Having lost his youngest brother to a German soldier's bullet during World War II, Homer Gorden resents those who compare Iraq's Saddam Hussein to Adolf Hitler.
Gorden, an Army veteran of that war, said his brother gave his life to help defeat a Nazi madman. Comparisons with Hussein are mere propaganda, he said, to make a fight for petroleum seem like a righteous crusade.
"It's not worth killing off a lot of young men in the prime of their lives over a little oil," said Gorden, 74, who trained World War II recruits at an Arkansas boot camp. "Let them keep their oil and let's get the hell out of there."
At Ventura County ceremonies marking Veterans Day on Sunday, several men and women who had experienced war shared Gorden's view that America should not get into another one in the Persian Gulf.
A pained look crossed Evelin Polland's face as she recalled her service as a Navy pharmacist mate from 1942 to 1944, part of which was spent on "deathwatch" at a Long Beach naval hospital that treated scores of young men injured in the South Pacific.
She was responsible for collecting belongings of those who died, notifying their families and arranging for their bodies to be shipped home.
"I joined up in 1942 because I wanted to see Hitler wiped out," said Polland, 77, of Ventura. "I don't agree that someone should be able to grab another country, but Hussein is the Arabs' problem."
Bill Schneider, 71, served in the Merchant Marine during World War II on oil tankers that supplied American bases in the South Pacific and on the Aleutian Islands off Alaska. He said Hussein's aggression was not aimed at the United States, and said this country should not be driven into a war economy when it is already on the verge of recession.
Recalling Pearl Harbor, Schneider said: "We got hit Dec. 7, and on Dec. 8 everyone was rushing to enlist. This is different. We don't have to work this out. We should just get out of there."
Of more than two dozen veterans interviewed at a Ventura High School concert and a Ventura Veterans of Foreign Wars hall Sunday, only two supported an immediate use of American military force to end the stalemate in the Middle East.
One of them was a 42-year-old Vietnam War veteran who gave his name only as Hooper. He said Hussein should be dealt with severely because he is a far greater threat to the United States than that posed by the late Ho Chi Minh, the nationalist who led North Vietnamese troops.
"We're preparing to fight a fanatical terrorist, where then we were fighting a man who was protecting his own country," said Hooper, who said he served in Vietnam in 1968-69.
Fred Galloway, 58, an Air Force airman during the Korean War, agreed with Hooper that Hussein's aggression must not be tolerated. "I don't know that it's totally our responsibility," Galloway said, "but the danger has to be contained now if we learned any lesson from World War II."
But Glenn Gooss, 67, of Ventura said military action should be postponed for at least 90 more days to see if the cutoff of supplies to Iraq forces Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait under a negotiated settlement.
"We'd be better off waiting the embargo out than shooting it out," said Gooss, a former Army lieutenant who led reinforcements onto Omaha Beach five days after D-day in 1944.