The Iraqi missile attack on Israel yesterday triggered a wave of apprehension across the United States, turning a day of national pride mixed with protests into a night of worry about a widening war.
The reaction was sharp among American Jews, who greeted the news last night with outrage, fury and fear.
"It is very terrible news to hear," said Rabbi Andrew Baker, Washington area director of the American Jewish Committee. "It is what people were fearing and what people had hoped would not happen."
Mark Talisman, director of the Washington office of the Council of Jewish Federations, paused for several seconds when asked what he felt about the attack. "Deep anger," he finally said, adding a moment later, "sorrow."
The attacks brought a sudden end to a mood of hope that had been building throughout the first day of Operation Desert Storm, as reports of overwhelming U.S. and allied air strikes and minimal casualties produced hopes that the war might be brief and relatively antiseptic.
"The only unsettling thing during the day was that I heard so much honeymoon talk from so many callers," Carole Arnold, a radio talk show host on KTOK in Oklahoma City, said yesterday afternoon, several hours before the missiles were fired. "I'm not sure the reality of war had set in yet."
It had for anti-war activists, who were out in force all over the country, trying to strike a delicate balance between showing their concern and support for U.S. soldiers and their opposition to President Bush's decision to launch a strike.
The largest anti-war demonstrations were in New York, San Francisco, Boston and Chicago, where protesters numbering in the thousands massed at public buildings, blocked traffic and engaged in sporadic scuffling with police.
Anti-war rallies held on dozens of college campuses were mostly small and quiet; they bore little resemblance to the demonstrations that gripped the country at the height of the Vietnam War. Some anti-war students yesterday went out of their way to voice support for U.S. troops. On some campuses and in some cities, there were counterdemonstrations in support of the war.
Meanwhile, the nation's radio talk programs were flooded with callers expressing pride in American troops.
"My calls today were 20-1 in favor of the war," Gil Gross, host of a show on New York's WOR, said in the late afternoon. "It was amazing. Leading up to the war, they were running 3-1 against. I've never seen such a turnaround so fast. If the accents weren't the same, I would have sworn I was in a different city, doing a different show."
"People called up wanting to talk about their pride in America," said Gene Burns, host of a show on WRKO in Boston. "There was a great deal of excitement that the country seemed to be working again -- the weapons worked, the command worked. Bush, Cheney and Powell all projected a quiet competence, and didn't seem venal."
Military recruiting offices around the country reported they were being flooded with inquiries about enlisting. "People are coming in left and right," said Sgt. James Terell, in charge of an Army recruiting station in Boston. "Some of them are saying, 'I want to serve my country.' "
News of the Iraqi attack had a sobering effect. In San Francisco, anti-war protesters learned of it just as they were beginning what has become a nightly parade in the city. "It just compounds the fact that there is stupidity happening around the clock," said demonstrator Kathy O'Neill. "If only we had negotiated in the first place," added her friend, freelance writer Rory Cox. "No good will come of this."
Earlier yesterday in San Francisco, police arrested about 400 demonstrators to break a "chain of humanity" around the Philip Burton federal building. They were quickly released and then police took a similar number into custody when the demonstration moved to the front of the Pacific Stock Exchange in the afternoon.
The wandering body of up to 3,000 protesters appeared to represent a hard core of social activists involved in many of San Francisco's favorite causes; it was the first American city to offer official sanctuary to any service member refusing to fight in the Middle East. Of 10 demonstrators interviewed at random, nine said they were veterans of previous demonstrations -- three against U.S. involvement in Central America, three for abortion rights, two for protection of redwoods and one for the homeless.
In Boston, where about 1,000 protesters gathered at the John F. Kennedy federal building, the largest banner read: "We Love and Support Our Troops. Bring Them Home . . . Now!"
The protesters, mostly in their 30s and 40s, heard retired Boston University professor Howard Zinn, a leading critic of U.S. policy in Vietnam 20 years ago, admonish: "A war that was wrong before it began does not become right once it has started." Authorities said at least 40 people were arrested for trying to block entrance to the building.
'Love the Troops, Hate the War'
In New York, protesters starting from Times Square early last night marched down Broadway chanting new slogans they said they'd been preparing since the war started: "Love the troops, hate the war," "Send Neil Bush," and "All it means is Arab slaughter, we don't want your new world order."
An earlier march ended in tragedy when a car slammed into protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge, injuring seven, two critically. The driver was charged with drunken driving.
Here in Washington, signs such as "Bush is Now the Butcher of Baghdad" filled Lafayette Square near the White House at the evening anti-war rally sponsored by a broad coalition of clergy, civil rights and peace activists, environmentalists and nuclear-freeze proponents.
"I stand here in solidarity with millions of people around the world who deplore the action taken yesterday by President Bush," Molly Yard, the president of the National Organization for Women, told the cheering crowd before the news came of the attack on Israel.
Longtime peace activist Daniel Ellsberg, speaking in a voice hushed by a sore throat, said, "We must be here in streets across the country." He was joined at the speaker's lectern by the president of the environmental group Greenpeace, the anti-nuclear group Sane Freeze and the co-chairman of the African American Network Against U.S. Intervention in the Gulf. The crowd, about 200, was not as large as it had been the day before.
"I'm surprised there is any water left in the peace glass at all given the past American history and the tendency to gather around the president," said Leo Ribuffo, a professor of recent American history at George Washington University, who was not at the rally.
Singing and Chanting Stops
When Lafayette Square protesters heard news of the attack on Israel on the radios some carried, the mood became more sober. All singing and chanting stopped. An occasional gasp could be heard whenever the broadcasts raised the possibility that the Iraqi Scud missiles were carrying chemical warheads.
Those unconfirmed reports -- denied later in the night by Israeli officials -- provoked bitter reaction and painful memories among Jewish leaders.
"The central metaphor of Israel is that Jews will not be gassed again," said Rabbi Michael Berenbaum, professor of theology at Georgetown University and project director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, reacting to the first round of news reports.
"Unlike 50 years ago, the Jews will respond," said Murray Tenenbaum, executive director of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington. "The day when you could kill Jews and get away with it is over. The Iraqis will pay a horrible price."
Protests in Smaller Cities
In addition to the large demonstrations in big cities, there were scores of protests in smaller cities and rural areas. In St. Cloud, Minn., 29 people were arrested for trying to close down a federal building. In Athens, Ohio, 103 people were arrested following scuffles between demonstrators supporting the war and those opposing it. Four people were arrested in a similar incident in Eugene, Ore.
In Atlanta, Georgia state legislators streamed off the floor of the state House of Representatives when Rep. Cynthia McKinney began a speech attacking the U.S. bombing. "I just don't think it's appropriate," Rep. Newt Hudson said as he marched out.
At Kent State University in Ohio, where National Guardsmen shot and killed four students during a Vietnam War protest in 1970, a noon rally called to oppose the Persian Gulf war drew about 700 students, making it the largest campus protest in years.
But the rally turned into a balanced forum. Counterdemonstrators held aloft a large American flag, chanted "Liberate Kuwait" and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Antiwar students responded by chanting, "No War for Oil."
The tense showdown eased after leaders of the opposing groups, about equal in numbers, agreed to rotate speakers.
A 'Media-Conscious Movement'
At Columbia University in New York, another hotbed of anti-war protest two decades ago, 500 students chanted slogans and carried banners, but there was no flag-burning. "Everybody is saying, 'Don't burn flags, don't disrespect troops, bring them home,' " said Chris Scheuer, 22, a senior architecture major. "It's a much more media-conscious movement now." In the Vietnam era, he said, "the public saw protesters screaming at the troops, spitting on troops, and that was wrong. Nobody wants to hate them anymore."
If the intention of the demonstrations was not to stir the wrath of the majority of Americans who, polls show, support the war, it didn't seem to work.
"A lot of callers are angry that we're reporting on the protests," said Jim McConnell, news director of KGO news talk radio in San Francisco. "As soon as we do a report, we get a half dozen calls right away."
"I told my callers that there is a country where you aren't allowed to protest, where you can get executed for disagreeing with the government -- and that's the country we're bombing right now," said Gross of New York's WOR. "But they don't seem interested. They want those protesters to go away somewhere and hide for a long time."
Staff writers Michael Abramowitz, Lou Cannon, Kenneth J. Cooper, Patrice Gaines-Carter, E.J. Dionne Jr., Laurie Goodstein, Jay Mathews, Eric Charles May, Paul W. Valentine, Edward Walsh, Elsa Walsh and Michael Weisskopf and special correspondents Christopher B. Daly and Jill Walker contributed to this report.