to this gentleman’s point and his questions. And one of the areas in which I’m really focusing my attention right now is the second front in this conflict, and that second front is are we going to keep our commitment to rebuild Iraq? Are we going to keep our commitment to providing a democratic set of opportunities in the Middle East? This is the big challenge.

MAN IN AUDIENCE: Many of us who are old enough to still think about these things ask ourselves, how in god’s name did the good German people remain silent while Hitler… (cheering) …while Hitler unleashed his war machine on the world? I am not suggesting that Pres. Bush is equal to Hitler, but I am suggesting that the American people are in danger of making the same mistake that the German people made: Silence. (Cheering)

REP. BOB BEAUPREZ: This is a regime… this is a regime that will gouge out the eyes of children, crush the bones of a two-year-old girl to force her mother to divulge her father’s whereabouts. How can we ignore… (people interrupting in audience) ….who can we ignore a government… now, you can ask the question why are we there now? You can ask that question. But how can we as people… how can we as a humane society… how can we as a humane society sit back and do absolutely nothing, when this man… when this man… when this man has been accused of being worse than Hitler or Stalin, and we know those atrocities? How can we?

BETTY ANN BOWSER: Both congressmen agreed on one point: To support American troops while they’re in battle.