Gregory Dupier, a 16-year-old from Fairfax County, has a succinct assessment of what caused the Middle East crisis: "Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait because he had a cash flow problem."

Tamika Wiley, a 14-year-old District resident, has different thoughts on the latest world crisis: "I heard my mother say to my grandmother that there might be a war. I left the room; I didn't want to hear any more. Too many people are being killed here in D.C. We already have a little war, right here."

Interviews with Washington area youths about the Middle East this week revealed as much about their diverse backgrounds as their worries of war.

In the region's wealthier neighborhoods, several youths said that the massive U.S. deployment to the Middle East probably means higher taxes and already means pricier gasoline. It's a costly, yet necessary, way to rout the Baghdad Bully and his chemical weapons, they said, confidently predicting the crisis would end soon.

In poorer areas, there was a different refrain: Why would President Bush rather spend millions to help a "two-bit country in some desert" than the needy people next door.

Wiley, who lives on Fourth Street NE, said problems generally don't pass quickly and doubts that the U.S. troops and warplanes will be home soon.

The eighth-grader at Holy Redeemer School has already seen a few people shot and doesn't relish turning the evening news on and seeing more.

Just days ago Wiley's sister was beaten by "some girl who came up to my sister's face and said: 'What are you looking at?' My sister got beat up for just looking."

Wiley, who was riding her bicycle near Capitol Hill yesterday, wondered why "little problems over there {in the Middle East} were more important than the big ones right here."

Two 15-year-old boys from Northeast Washington, who did not want to be named, said they believed Bush went into Saudi Arabia because it "would make him look good, because he could win it." It's much tougher, they said, to make a dent in the drug and poverty problems at home.

Whether they spoke about how nerve gas was worse than bullets because soldiers couldn't "luck out and miss gas like a bullet," or whether they focused on the recession they heard might be triggered, the youths' responses generally were concerned and, at times, surprisingly sophisticated.

Only one of the 25 youths interviewed, ages 8 to 16, said he hadn't discussed the Middle East with friends and was not worried about it.

That one exception was an Iranian student at Bethesda Chevy Chase High School who said, "School is what's on my mind."

But Dupier, a junior at Woodson High School in Fairfax, went right to the bottom line of the Middle East troubles.

"The whole thing is about oil and money and religion."

"There were other ways to deal with his cash flow problem. He should never have taken Kuwait," Dupier said of Iraq's Saddam, after bowling 110 at the Annandale Bowling Center. "Bush should try to hold a conference with him and see if he'll back down. It's a good idea to isolate him."

Jesse Konstanty, a seventh-grader at Luther Jackson Intermediate School, said the crisis meant "people with big cars would be sorry" because they would pay more for gas and "everybody would be sorry because they would pay more in taxes.

"It costs a lot for ammo and all the stuff it takes to make that guy give the land back."

Konstanty said Saddam is "just not thinking right. He stole a country. You don't steal a country because you need oil. I think he needs a psychiatrist."

Rachel Barker, a 10-year-old District resident, said she heard that Iraq had chemical weapons and that "no one knows if the uniforms and masks that our guys have are going to protect them. It's just not fair if they have to die for something they didn't start."

"We were coming closer and closer to world peace and then this started up," said Jeremiah Turner, a seventh-grader from Prince William County who was searching Wednesday at stores for baseball cards, particularly those of the Oakland A's.

"Germany is reuniting, Russia isn't as communist as it was," Turner said.

"Things were pretty good, and then this."