PATERSON, N.J. -- President Bush and many others have compared Saddam Hussein of Iraq to Adolf Hitler, but here in Paterson a visitor can hear Saddam described as "a hero," a Robin Hood who has swept aside the "greedy" Kuwaitis to claim the spoils of their country for the poor of the Arab world.

The people who describe the Iraqi president so sympathetically are Arabs who live here in one of the largest concentrations of Middle Eastern settlers in the United States. Many of them cast the U.S. government as the villain in the Persian Gulf: an unwelcome intruder into a "family" dispute, which should withdraw its troops, return home and "mind its own business."

It is difficult to find a dissenting voice to this viewpoint in this bustling community of about 15,000 Arabs, many of them U.S. citizens. Muslims and Christians from virtually every Arab country in the Middle East live here. Only one -- an Egyptian who has lived here for eight years -- out of 28 Arab Americans interviewed would agree to his name being used alongside his condemnation of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and his approval of U.S. involvement in the crisis.

Many of the storekeepers along Main Street, dubbed "mini-Jerusalem" by one American-born Arab because of its colorful mix of Palestinian bazaars, Jordanian coffee shops, Syrian bakeries and Lebanese markets, are afraid to offer any kind of opinion for fear of provoking a boycott of their shops by neighbors. However, not every Arab in the Paterson area is reluctant to venture his or her viewpoint.

The community, founded by Syrian silk workers at the turn of the century, is one of the oldest Arab settlements in the United States. More recently it has been swelled by an influx of thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese who came to America from the Israeli-occupied territories.

It is this group that is the most vociferous in calling Saddam a "hero" -- the only leader with any hope of unifying the Arab nations, a goal Arabs have passionately sought since the 19th century.

They feel that Saddam's strong and often ruthless leadership is the only way to bring about that unity. No matter how brutal his actions, the ends justify the means.

"I hope Saddam will unite Arab countries by love or by force. It doesn't matter. Whatever way he finds it will be good," said Awni Abu Hadba, a real estate agent who came to America 19 years ago from Israel.

"A united Arab nation would be a great force, a great power comparable to the United States. It is every Arab's dream."

Mhaid Azzo, 53, an engineer born in Baghdad who now has American citizenship after settling here in 1953, said Saddam's "harsh" style of leadership is justified because it is the only way of governing the people in a "very difficult area."

"If you leave things to a simple approach, if you had total democracy at this time and age in the Middle East with all its problems, Iraq would have a different government every three months. The Middle East needs Saddam for stability," said Azzo, whose sister and three brothers still live in Baghad, which he last visited three years ago.

The resentment toward the Kuwaitis stems largely from the wealth of their country: it has a per-capita income of $13,680 compared to Iraq's $1,950. Kuwait is accused of being greedy and of "cheating" the poorer Arab nations out of a slice of that wealth by keeping oil prices low through overproduction.

"The Kuwaitis had it {the invasion} coming to them," said Ibrahem Allan, 29, a halal meat shop owner who left the Middle East in 1978. "There are so many hungry people in the Arab world, but the Kuwait royal family flies to the United States in private jets. They go to Las Vegas and spend thousands on gambling. There are people over there who have eight cars each -- what do they do with them? -- whereas their brothers in the country next door don't have anything to eat."

Not everyone is enthusiastic about Saddam's invasion. "There is no doubt in my mind that I would have preferred a different approach," said Dr. Nadim Kassem, 59, who with his Lebanese wife has lived in America since 1965. "I would much have preferred that Iraq continue to negotiate to bring Kuwait to change its ways of cheating -- not only Iraq, but the masses."

No matter what brutality Iraq has inflicted on Kuwait, the vast majority of Arabs here, from clergymen to shopkeepers, say America had no right to get involved.

Although many of these Arabs have lived in the United States for years, they appear to feel more affinity for their "brothers" in the Middle East and say the United States is an outsider intruding on a "family dispute."

Businessman Thomas Elhin, 43, a Syrian who settled here 20 years ago, said: "The Americans should leave now. The U.S. was invited into the area and, like guests, one day they will have to leave. But Iraq and Kuwait are part of the same family. They have to live with one another."

Others go further, attacking America for operating "double standards" in its dealings with the Middle East. They say the United States never intervened in such disputes as the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the Iran-Iraq war, and ask why it suddenly is so interested in the "family" conflicts of the region.

The answer, the Arabs believe, lies in oil.

"They didn't go there to help their friends; they went there to help the oil wells and to threaten Iraq," said Farah Munayor, 49, a Christian Palestinian pharmaceutical researcher who in 1970 left Israel with his Muslim wife Hanan, who was born in Haifa.

If the oil is the only reason for American involvement, it is not reason enough, according to Archbishop Philip Saliba, primate of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America and chairman of the Standing Conference of American-Middle Eastern Christian and Moslem Leaders, which represents the 2 million Americans of Arab heritage.

"I cannot conceive in a million years that American blood is cheaper than oil, that Arab blood is cheaper than oil," said Saliba, who was born in Abou Mizan, Lebanon.

Another accusation leveled at the Bush administration is that of hypocrisy.

"President Bush is not one to talk about naked aggression. We {Americans} committed a similar crime with Grenada and Panama. There is a puppet government in Kuwait, but there is also a puppet government in Panama," said Munayor.

Kuwaitis in Paterson find themselves torn by the issue. On one hand they attack Saddam for "stealing our land," while on the other they believe American involvement can only make matters worse.

"I have sisters over there and I fear for their safety if America does not pull out," said Kuwait-born Muneer Hussein, 21, who has lived here for four years.

The lone voice among those interviewed supporting the American involvement belongs to an Egyptian, Adel Shafik, 35, who works as a restaurant manager on the outskirts of town. He has lived in the United States for eight years.

"America did right to go out there. They are big allies with the Arab countries and when they were asked to help they had a duty to help," he said.

"If no action was taken, Saddam would . . . continue to walk all over the Arab nations and he would not stop at the rich nations. He would also try to take over countries like Egypt too."