George Biedenbender remembers his relief during Desert Storm when he learned that Iraq had capitulated and that his tank battalion would not press on from Kuwait to Baghdad.
But this time, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein seems even more a threat to the retired Marine from Fredericksburg.
"We need to do something against Saddam," Biedenbender said as he waited outside the U.S. Marine Corps barracks yesterday among a small group of counter-demonstrators who support military action against Iraq and consider the antiwar demonstrators naive.
"Eventually over time, he will produce and use his weapons of mass destruction," Biedenbender said. "First, against folks in his own geographic area, and ultimately against us through the hands of terrorists."
The counter-demonstration that drew fewer than 50 people began with a morning rally near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and regrouped along the route used by the antiwar contingent. It was organized by Free Republic, which was formed to protest President Bill Clinton's policies, and another group called MOVE OUT, an acronym for Marines and Other Veterans Against Outrageous Un-American Traitors.
Some who attended had little patience for their counterparts rallying against military action. They booed when one speaker mentioned actor Sean Penn, who recently visited Baghdad and opposes a war against Iraq. One woman held a sign that read, "Pacifists are the Parasites of Freedom."
"Is their anger about a potential military conflict or do they continue to think Al Gore is their president in exile, and they just don't like George Bush?" said Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels, who drove from New York to attend.
Most counter-demonstrators said the antiwar protesters were ignoring the potential cost of doing nothing.
"The cost of inaction is likely to be more than the cost of action," said Bill Franklin of Fairfax County, who carried a placard reading "Defend US Disarm Sadam."
Many predicted dire consequences for the United States if Saddam Hussein is not ousted from power. Joel Kernodle, a retired Marine from Indianapolis who organized MOVE OUT, conjured up images of the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol in rubble.
"If we don't stop Saddam Hussein today, tomorrow it might not be a plane, but it might be a mushroom cloud," said Kevin Martin of Baltimore, a former Navy sailor.
Aziz Al-Taee, a spokesman for the Iraqi-American Council, talked about fleeing Iraq in the 1980s after several members of his Shiite Muslim family were killed by Hussein's forces. His aunt was ordered to pay for the bullet that killed her son.
Al-Taee believes it is time for payback in support of the Iraqi people because of the backing most Western countries, including the United States, gave Iraq during its war against Iran in the 1980s.
"We are against a war of invasion and occupation," he said. "We support a war of liberation. There is a moral and legal obligation to end Saddam's regime to make up for all the casualties Iraqis suffered because of Western support of Saddam."