It is 6 a.m., and those who tune into black-owned WOL-AM radio are greeted with the voices of opposition to America's war against Iraq.
"We were told this would not be another Vietnam, that no Vietnam War terminology would be used," one caller says. "But after less than a week, the war is already starting to drag because we must take time to 'search and destroy' those Scuds."
Dick Gregory, a civil rights activist, reminds listeners that some black soldiers are refusing to take their Army-issued "nerve gas" pills, which have been approved by the Federal Drug Administration, but not for that purpose.
"They remember Agent Orange," he says.
Since America began bombing Iraq a week ago, WOL's morning show with Cathy Hughes (at 1450 on the radio dial) has come to reflect the majority opinion of District residents -- a view unique to this nation.
Sixty percent of black D.C. residents oppose the war, and the reasons given on this radio show are instructive.
"The U.S. wants to use military intervention to stop naked aggression -- but not if the aggressors are white folk," one caller says. "You don't hear President Bush talking about stopping naked aggression in South Africa or the Soviet Union."
"Why is it so easy for Americans to kill Panamanians, Grenadians and Arabs?" one caller asked, her voice shaking in sadness.
A recent radio broadcast featuring Gregory and Ralph Schoenman, a former executive director of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, generated extraordinary response.
Callers were dismayed and disgusted by what they called the U.S. government's pattern of "going along to get along" with dictators, then looking for ways to kill them once they had served their purpose.
"The Central Intelligence Agency created Saddam Hussein, used him as an agent and set him up to destroy the Islamic revolution in Iran," Schoenman said. "During Iraq's eight-year war with Iran, Kuwait purchased an American oil drilling company that employed slant drills and, while Saddam was preoccupied, horizontally sucked out $14 billion of Iraqi oil."
Saddam was then tricked into believing that America had no interest in his disputes with Kuwait, Schoenman said. But after Iraq invaded Kuwait, he said, Saddam was as surprised as anyone to learn that Kuwait had suddenly become the United States' best friend.
The trap had been sprung.
America, which consumes 17 million barrels of oil a day, had found a pretext for taking control of the oil it so desperately craves.
And Bush had found a way to take the focus off his domestic failures, Schoenman said. He began portraying Saddam as more dangerous than the potential collapse of the U.S. banking system.
But District residents saw through the voodoo.
"The way we are trying to kill Saddam only ensures that more Saddams will follow," a caller says. "Bush has the American people thinking that we are fighting Hitler, but this distortion makes me think everything he says is a lie."
America, it is said, will certainly win the war against Iraq, and could even use nuclear weapons if push comes to shove. Yet, many Middle Eastern analysts repeatedly warn that to win the war is to lose it.
Now that the war has begun, there are precious few opportunites to explore what that really means.
One WOL listener recalls the words of Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.), who said on the Senate floor, "No matter how well the gun is aimed, if the recoil is going to kill you, you had better not fire."
"Bombing the children of Iraq may help us win the battle," the caller says. "But in return for the instant gratification of avenging our loss in Vietnam, we have mortgaged the future of our own children, who will no doubt be called on to pay for our sins."
District residents are paying the kind of attention to this war that you'd expect from a people who have more to lose than any other group of Americans.
Washingtonians have more relatives stationed in the Persian Gulf, proportionately, than all but three states. And we live in a city filled with symbols of power that could be terrorist targets.
But self-interest alone does not account for the concern. As WOL listeners seem to understand inherently, America's professed ideals are not always the American reality when people of color are involved.