While President Bush made another pitch Saturday for congressional approval of a resolution allowing U.S. military action against Iraq, demonstrators in Costa Mesa called on the White House to scale back its war rhetoric and find a peaceful resolution to its confrontation with Saddam Hussein.
About 75 protesters, including many who lived through every U.S. war since 1941, lined the sidewalk on Bristol Street across from South Coast Plaza carrying placards with such slogans as, "No blood for oil" and "Regime change, Yes. Stop Bush."
Dozens of passing drivers honked in approval of the demonstration, but a few responded with obscene gestures or screams.
"You ought to be shot!" yelled a male driver while waiting for the traffic light to change.
Grace Steiner, a World War II Army nurse and member of Veterans for Peace, was not moved by the man's comments.
"He ought to get educated on the issue. We're not against the United States. We're saying that the president is making a grave error. This obsession to get rid of Saddam is all about oil. I don't think that's worth the life of a single young man or woman in our military," she said.
Dennis Clark, who was drafted and served with the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam, noted that except for Secretary of State Colin Powell, many top government officials favoring a military strike against Iraq avoided service during the Vietnam War. The 60-year-old retired UCI Medical Center employee worked at a field hospital during his year in Vietnam.
"If I brought anything back from the war, it is that people have to experience death to appreciate life. It's easy for [advocates of war with Iraq] to push for this war. They'll stand on the sidelines just like they did during Vietnam and let somebody else's son die for the cause," Clark said.
The comparison with Vietnam was also made by observers in a nearby restaurant parking lot.
"It's not unpatriotic to question the president and our government," said Rose Hodges of Washington state, who said she was in college during the Vietnam War. "Maybe if more older people had questioned the government about Vietnam, there wouldn't have been so many senseless deaths."
But Lane Russell, a Navy veteran who said he served in Vietnam, blamed antiwar demonstrations in that era for contributing to the U.S. defeat.
"They should've supported our troops, then and now," he said.
Chuck Anderson, a member of the "No War on Iraq" committee that led the demonstration, said talk of war is distracting from pressing economic issues.
"The president should be looking for ways to preserve people's retirement money instead of looking for a way to get rid of Saddam," he said.