It was the usual morning at the Tastee 29 Diner, the 1940s stainless-steel eatery on Lee Highway in Fairfax City.
Sipping coffee after breakfast, Robin G. Serig of Vienna and Lisa G. McGary of Oakton were discussing the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Neither woman agreed with President Bush's preemptive strike, but each said she backs American soldiers now that fighting is underway.
"I hope that there is judicious use of force and that our soldiers and their soldiers have the minimum number of casualties," said Serig, 56, a yoga instructor. "I hope and pray that the war is short and has a positive outcome."
Conversations with Fairfax residents in recent days turned up sharp differences over U.S. policy, although most people separated their views of the president's decision to attack from their support of the soldiers. In a county with a large military presence, it was not hard to find people who said they strongly agreed with Bush. There were plenty of people who said they opposed the president, too. Almost everyone was unanimous in hoping the war would end swiftly.
At the next table over from Serig and McGary, Laura M. Harty, 20, of Herndon said: "I didn't want it to happen, even though I sort of knew it was going to happen. I think nobody really wanted to send our boys over there to be killed by [the Iraqis] or to kill their soldiers. But at the same time, war usually does change things, and hopefully what needs to be changed will be changed for the better. I'm not really for the war, but I just hope that it's short."
Declan C. Leonard of McLean, a lawyer, said he supported Bush's "willingness to stick to his position" in the face of opposition overseas and some antiwar sentiment in the United States.
"Hopefully this is extremely swift," Leonard said. "The problem with waiting for the U.N. to act is the indecisiveness."
Since the 1991 Gulf War, thousands of immigrants have poured into Fairfax, many from the Middle East and Latin America. Their views mirror the split in the rest of the county, but many share a different perspective, coming from nations where war and terrorism are common. In fact, in the Fairfax of 2003 it is not unusual to run into people such as Nasser Khajenouri of Springfield.
Khajenouri, 55, who was having lunch at the Duke House of Kababin the Lincolnia area, said he was a former Iranian military commander who fought against Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
Though he said that Hussein is "crazy" and that many Iranians, including himself, love America, Khajenouri told a reporter the U.S. action "is not good for your country" because of the damage it has created to America's image in the Arab world. Bush should have worked longer for a diplomatic solution, he said.
At a table near Khajenouri's, Ajay Vasudeva, 27, disagreed.
"I am happy that someone is taking a stand," Vasudeva said. "I'm worried about the aftermath and how this will impact Americans overseas. I'm a little antsy about that aspect. Other than that, I think the president has been very decisive. Sometimes someone has to make a decision. Whether it's right or wrong comes later. Indecisiveness can cause more problems."
Added Aref Tahmas, 54, another lunch diner: "Saddam has killed too many people."
In a Fairfax Circle market that caters to immigrants, Peruvian native Italo H. Coello, a sales broker for Goya Foods, said he was used to terrorism, having grown up in Peru. But he said the United States should not have attacked Iraq without more backing from the United Nations. To him, that showed America's arrogance.
"Who are we to do that?" he asked. "We don't like what the United Nations does, so we ignore them and attack? Sometimes when you think about it, who is crazy, Bush or Saddam?"
But a Bolivian immigrant, Erika Garcia, 32, of Fairfax said the U.S. attack was justified because the United Nations is not effective.
"The United States is always fighting for more justice, for something better," she said outside a Falls Church shopping center. "I think the United Nations, well, they should just get rid of the United Nations, because I don't think its been working for a while now."
At the All Dulles Area Muslim Society's mosque in Sterling, where some of the families are originally from Iraq, people attending midday prayers said they were praying for American -- and Iraqi -- lives.
"We had been hoping that matters could have been settled peacefully," said Mohamed Magid, the mosque's prayer leader. "Now, no one will shed a tear for Saddam Hussein. But our worries are for the average Iraqi, because the people who are killed will not see liberation."
Others echoed Magid's concern.
"The people and those children -- no matter what country they are from -- we worry about them," said Ahmed Mujtaba, 48, a limousine driver. "War of any kind is not good."